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President Bush Condemns Russian Invasion of Georgia; Clinton Campaign E-mails Exposed

Aired August 11, 2008 - 18:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: President Bush condemns what he calls a dramatic and brutal escalation of force by Russia. The Republic of Georgia threatened right now as Moscow's invading forces push harder and farther.
This hour, Mr. Bush's stern new warning a short while ago, and this exploding conflict.

The presidential candidates also speaking out against Russia's aggressive new moves. Is this flash point playing to John McCain's strengths, while Senator Barack Obama is on vacation?

And behind the scenes of Hillary Clinton's losing presidential campaign, the turmoil, the infighting, and the ammunition for McCain -- all that and the best political team on television.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John Roberts. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

With Russian troops and tanks on the move and civilian lives on the line, President Bush is taking a tougher stand against Moscow right now and he is suggesting the Georgian republic's future as an independent country may be in peril.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world on CNNI.

Let's listen to what Mr. Bush said just a short time ago.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's evidence that Russian forces may soon begin bombing the civilian airport in the capital city.

If these reports are accurate, these Russian actions would represent a dramatic and brutal escalation of the conflict in Georgia. And these actions would be inconsistent with assurances we have received from Russia that its objectives were limited to restoring the status quo in South Ossetia that existed before fighting began on August the sixth.

It now appears that an effort may be underway to depose Russia's (sic) duly-elected government. Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Let's bring in our White House correspondent Ed Henry now.

Ed, have you ever heard the president talk this tough toward Russia?


But I think the question moving forward is, can the U.S. back up that tough talk? As you just heard Lou Dobbs saying, what will the United Nations Security Council do? The U.S. is hoping there will either be a tough resolution there or short of that Russia will sign off on a cease-fire.

But they have shown no signs of doing that. So, if they don't do that, what's next? No good options for the United States moving forward. If the U.S. were to launch some sort of military action, obviously, this could escalate much, much more dramatically.

If you think back about where the U.S.-Russian relationship started at the beginning of the Bush administration, 2001, President Bush looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes, said he saw into his soul, it certainly suggested there was a new day, a warmth, if you will, between the U.S. and Russia.

Right now, it certainly appears -- and I stress appears -- that the U.S. and Russia are on the brink of another Cold War -- John.

ROBERTS: Ed, other than tough talk and trying to take some action at the Security Council that Russia could veto if it were anything less than just kind of mezza mezza, is there anything that the White House can do to turn this back?

HENRY: They are certainly searching all options. As soon as the president returned from the Olympics in China, he had a National Security Council meeting here at the White House in the Situation Room to go over all of those options.

There is so much at stake beyond what's happening on the ground right now, the president talking about the possibility, for example, of the civilian airport being bombed. Obviously, the U.S. must be getting some very tough intelligence about that. But, also, the president has held up Georgia as a beacon within his freedom agenda, trying to spread freedom and democracy around the world.

If that government were to fall there, that fledgling democracy, that would obviously be a dramatic, dramatic problem for this president's agenda around the world -- John.

ROBERTS: Ed Henry for us at the White House -- Ed, thanks very much.

Georgia's president fleeing for safety even as he pleads for a cease-fire. Mikhail Saakashvili was talking to reporters when his security team abruptly hustled him away, fearing an airstrike. At one point as they were rushing the president out there to safer ground, they pushed him to the ground and piled flak jackets on top of him. Thankfully for the president's safety, there was no attack.

CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Tbilisi for us. He spent the day in Gori, which, according to some Georgian officials, was at least temporarily, under Russian control.

Matthew, what's the latest on the ground there in Georgia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's still a lot of confusion, John, about what the situation is on the ground with regards to Gori.

Certainly we know that Georgian forces in the thousands have evacuated that very strategic town on the main highway that runs from east to west in this tiny former Soviet state. But what's not clear is what the status of Russian forces is. Now, initially, we were told by Georgian officials that Russian infantry had made their way and had started taking Gori. But that's been rejected by the Kremlin.

But it's been enough to send shivers down the spines of many people in the former Soviet Union, the idea that Russia may be advancing outside of the main conflict zones of South Ossetia, perhaps into Georgia proper. Now, that's not something that is happening at the moment, but something that is deeply concerning for many, many Georgians and, indeed, the Georgian leadership -- John.

ROBERTS: Matthew, in an address to the nation a little while ago, President Saakashvili suggested that he thought that there was no danger of Tbilisi coming under direct Russian attack or at least of Russian moving into the capital city before daybreak tomorrow.

What's the thinking long term? Is there an expectation among Georgian officials that indeed Russia may expand where it is now?

CHANCE: Well, I think there's certainly a fear among Georgian officials, among the Georgian leadership, and amongst ordinary Georgians that that's an option that Russia may be toying with.

But, yes, what Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian president, said is, at the moment, they didn't believe that the Russians had the capability to invade and occupy a city as big as Tbilisi, and that he would give, he said, the citizens of the Georgian capital at least a 12-hour notice period before any Russian invasion were to take place.

At the moment, though, I think what Mikhail Saakashvili is trying to do is calm tensions in this country. They kind have been playing them up, then calming them down again. It seems at this stage that the Russians have stopped short of actually entering Georgia proper in any really significant way. And they are, indeed, limiting themselves at the moment to those main conflict zones of South Ossetia, where much of the hostilities have been taking place, and to Abkhazia, the other breakaway region of Georgia.

ROBERTS: Matthew Chance for us at the Georgian capital of Tbilisi -- Matthew, thanks very much.

Hundreds of Americans caught in the crossfire in Georgia. And the State Department is working to get them out.

CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee joins us live.

What's the latest, Zain, on the evacuations?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: John, the U.S. has helped 170 American citizens leave the Republic of Georgia. They left essentially in two convoys headed from the capital, Tbilisi, and onto Armenia. There is going to be another convoy leaving tomorrow.

The U.S. is calling on Russia just to stop its aggression. Now, the State Department has sent envoy Matthew Bryza to Georgia. He's going to be there for several days to boost international mediation. The U.S., John, is also going to be giving humanitarian aid to Georgia. We learned a short while ago that the embassy declared a disaster on the ground and that triggered the authorization of money, $250,000.

That's just an initial funding that is going to help about 10,000 people. State Department officials have also told us that Secretary Rice has made more than 90 phone calls since the weekend to various world leaders, including -- including Britain, France and Germany.

We're learning also, John, that NATO will be holding an emergency meeting with Georgia's foreign minister tomorrow about the conflict with Russia -- John.

ROBERTS: Zain, what could the United States do to pressure Russia? We're hearing that even in these U.N. Security Council consultations that are going on now, very tough language that the U.S. wanted in a resolution is being watered down by France.

VERJEE: And, ultimately, if that came to pass, the Russians could veto it.

But the U.S. really isn't in a good position. They can't do much. They don't really have a lot of leverage against Russia. Most importantly, John, this is really key. The U.S. needs Russia to help them on pressuring Iran on its nuclear program. So, the U.S. is unlikely to get too tough on Russia because they need them -- John.

ROBERTS: Zain Verjee for us from Washington -- Zain, thanks very much.

Many observers say the situation was a time bomb just waiting to explode. South Ossetia made a failed bid for independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union. But the Georgian military blocked it. The fighting ended in a stalemate. And Russian peacekeepers moved in. Tensions have been rising since Georgia elected Mikhail Saakashvili back in 2004.

Jack Cafferty joins us this hour with "The Cafferty File." He's back here -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Got any ideas on how to solve that deal?

ROBERTS: There's not a lot it would seem that anyone can do at this point, until Russia decides that it wants to just kind of settle down into some position somewhere.


CAFFERTY: They are in a position to do whatever they want at this point it seems.

Joe Lieberman says it's not going to happen, but people are talking. The former Democratic V.P. nominee turned independent senator reportedly being vetted now by John McCain as his potential running mate. An adviser to McCain tells "The Financial Times" that McCain -- quote -- "loves" Lieberman and that he's on the short list because he's -- quote -- "never embarrassed anyone, never misspoken" -- unquote.

Some experts have called Lieberman a near perfect pick and say that McCain's choice of the Connecticut senator could be game- changing. Plus, he would have a fact-checker right down the hall in the White House. And that would be in McCain's case invaluable.

Advantages to picking Lieberman include his calm temperament, his appeal to elderly Jewish voters in places like Florida. Lieberman was already thoroughly vetted when he ran in 2000.

On the other hand, it's unlikely Lieberman would do much to shore up McCain's support among the Republican base. Au contraire. That's a group where some still don't trust Lieberman. Some say picking Lieberman could even cause a revolt among die-hard conservatives. Lieberman broke with the Democrats on the war in Iraq, but he's pretty much stuck with them on all of the other issues.

One other thing. McCain is 71 years old. Lieberman is 66. That means the ticket would have a combined age of 137 years. And that means Barack Obama could pick a running mate who is 89 years old and the Democratic ticket would still be younger.

Here's the question: Would Lieberman be a good pick as John McCain's V.P.? Go to You can post a comment on my blog.

ROBERTS: Interesting question. Jack, thanks very much. Looking forward to the responses.

If John McCain becomes president, he may have Hillary Clinton partially to thank for it. A magazine reveals startling tactics that some inside Clinton's campaign wanted to use against Barack Obama.

Forget Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Barack Obama uses other well-known names to drive home his point that McCain is the ultimate Washington celebrity.

And there is a strange twist involving the kidnapping suspect who called himself Clark Rockefeller.


ROBERTS: They are e-mails from Hillary Clinton's campaign that you are not supposed to see, private communications now being put out by "The Atlantic Monthly."

The magazine pieces together what it says is a story of bickering and backstabbing that led to a complete meltdown. The McCain campaign could be especially interested in how some in Clinton's camp wanted to take on Barack Obama.

Our Mary Snow joins me now. She has been reading some of these e-mails.

And they're pretty startling, some of them.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, and definitely a future read for future campaigns. It exposes a series of mishaps inside a campaign for a candidate once seen as the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination.


SNOW (voice-over): A behind-the-scenes look at Hillary Clinton's fight for the Democratic nomination reveals turmoil and infighting. In its extensive look at the Clinton campaign, "The Atlantic Monthly" describes a conference call following Clinton's third-place finish in Iowa, saying she grew angry by the silence of her staff, saying -- quote -- "This has been a very instructive call talking to myself," and hung up.

"The Atlantic Monthly" obtained hundreds of campaign e-mails and memos, including one by then Clinton senior strategist Mark Penn.

In it, he suggests Clinton use Obama's boyhood in Indonesia and Hawaii against him, saying that, instead of showing diversity, "It also exposes a strong weakness for him. His roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who's not, at his center, fundamentally American in his thinking and his values. How we could give some life to this contrast without turning negative."

JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, "THE POLITICO": Her top adviser suggesting that angle is striking. I mean, these are the sort of things that you see in e-mails that are circulating about Obama, is this sort of subterranean smear campaign against him, but you never see these things actually voiced by the candidates.

SNOW: Democratic strategist James Carville says there, at times, what he termed extreme opinions thrown around in campaigns.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Had Senator Clinton followed Mark Penn's advice, it would have cost her more angst -- much more angst and grief than it would have done her good.

SNOW: Is Obama's boyhood a theme that Republican Senator John McCain might use?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it would be very dangerous for John McCain to try to be going after Barack Obama based on themes of patriotism or who's more American. And we saw that, when Hillary Clinton even attempted to do it, that the backlash was immediate and intense.

SNOW: But CNN political contributor Amy Holmes says expect to see the McCain camp on the same page as the camp Clinton when it comes to her 3:00 a.m. ad, an ad questioning whether Obama is ready for an international crisis. "The Atlantic Monthly" reports that after debate over whether to air it, it was Bill Clinton who stepped in to give it the green light.


SNOW: Now, the article was written by "The Atlantic"'s senior editor, Josh Green. The magazine says it plans to post that article online tonight.

And, John, we do have a call in to the Clinton campaign to see if they have any reaction to it.

ROBERTS: So, no response from them at this point?

SNOW: Not as of yet. We do -- we have a call into them. And we will let you know if we get a response.

ROBERTS: All right. Let us know as soon as you hear from them.


ROBERTS: Mary, thanks so much.

Democrats say that it won't be just a convention, but a football stadium-packed gathering to change the course of the nation. Barack Obama will accept his party's nomination in the Denver stadium at their convention, which starts in exactly two weeks' time.

Let's turn to CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

We're taking a look at the convention's lineup, Bill. And what does it tell us?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That the Obama campaign wants to placate the Clinton wing of the party without spoiling the party.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Hillary Clinton will address the Democratic convention Tuesday night, on the 88th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We are one party. We share one vision. SCHNEIDER: It sounds like she's playing good soldier, but some of her supporters may not be ready to lock arms and sing Kumbaya. There will be more than 10,000 reporters at the convention and very little real news. Political conventions have become heavily scripted.

OBAMA: Our staffs are in communication with Senator Clinton's staffs, but I don't anticipate any problems.

SCHNEIDER: The media will be looking for conflict. One pro- Clinton group says it has filmed a television commercial for Senator Clinton that will run next week on cable and Denver television. Another pro-Clinton group is planning marches and rallies the day Clinton speaks.

What do they want? Senator Clinton's name placed in nomination, something she would have to sign off on, plus speeches on behalf of her candidacy, and a role call vote. Over 1,600 delegates will be Clinton supporters.


E. J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST : And 200 Clinton supporters is all it would take, if they really wanted to be difficult, to make a mess at the convention.


SCHNEIDER: Senator Clinton seemed to encourage them when she said:

CLINTON: I think that, you know, people want to feel like, OK, it's a catharsis, we're here, we did it, and then everybody get behind Senator Obama.

SCHNEIDER: A catharsis?

OBAMA: I don't think we're looking for catharsis. I think what we're looking for is energy and excitement about the prospect of changing this country.

SCHNEIDER: See? Conflict already.


SCHNEIDER: One possible reason why Obama will be delivering his acceptance speech in a stadium, 1,600 Clinton supporters will be lost in a sea of 73,000 Obama fans -- John.

ROBERTS: They would have to have pretty good seats to get noticed. Bill Schneider for us in Washington -- Bill, thanks very much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROBERTS: Breaking news here on CNN, as we follow the crisis in Georgia, the conflict between Russia and Georgia over the province of South Ossetia. Joining us on the telephone now is Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

President Saakashvili, are you hearing us all right?


ROBERTS: Mr. President, what is the current situation there in the capital city of Tbilisi? You had gone on Georgian television earlier in the evening to say you didn't expect that the Russians would try to move into the city overnight. Do you still hold to that?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, first of all, I would argue and I would object to the term the conflict over South Ossetia, because the conflict has not been over South Ossetia in the first place.

First of all, the biggest action is taking place not in South Ossetia, but in Abkhazia right now, which is 400 kilometers away from South Ossetia, where the upper part of Abkhazia until today was controlled by Georgia. The lower part was seized by Russian troops 10 years ago and was cleansed ethnically of Georgians.

And what was left of upper Abkhazia has been bitterly attacked for the last two days. And right now, as we speak, there is an ethnic cleansing of whole ethnic Georgian population of Abkhazia taking place by Russian troops. I directly accuse Russia of ethnic cleansing there. And it's happening now.

The other thing is that, if you go down to South Ossetia, where also being held from half of the South Ossetia, which we always controlled, they fully expelled a couple of days ago the whole Georgian population. Russian troops have moved first to occupy the town of Gori, which is around 40 kilometers from Tskhinvali, the original capital of South Ossetia.

And now, just 10 minutes ago, they bombed the town of Kaspi (ph), which is another 20 kilometers, 25 kilometers away from Gori, closer to the capital of Tbilisi. So, basically, they have been -- they are taking their action on the grounds closer to the capital, but they have bombing the capital and these adjacent areas for the last four or five days.

They have been bombing what they regard as some kind of military installations. They have bombing the international airport. They have bombing residential areas. They have bombing railways. And they have been bombing also (INAUDIBLE) places on the roads.

ROBERTS: Mr. President, we saw the very dramatic pictures earlier of you being swept out of a building where you had been holding a conference call with reporters in a flak jacket. You were taken to the ground by your security forces, covered up with flak jackets, because you feared that an airstrike might be imminent.

But to the point of how this all began back on the sixth of August, we had an interview on CNN International just a short time ago with Konstantin Kosachev, a Russian member of parliament, who said -- quote -- "We don't trust any longer the Georgian leadership. Mr. Saakashvili was repeatedly telling us the Washington, the European capitals that he was not going to use military force. Three hours before Mr. Saakashvili declared a cease-fire, and, later in the night, he gave instructions to start bombing the capital city" -- this would be South Ossetia -- "and villages. And we know the result, more than 2,000 people killed, assassinated. We do not trust Mr. Saakashvili."

What do you say in response to that, Mr. President?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, this is -- it's ridiculous for Russians to say anything of this sort.

First of all, I saw nothing -- I mean, I heard even that not only Kosachev, but Sergei Ivanov, the former Russian defense minister, was making similar accusations, as well as Prime Minister Putin.

Well, those two gentlemen are basically directly responsible for killing (INAUDIBLE) Chechens over the course of the Chechen war. They are responsible directly for the disappearance campaigns of tens of hundreds of thousands of people in Chechnya and other places (INAUDIBLE)

These are not the people to talk to preach anybody about democracy and human rights. These are the people who just for the last several days threw out, expelled the whole ethnic Georgian population from South Ossetia and (INAUDIBLE) expulsion of ethnic Georgian population from upper Abkhazia, from other reports.

So, this -- to say -- we are a democratic government. And when this -- they continue to hold -- the place run by Russian officials, armed by Russian-armed groups, and not South Ossetian armed groups. There is no such thing as South Ossetian tank or South Ossetian military.

These are Russian tanks. They have been bombing, shelling us for weeks, and especially for the last several days prior to the response by Georgian troops. When 150 Russian tanks crossed into Georgian border with only 10 minutes after they started crossing...


SAAKASHVILI: ... we fired back.


ROBERTS: Mr. President


SAAKASHVILI: Let me finish.

The point here is, Russia -- as known from history, Russia and the Soviet Union never attacked neighboring countries. They always went for the protection of so-called minorities. I strongly believe in minority protection. I strongly believe Georgia belongs to ethnic groups.

These gentlemen have just committed grave crimes against humanity and have just expelled a population. And they have been bombing (INAUDIBLE) for days and days and days. So, that's it.

And when they are talking about Georgians, the only people that we fired at were Russian tanks and Russian militants.


SAAKASHVILI: And I regret, by the way, loss of human life of these people and the loss of human life of those people as well.


ROBERTS: Mr. President...


SAAKASHVILI: Any time civilian life (INAUDIBLE) already tragic and dramatic.

ROBERTS: Mr. President, forgive me for interrupting, but I'm just thinking of this idea. If Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or some of his aides are watching CNN International right now, and they see you on here, what would you say to them?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, I think they should hear Georgia will never surrender. Georgia will never surrender.

Their purpose -- when they are talking about Georgia's attack of Tskhinvali. Within a few hours, 1,000 Russian tanks entered Georgia. Now, tell me, no matter how superhuman military infrastructure you have, if you have not been preparing the attack for months and months, how -- for God's sakes, how you can mobilize into another country 1,000 tanks within hours, if it's not a premeditated, cold-blooded attack and intervention of a neighboring country?

What they have done now, they are menacing the capital. They occupy -- and this was the mistake (INAUDIBLE) your correspondent saying that things won't go out of South Ossetia too much. They are occupying the town of Gori, which is again a few hundreds kilometers away. They occupy the town of Sinati (ph), which is (INAUDIBLE) kilometers away. They are bombing the whole Georgia.

And how they have -- how else can you justify all those things?


SAAKASHVILI: So, when -- so, when I -- if I have to say -- and I will tell this to the Russian leadership, as it refused to heed my calls for cease-fires (INAUDIBLE) no matter how -- it there was provocation, no matter how Georgians you might kill or even how much you might try to undermine the Georgian government, as they clearly said that their goal is the disposal of the Georgian government, Georgian people will never surrender its freedom and democracy, because democracy is stronger than any of their bombs, any of their tanks, any of their brutal military equipment.

And you know what? We have -- we will defend ourselves. We will go to the end, because we once already lost our freedom to Russia. That was in past century. We were in 70 years of communism and slavery. We had enough of it.

And those gentlemen, like Prime Minister Putin or the others, are a product of that system. Were they to call Russia for some time, they changed Russia. They destroyed Russian democracy, which I always, always admired. They undermined Russia's chance for the future. They are not going to do the same thing to my country, even if they have committed these brutality for the last few years -- for the last few days, because what I have to say -- you know, the bombs they were throwing on us, they have inscription on them. This is for NATO. This is for the United States.

They thought that they were fighting a war with us, by proxy through us with the U.S. and NATO.



SAAKASHVILI: Well, I can tell you that it's not about NATO and the U.S. anymore. Georgian people can respond (INAUDIBLE) them.

And no matter what, we will eventually free all the territories occupied by Russian troops and bring back that population of Ossetian, Abkhaz, Georgian, any ethnic origin, because this is our strength is diversity we have in this country. We believe in democracy and diversity and minority rights.

These people with KGB backgrounds and with brutal backgrounds will do any -- their best to manipulate the truth to be cynical and to be as destructive, as they have now shown the world just now.

ROBERTS: Mr. President, you stated there just a moment ago -- and you have stated before that -- you believe that it's Russia's intention to depose the duly elected, democratically elected government of Georgia. Do you believe that Russia's intentions are to take over the entire country in an effort to do that? And is the United States doing enough to try to turn this action back?


SAAKASHVILI: It's hard to speculate about twisted minds of some decision-makers.

But what is -- the fact that they -- on the second day of operations, they officially proclaimed to every Western official that tried to mediate that their goal is to take or -- is to depose the government of Georgia.

Now, that's nothing new to us. They have been doing this for many years. They been doing their best to undermine Georgia's (INAUDIBLE) They have been doing provocation all the way through. And, finally, they have done -- they used their last chance card, the (INAUDIBLE) invasion.

Now, they -- what's -- the way they are doing this at this stage is that they are crippling our economy. They are cutting the bloodlines of the economy. They blocked our seaports. They have bombed basically every of our airports. They have done everything necessary to undermine, to undermine other bloodlines of Georgian economy.

And, basically, we -- certainly, by disseminating terror throughout Georgia, by...



SAAKASHVILI: ... of civilians, you are (INAUDIBLE) democracy...


SAAKASHVILI: We don't have limitation of freedom (INAUDIBLE) freedoms unlike Russia.

You know, it's democracy. People -- of course, people, when they are bombed (INAUDIBLE) the hope is that, instead of consolidation, they will go out after their own government.

ROBERTS: And, again...

SAAKASHVILI: But that's -- that's the reality.

ROBERTS: And, again...


ROBERTS: And, again, Mr. President, are you satisfied with the American responses? Is the U.S. doing enough to try to end this crisis?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, look, it looks like Russia has not -- would not heed anybody's call (INAUDIBLE) call and nothing more. And the point here is that, you know, I hardly think -- I wouldn't say -- I don't -- it's not about me. I don't -- I think my people, in general, feel let down by world democracies because -- not because -- because -- not because we don't believe anymore. We strongly believe in it. What we don't -- what we certainly believing it's a concentrated effort to step out and to fight for freedom and to protect people who want freedom.

Or otherwise, the signal that Russia sends to the whole neighborhood is that, you know, fighting for freedom and for your right is too high a price to pay...

ROBERTS: Right...

SAAKASHVILI: ...and it's better to, you know, go back to slavery and some sort of subjugation. And of course, no matter what the reaction of certain individual Western leaders is, we've got lots of sympathy for people in the West. And no matter what happens for today or what will happen for days to come, nothing is going to shake our belief and the belief of my people in democracy, in freedom and the democratic choice for all of us in the future. Because that's exactly what Russia -- the current leadership tried to undermine. And that is something that we are willing to -- you know, to fight until the end, to sacrifice whatever we have, as many Georgians will sacrifice their lives.

It's the most unfortunate thing when there are human lives lost for any ethnicity. But the fact is we are not giving up and we will never, ever surrender.

ROBERTS: Well, we continue, Mr. President, to follow the activities at the United Nations Security Council, even as we speak.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia.

Thanks for being with us.

Appreciate it, sir.


ROBERTS: As Russian tanks plunge deeper into neighboring Georgia, the deadly fighting is front and center in the presidential race here in the United States.

Barack Obama issued a written statement a short while ago, taking a tougher line against Russia and sounding a bit more like rival John McCain.

We're just getting an on-camera statement in from the Democrat soon, even as he vacations in Hawaii.

Let's bring back CNN's Ed Henry -- and, Ed, this conflict presents a political opportunity for Senator McCain, who would like people to believe that he is the stronger commander-in-chief because of the depth of his experience on the foreign policy front.

HENRY: Absolutely. As you hear President Bush this evening talk about a brutal escalation by the Russians in Georgia, John McCain is trying to seize upon this issue to show he's better prepared to be commander-in-chief.


HENRY (voice-over): Appearing in Pennsylvania with Tom Ridge, the former homeland secretary, John McCain tried to showcase his own foreign policy credentials.

MCCAIN: The United States and our allies should continue efforts to bring a resolution before the United Nations Security Council condemning Russian aggression. HENRY: With Barack Obama vacationing in Hawaii, McCain has the stage to himself, to try and show he has the experience to handle a crisis and claim he was ahead of the curve months ago, when he started denouncing Russian leader Vladimir Putin's anti-democratic moves.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must remind Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of the world.

HENRY: Obama has been getting briefings on the situation in Georgia and spoke out Friday, though he was not quite as forceful in denouncing Russia.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I whole- heartedly condemn the violation of Georgia's sovereignty. I think it is important, at this point, for all sides to show restraint and to stop this armed conflict.

HENRY: McCain's offensive harkens back to the 3:00 a.m. ad Hillary Clinton ran in the Democratic primaries to suggest Obama was not up to the job.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing.

Who do you want answering the phone?


HENRY: The ad didn't work for Clinton, but the McCain camp thinks the issue may resonate more in the general election with Independent voters concerned about security, though McCain's claim to have a handle on national security could be slightly undermined by mispronouncing the name of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili three times.

MCCAIN: Mikheil Saakashvili.

President Saakashvili.

President Saakashvili.

President Saakashvili.


HENRY: You know, it's interesting, an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll last month, there was a question, "Who do you trust more to handle an unforeseen crisis?"

Fifty percent said John McCain, 41 percent Barack Obama. Obviously, a 9 point edge for John McCain -- not necessarily as big as one might expect because of all of the time he's focusing on this. For example, when voters were asked who better could handle the economy, Barack Obama won out there, 54 percent to 35 percent for McCain -- a 19-point spread -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Ed Henry for us at the White House.

Ed, thanks very much.

And we have just gotten in a videotaped statement from Senator Barack Obama on the fighting in Georgia.

He is vacationing on the island of Oahu. He is in Kailua, a city on the north side. We just got the tape brought into us.

Here's what he had to say.


OBAMA: The United States, Europe and all other concerned countries must stand united in condemning this aggression and seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis. We should continue to push for a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence.

This is a clear violation of the sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Georgia. The U.N. must stand up for the sovereignty of its members and for peace in the world.


ROBERTS: Joining us now to talk more about the fighting in Georgia and much more on the political front, CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; CNN's Jack Cafferty; and Stephen Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard". They're all part of the best political team on television.

Let's start off with Georgia -- Jack, maybe you can get us going. Either one of these presidential candidates, they've rung in on it.

But could they do anything differently than the White House is doing right now?

CAFFERTY: Well, obviously, not. They're not commander-in-chief. They're two senators who all right running to be commander-in-chief.

From where I look at this thing, there's not a lot anybody can do, and that includes President Bush. We don't have a military.

What are you going to do, declare war on Russia and go over there and get in a fight with them?

That's not going to happen. We certainly don't have the moral high ground to condemn them for invading the sovereign borders of another nation.

Isn't that what we did in Iraq five-and-a-half years ago? And as far as the U.N. Security Council, I mean that's nice. You know, that -- they may or may not draft some sort of a resolution. If the Russians don't like it, they'll veto it. They're a permanent member of the Security Council and they have veto power.

So Russia is going to do what it wants to do and I'm not sure anybody in the West is going to do a hell of a lot to stop it.

ROBERTS: And Stephen Hayes, Senator McCain is suggesting that Russia be thrown out of the G8, trimming it back to the G7. Senator Barack Obama has said that he'd like to talk with Russia, though he is talking a little tougher than he was earlier.

Who's got the upper hand here when it comes to Russia policy?

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I think, clearly, McCain has the upper hand in this instance. I mean this is an issue that he's been talking about for not only months, but for years. He knows the players, even if he mispronounces names. He knows the players and I think it shows.

In the statement that he put out on Friday, which was quick to condemn the Russians in the aggression and, you know, support the Georgians, it's funny, out on the campaign trail, even those of us who have been skeptical for Vladimir Putin for a long time, those reporters who were traveling with McCain sort of got a kick and a chuckle when McCain, in every single public appearance, every single town hall, would say, you know, Vladimir Putin, when I look into his eyes, I see a K, a G and a B.


HAYES: And it's one of these McCain jokes that he recycles this joke again and again and again. But you can tell that he actually he means it. And, clearly, I think he was ahead of the curve on this.

ROBERTS: Yes. Candy Crowley, we had Paul Begala on earlier and even he admitted that this was a week that could play advantage to McCain.

What does the Obama campaign need to do to try to keep pace here?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think one of the things is that they really -- time and place means everything. I recall that we had more than a few kind of international crises in the latter part of the Reagan years, when he was out in Santa Barbara. It's tough to be on vacation and have something like this show up. And even if there's nothing that the U.S. can do, as Jack alludes to, even if most people aren't exactly sure what's going on, there is a cold war feel to this that I think some people of a certain age certainly can relate to.

And so what have you is John McCain coming out and he's got these seven point plans and we should do this and he was tough and he's, you know, looking sort of commander-in-chief. And then you have Barack Obama and every story notes that he's vacationing and he comes out in his sweats or whatever that was that he had on. And it's just not the same feel.

And it's important -- image is important when you are running for president. And I think this is one of the places where the images have favored John McCain.


ROBERTS: Candy Crowley and Steve, stand by. Lots more to talk about, including would Hillary Clinton have won the Democratic nomination if news of John Edwards' affair came out during the primaries?

One of her former top aides says yes.

Plus, the celebrity wars -- Barack Obama strikes back at John McCain in a new ad.


ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton's former communications director says if news of John Edwards' affair had come out during the primaries, Clinton would have won the nomination.

We're back with the best political team on television -- CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; CNN's Jack Cafferty; and Stephen Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard" -- Candy, is that true, that she would have won Iowa and gone on become the nominee had John Edwards came clean about this earlier this year?

CROWLEY: You know, my dad has this great expression, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." I think we're kind of there.


CROWLEY: It's just -- you know, it didn't happen. So, you know, it's interesting. Our pollster tells me actually, when they asked Edwards' supporters for their second choice, the plurality went for Obama. But beyond that, you know, the facts of it, the politics of it -- this is really not helpful. This is one of those coulda, shoulda, wouldas, that Hillary Clinton said that the Clinton campaign should not do, having lost.

And, you know, you come less three weeks before the convention, when unity is the big deal. It's just -- it's just not helpful.

ROBERTS: Yes, you know, James Carville also had a great saying. He said if it's and buts was beer and nuts, we could have ourselves a hell of a party.


ROBERTS: Stephen Hayes, though, it would be a rather tragic way to win a nomination, though, wouldn't it?

HAYES: Yes, it would be. I mean I think there's something to what Howard Wolfson is saying. You know, you look at the kinds of voters that were supporting Hillary in that primary or in the caucus and then the ones that were supporting her down the road. And, you know, John Edwards had a lot of those voters.

So I think, you know, you could get close. But I mean, again, politically, what we're talking about is today and how it affects things today. And certainly this is not helpful for Obama.

ROBERTS: Hey, I want to switch gears...

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE) cynical. But I can't think anything less interesting than Howard Wolfson's hindsight on Hillary Clinton's failed bid for the nomination.



ROBERTS: If that is the case...

CAFFERTY: Who cares?

ROBERTS: If that is the case, then, Jack, I've got something for you -- the new Barack Obama ad targeting John McCain.

Let's look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For decades, he's been Washington's biggest celebrity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as Washington embraced him, John McCain hugged right back -- the lobbyists running his low road campaign; the money -- billions in tax breaks for oil and drug companies, but almost nothing for families like yours.


ROBERTS: All right, Jack. This one is all yours. We teed it up. Take us away.

CAFFERTY: Well, I -- you know, I don't to see pictures of John McCain and George Bush kissing, OK?

That just makes me a little uncomfortable.

This is -- I mean this is perfect for Obama. Any time he can show Bush and McCain together, Bush and McCain on the same page, Bush and McCain going down the -- you know, Bush and McCain in Washington, Bush and McCain part of the establishment -- I mean this is what Obama has to do if he wants to drive home his message to bring about change. I think it's a good commercial for him.

ROBERTS: Steven, very quickly, is this going to affect John McCain at all?

HAYES: I think it could. I mean, like Jack said, it's Bush and McCain, Bush and McCain and.


HAYES: And that's exactly the message Obama has to push.

ROBERTS: And, Candy, what else has the Obama campaign got in its back pocket?

CROWLEY: Well, it's looking for one of those unity conventions. But prior to that, he's going to get, obviously, big play coming out of this vacation next week -- a vice presidential pick.

ROBERTS: All right. Candy Crowley, Stephen Hayes, Jack Cafferty -- the best political team on television -- part of, at the very least.

Thanks very much.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John.

We'll be reporting tonight on Moscow's expanding invasion of Georgia -- Russia's aggressive efforts to re-create the Soviet empire, it now appears. A direct challenge to the United States a threat to Europe and to our influence in the region. Three of the countries' leading authorities on Russia join me to assess what is happening.

Also, troubling new evidence of the harsh impact of our failed trade policies on our working men and women and their families. We'll have a special report and new tensions between the Obama campaign and supporters of Senator Clinton.

Will those tensions explode at the Democratic National Convention in two weeks?

Three of the best political analysts in the country join me to assess that and much more.

Join us for all of that at the top of the hour here on CNN. From an Independent perspective tonight, we'll bring you all of the day's news, as well -- John, back to you.

ROBERTS: We're looking forward to it, Lou, about 13 minutes from now.

Anger spills out into the streets -- how the police chief and the mayor are trying to apse Montreal's immigrant community after a fatal shooting there.

Assumptions disproved -- what a new study finds out about the link between type and heart disease. And zeroing in on a scandal -- the online community has a field day with John Edwards after his admission.


ROBERTS: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What have you got for us -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, John, outrage in Montreal -- the mayor and police chief are promising to mend tense relations with the city's immigrant community, after youths rioted in the streets. The demonstrators are furious over the fatal police shooting of an Honduran immigrant. They torched cars, looted stores and pelted firefighters with bottles. Half a dozen people were arrested and a police officer was shot in the leg.

Even one of the seven wonders of the world can use a makeover. Egypt is unveiling am ambitious plan to make its famed pyramids more tourist-friendly. It's putting in more security, including a 12-mile fence equipped with cameras, alarms and motion detectors. That's aimed at keeping peddlers from hustling visitors and at keeping tourists from climbing the largest pyramid. Several tourists have actually fallen from it.

And, you know, looks can be deceiving. A new national study says a surprising number of overweight people have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels and an alarming number of slim people suffer from the problems typically associated with obesity. The study in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" said about a fourth of slender adults, or 16 million people, are at risk for heart problems.

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

ROBERTS: All right, Carol Costello for us. Carol, thanks so much.

And Jack Cafferty is back again with the answers to his question -- hey, Jack.

CAFFERTY: John, would Joe Lieberman be a good pick for John McCain's V.P.?

There's that buzz again. Remember, he was on Gore's ticket a while ago.

Dave in Missouri writes: "It would be a winning ticket. For McCain to put an Independent as V.P. -- Gore once thought enough of him to make him the number two guy on his ticket -- would say a lot. A moderate Republican, a left-leaning Independent, that would be unbelievable. Now, that's change we could all believe in."

Kenneth in North Carolina says: "Why not? Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, I need all the laughs I can get." Bob in Florida: "If McSane (ph) tags Lieberman as his vice president, I'm going to become a family of 20 illegal aliens so that I can then vote against the ticket 21 times."

Aaron in Hawesville, Kentucky: "I don't think it would be in McCain's best interests. He'd be smarter to pick a conservative economist."

Alison writes: "McCain-Lieberman has been my improbable dream ticket for a long time. A campaign to elect two fiercely independent leaders, one for which I would proudly volunteer. In fact, I can't wait to get my bumper sticker."

Alyson writes: "I voted Republican in every presidential election since 1991. I would enthusiastically support the McCain- Lieberman ticket, as would many of my fellow Republicans."

Marcel writes: "Whatever gains McCain would get from the center by choosing Lieberman as his V.P. would be more than offset by the losses from the right. As an Obama supporter, I like the idea. I think it's a great way to ensure an Obama victory."

Kevin says: "The only thing a McCain-Lieberman ticket would remind me of is those two old guys in the balcony on "The Muppets" show."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among hundreds of others.

Good to be with you.

ROBERTS: All right, Jack, good to see you.

CAFFERTY: You, too.

ROBERTS: Thanks very much.

On our "Political Ticker," the Democrats' nominee-in-waiting also is about to take another turn as an author. This time, Barack Obama isn't writing about his early years or public life. A book on Obama's policy positions is coming out in September as a paperback and an e- book. Three hundred thousand copies will be printed at first and sell for $13.95.

A new effort by John McCain to show that he has crossover appeal beyond Republicans. Today, he is touting the endorsement of the mayor of Linden, New Jersey. It's a battleground state. That's significant because the mayor is a lifelong Democrat until he was elected as an Independent in 2006. Kind of a local Joe Lieberman.

And remember, for the latest political news any time, check out

Internet users aren't holding back when it comes to John Edwards' admitted affair. Our Jeanne Moos clicks on the online buzz. And the Dalai Lama arrives in the City of Light. He's in Paris. "Hot Shots" is next.


ROBERTS: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Afghanistan, a police officer inspects a car destroyed by a suicide bomber.

In France, the Dalai Lama receives greetings upon his arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

And in the Baltic Sea, crew members aboard a German naval ship take time to relax on the open waters.

That's this hour's "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

John Edwards' admitted affair is steaming up the Internet. Everyone's got an opinion and they're sharing it.

Jeanne Moos has this "Moost Unusual" report.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Make no mistake...

EDWARDS: I made a very serious mistake.

MOOS: ...even before John Edwards admitted he crossed the line, his affair was splashed online. Bloggers taunted the mainstream media for staying silent. Now the lines are being drawn online.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he was one of my friends, I think I would like smack him in the face.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stood up for him. I preached about him. I gave him my money and he does this (OBSCENE WORD OMITTED) with this girl? What the hell's wrong with you? Shame on you, John Edwards. Shame on you.


MOOS: But defenders said it's just sex.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, 2008. Wake up. Extramarital affairs, first of all, are not political business. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Sex scandal rocks America my (OBSCENE WORD OMITTED). Millions of great men have had affairs. I call this all a load of crap.


MOOS: Remember the days when this was the YouTube video that drove the Edwards campaign nuts?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel pretty, oh so pretty


MOOS: That was pretty highbrow compared to the videos circulating now.


MOOS: The folks who brought us "Obama Girl" now present The Cheek Team (ph). John Edwards calls Bill Clinton for advice while hiding from reporters in a hotel bathroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Cheek Team (ph), listen up. I've got John Edwards on the line and we've got ourselves a code blue.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Edwards is stuck in the bathroom with nowhere to run. (INAUDIBLE) wants to know where the reporters are from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're from the "Enquirer".


MOOS: And look what else you can find.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...receive the 2007 Father of the Year Award, Senator John Edwards.


MOOS: Senator Edwards got the Father of the Year Award not long after he says he broke off his affair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EDWARDS: And I'm not the best parent in my family. The best parent in my family is here with me today. It's my wife Elizabeth, who's right down here.


MOOS: Comments posted long before the affair was known ranged from, "Bravo" to "I can't believe this guy is not in first place."

Now folks are posting comments like "piece of garbage cheats on cancer-stricken wife."

(on camera): John Edwards even got the silent treatment. Nah, not from his wife -- from someone doing sign language.

(voice-over): This interpreter wanted to bring the news about Edwards' affair to the hearing impaired.

Here she's saying what's worse is that John's mistress is pregnant. Well, actually, the baby is already born and Edwards denies he's the dad. But it's hard not to point fingers in signing.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: And check out our SITUATION ROOM screen saver and stay up to date on the latest political news.

You can download it at

I'm John Roberts for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.