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Hurricane Dolly Hits Texas; President Bush Caught On Camera and Off-Guard; War Crimes Trial to Implicate Bin Laden Driver

Aired July 23, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the breaking news that we're following. Hurricane Dolly crashing into Texas and it keeps on going, tearing roofs from homes, flooding streets and sending residents fleeing. We have correspondents covering every aspect of this hurricane.

President Bush caught on camera saying Wall Street got drunk and needs to sober up. But did the Bush administration allow Wall Street to go on that binge?

And was he just a lowly driver for Osama bin Laden or a key link to Al Qaeda's inner circle on the day of the 9/11 attacks? We're going to go live to the scene of a war crimes trial under way right now at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Driving rain, surging floodwaters and winds up to 120 miles an hour. Hurricane Dolly slamming into Texas and Mexico as a category 2 storm. It's trampling inland right now and still posing a considerable threat, even as the system begins to weaken a little bit. We're covering Dolly from all angles. We have reporters across the region and on both sides of the border.

Let's begin with CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's on the phone joining us from Port Isabel, Texas, it's close to where Dolly made landfall.

Ed, before we talk you filed this report just a little while ago, I want to play it for our viewers.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in the town of Port Isabel, Texas which is on the north side of Padre Island. It's also on the southern edge of the eye of Hurricane Dolly. You can see as you look out there, this is a bridge that takes you across to Padre Island, it is shut down. You cannot cross at this point nor would you want to try to cross over. You can see how intense the winds are. They said at this portion of the hurricane, the winds are getting close to about 100 miles an hour.

We've seen people, very few people driving around. We're driving around, the car is shaking rather intensely. So we haven't seen a whole lot of damage at this point but everything seems to be rather quiet on the streets. Just a little bit of damage, some downed power lines and some topped over -- some convenience store buildings and that sort of thing. But all in all, doing pretty good for right now.


BLITZER: Let's go live to Ed Lavandera. He's on the phone with us.

Ed, you also shot some still photos. You managed to send them in to us. I'm going to show some of those pictures for our viewers. I don't know if you have access to what we're putting on the air, but we can see some of the torrential winds that have been coming in at that gas station and elsewhere.

What's it like right now? Give us an eyewitness account.

LAVANDERA: It's rather amazing, we were driving up north and didn't expect -- I kind of lost track of the radar situation in terms of where the storm was. And didn't realize we were venturing so close to the southern edge of the eye of the storm. As we were driving up the main highway between Brownsville and Harlingen, there was a highway 100, a little cutoff that takes you to Port Isabel, it's Highway 100, about 24 miles.

It took us quite some time. We weren't able to go much faster than 15, 20 miles an hour in what felt like almost whiteout conditions. The visibility was cut down to maybe 20 or 30 feet. We were driving very slow. The only people we ever saw along the road were some emergency vehicles making their way around. By the time we finally had made it to Port Isabel, you could really feel the intensity of the wind as it was coming across through the town there. And it was -- it was quite intense.

I hope that shot as we're standing on the edge of the bridge that takes you over to Padre Island, the waves and the violent bands of rain that were just skidding across the roadway, really had the car shaking for a while. We saw various metal roof tops from convenience stores and gas stations and other kind of buildings there had been kind of peeled apart and shredded apart as well. There weren't as many downed power lines and trees as I had expected to see quite honestly, but maybe that's something that's starting to unfold now as the storm continues to roar through.

BLITZER: Ed, we're also just getting in some other video, some other images that you shot for us. I want to play this for our viewers.


LAVANDERA: This right here gives you a pretty good indication of the kind of damage we've seen here in Port Isabel today. Various buildings just like this, where these sheet metal tops have been ripped to shreds or have collapsed. We've seen this in various places along this main stretch of road in Port Isabel.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: That was B & A Seafoods, it looked pretty much destroyed, Ed. Was that the correct image?

LAVANDERA: That was some of those rooftops and those kind of -- like those metal gas station type rooftop type things. That typically can blow over in these types of storms. We're definitely seeing some of that. You know, what I continue to be amazed by is the storm has come through, just how few people are even anywhere out to venturing on the roadways. We've covered enough of these where you definitely see people who are taking chances, driving around to see what the action is. Really a lot of these roads here in South Texas are just completely deserted at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed's in Port Isabel in Texas. Stand by, Ed. Our CNN producer Aaron Cooper, he's in South Padre Island right now. That's where this storm really hit just a little while ago. You're driving around, is that right, Aaron?

VOICE OF AARON COOPER, CNN PRODUCER: I have parked outside of a Bahia Mar Resort and Hotel which is a very large building. As I pan up you can see, there's at least three very large holes in the side of this resort complex. Several of them go all the way through into the interior. The largest only goes into the skin of the building. But there's quite a few people that actually were staying in this hotel and resort complex at the time of the storm.

They've evacuated everyone that was in the outlying buildings into the center of this larger building and are taking cover. In fact, I saw three people just barely skid across the parking lot just a few minutes ago as they were trying to get into the larger building for shelter in the lobby there. There are several dozen people there, all very wet. Many came in from the outlying buildings. The resort complex had said they had taken precautions and had done a number of things to try to keep people safe. Many people that were staying here did evacuate but some chose not to and are now taking shelter in the center of this lobby.

You can tell there's a lot of debris that has blown out of these holes in the building. The windows blew out as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you Aaron. Let's hope those people are OK.

Brian Todd is also on South Padre Island, which took that direct hit from Hurricane Dolly. Let's go to Brian. He's working the story.

Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we took a direct hit earlier when the winds were about 100 miles an hour. That's when we were right in the bull's-eye when it moved ashore. Just in the last few minutes we've gotten a very, very strong storm surge again, which is easily at tropical storm strength still. We're just bracketed here by the wind and rain from all directions. We were out in the worst of this earlier. We saw a lot of -- (INAUDIBLE) BLITZER: Brian, I'm going to cut you off because unfortunately that -- the streaming, the video is cutting in and out. We can barely hear what you're saying. We're going to try to fix that and we're going to go back to you.

Brian Todd is working this story.

Susan Roesgen is also working the story in Brownsville, Texas, it's about 30 miles inland from where Brian just was.

All right Susan, tell us what's happening in Brownsville. We spoke to the mayor a little while ago and he said this greater Brownsville area is about 600,000, maybe 800,000 people who were affected not only by the hurricane, but now the torrential rain.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, affected, Wolf, but so far, nobody hurt. That's the good news. We haven't had any reports of any injuries or any real serious damage yet. The next step is for an emergency management team, as soon as Dolly gets done drenching us, we'll go in here and assess the damage. We have not seen any breaches. No breaches. We've heard no reports of any overtopping or breaches in the long earthen levee behind me.

The good news is, no major flooding expected, except for some street flooding. A little bit of power outages, some phone service has been cut off, but again nobody's been hurt. Most of the people in this city, in this area, as you said, about half a million people, are just staying inside, and waiting this thing out. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll wait it out with you. Stay safe over there, Susan Roesgen in Brownsville.

We're getting these pictures coming in from Corpus Christi, Texas, that's not very far away to the north of Brownsville. You can see these live pictures coming in. It doesn't look like they're facing anywhere near the problems further south in Brownsville and elsewhere. Chad Myers is working this story for us, our severe weather expert.

Corpus Christi, not getting the real brunt but it's feeling some of it, right?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Correct. That's actually in the bay. That's the shot from the top of the USS Lexington looking down at the Sheraton down there on Shoreline Boulevard. If you turn around, you can actually see downtown Corpus Christi. That's protected by the barrier island, from Port Isabel all the way down to South Padre. In a few breaks of course because of other hurricanes that have cut through that barrier island in the past.

We don't know if any breaks with this one, but that's certainly a possibility. It can happen. Here's what happened today, though that is different. This storm moved north of a place that expected it to be south of it. So how does that affect you? Because the storm is rotating in a counterclockwise fashion, they expected onshore winds so they put up their boards on the ocean or the gulf side. That's not the way the winds are coming. They're actually coming in from the land side. They were coming in from the bay and blowing out windows all along South Padre Island, right down through and just to the north of Harlingen, Brownsville and Port Isabel.

This is an odd thing to think about, when you've boarded up all of your windows, so that all of these -- you've boarded up all the sides so that when the winds come this way, you're all protected and ready to go. That didn't happen. The storm moved north, and so the winds were actually from the west. And it battered all of those windows that were not protected, that were not boarded up by the people in the residents there. Typically even on the big condos up and down the South Padre Island, you have those big roll down shades but they're only on the ocean side because that's where you expect the heavy winds to come from.

But there were winds coming basically from the wrong direction for their protection, about 90 miles per hour. The latest 5:00 advisory now Wolf has it down to an 85-mile-per-hour storm. But that's still pretty big. That's still a category one storm, still causing damage at this hour even though it's been onshore since about 2:00 this afternoon. That's three hours of just prolonged wind damage all there up and down the coast.

BLITZER: I guess the lesson learned is if you have windows on the north side, south side, east side, west side, board them all up because you never know how the wind is going to play out.

MYERS: That is exactly right.

BLITZER: Thanks Chad, we'll check back with you.

Let's check back with Jack right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John McCain has staked much of his campaign for the White House on the war in Iraq and the surge. He tells us every day how he was right about the surge, how the surge was the answer to all our problems in Iraq. Well maybe not exactly. Last night McCain proved his timeline about the surge is wrong.

In an interview on CBS, Katie Couric pointed out that Barack Obama says while the increase in troops, the surge did help security, a Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after the militias before the surge were also major factors in reducing the violence.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know how you respond to something that is as -- such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarland was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheikhs. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheikh and others and it began the Anbar awakening. That's just a matter of history.


CAFFERTY: Wrong again, Senator.

The Sunni awakening in Anbar happened before President Bush announced the surge in January of 2007. In fact, the now General Sean McFarland briefed the media in September of 2006 about tribal leaders who were cooperating with Iraqi Security Forces against al Qaeda. Several news organizations reported on the Anbar awakening taking place months before the surge.

Obama's campaign points out that McCain has his facts wrong. McCain's response is the Democrats are trying to minimize the role of our commanders and our troops. But if your campaign for president is built on your assertion that you are the most qualified to be commander in chief, then shouldn't you at least be able to accurately cite the recent history of the war that you're asking the voters to put you in charge of?

Here's the question: How much confidence do you have in John McCain's ability to deal with Iraq?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Jack, in mid-2006, you know what really began to turn those Sunni sheikhs around and start cooperating with the U.S.?

CAFFERTY: Well, there were a number of things. But one of them was, I think they were just getting plain tired of the violence in their neighborhoods and their wives and children being killed in the ongoing tribal warfare.

BLITZER: That indeed was a very important factor in why they began to turn against al Qaeda, which had come in there with a vengeance. But you know what else was an important factor as we reported at the time, at least I did? The Saudis and the U.S. started paying these Sunni sheikhs a lot of money. As they say, money talks, especially among the -- in that part of the world. The Saudis didn't want any publicity but they were very, very nervous about the Shia that were gaining credibility and a lot of power. They wanted to strengthen those Sunni sheikhs and began to give them a lot of cash.

CAFFERTY: But the point is, that all of this stuff began to happen long before the surge was even announced.

WOLF: Right, it was happening in mid-2006. That's when the money started to flow into those Sunni sheikhs. By the way, the money is still flowing in to those Sunni sheikhs and a lot of those Sunni leaders, who are still there, many of them, 90,000 or so are still on the U.S. payroll even as we speak right now. But that's another story.

CAFFERTY: Guess whose money that is?

BLITZER: Your money, my money and a lot of others' money.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

BLITZER: But the Saudis are paying for a lot of it.

CAFFERTY: Well, they should.

BLITZER: Because their interests are involved as well.

CAFFERTY: Yes they are.

BLITZER: Here are some of the stories we're working on this hour.

An historic trial at Guantanamo Bay. Was he just a driver for Osama bin Laden or part of an inner circle of terror masterminds? Our Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is live at Guantanamo, he has new details of the trial.

Also, President Bush caught on tape blaming Wall Street for the ailing economy, saying it was quote, "drunk" and is now hung over.

We're monitoring Hurricane Dolly. The director of the national hurricane center, he's standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Bush caught on camera casting blame for America's economic problems. He says Wall Street simply got drunk and needs to sober up.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's working the story for us.

All right, Mary, what's this story all about?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president was speaking at a private event unaware he was being videotaped. He was summing up the mortgage collapse that's triggered the countries economic flow and took aim at Wall Street with some stinging criticism.


SNOW (voice-over): President Bush didn't intend for the public to hear a private talk given at a fund-raiser in Houston last week. But someone in the crowd had a camera rolling. And the video ended up on YouTube, allowing viewers to hear him fault Wall Street for the ailing economy.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is uncertain, there's no question about it. Wall Street got drunk, it's one reason I asked you to turn off your TV cameras. It got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up, and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments.

SNOW: The president then alluded to the housing crisis.

BUSH: And then we've got a housing issue. Not in Houston, evidently not in Dallas because Laura's over there trying to buy a house today.

SNOW: A White House spokeswoman downplayed the remarks saying the president has made similar criticisms of Wall Street in the past.

DAN PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has described it the way others have. Obviously he did it in a very, in a way with much candor.

SNOW: But the president's finger pointing drew fire from some who make their living on Wall Street.

ART HOGAN, JEFFRIES & CO. CHIEF MKT. STRATEGIST: To put at the feet of Wall Street what happened in residential real estate and residential real estate mortgages is unconscionable.

SNOW: Art Hogan of Jeffries & Company says instead of Wall Street, blame shady lenders giving mortgages to people who couldn't afford them. But political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen said there's plenty of blame to go around and questions Washington's responsibility

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The president said Wall Street got drunk and now it's got a hangover. There's truth to that. But for a lot of people the question is, where was the government? Why didn't the government take the bottles away? You know, why did it allow it to go on this binge?


SNOW: While the president blames complex investment instruments used on Wall Street that pooled mortgage securities, critics say there wasn't enough oversight and questioned why the government didn't step in to do something -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow working the story.

Was he just a driver for Osama bin Laden or was he a key link to al Qaeda's leadership? New testimony today in the first U.S. military war crimes trial since World War II. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is joining us now live via broadband from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where this trial is under way.

What happened today, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, dramatic evidence in today's trial. Salim Hamdan as we've never seen him before, on videotape, his hands in plastic handcuffs, denying under interrogation that he was in Osama bin Laden's inner circle.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): In their bid to convince six members of a special military commission that Salim Hamdan was one of Osama bin Laden's henchman and not just a lowly chauffeur, prosecutors put a former FBI agent on the stand. Ali Subang(ph) interrogated Hamdan in 2002, winning his confidence by arranging contact with Hamdan's wife and supplying fast food from McDonald's. The interrogation Subang(ph) testified revealed Hamdan knew things only someone in Osama bin Laden's inner circle would know, such as the intended target of the fourth plane on September 11th. Evidence that Hamdan was one of bin Laden's top lieutenants included testimony he overheard discussions of September 11th and moved bin Laden to a safer place after the attacks, that he carried bin Laden's radio and even got marriage advice and a wedding feast from the al Qaeda leader.

Hamdan's lawyers say much of the government's case is based on information obtained in coercive interrogations, and that Hamdan's defense has been hamstrung by evidence turned over late by prosecutors.

MIKE BERRIGAN, HAMDAN'S ATTORNEY: When you actually litigate and talk to people who have been here time and time again to see what happens on a daily basis, they're not full open, fair and honest.

MCINTYRE: The prosecution insists it will prove Hamdan was a key member of al Qaeda, carrying deadly surface to air missiles to the terrorist organization when he was captured in November of 2001. They reject defense claims that the charges aren't trumped up.

COL. LAWRENCE MORRIS, CHIEF PROSECUTOR: In my opinion they're seeing the most just war crimes trial that anybody has ever seen.


BLITZER: That report from CNN's Jamie McIntyre. He's on the scene for us at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

A potentially deadly storm plowing into Texas right now. We're going to get the latest on hurricane Dolly from the national hurricane center director Bill Reed standing by live.

Plus, a city's computer network held hostage. How San Francisco's Gavin Newsom rescued it from a rogue computer geek. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Carol, she's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's the latest Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have an update now on a story we told you about last week in THE SITUATION ROOM. Remember the San Francisco computer engineer who had been holding the city's network hostage? Well Terry Childs finally gave up the access code but only after a secret visit by San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom. The network handles the majority of the city's information including sensitive law enforcement, payroll and jail booking records.

German police arrested a man who tried to deface the location in Berlin where Barack Obama plans to give a big speech tomorrow. The man drove his car through a security barricade and tried to pour red paint at the base of the city's victory column. No one was injured in the incident.

China is now responding to my exclusive interview with the Dalai Lama. They tell me China is sincere in holding talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys and actively listens to their arguments about Tibet. China was quite interested in this part of my interview.


COSTELLO: Some say you're encouraging people to disrupt the Olympic Games, are you?


COSTELLO: Would you come out and say to people, please do not disrupt the Olympic Games?

DALAI LAMA: Yes, I said it.

COSTELLO: Can you say it again?

DALAI LAMA: Now no use.

COSTELLO: Why no use?

DALAI LAMA: I repeated 100 times. No effect. So, I'm human being. I have certain sense. So, seeing no use, it is better to keep quiet.


COSTELLO: China's response to that, "People around the world still have fresh memory of the March 14th violence taking place in Lhasa and the violent actions against the global relay of the Beijing Olympic torch in which the Dalai Lama click was heavily involved. We take note of what the Dalai Lama said about the Beijing Olympic Games and we're taking a close look at whether he is able to meet his words with deeds."

China says it is more than willing to continue talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys, about his future and maybe a return to China -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much Carol.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the House of Representatives has just passed a sweeping bill offering up $300 billion to help people keep their homes, and brace mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Senate is expected to follow suit. President Bush has now dropped his opposition to the legislation meaning it could become law within days.

Hurricane Dolly coming ashore as a category 2 storm. Now a category 1 but still very dangerous, pounding Texas and Mexico with high winds and sheets of rain. We'll get the latest from the director of the national hurricane center. We also have some new dramatic i- Reports coming in.

And foreign fighters streaming into Afghanistan, meeting up with the Taliban and al Qaeda. We have details of disturbing new intelligence.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're getting word from our CNN affiliate KTRK of a terrifying injury from Hurricane Dolly. It involves a 17-year-old who fell seven stories from a building. Take a look at this.


TED OBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's been one injury, a 17- year-old boy, I apologize, I didn't tell you about this right away, a 17-year-old boy was on the seventh-floor balcony of a condominium leaning up against a plate glass window, apparently looking at the storm. That window shattered, and he fell out. Fell seven stories. Amazingly he is ok. He has a head injury and a broken leg and a broken hip. But he is being treated here on the island because they can't get him offshore to the hospital because it's too dangerous to go across the bridge. They're treating him at the fire station. He's expected to be just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And that sounds very dramatic except you kind of witnessed something like that firsthand when you went inside earlier today. We were talking to you live at 11:30. You went inside to take cover and you were in a place with windows blowing out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sure. We were inside at 11:30 and probably for an hour and a half windows kept popping inside this clothing store. It's one of those big clothing stores you see down on the beach. T-shirts and bathing suits and the whole bit. The windows just popping one after another inside this building. And you guys heard some of that live at 11:30. But the owner was in there trying to save what he could. And it's an absolute mess.


BLITZER: All right. That report from our affiliate KTRK. You're looking at live pictures coming in from Port Isabel right now. Let's get the latest on Hurricane Dolly. For that we're joined by Bill Read, he's the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Director Read, thanks very much. So is the worst over now? Or what?

BILL READ, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: No, I don't think the worst is over, because the wind part of the storm will be winding down, as you can see behind me on the loop. And as you've been saying, the eye is now onshore. When that happens, a steady weakening of the storm goes on. And by shortly after midnight tonight, we anticipate it will be below hurricane force. So it still could produce some wind damage, but nothing like you've seen out on Padre Island at the peak of the storm earlier today. Now the threat and focus should shift to the very heavy rain. We've been seeing rainfall rates of up to four inches per hour indicated by radar on the bands right around the center of the storm. It's only moving about six or seven miles an hour towards the west. So during the night tonight, any broad area of eight to 12 inches of rain is anticipated. Some places are going to get 15 to 20 and that will cause considerable flooding. And as we all know, that's where people try to go out in the stuff and people lose lives in those sort of events, so the thing now is to stay put.

BLITZER: So the flooding right now is the real danger for the, what, half a million, maybe almost a million people still in that part of Texas?

READ: Sure. The best precaution is to stay in your building. You're generally safer there. If you know you're in a very, very low location and can get to a higher location, that's probably a good bet also.

BLITZER: How many days are you concerned about right now before the rains and the winds die down? What are we talking about? One day, two days, three days?

READ: Well, no, I think we're looking at the storm to continue moving west. It will be slowest tonight. Maybe pick up a little speed and dissipate inland over Mexico during the day tomorrow. Or certainly by early Friday. Then the residual aspects run off from the rain and resulting river flooding could still be a concern. A little too early to say how severe the river flooding might be.

BLITZER: Is it too early to look ahead and see what's next on the horizon in terms of more storms, more hurricanes? What do we know about this season based on what has happened so far?

READ: Well, we're still, obviously having this much activity, it tweaks one's interest in that we might have a continued busy season. And historically, the years where we've had a lot of strong activity in July, it continues on in through the peak of the season in August and September. You only have to go back to 2005 to see an example of that.

So yeah, we're concerned that it may continue to be a very busy season. Right now, there's a fairly strong wave that came off of Africa, hasn't shown any real signs of developments so far. And looking back over the continent itself, there are a couple of other waves. After all, we're getting close to August when the so-called Cape Verde season gets going in full strength.

BLITZER: We'll watch it with you Director Bill Read of the National Hurricane Center. Thanks very much.

READ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Barack Obama spends a very, very busy day in Israel today. He also spends some time out in the West Bank meeting with Palestinian leaders. Palestinians say they wanted some quality time with the Democratic presidential candidate. They got some quality time with him as well.

And she tried to up the ante in the high stakes divorce case by insulting her husband on YouTube. We'll tell you how all that played out right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama was very busy in Israel today. Among other things, laying a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem, talking tough on terror during a visit to the border town star of Sderot that's been targeted from Gaza, by rockets. The Democratic presidential candidate met with so many of Israel's top leaders. He also made a brief visit to the West Bank town of Ramallah for talks with the Palestinian leadership. CNN's Ben Wedeman has more from Ramallah.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Obama, 45 minutes in Ramallah, is that enough?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a politician on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, every minute counts. And his host at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas had to make the most of their 45 minutes of scheduled face time.

SAEB ERAKAT, SENIOR PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Senator Obama said to the president that if he's elected, he will be a constructive partner in peace between Palestinians and Israelis. He will not waste a minute, because to him, as he said, time is of the essence.

WEDEMAN: In town sandwich vendor Rabi'a Sayouri heard it all before. The American promises and pledges to work for peace, and shrugged.

RABI'A SAYOURI, RAMALLAH RESIDENT: President Bush said that, his father said that, Clinton said that. Who was before him? President Reagan, maybe, I don't know. They all say the same thing. We need actions. We don't need just talk, we need action.

WEDEMAN: Teacher Sandra Majid counts herself as an Obama supporter, but was disappointed by the speed of his foray into Ramallah.

SANDRA MAJID, RAMALLAH RESIDENT: I tried to because we live right next to where he stopped. Which was to see him. We wanted to talk to him and welcome him, give a warm welcome to Palestine. But we couldn't do that.

WEDEMAN: On his way here, Obama did get a passing glance of one Israeli checkpoint through the bullet's proof windows of his armored car. But was that enough?

JAWDAT HAMIDA, RAMALLAH RESIDENT: One hour here. That's not fair. I think he should have been here more time to understand (inaudible).

WEDEMAN: After the meeting Palestinian officials stressed that even with time, what matters is quality, not quantity.

(on camera): The visit is over. Senator Obama sent more than 15 minutes more than was originally planned. For Palestinians, it's a plus. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Ramallah.


BLITZER: Our CNN I-Reporters are following Hurricane Dolly step by step. Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She's assessing the damage. We're getting amazing pictures, aren't we?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is one woman's vacation here. This is South Padre Island. The picture here from Dallas Weaver who sent this in to I-Report. You can barely see across the parking lot here. You can make out a vehicle in the bottom left-hand corner. In these pictures you can barely see across the road. We've also been getting them in from Brownsville, Texas from Todd Work (ph) who has been updating us all day on the progress Let me take you to the latest video. I'm going to have to talk you through it. I promise you in there are trees, a parking lot, there is a car in there somewhere as well. But this is the latest he sent us. And it's very hard to make anything out.

Some people are getting out to assess the damage. So far, John Moncalvo, this is in Harlingen, Texas. He found a tree fallen on the apartment building. His apartment is fine. But like many, many other people in that area right now, out of power.


BLITZER: These pictures that we're getting, Abbi, give us a little flavor of how these people do it. Because we certainly would like to get some more.

TATTON: It's from, a Web site where anyone can go on and upload their material, whether it's videos or still images. We're going through them all the time and calling these people up and finding out what their stories are and they're relating to us here.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We're going to be getting more of those pictures and share them with our viewers.

Was she trying to take her multi-millionaire husband to the cleaners by airing their dirty laundry out on the Internet? A very high stakes Manhattan divorce case is now over. Let's go to Carol Costello, working this story for us. Three million hits on the Internet alone.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It's time to lighten the mood just a bit and talk about this very bizarre story, Wolf. Yes, more than 3 million people watched as Tricia Walsh-Smith struggled to keep her Manhattan apartment in a nasty divorce. Tonight it's over and she lost.


COSTELLO (voice-over): If you ever thought of using YouTube as a tool in your divorce, don't. Tricia Walsh-Smith produced a series of videos publicly pleading her case for a nice settlement in her divorce.

TRICIA WALSH-SMITH, DIVORCEE: I am the biggest bitch in the world.

COSTELLO: Well, a New York judge did call Mrs. Walsh-Smith's YouTube efforts "a calculated and callous campaign." And cited it as a prime reason to grant Mr. Smith a divorce and to uphold their 1999 prenup.

WALSH-SMITH: I think it totally sucks.

COSTELLO: That means bye-bye to the Park Avenue apartment for Mrs. Walsh-Smith, a swanky dwelling she desperately wanted to keep.

WALSH-SMITH: My husband had no grounds when he filed last October. He was throwing me out with only $50,000. Now, you heard in the court tonight, $50,000. He had plunged me into debt. By doing YouTube -

We didn't have sex. He said because he had high blood pressure.

By doing YouTube I bring attention to my plight and I get the other $750,000 when the divorce is finalized.

COSTELLO: But 750 K isn't nearly enough for the former Mrs. Walsh-Smith. But what she calls an injustice may spur her back to her career as a successful Broadway playwright.

WALSH-SMITH: This has actually inspired me to regain control of my life and my career and in the process bring to the attention of the world the plight of women in divorce.

COSTELLO: As for Mr. Smith? The Broadway mogul worth $60 million who said in court he was humiliated and hurt by his estranged wife's YouTube rant?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you're going to have a relationship at all with her? Cordial or are you upset?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're human beings and obviously we'll be as cordial as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the end you think the judge was fair and you're happy with this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The judge was very fair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you say to her now if you were speaking to her in person? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.


COSTELLO (on camera): He'd say good afternoon. The judge granted the divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment on the part of the Mrs., and you guessed it, the Mrs. plans to appeal.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you. You'll keep us informed.

COSTELLO: Certainly.

BLITZER: We'll watch.

An urgent call for reinforcements in Afghanistan. Why U.S. troops won't get help anytime soon, even as enemy fighters are gaining strength.

Also, Republicans say it simply stinks. But a move to name a San Francisco sewage plant after President Bush will be on the ballot in November. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: U.S. commanders in Afghanistan are sending out urgent calls for reinforcements, but help is not on the way, at least not now. Meantime, enemy ranks seem to be growing. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who has been monitoring this story, working her sources.

What are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today, by all accounts the White House was not happy when the chief Pentagon spokesman suddenly said it would be up to the next president to decide when more troops are sent to Afghanistan.


STARR (voice-over): On the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, disturbing new intelligence. A growing number of foreign fighters are coming into Afghanistan, meeting up with Taliban and al Qaeda, coordinating their efforts. It's one reason U.S. commanders are asking the Pentagon for up to 10,000 more troops. One of the topics discussed with President Bush when he met with the Joint Chiefs. But the word from the Pentagon's chief spokesman, for large numbers of troops, you'll have to wait for the new president.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: This government is going to work to provide additional forces for Afghanistan next year. How many, whether it's the three additional brigades that the commanders want I think is a question, frankly, for the next administration.

STARR: The reason? Because of Iraq, there aren't enough troops to send to Afghanistan anytime soon. That's tough news for Colonel Charles Preysler, who lost nine men earlier this month in a surprise attack by insurgents.

COL CHARLES PREYSLER, U.S. ARMY: I'm only going to speak for my area. I think one more battalion would really make a huge difference there.

STARR: More troops are need in the east and in Farah Province in the south where the Marines have been repeatedly attacked. Senior officials tell CNN a stopgap measure of several hundred support troops such as helicopter units and combat engineers is expected to be approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Even as Afghanistan has become more deadly for U.S. troops than Iraq, President Bush's orders for now have not changed.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: My priorities, again, given to me by the commander in chief, are focused on Iraq first. It's been that way for some time. Focus on Afghanistan second.


STARR (on camera): Now, Wolf, some wonder if the meeting with the Chief Joints Chiefs of Staff today may change that. Because what is becoming clear is if President Bush in the final months of his administration wants to impact the war in Afghanistan before he leaves office, he is going to have to make some decisions fairly soon.

BLITZER: And the only option realistically, given the strain out there is to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, is that right, Barbara?

STARR: Well, not quite. There's a little fine turn on that point, Wolf. If General Petraeus in Iraq says he can draw down more troops in Iraq, and he doesn't have to replace them, those replacement troops instead of going to Iraq will be shifted and will go to Afghanistan. But the Pentagon is making it clear today it could be months before that happens. And it may not happen on President Bush's watch.


BLITZER: Barbara Starr working the story at her beat at the Pentagon. Always doing an excellent job. Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File." Jack?

CAFFERTY: You sit here stunned by this stuff. More Americans have been killed in Afghanistan in the last two months than have been killed in Iraq. And yet we're going to worry about Afghanistan next year? How many more soldiers of ours will die in Afghanistan because of the fact that we stretched the military almost to the breaking point in Iraq, and we don't have enough soldiers to go and reinforce the forces in Afghanistan who are fighting the real war on terror?

I -- the question this hour -- and it's related. How much confidence do you have in john McCain's ability to deal with Iraq? Bob writes, "Agreed. John McCain is a true patriotic combat hero. However, he is simply the son of high-ranking military aristocracy and a grandson. Graduated near last in his class of more than 850 at Annapolis. For me he inspires no more confidence than what we now have. Another push through, see great at Yale son of political aristocracy, President Bush. My confidence is in a self-made gifted son of this country, Barack Obama. Not another silver spoon inheritor of a position he's likely less capable of handling."

Ron writes, "How can you have confidence with a man out of touch with his alleged strength? He doesn't know when the Sunni or Anbar Awakening was? He regularly confuses the Shiites and the Sunnis. If this is his strong suit, how will he do with the economy, which he admits is not his strong suit?"

Janet in Minnesota. "Who gave the best advice to win in Iraq four years ago? I recall McCain saying bring in 30,000, 40,000 more troops while Obama was complaining. McCain needs a good VP, though, as his age will be a factor in handling this stressful job."

Marcus in North Carolina, "Why is the media covering up for this guy? Are they being paid off or are they afraid they'll lose jobs if they have don't report favorably about the millionaire and his wife? No one needs to bash McCain. He bashes himself every day with contradictions and ignorance."

Robin in Germany. "Yes, the Awakening began before the surge snuffing out al Qaeda in Anbar. However, without the surge, Sunni- Shia violence in Baghdad could still be out of control. Is John McCain qualified on this issue? Of course he is. He visited Anbar, just as the Awakening began succeeding, he realized more troops were need to control the increasing violence outside Anbar Province. It's no coincidence that significant progress has been made. Perhaps it's just too complicated for the media to understand."

Finally Jeff in Phoenix writes, "Absolutely. I trust he can deal with Iraq and bring us victory. Then he can bring us victory in Iran and North Korea and resurrect Vietnam and the Cold War and bring us victory there too and help us rule the world and bring all our jobs back and we can all buy SUVs again."

You're a dope. Who is that, Jeff? If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog at Look for yours among hundreds of others. That question, by the way, about the confusion over the timeline is on the home page. So you can go right there if you want and get the link right to the blog. We make it very easy.

BLITZER: Very easy for our viewers. Viewer friendly. Jack, stand by.

We're looking into reports of major travel delays out in the Northeast right now. Also, efforts to bestow a dubious honor on President Bush. But not everyone is on board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This initiative is going to cost $50,000 to change the naming of this facility to the George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some think the idea simply stinks. Considering where it's happening, odds are in its favor.

Plus the San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom under fire as sanctuary and murder collide. Lou Dobbs standing by.


BLITZER: The Republicans say it stinks. But a move to put President Bush's name on a sewage plant will be on the ballot in November. CNN's Dan Simon has the story from San Francisco.



DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lot of things are named after U.S. presidents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lift off of Discovery.

SIMON: There is the Kennedy Space Center and the Reagan National Airport among the countless public streets and schools named after top office holders.

(on camera): But a sewage treatment plant? Well, voters in San Francisco are being asked to consider naming this one after president bush.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think it dignifies a response.

SIMON (voice-over): That's the White House's position. But as for the San Francisco organizers who dreamed up the idea - so why a sewage plant?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's representative of the quality of his thinking, his judgment and his capability.

SIMON: These guys collected 12,000 signatures, more than enough to force the measure on the November ballot.

BRIAN MCCONNELL, INITIATIVE ORGANIZER: The intent is to make people think and discuss what's happened over the past eight years.

SIMON: It might seem like a complete joke, but this is San Francisco. Former Mayor Willie Brown says he's voting yes.

WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: wouldn't be caught voting any other way. You think I want to be run out of this town?

SIMON: But workers at the Oceanside Water Control Plant, that's what it's called now, think a name change undermines their important work. Critics also fret about the cost to San Francisco taxpayers. A new sign, brochures and stationery cost money.

TYRONE JUE, PLANT SPOKESMAN: This initiative is going to cost about $50,000 to change the naming of this facility to the George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Facility Plant.

SIMON: And the San Francisco Republican Party? They say it stinks too.

HOWARD EPSTEIN, SAN FRANCISCO REPUBLICAN PARTY: It's embarrassing for the city. You know, we already have a reputation as being full of nuts. And this just emphasizes that.

SIMON: But in a city where only nine percent of the voters are Republican, the measure has an excellent shot at passing. If it does, the George W. Bush Sewage Plant will become a reality when he leaves office. Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


BLITZER: There are other new developments happening in San Francisco as well. Much more important story, a murder case, involving the shielding of illegal immigrants. Lou has been working this story for sometime now. And I know you've got a lot more coming up in an hour on your program. But give us a little flavor of what you're learning.

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: You just had a picture of Gavin Newsom, Wolf, behind you there, the mayor of San Francisco. So proud of the sanctuary status of his city. And defending with his usual precious, arrogant nonsense. Except that three people are dead, in large measure because of the sanctuary policy of shielding illegal alien juveniles from deportation by federal authorities. This is a disgusting situation. There is nothing cute, there is no hat cute enough in San Francisco to make any kind of sense and to be conscionable in any fashion what Mayor Gavin Newsom has been doing in that city.

BLITZER: Because the alleged killer in this case had been earlier arrested, but no one was notified that he was an illegal immigrant.

DOBBS: That is the claim. The fact is that he was arrested twice previously. Had a documented history of violence. And if the Probation Department in the City of San Francisco didn't know it, either way it's either malfeasance or misfeasance on their part. The fact that they would not take action on that sanctuary policy -- which by the way, Wolf, some idiots in this country - there are about 70 cities and towns that have the sanctuary policy defying the federal government. Some cities are trying to bring it on, one or two, including Hartford, Connecticut.

I'm going to tell you point blank, the American public ought to rise up and say not a single federal dollar should go to any city that has a sanctuary policy, period.

BLITZER: You will have more on this story one hour from now.