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Anthrax Suspect Commits Suicide; Confusion Over Obama's Faith; Lawmakers Leave Work Behind

Aired August 1, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a truly shocking twist. Almost seven years after poison-laced letters scared Congress and the nation, the main suspect in the anthrax case is now dead.

Plus, Barack Obama's remarkable confrontation with some hecklers. The sensitive issue, he responded to it at length.

And John McCain stands by his allegation that Barack Obama played the race card, then insists he's now ready to move on. All that and the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Today, a bizarre twist indeed, very bizarre. It turns out that the nightmarish attacks that traumatized the nation right after 9/11 may -- may -- have a resolution.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Back in 2001, someone or some people mailed out letters laced with sports of the deadly anthrax. They went to lawmakers, to news organizations. Five people died. No one was ever arrested. Now we're learning authorities were soon going to take action against one suspect. But that suspect is now dead.

Our justice correspondent Kelli Arena is getting all of these details for us. You have been looking, Kelli, at the man in the middle of all of this. What do we know?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, his name was Bruce Ivins, a noted microbiologist who sources say was the main suspect in the anthrax investigation.


ARENA (voice-over): When Bruce Ivins killed himself, the net was closing fast.

DALE WATSON, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: This case had been going on for a long period of time. It shows that this case is not necessarily dead or closed, by any means. ARENA: The government has released no details of its case, but sources say at the time of his suicide the government was set to indict Ivins and seek the death penalty. His neighbors say he had been under suspicion for months.

BONNIE DUGGAN, NEIGHBOR: We started noticing the surveillance probably a year ago.

ARENA: So, what led investigators to Ivins? Sources say a scientific examination showed the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks originated here at the Fort Detrick Army Lab in Maryland, where Ivins worked for more than three decades.

The twisted irony here is that Ivins was a top microbiologist who was developing an anthrax vaccine. Officials say the FBI was looking into whether Ivins released the anthrax as a way to test the vaccine. His lawyers say it was stress, not guilt, that caused Ivins to kill himself. They contend he's innocent, that he fully cooperated with the government.

Another irony, according to sources, Ivins even helped analyze some of the anthrax found in letters used in the attacks.

The Justice Department is being tight-lipped, saying investigative documents remain under seal and that it has to brief victims and families before the public.


ARENA: Several officials say that the FBI may soon close the investigation into the attacks that killed five people, indicating that Ivins was the lone suspect.

But there are skeptics who say the government may be wrong. It focused for years on scientist Steven Hatfill, even publicly identified him as a person of interest, Wolf. And then they had to pay him millions of dollars when he sued. Those doubters say that Ivins will not have that opportunity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, do we know if his handwriting matched those letters that were sent out to Tom Brokaw, to Senator Daschle, Senator Leahy, among others? Have we got any indication that there was a match in the handwriting?

ARENA: Wolf, no, the FBI and Justice Department have not released any details about what they had on Ivins. We still wait for that. A lot of the information remains under seal.

BLITZER: Because, if there is no match, the question then becomes, did he have an accomplice? Did he have someone else working with him on this? And those questions remain outstanding, I'm sure.


ARENA: That's right.

BLITZER: Kelli, thanks very much.

Let's move on now to Barack Obama's unusual confrontation today with hecklers. He apparently decided that this particular group of protesters would not or should not simply be dismissed or ignored. He responded to their complaints, and he responded at length.

Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's looking into this story for us.

It was quite a moment out there when he was at this town hall meeting.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, it really was. Having covered President Bush, plenty of candidates, it's not really surprising when the occasional heckler emerges. It's typical that the Secret Service or some kind of security will quickly whisk them away. But that is not what happened today.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): It was a rare campaign moment, Barack Obama interrupted by a small but persistent group of hecklers.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hold on a second. What's happening here? Wait. Hold on a second.

MALVEAUX: Three men holding a banner and two white female supporters shouted, What about the black community? As Secret Service moved in, the crowd drowned out the protesters.

AUDIENCE: Yes he can! Yes he can!

MALVEAUX: Obama won their silence by promising them they'd get their chance.

OBAMA: Just relax. You'll get your chance.

MALVEAUX: During the question-and-answer period, the heckler unleashed a heavy charge, that Barack Obama failed to respond to perceived attacks against the black community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York Police Department and Javon Dawson, right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Pete Police. And the Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina. The list goes on.

MALVEAUX: Obama addressed his criticism point by point.

OBAMA: Jena 6, I was the first candidate to get out there and say this is wrong. When Sean Bell got shot, I put out a statement immediately.

MALVEAUX: But Diop Olugbala, a member of a group that advocates issues of concern to Africans and African-Americans, wasn't satisfied. Obama tried another approach. OBAMA: I may not have spoken out the way you would have wanted me to speak out, which -- which gives you the option of voting for somebody else, it gives you the option to run for office yourself.

MALVEAUX: In the end, Olugbala said he appreciated Obama addressing his concerns, but added that the candidate failed to win him over.

DIOP OLUGBALA, AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm not going to vote for him because he has not shown any evidence that he's going to do anything to benefit my community.


MALVEAUX: Well, Wolf, in a rare move for a candidate, Obama spent 10 minutes of back and forth trying to provide that evidence to this heated voter -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It was an awkward moment, but I thought he handled it very well indeed.

Suzanne, thanks very much.

MALVEAUX: Senator John McCain had some uncomfortable moments of his own today in Florida. He spoke before the National Urban League, a mostly African-American audience, the appearance coming only a day after Senator McCain accused Senator Obama of playing the race card.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's working this story for us.

Did the race card allegation, per se, come up during his appearance before the National Urban League?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It didn't, Wolf. Senator McCain did take questions from the audience. But no one asked him about it. They were much more focused on issues like education and affirmative action. But that did not make the timing of McCain's speech today any less interesting.


BASH (voice-over): They appeared grateful that he came. But most at the National Urban League meeting sat silently as John McCain urged them to look beyond Barack Obama's inspiring words.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there's one thing he always delivers, it is a great speech. But I hope you will listen carefully, because his ideas are not always as impressive as his rhetoric.

BASH: Just a few weeks ago, when McCain spoke before another black audience, the NAACP, he went out of his way to praise Obama. Not this time.

MCCAIN: And if Senator Obama continues to defer to the teachers unions, instead of committing to real reform, then he should start looking for new slogans.

BASH: Every one of McCain's hits on Obama was greeted with awkward quiet. It wasn't until McCain his used favorite crowd-warming trick, Q&A, that the atmosphere changed, not that the questions weren't tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you decide to vote against Martin Luther King's birthday as a holiday?

MCCAIN: Let me answer that one, if I could.

Because I was wrong.



MCCAIN: Because I was wrong.

BASH: He sparred with the crowd for more than 20 minutes and heard a lot of anger about his opposition to affirmative action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why in an America where there are disparities, alarming disparities, in employment between management, between income, wealth, health, would you want to eliminate programs that document that, so we understand where we are and can plan for where we need to go?

MCCAIN: Affirmative action is in the eye of the beholder. I think the United States of America has reached a point where we should provide equal economic opportunities for all Americans.


BASH: Again, McCain got no questions from the largely African- American audience about the fact that his campaign accused Obama of playing the race card, which, of course, dominated the campaign trail yesterday.

But, later, McCain was asked at a press conference about it. He defended and repeated the charge, but, Wolf, he quickly then insisted he wanted to move on.

BLITZER: And we're going to play that exchange he had with reporters. That's coming up in a little while here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dana, thanks very much. Both of these candidates doing a good job today at their town hall meetings, setting the stage potentially for those debates that will be coming up in the not too distant future after the conventions.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

It is going to be fascinating, Jack. Once they have those three presidential debates, they go head to head, that is going to convince some people who to vote for.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I would think. Yes, usually those are watched with some interest. There were so many during the primaries that your eyes kind of glazed over after awhile.


BLITZER: They estimate, by the way, those debates, because all the networks, all the cable networks, 60, 80 million people could be watching.


CAFFERTY: Yes. And then run out into the streets tearing their hair out and screaming as soon as they're over. I don't know.


CAFFERTY: Before you rush to your computer and log on and e-mail "The Cafferty File," consider this. You might be addicted to the Internet. A news service reports that the Internet has become an out of control habit for more and more people. In fact, experts say that Internet addiction is a growing psychological and behavioral problem.

It's estimated 5 to 10 percent of Americans may be addicted to the Internet. That could be as many as 30 million people. And it's an even bigger problem in other parts of the world -- 30 percent of the populations of China, Korea and Taiwan may be hooked.

The head of an outfit called the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery says the main kinds of addiction are cyber-sex, online affairs, online gambling, online gaming, compulsive surfing, and even eBay addiction. For young people, online gaming is a particular concern. There are now even special centers to treat this growing problem. Call it Internet rehab.

Experts say that patients actually need 30 to 90 days in-patient treatment, followed by additional care, like any other addiction, I guess. They say it requires lifelong treatment. There are also nonprofit groups like Online Gamers Anonymous that are meant to help Internet addicts.

All right, that's the serious part.

It's Friday afternoon. Here's the question: How do you know if you're becoming addicted to the Internet?

Go to and shoot us an e-mail -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love Jack's Friday night questions. They're always good, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, we will see what happens.

BLITZER: I'm sure you will get some good answers. Thank you. Another nuclear mishap -- the U.S. now telling Japan, beware. An American nuclear submarine may have leaked radioactive matter. The exclusive details coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama's campaign goes to great lengths to explain he's Christian. So, why do some Americans still think he's Muslim?

And John McCain not backing down from his claim yesterday that Senator Barack Obama is playing the race card. Stand by. You will hear in his own words what Senator McCain had to say today, also, what Senator Obama had to say today.

We will be right back.


BLITZER: We want to remind you that CNN is launching a fresh effort to help you get better acquainted with the presidential candidates and learn where they stand on important issues. Each hour between now and Election Day, November 4, we're going to be bringing you more of what they're saying on the campaign trail to help you better decide.

Here's Senator Barack Obama on a top issue of importance to all of us.


OBAMA: Back in the 1990s, your incomes grew by an average of $6,000, and over the last several years with George Bush in office, they have actually fallen $1,000. So the first thing I want to do, Florida, is just ask you a very simple question. Do you think that you are better off? Now than you were four years ago or eight years ago?


OBAMA: And if you don't think you're better off, do you think you can afford another four years of the same failed economic policies that we've had under George W. Bush?


OBAMA: You can't afford it.


OBAMA: You know, for so many families, these anxieties are getting worse, not better.

I woke up, looked at your newspaper this morning that said that Florida was in recession for the first time in 16 years, the first time in 16 years that the economy in Florida shrank, instead of grew. People are starting to lose faith, not only in their own prospects, but in their ability to pass on a better life to their children and to their grandchildren. They feel as if the American dream is slowly slipping away, the idea that if you work hard, you can pass on a better life, the idea that's behind this country, the idea that you can make it if you try.

People feel like that is slipping away. A lot of people are trying, but they're having a tough time making it. Now, part of this has to do with changes in the economy. And I don't think any of us can deny that the economy is different now. It is globalized. Technology and communications revolutions mean that jobs can go to anywhere where there's an Internet terminal.

So, some of these jobs, some of the economy was going to change no matter who was in office. We have got to recognize that.

Children in Saint Petersburg are now competing not just against kids in California or Indiana; they're going to be competing against children in Beijing and Bangalore. And that means we're going have to work smarter. We're going to have to educate our children more effectively, in order to compete in this international economy.



BLITZER: It's also getting rough out there on the campaign trail. In a news conference in Panama City, Florida, today, Senator McCain was not backing off his allegations that Senator Obama has played the race card.

Listen to what Senator McCain had to say.


MCCAIN: His comments were clearly -- were clearly the race card because of what he said. Everybody can read his remarks.

And in fact, his campaign retracted those remarks. So I think it's very clear.

And I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed at his comments. And so his campaign retracted those remarks, so let's move on.

I have supported legislation time after time that would provide equal opportunities for all Americans. I have supported lower taxes. I have supported increases in educational benefits. I have supported hundreds of pieces of legislation which would help Americans obtain an equal opportunity in America.

I'm proud of that record from fighting for the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday in my state, to sponsoring specific legislation that would prevent discrimination in any shape or form in America today. And I'm proud of that fight. And I would be glad to give you the legislative record of my efforts.

Michael? QUESTION: The accusation that Senator Obama had played the race card had the effect of putting race front and center in the presidential debate. Was that intent at all?

MCCAIN: I didn't bring up the issue. I did not bring up the issue. Senator Obama did, three times in one day. And his campaign later retracted it.

So I think it's pretty obvious that at least they acknowledge that. So he brought up the issue of race, I responded to it because I'm disappointed. And I don't want that issue to be part of this campaign. And since his campaign retracted it, I'm ready to move on, and I think we should move on.


BLITZER: The newest numbers, by the way, show this is a very, very tight presidential race, at least the snapshot we're seeing right now. With a bad economy and an unpopular president, should Senator Obama be farther ahead?

And a reported sighting of a Boston man and the daughter he's suspected of kidnapping.

And a remarkable view of a rare solar eclipse from around the world. We will share it with you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: A very disturbing discovery. A U.S. nuclear attack submarine had a radioactive leak. Stand by. We have a CNN exclusive.

John McCain is trying to put the spotlight on Barack Obama and take it off President Bush. Seems to be having some success right now -- the latest poll numbers coming up.

And we take you to one small town, where some people still refuse to believe that Senator Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, there is usually a stampede to the doors following the last House vote before a vacation. Not for everyone today. In protest against Democrats' decision to adjourn without an energy plan vote, Republicans refused to leave the floor, even after the lights dimmed and the mikes turned off.

A question of faith. Barack Obama's campaign has highlighted his Christian religion. So why do so many Americans still believe he's a Muslim? And a CNN exclusive -- an American nuclear submarine may have leaked radioactive material in Japanese water -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

If some Democrats have their way, this election will be a referendum on George W. Bush and how John McCain might continue his legacy. But if some Republicans get their way, this election will be a referendum on Barack Obama and whether he's ready to lead.

Our senior CNN political analyst, Bill Schneider, has been looking into this.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): With an unpopular president and a bad economy, this election is not supposed to be close.

Asked whether they would rather see a Democrat or a Republican elected president, voters said they prefer a Democrat, by 12 points. But, in CNN's latest poll of polls, Barack Obama is only three points ahead of John McCain. So far, the election looks more like a referendum on Obama than on President Bush. Many voters don't know much about Obama. McCain is trying to fill in the blanks.


NARRATOR: He's the biggest celebrity in the world.

CROWD: Barack Obama!

NARRATOR: But is he ready to lead?


SCHNEIDER: Those ads may be keeping the race close.

EVAN TRACEY, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYSIS GROUP: Negative ads make undecided voters just that much more undecided. So, what it can do is have a way of at least freezing the race in place.

SCHNEIDER: The Obama campaign is responding.


NARRATOR: He's practicing the politics of the past. John McCain, his attacks on Barack Obama not true, false, baloney, the low road, baseless.


SCHNEIDER: Obama is trying to avoid falling into McCain's trap. TRACEY: I think the McCain campaign would like nothing more than to get the Obama campaign in a back and forth with negative ad that sort of carries through the fall. This obviously works against Senator Obama's caricature of being a new kind of politician.

SCHNEIDER: McCain's negative strategy is keeping the focus on Obama. By nearly 2-1, voters say they are paying more attention to what kind of president Obama would be than what kind of president McCain would be.

(on camera): McCain is making the campaign a referendum on Obama. What can Obama do about it? He is trying to answer McCain's charges and stay above the fray at the same time. That takes a lot of discipline.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: All right, let's discuss this and more with our panel. Joining us, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; Jack Cafferty; and Steve Hayes of "The Weekly Standard". They are part of the best political team on television.

So, the question, Jack, is a simple one -- is the McCain campaign succeeding in putting Barack Obama on the defensive?

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't think on the defensive is the right way to characterize it.

Are they mocking him with these stupid ads of, you know, the parting of the Red Sea and Britney Spears?

Yes, they are. McCain thinks that's funny. OK. Hillary Clinton spent some time mocking Barack Obama during the primaries. It didn't work out so well for her. And my guess is it won't work out so well, long-term, for John McCain, either.

That being said, though what choice does he have?

Look at the condition of the country thanks to the leadership of the Republican president, George W. Bush, and his cabal of co- conspirators. And those are the people that John McCain would like to replace, he also being a member of the Republican establishment in Washington. He can't go around and defend the record of the economy or foreign policy or the war on terror or the insecure borders or the immigration problem or the economy that's in the toilet or the reputation of the country that's gone or the ignorance of the Constitution...

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: ...and the fact that we're a nation of law.

How do you -- how do you run on that stuff? BLITZER: Well, you know, here's -- here's a little clip from this new Web video, Steve, that the McCain campaign put out, once again, mocking Senator Barack Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be known that in 2008, the world will be blessed. They will call him the one.

OBAMA: A nation healed, a world repaired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behold his mighty hand.


BLITZER: What do you think of this strategy, Steve?

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I mean I don't love that ad. I think it's sort of funny. It's sort of corny. But I thought the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton ad was much more effective.

Look, I think this is a pretty --


HAYES: -- I think this is a pretty effective strategy for McCain. You know, it is clear that the race is going to be a referendum on Barack Obama.

And you can go back and look to mid-June. There was a "Washington Post" poll. And voters were asked which candidate was a more risky choice for president. And the numbers were shockingly even -- almost the same. And I think the McCain campaign took heed and said wait a second, we've got to show that Barack Obama is less experienced than John McCain, hasn't dealt with these issues, you know, voted "present" in the Illinois state senate, things of that nature. And I think that's what they're doing.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, if you talk to the McCain people, as I do, they say, OK, which would we rather have, a referendum on Barack Obama or referendum on George W. Bush?

I think they'll go for the Obama referendum. And what they're trying to do now is to define him. Because when you ask voters whether they really know a lot about Obama, they tell you no. And they're trying to fill in those blanks right now, as Bill Schneider was saying.

And what the McCain campaign is trying to do is give voters an excuse not to vote for him.

BLITZER: And they're doing a pretty good job, Gloria, right now, because they -- these are hard -- these are tough political types who are working with Senator McCain right now. They know what they're doing.

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: And they're trying to shift the attention on Obama, as opposed to Bush and McCain.

BORGER: And they're getting -- you know, they're getting -- these ads are getting tougher and tougher. I do think, though, Wolf, that it's a little risky...

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.

BORGER: ...because I think you can alienate those undecided voters, the 12 percent undecided voters who might like to hear that John McCain likes to work across the aisle, that he's got a long history of doing that. But instead, they're seeing these ads.

To some voters, they'll seem a little childish and maybe those will be the Independent voters. To other voters, it will give them a reason not to vote for Obama if they're so inclined not to vote for him anyway.

HAYES: Yes, but, Wolf, you know, one of the things I think people -- we've seen with the Independent voters is, you know, when they see the ad, their immediate reaction is a negative one. So if you have, you know, on the screen you have the pollsters and they register how they feel about these things, they'll have a negative reaction.

The long-term effect is quite different, though. Negative ads work. They define a candidate, especially somebody who's unfamiliar to the American public.

CAFFERTY: These are...

BORGER: That's why Obama has got to fight back.

CAFFERTY: These are the political tactics that got us two terms of George W. Bush. This is Karl Rove running a campaign. His name isn't on this one, but it's the same thing. I got a note from a guy the other day. He said, well, the swift boats have already sailed. We'll see if the public in this country is dumb enough to buy this act...

BLITZER: And we'll also see...

CAFFERTY: ...three elections in a row.

BORGER: But...

BLITZER: And we'll also see if Senator Obama, guys, does a better job than Senator Kerry...

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: ...or Vice President Gore in dealing with these kinds of attacks. All right, stand by...

BORGER: Exactly. And they will.

BLITZER: Gloria -- yes, stand by.

BORGER: They will.

BLITZER: We'll see how they do, because we have much more to talk about, including one of Jack Cafferty's favorite subjects, the United States Congress. They took off today five weeks of vacation. House Republicans took a few minutes at the very end with a chant of "Vote! Vote! Vote!"

But could lawmakers have done more before they left? And where does that leave all of us?

The best political team on television ready to tackle that.

And Senator Obama has repeatedly stressed he's not a Christian -- excuse me -- that he is a Christian, not a Muslim.

So why is that such a tough sell in one small Tennessee town?

Gary Tuchman has a fascinating report.


BLITZER: They didn't waste any time. Members of Congress got out of town pretty quickly, although some Republicans stayed behind, at least for a little while, to protest what they said was the Democrats' refusal to let them vote on offshore oil drilling.

Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Gloria, it was an opportunity for Republicans to chant, "Vote! Vote! Vote!" But you know what, they're all gone now for five weeks, until after the Democratic and Republican conventions.

BORGER: Thank goodness. Thank goodness, Wolf.

You know, I think that we always say Congress rushes out of town, they don't get anything done. And far be it from me to defend a group that has a 9 percent popularity rating. And I know Jack is going to take me on on this. Go right ahead, Jack.


BORGER: However, however, however, I will say that they did pass an economic stimulus plan and they did pass a mortgage bailout bill. And I think the way they're behaving on the energy bill is absolutely ridiculous, OK?

CAFFERTY: I agree.

BORGER: But I will give them two things this time. I won't give them energy because, you know, the Republicans don't want to raise taxes to pay for it. The Democrats don't want to bring up drilling off the coasts. They're both wrong. They ought to just get together and pass something.

CAFFERTY: Well, the government is broken, Gloria. You're absolutely right.

BORGER: I know that.

CAFFERTY: They did the stimulus thing and they did do the housing bill. But the Republicans who were screaming "Vote! Vote! Vote!" today had control of both houses of Congress for six years.

BORGER: I agree. I agree.

CAFFERTY: Where's the energy policy? Then the Democrats got control. Where's the energy policy?

None of the appropriation bills except for one, which are supposed to be done by October 1st, have been addressed. They'll come back in September, after the conventions, stay for a couple of weeks, point their fingers at each other some more and then adjourn for the election.

BORGER: But this is why we have elections...

CAFFERTY: The government is broken. I've been saying this for...

BORGER: This is why we have elections.

CAFFERTY: I've been saying this for three years -- if it's an incumbent, throw them out. I don't care who it is...

BLITZER: All right...

CAFFERTY: ...Byrd, Kennedy. If they've been there before, get rid of them. The only way it will ever start to work again is if we impose term limits on those people.


HAYES: Well, I expect that the Congressional approval ratings will now skyrocket because they'll be out of the news and we won't be reporting on what they're not doing, by and large.

BORGER: Right.

HAYES: Look, I mean, I think if Republicans wanted to make a bigger issue of the Democrats' refusal or Nancy Pelosi's refusal to let them vote on drilling, I think they were successful to a certain extent. But they really wanted to make this sort of a big national issue. And I think it fell short a little bit.

BORGER: Well, so then they -- then they start looking like children, though. I mean this is their problem. You want to make it into a serious issue, make it into a serious issue. Don't go to the floor of the chamber in the dark and start chanting. I mean that's not really a way to get the public to have any confidence in you.


CAFFERTY: Throw them out.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: All of them, Jack?

CAFFERTY: All of them.

BLITZER: All 435 of them?

CAFFERTY: Start over. I'm serious.

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: You know, when this country started, it was people off the farms and out of the hardware stores. And they'd go to Washington for two or three -- remember "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?"

That's the way it was designed. It wasn't supposed to be a career path for these people who spend 30 and 40 years sucking the taxpayer dry and grandstanding and taking money from the special interests. The government is broken.

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: But...

BLITZER: Here's the bottom line. They're not going to be here for five weeks right now, so if you're trying to put a little bright spot on this, no damage can be done.

Is that right, Jack?

CAFFERTY: There is no bright spot.


BORGER: Well, but they're...


BORGER: All those superdelegates are going to be at both of the conventions (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: We'll see them there.


BLITZER: We'll be there, as well, guys, because we're working really hard.

All right, guys, have a great weekend.

Jack, don't go away. We've got "The Cafferty File" still to come.

Senator Barack Obama is a Christian. But some people are still determined to convince you he's a Muslim. Apparently, that has some voters still very much confused.

Here's a fascinating report from CNN's national correspondent, Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's like Christmas season in this story in the tiny town of Copperhill, Tennessee. But the owner, who plays Santa Claus year after year, isn't so jolly when he talks about Barack Obama.

RIP MANN, OWNER, CHRISTMAS SEASON IS HERE!: I feel he was raised a Muslim the first part of his life, yes. I've read that he has attended a Muslim school for a couple of years. His father was Muslim and...

TUCHMAN (on camera): So he says although his father was born Muslim, he didn't attend a Muslim school and he wasn't raised a Muslim, that he was always a Christian.

MANN: Well, if that's true, I'm not aware of it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): He's far from alone. According to a "Newsweek" poll, more than one quarter of all Americans believe Obama was born a Muslim and 12 percent believe he still is a Muslim. Quite a few who live in Copperhill are part of that 12 percent.

(on camera): What concerns you about Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The safety of our country if Obama gets in. I do -- he is a Muslim and I'm very concerned about that.

TUCHMAN: The fact is, he says he's not a Muslim. He says he's a Christian.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I know what he says.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Diners at breakfast had similar sentiments.

(on camera): Deep down, do you think he's a Muslim?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Even a man who says he may vote for Obama doesn't believe him.

(on camera): Do you think he was born a Muslim?

HANK BAUDET, RESIDENT: Probably. TUCHMAN: He says he wasn't.

BAUDET: Well, given his background and his parents, he probably was -- or at least close to it, educated in somewhat Muslim, the religion.

TUCHMAN: But here's what I'm getting at, when he says he isn't, you're not taking his word for it?


TUCHMAN: How come you don't take his word for it?

BAUDET: Well, politicians will tell you anything you want to hear to get elected.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Certainly not everyone in Copperhill feels this way. But here, like many other towns across America, many people refuse to let go of misperceptions of Obama, including the mayor.

(on camera): In your heart, do you think he's a Christian?

MAYOR HERB HOOD, COPPERHILL, TENNESSEE: This is just speaking for myself. And I'm not speaking for the City of Copperhill or anything. I mean my personal opinion is I don't feel that he is a Christian per se.




TUCHMAN: Mayor Herb Hood says Obama's past relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a major reason he has his opinion.

But others are far more general.

(on camera): Do you think he was raised a Muslim?


TUCHMAN: How come?

FRANKS: Just everything I read and hear.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Of the roughly two dozen people we talked with, only one man unequivocally believed Barack Obama on this issue.

(on camera): How does it make you feel, all these rumors that are circulating about him?

GALE WALBORN, RESIDENT: I just ask people, where do you get this information from?

And people are telling me the Internet, e-mails, what people say. And I say, do you have proof? No.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But it's clear...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Hussein Obama just doesn't sound like an Anglo-Saxon name to me.

TUCHMAN: Suspicions continue to linger.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Copperhill, Tennessee.


BLITZER: It certainly hasn't been a great year for the U.S. military and its nuclear weapons program. And it's happened once again -- another nuclear mishap. Why this one might cause some serious problems with Japan.

And across a continent, thousands of people were treated to an amazing, amazing sight. We'll share it with you.


BLITZER: The United States Navy has notified Japan that an American nuclear attack submarine may have leaked a small amount of radioactive water. It's the latest in a series of such mishaps.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has a CNN exclusive -- Jamie McIntyre.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as nuclear incidents go, this one ranks pretty low. But, still, it rated an official U.S. notification to the governments of Japan and Guam.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): CNN has learned that two weeks ago, the fast attack submarine USS Houston was found to be leaking a tiny amount of radioactive water after it pulled into Hawaii for a routine maintenance. The Navy confirms a sailor's leg was doused with the water, which officials insist contained an extremely low level of radiation, when a leaky valve allowed a gallon of the liquid to gather in a discharge pipe.

Tests on the sailor revealed no measurable exposure, but Navy policy requires any unusual event involving nuclear reactors to be fully reported. And because the Houston may have been leaking when it stopped in both Japan and Guam before going to Hawaii, all three ports were notified of the potential problem.

In Japan, the issue is particularly sensitive because Tokyo only recently agreed to ease its ban on nuclear ships, to allow the U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington to be based in Yokosuka beginning next month.

Already, U.S. Navy officials have had to assure the Japanese government that strict accountability was being enforced following a fire on the G.W. Back in May that did not involve the nuclear power plant. The 12-hour blaze, caused by unauthorized smoking near improperly stored flammable materials, did $70 million damage. Both the ship's captain and executive officer were sacked.

The relatively minor leak on the USS Houston probably would have attract little notice, except it follows a number of embarrassing lapses in the United States Air Force. In one case, nuclear fuses were inadvertently shipped to Taiwan and in another, six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles were mistakenly flown cross-country aboard a B-52 from Minot Air Force Base. And just this week, an unarmed Minuteman booster rocket was involved in an accident at the same base, when heavy rains apparently caused the road to give way under a truck transporting it to a launch site.


MCINTYRE: Navy officials insist the amount of radiation that leaked was so low, it posed no risk -- measuring at about one half of a microcurie -- less than would be given off by a typical 50-pound bag of garden fertilizer. Still, when it comes to nuclear safety, the Navy insists no standard is too high -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much.

Let's go back to Carol. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What do we know -- Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there may be new hope for patients with degenerative disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. For the first time, scientists were able to turn skin cells from ALS patients into stem cells and then reprogram them into brain cells that cause the illness. This had only been done before with samples from healthy people. Researchers say it could need to new treatments for ALS and other diseases, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

War crimes suspect and former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, has accused the United States of going back to a deal to shield him from trial. In a letter the U.N. tribunal at the Hague, Karadzic claims he made a deal with U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke in 1996 to disappear from public view so that the Dayton Peace Accords ending the Bosnian civil war could be implemented. Holbrooke tells CNN the claims are "flat out lies."

Today marks a somber anniversary. Exactly one year ago, the Minneapolis Interstate 35 West Bridge -- 35W Bridge -- collapsed, as scores of cars and trucks were crossing it during the evening rush hour. Thirteen people were killed. One hundred forty-five others were injured. Hundreds of mourners and survivors of the tragedy gathered at a Minneapolis church today to remember the victims.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much. So on this one year anniversary of the fatal Minneapolis bridge collapse, just how safe are you from similar tragedies?

Statistics from the Bureau of Transportation are alarming. These green dots show the more than 72,000 bridges in the United States that are still structurally deficient. The states with the biggest number of deficient bridges are Missouri, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Iowa.

Despite the Minneapolis bridge tragedy, the numbers haven't changed much between 2007 and 2008. Close to a quarter or more of the bridges in those states are restricted to light vehicles, require immediate maintenance to stay open or are closed.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty once again. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: It's estimated between 15 and 30 million people in this country might be addicted to the Internet.

Our question is: How can you tell if you're becoming addicted to the Internet?

Pablo in West Virginia: "When your spouse books vacation lodging and is adamant that it has no Internet access."

Michael writes: "You're addicted when you develop sores on your elbows. A true story."


Dave in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts: "Look at the good side, Jack. If people weren't even minutely addicted to the Internet, you'd be in the unemployment line with the rest of us poor slobs because of this terrible economy."

Tyson in Cave Creek, Arizona: "Jack, you know you're addicted to the Internet when you wake up in a pool of your own digital vomit, your head hurts and you have no recollection of any Web site you may have browsed the night before."

Jeb writes: "You get in an argument with a loved one and find yourself trying to click the refresh button."

C.T. Bartlett, Illinois: "The Internet? Kind of. But I'm totally addicted to your blog. I check all day until it's up. And if you're off, it ruins my day. When I'm really crabby, people ask if Cafferty is on vacation. Is there a 12-step program for me?"

Jeuel writes: "I'm in the U.K. . I came home from work at 1:00 in the afternoon, sat on the sofa with my laptop. I'm still here. It's 11:00 at night. Now, ain't that something? So there you go."

Justin writes: "You just announced the question on air no more than two minutes ago and here I am. You tell me." And William in Miami: "Great work, Jack. You asked 30 million Internet addicts to reply to your question using the Internet. Got any suggestion for heroin addicts?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog, There's some yucks there. We only had time to read a dozen or so, but there are a lot of funny answers to this Internet thing. Cool.

BLITZER: I'll read them.

Thanks, Jack. Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Nature puts on a spectacular show today -- a rare total solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth from Canada's Arctic to China's ancient Silk Road and it's got CNN I-Reporters sending us some incredible video.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're just getting this story in from CBS News. They're reporting that Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the number two Al Qaeda leader, the deputy to Osama bin Laden, according to CBS News, may be critically wounded and possibly dead -- possibly dead -- may be critically wounded.

We're checking with our sources. One U.S. intelligence official tells CNN -- and I'm quoting now -- "This is utterly uncorroborated, and at this point, there's no reason to believe that Al-Zawahiri has been injured or killed.

Another U.S. officials tells CNN they have no information or confirmation on this story.

Let's go to Kelli Arena, who's looking in to this story.

CBS is going out on a limb on this one.

What are we picking up -- Kelli?


BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, Kelli can't hear me.

FBI, by the way, we're told, has tried to run down this CBS story. They're suggesting that they don't have anything to confirm it, as well. So that's what we know at this point.

Once again, CBS saying that Al-Zawahiri, the Al Qaeda number two, may have been critically wounded, possibly dead, in a U.S. air strike the other day. But sources are saying they don't have any information to back it up.

We're going to continue to watch this story for you. And if we get some more information on it, of course, we'll bring it to you as it comes in here in THE SITUATION ROOM and, of course, later tonight on CNN.

Meanwhile, as day turned in to night across much of the Earth today, a total solar eclipse swept across the upper Northern Hemisphere. From Canada's Arctic to Greenland to Russia to Mongolia and China, thousands gathered -- hundreds of thousands in some places -- to watch the moon pass between the Earth and the sun.

Here's a stunning look from NASA. Total solar eclipses like this one happen about once or twice a year. They're only visible for about two minutes or so.

CNN I-Reporter Ivan Komorov was in Siberia and sent us some incredible video of his own. You probably won't be able to understand what he's saying unless you speak Russian, but I think he'll catch his excitement.

NASA says the next total eclipse will happen next year, on July 22nd. We'll be watching that.

Among my guests, by the way, this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. "LATE EDITION" starts 11:00 a.m. Eastern on Sunday. It's an exclusive.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.


Kitty Pilgrim is sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.