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Controversy with Gov. Palin on Trooper and Plane; East Coast on Alert for Tropical Storm Hanna; The Situation in Louisiana; Eavesdropping on an Ally

Aired September 5, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, new details on the investigation into a possible abuse of power by Governor Sarah Palin -- allegations that she tried to fire an Alaska state trooper, her ex- brother in law. Now he's speaking out in an exclusive interview with CNN.
She stole the show at the Republican Convention. But what does Sarah Palin have to do to get ready for her next big show, the crucial vice presidential debate with Joe Biden? And the East Coast gets ready for Tropical Storm Hanna but there may be more to worry about from Hurricane Ike following close behind. We have the latest forecast.

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

We begin with a CNN exclusive -- new information about the controversy surrounding John McCain's running mate. Even as she hits the campaign trail, campaigning for one of the most powerful jobs in America, Sarah Palin is under close scrutiny for possible abuse of her powers as the governor of Alaska.

At the center of an official probe into Palin's behavior, an Alaska state trooper -- her former brother-in-law.

The question is this -- did the governor try to get him fired?

And was Alaska's former public safety commissioner then fired because he failed to go along?

Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit is in Alaska.

He's looking into the controversy.

And he's joining us now live from Anchorage -- Drew, you had a chance to sit down with the trooper at the center of all this, Mike Wooten.

What are you learning?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: A surprising interview, Wolf, and surprisingly candid. The ex-brother-in-law is still a state trooper. And Michael Wooten says he has no ill will toward the Palin family. He actually told me he was excited about Governor Palin's bid for the vice presidency.

What he doesn't like, though, is the fact that his private life and his bitter divorce with Sarah Palin's sister and ensuing custody battle over their two children has now become the fodder for headlines all across the state, all across the country.

And he sat down with me in an exclusive interview to explain his side of the story. He demanded, though, Wolf, that he have his union representative at his side.

Here's part of that interview.


GRIFFIN: The headlines about you -- tasered a stepson when you were a taser officer; shot a moose illegally when you were wildlife officer; two separate incidents where somebody saw you drinking in a car driving.


MICHAEL WOOTEN, ALASKA STATE TROOPER: Well, let me -- let me take those on at a time and explain those to you.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): So he did. Yes, he admits, he did taser his stepson, but he believes he did it safely. And the boy wanted it done, he says.

WOOTEN: The situation with the taser is I was a brand new taser instructor just recently at the time. And I had just finished a training class and had all my stuff with me. And he was asking about it. And, you know, it wasn't -- I didn't shoot him with a taser -- with a live, you know, an actual live cartridge and shoot him with the probes and you know that kind of situation that some people have made this out to be. That's not the case at all.

It was a training aid that he was hooked up to, just little clips. And the -- you know, the taser was activated for less than a second, which would be less than what you would get if you touched an electric fence. And, you know, it was as safe as I could possibly make it.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Looking back, was it dumb?

WOOTEN: Yes, it was. Absolutely. And, you know, like I stated before, I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes and I've learned from those mistakes. And not the best decision I've ever made. Absolutely not.


GRIFFIN: In fact, Wolf, he's made a lot of mistakes. His record is at the heart of part of this case. He admitted that he also killed a moose illegally in that interview.

And I asked him about the allegations that he actually threatened to kill Sarah Palin's father. You'll hear that answer tonight on the Election Center -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Drew Griffin is in Alaska for us. We'll be listening and watching later tonight. Thanks very much.

And as we've noted, Alaska lawmakers have moved up the deadline for finishing their inquiry into Governor Palin's dismissal of the state's public safety commissioner. Yesterday, Walter Monegan spoke with CNN about his dismissal, claiming it happened because of his refusal to get rid of Palin's brother-in-law, the trooper -- you just saw him, Mike Wooten.


WALTER MONEGAN, FORMER ALASKA PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER: I felt that I was being pressured to fire him because of the constant asking questions or comments, either verbally or in e-mail, saying is this the kind of trooper that should be representing the troopers or this is not the kind we want to have as a poster child.


BLITZER: And there's this that's happening right now. It was an excellent line in a great convention speech -- no doubt about that -- suggesting she's a strong watchdog for her state's taxpayers. But now Governor Palin is in the middle of another bit of a controversy involving a plane.

CNN's Christine Romans is here.

What's this story all about -- Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The most talked about plane in Alaska, right, Wolf?

Governor Sarah Palin, indeed, put her predecessor's luxury jet on eBay, as she says. And the sale of that 20-year-old Westwood 2 has become the symbol of her fiscal responsibility.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay.


ROMANS: The sale of that jet highlighted on the trail as evidence of her good stewardship of Alaska taxpayers' money and drawing praise from Senator McCain on the trail today.




MCCAIN: Wasn't it fabulous? You know what I enjoyed the most? She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor and sold it on eBay... (APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: And made a profit.


ROMANS: But Wolf, the plane did not sell on eBay. Instead, it sold through a broker. And it did not sell for a profit, but for a loss. The state bought the plane under her predecessor against the wishes of the legislature for almost $2.7 million in 2005. Now according to Ron Heckman (ph), the broker who sold the plane, and Larry Reynolds, the businessman who bought the plane from the state, the plane sold for $2.1 -- a loss, after failing to sell on the eBay auction site.

Asked about the discrepancy, a McCain spokeswoman said: "Governor Palin has been correct in saying that she put the plane on eBay."

They did end up selling it for $2.1 million, but not on eBay -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's some discrepancy -- there's a new claim going on right now.

What's that all about?

ROMANS: That's right. The owner of the plane now says he's owed another $50,000 from the state for some maintenance issues that he did not know about. That is a dispute going on between the state and between the owner, according to the owner. And he's looking for some sort of resolution for that within the next week or so. So that's another $50,000 claim on top of this.

BLITZER: Christine Romans working that part of the story for us.

All right, Let's get more perspective now from someone who actually knows Sarah Palin and knows the governor rather well.

Meg Stapleton is a former aide to the governor. She's joining us live from Anchorage. Meg, thanks very much for coming in.

MEG STAPLETON, FORMER AIDE TO GOVERNOR PALIN: Well, thank you, Wolf. It's an honor to be here.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about -- I don't know if you know anything about this whole eBay plane story. But if you do, tell us what you know.

STAPLETON: Well, Wolf, I was actually a part of that. That was one of the number one priorities, to be honest with you, when she took office, because it was that symbol of corruption. It was a symbol of the previous entrenched establishment that she took on and succeeded in beating.

It was a luxury jet that no one in Alaska wanted the governor to ride in. The legislature didn't want the governor to ride in. They refused to appropriate the dollars. He said, I don't care. I want a luxury jet. So he bought the luxury jet anyway and he bought it for too much money. It couldn't even land on half the strips in Alaska, as it was.

And this governor said enough. This is exactly what we're fighting -- wasteful spending, the establishment that says I don't care what Alaskans say, I'm going to do what I want to do. With that symbol, she said let's get rid of it. What's the best way to do it?

Before we go ahead and hire that broker, why don't we do it in a free manner, where it costs minimal dollars?

I think it was, I don't know -- very few dollars. Let's put it on eBay. We put it on eBay. We let it go through a couple rounds. We didn't get the attention because he bought it for too much money. The state paid too much money for it. And eventually you had to concede and say how often are we going to pay these bills and waste more state dollars.

And so they did say -- and a broker came in. We brought the broker in and said find a buyer. We found a buyer. It went for $2.1 million and we did save the state dollars. And that jet, she never stepped in. And we got rid of the symbol of corruption in Alaska.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, she said -- you put it up on eBay. Unfortunately, it didn't sell on eBay, but then you sold it through a broker, just to be precise. Is that right?

STAPLETON: That is correct. At the same time, that eBay drew the attention of so many around America, who did place bids in there -- not high enough that we felt was good to command an actual sale. And so that's when we brought in a broker, in the end, to make sure that it went for the top dollar that we could get. But that eBay drew the attention and drew lots of interest. And I hope it drew the attention of the person that actually ended up with it.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about these two gentlemen, Mike Wooten, the brother-in-law, the state trooper. You just heard what he said to Drew Griffin.

Go ahead and tell us what you think -- what you know about this part of the story.

STAPLETON: Well, I think it just points again to this governor and what she's done. Because she's come in here and she's trying to reform things.

Look, Wolf, I'll tell you, this is the most ethical, honest individual I have ever met in my entire life. And no offense to my family. My family is incredibly ethical and honest.

But this woman, she lives and breathes it every single moment and at every decision. In this state government, she has lived and it and breathed it. She had nothing to do with the pressure to fire Monegan over Wooten. That is absolutely ridiculous and absurd. And, in fact, Monegan just this week said there was never any pressure to fire Wooten -- not from the governor, not from Todd, not from any of the member of the staff.

So for him to be going back and forth and all over and drawing on excuses that were absurd and ridiculous, we can't keep with them at this point. And it's so politically motivated, I've never seen such a political circus in the City of Anchorage.

BLITZER: Why does she want to move the jurisdiction of this investigation from the state legislature -- the Alaska legislature, which has been involved in it and they said they've come up with a resolution by the end of October. She's now asking that it be moved to a separate state personnel board, of which three of the members were appointed by Governor Palin.

STAPLETON: First of all, let me correct that in terms of the personnel board, the appointees. It's true the governor appoints them. They were holdovers from the Murkowski administration. Frank Murkowski appointed that personnel board. So these are not the governor's friends. These are Frank Murkowski's friends -- again, the same entrenched establishment she took on. So let's make that perfectly clear.

Secondly, this governor -- we believe the only legal way to look at this investigation is through the personnel board, because we believe that is the only place where there is jurisdiction to investigate personnel matters.

It is absolutely clear -- and I was in the ethics briefings with Commissioner Monegan the moment she took office. She sat down and she had ethics supervisors -- and pardon me if you can't hear me over the planes. But she had ethics supervisors brief all of us -- the entire cabinet and the immediate staff -- as to the direction and the appropriate channels. If you ever have a problem, if there's a perceived conflict of interest, I want you to immediately report it to a supervisor -- a supervisor in the A.G.'s office. Not in her office, not the governor. She made sure to separate that.

Commissioner Monegan, if he ever had a problem ever knew the appropriate channels. And this is another appropriate channel, the personnel board.

BLITZER: Because...

STAPLETON: There is nothing politically motivated about it.

BLITZER: Because the accusation is that she's hired an attorney. The attorney says moved the jurisdiction to the state personnel board away from the state legislature, even though earlier she said, you know what, I have nothing to hide, let the state legislature investigate. They said they would resolve this by the end of October.

But now that she's a vice presidential nominee, it could be delayed beyond the election if it goes to this other -- before this other body.

What's wrong with the state legislature completing the investigation it had started weeks ago?

STAPLETON: Because, first of all, they don't have the appropriate -- we don't believe they have the appropriate legal authority. Secondly, when that legislative council took this on, Wolf, they made two things perfectly clear. One, this would never be partisan and they would keep it at arm's length. And, second, that they would never have a time line that was stated.

Arm's length has not been kept. In fact, the lead person in that, Senator Hollis French, has come out on numerous occasions on network television, as well as the national publications, that wait until you see what's coming out here. This is going to be damaging to the vice presidential nomination. This could lead to impeachment.

How the heck do you begin to have an impartial investigation when you have the lead person claiming all of these political accusations ahead of time?

Secondly, by claiming can't wait for this October surprise on the eve of the election, we're going to tell you and it's going to be damaging -- that totally defeats the fact that you try to get the timing in as quickly as possible if you've already you established an end round. The concern here -- and some -- Representative John Coghill, from the interior region actually today sent a letter to Senator Kim Elton saying the problem here is this is no longer a nonpartisan issue, this is politically motivated and we need to make sure to remove Senator Hollis French from this because politics is definitely in (INAUDIBLE) of this process right now.

BLITZER: All right. Just one clarification, Meg. The three personnel members who were appointed by the former governor, Murkowski, did she reappoint them? Is that what you're saying? That's why they were holdovers? Did she personally reappoint them?

STAPLETON: Wolf, there were three personnel board appointees. Only one has come up and she did reappoint that person. All three were Frank Murkowski appointees and one she reappointed.

BLITZER: And so she thinks that's the way to go, that would be fair, to let someone who she was -- she appointed review this very sensitive matter?

STAPLETON: I'm sorry. I'm loosing the last part of that.

BLITZER: I know. You've got planes landing.


BLITZER: You've got planes landing. Let me just repeat the question. Hold on a second.

Does she think it's fair that someone she appointed to the state personnel board should be in charge -- should be -- should have jurisdiction in reviewing what is obviously a very sensitive matter?

STAPLETON: Alaska state law believes it, Wolf. Alaska state law is where she turned to look to see who should handle this. And the Alaska state law dictates that for personnel problems and the ethics violations, you go to the personnel state board. This isn't the governor saying it, this is the law saying it.

BLITZER: Meg Stapleton, I know it's hard to hear me with those little planes landing and taking off. Thanks very much. I hope you'll come back and join us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

STAPLETON: Thank you. I'd be honored. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And congratulations to you for having your good friend, your former boss, about to be -- well, she is the vice presidential nominee. And she may -- and she may some day -- may be vice president of the United States. You must be very excited about that.

STAPLETON: Oh, we are thrilled and excited. And she really showed America what we've all seen. And you saw it the other night at the convention. She is an incredible person and everybody falls in love with her the second they meet her.

BLITZER: Meg Stapleton.Thanks very much.

STAPLETON: Thank you.

BLITZER: A powerful hurricane barreling west toward U.S. shores. We have a new forecast for Hurricane Ike. It's just out from the National Hurricane Center. Stand by.

Also, Louisiana's urgent plea in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. The governor, Bobby Jindal, joins us.

And the new social networking site most of us will never see -- it's for spies.

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


BLITZER: Storm watches and warnings extend up the East Coast from Georgia to New Jersey, as Tropical Storm Hanna speeds toward land. And there's close attention that's being paid right now to Hanna's much more powerful follow-up. That would be Hurricane Ike.

Let's go to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. He's tracking both of these systems for us.

What's the latest on both -- Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I think we can get rid of Josephine because I think it kills itself in the North Atlantic. So, really, we will focus on the two.

Hanna is going to make landfall tonight, probably somewhere very close to Myrtle Beach, maybe as far east as Holden Beach, as a 70 -- maybe 75 mile per hour storm. Now, that will do some damage. That will do shingle damage to the homes, maybe some siding, as well. Not big time structural damage, but, still, it is a tropical storm and it will do something. You need to be out of the way of this. Certainly stay away from windows if you're anywhere up here.

Certainly, this is going to move into Hatteras tomorrow night and maybe even into Richmond, Virginia, with winds to 50 miles per hour. We could see some winds in the nation's capital to 40 or 50 miles per hour.

And then, Wolf, it actually goes right across the Hamptons. It could be east or west of there, but that's 2:00 a.m. coming up on Sunday night -- so Saturday night, Sunday morning. So you guys up there will get some wind, as well.

Now we turn our attention to the bigger buzz saw out there in the Atlantic. We're now getting closer. Our forecast landfalls are getting closer and our cones are getting smaller because of how far we can go out now.

The latest center of the cone through the Keys on Tuesday. But all of Central Florida not out of the question -- even into Cuba not out of the question. A category four. A very dangerous storm. It could very well end up in the Gulf of Mexico and then who knows where it goes from there.

This is still -- this forecast is the center of the percentages, Wolf. Probably a 30 percent chance that it's here. Twenty percent that it may be here or here and 10 here or here. We've got to keep shifting this as it moves to the west. As it gets closer, that cone will get smaller.

BLITZER: It looks like New Orleans could be a bull's eye if it stays on that particular course.

Is that possible?

MYERS: Let's not even talk about that. Yes. But one European model -- and there are 30 different models we look at -- one European model does take it very close to Mobile. But that's many, many days away -- too many days away to even think about at this point.

BLITZER: Let's hope those Europeans don't know what they're doing when it comes to hurricanes on this side of the Atlantic.


BLITZER: I'm sure they're very good in Europe, but let's hope they don't know much about this part of the world.

MYERS: Touche.

BLITZER: All right, Chad. Thanks very much.

MYERS: All right. BLITZER: The first of the evacuees from New Orleans are now returning to the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. And recovery is very much a work in progress. Louisiana's governor is asking the federal government for more emergency supplies.

Sean Callebs is joining us now from Baton Rouge -- Sean, what does the state really need right now?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just came back from a flyover, visiting parts of the state really hit hard. And basically the state needs everything. What it needs instantly is a way to get electricity restored to about half the state's residents who simply don't have power.

Now, Governor Bobby Jindal has been front and center in all this. In a perfect world, Wolf, he would right now be flying back from Minneapolis after a very successful stint at the Republican National Convention. He was scheduled -- the GOP hierarchy tapped him to introduce the vice presidential nominee. But the governor said, look, my place is here with this hurricane bearing down on us. And he was right.

The people need food. They need ice. They need water. He's asking for generators to help people.

And when I asked him what about the convention, this is what he had to say.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Our only mission has been we've got to save lives, we've got to make sure our people are safe and getting what they need. We didn't have time for politics. We don't have time for conventions. Look, it was flattering they invited me, but this is where I needed to be. A hundred percent of my attention has to be on helping my people not only survive this storm, but now get back on their feet.


CALLEBS: You know, you talked about that one projection with Chad a while ago. Look, if Ike gets into the Gulf and moves into this way, a lot of people in this state think that Governor Jindal is going to have to be somewhat of a miracle worker to get 1.9 million people to evacuate the area again and to get the help they need here.

Those levees are started. The flood walls are going to have to be inspected. A lot of concerns.

But getting back to Jindal, Wolf, he's only 37 years old. People here say he has a long, long healthy and prosperous future in the GOP ahead of him. So there will be other speeches to give. They're glad he was here.

BLITZER: I think it's (INAUDIBLE) there's no doubt about that.

Sean, thanks very much.

A powerful Congressman under new scrutiny. It involves a vacation home. Stand by.

Plus, the White House accused of spying on a key ally. That would be the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Al-Maliki. We have details of new details of allegations in a controversial new book.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, the Bush administration accused of spying on the Iraqi prime minister -- just one of the explosive allegations in a brand new book by the award-winning journalist, Bob Woodward.

And it's like Facebook, Google and YouTube all rolled into one. And get this -- it's for spies only. But we get a sneak peek at this rather unusual social networking site.

Plus, the uproar over the music at last night's Republican Convention -- rockers telling the McCain campaign stop playing our song.

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

Tightening insurgent leaders and spying on Iraqi leaders -- there's a new book that makes some very stunning new claims about the Bush administration's secret war strategies.

Let's to go CNN's Brian Todd.

He's working this story for us -- Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, journalist Bob Woodward is now reporting the administration had very deep suspicions about Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. And Woodward's new book has brought some serious blowback from Baghdad.


TODD (voice-over): On the surface, they've spoken of each other as close allies.


TODD: But according to a new book, the White House may not have placed much trust in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.

In "The War Within," according to "The Washington Post," Bob Woodward writes: "The Bush administration ran an extensive spying operation on Al-Maliki." "The Post" cites one of Woodward's sources, saying: "We know everything he says."

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked about the allegation.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Bush speaks to him by secure video teleconference at least every other week, if not more. And we have a -- we have a good idea of what Prime Minister Maliki is thinking because he tells us very frankly and very candidly, as often as he can.

TODD: A response the Iraqis may not settle for. Contacted by CNN, the Iraqi government spokesmen said they'll raise this with the Americans. And: "If it is a fact, it reflects that there is no trust and it reflects also that the institutions in the United States are used to spy on their friends and their enemies in the same way."

Woodward also writes that the surge of some 30,000 troops into Iraq last year was not the primary factor in the drastic reduction of violence. "New covert techniques used to target and kill insurgents were more instrumental," he writes.

And Woodward asserts what CNN had also reported, that General George Casey, commander in Iraq until 2007, and CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid, opposed the surge.

BUSH: The opinion of my commanders is very important.

TODD: Woodward writes that "General Casey came to believe Mr. Bush didn't understand the nature of the war. But Casey also lost the president's confidence and was replaced."


TODD: Casey is now the Army's chief of staff. We were told today he's traveling and his aide did not respond to our repeated calls and e-mails -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There's some pretty harsh criticism of the president in this new book as well, isn't it?

TODD: Yes, especially on the leadership style, Wolf. One passage from the book is: "The president rarely was the voice of realism on the Iraq War."

Another quote, "too often he failed to lead." Now Mr. Woodward writes that Mr. Bush passed off some critical reviews of war policy in 2006 leading up to the surge that he passed those policies off to national security adviser, Steven Hadley, the reviews of those policies. We contacted the white house about that. Hadley has just given us a statement saying "Nothing could be further from the truth. The president directed that we challenge our assumptions, develop a range of options and that all key agencies be involved. President Bush drove the process to conclusion and made a tough decision." That's a very long statement by Hadley. Among other things, he disputes Woodward's notion that the intelligence of the new techniques of killing insurgents was primarily responsible for the reduction in violence. He said really it was the surge primarily that did that. Not those other techniques. Not some of the other things Woodward mentions.

BLITZER: Brian Todd working this story for us. Thank you.

Joe Biden's out on the campaign trail for Barack Obama. He was all fired up last night at the GOP convention and he's firing right back. You're going to hear him in his own words.

And a historic election raises a quandary for black Republicans. They talked to us about their struggles.

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


BLITZER: Last night at the Republican convention, certainly fired up Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden. He railed against the GOP speakers at an event in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, earlier today. Listen to this.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What do you talk about when you have nothing to say? What do you talk about when you cannot explain the last eight years of failure? What do you talk about? What do you talk about? You talk about the other guy.

Look, I don't have to -- remember Harriet used to say, give them hell. I wasn't around when Harry Truman was around. I remember my grandfather saying, when they yelled to Harry Truman, give them hell, Harry, he yelled back, I'm not going to give them hell, I'm going to tell them the truth and they're going to think it's hell.


BLITZER: Biden did praise John McCain personal courage, called him a good friend saying his argument is not with Senator McCain personally but where Senator McCain wants to take the country.

Get ready, more politics coming up.

Let's get to John McCain's vice presidential pick, once again; to counter the Sarah Palin phenomenon, Barack Obama is sending Hillary Clinton out on the campaign trail.

CNN's Jim Acosta is here, he's watching this -- part of this story.

I think it's fair to say, Jim, that Senator Obama desperately needs Hillary Clinton's support and friendship and action right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He needs her help and we're going to find out just how much help he's going to get from Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama is finding out just how tricky it is running against a ticket that features, as Sarah Palin put it, a pit bull in lipstick.


PALIN: I was just your average hockey mom.

ACOSTA: For now, Barack Obama is running against Sarah Palin the same way he's running against John McCain. She's just more of the same from the party that brought Americans George W. Bush.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Someone who makes the point that she's not from Washington. She looks very much like she would fit in very well there, when you see how she brings --

GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: Sarah Palin is very much from the far right of the Republican Party.

ACOSTA: But consider Arizona governor and Obama supporter Janet Napolitano who criticizes Palin as inexperienced but also agrees with some GOP claims the Alaskan has been the victim of sexist news coverage.

NAPOLITANO: When a woman runs, there does tend to be a different emphasis in some of the coverage.

ACOSTA: Napolitano is one of a number of prominent Democratic women campaigning for Obama as part of a party effort to prevent women voters from catching Palin fever. Hillary Clinton barely waited for John McCain to finish his speech at the GOP convention to release this statement. "To slightly amend my comments from Denver, no way, no how, no McCain/Palin." Clinton is being employed by Obama to battleground Florida next week.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: She can be attacked by the women. That's the whole point of getting Hillary Clinton. The point of using other women such as governor of Arizona. You can't play the sexism card against another woman.

ACOSTA: In the case of Senator Clinton, there's something in it for her if Obama doesn't win in November.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's a very strong potential for her to be resurrected look like a leader of the Democratic Party and come back in four years. I think she's going to balance those two interests.


ACOSTA: The Obama campaign denies it is forming a female offensive to counter Sarah Palin. They say Palin is not moving voters over to Barack Obama, or from Barack Obama over to John McCain. They insist that despite all of this Palin fever that's catching around the country right now, that Sarah Palin is not driving women voters over to John McCain at this point. BLITZER: You know what; we're going to do some polling on this over the next several days and we'll see what the polls show. That's a good question. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Some black Republicans are facing a dilemma. They're torn between a chance to vote for their party and its standard bearer and a chance for history.

And it's like a Facebook for spies, the intelligence community's new website. Chances are you'll never get on anyone's friends' list. We'll show you what we know right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Some African-Americans are facing a dilemma in this election season. They feel like they must make a very painful choice. Mary Snow has the story. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, polls indicate about 7 percent of blacks describe themselves as Republicans. Some say this election they are torn between ideology and the chance to make history.


SNOW (voice-over): Among the Republicans who attended the Republican National Convention, Claudio Simpkins, a 23-year-old third year law student at Harvard. His father is a life long Democrat. He knows a number of black Republicans in a quandary between voting along party lines versus supporting Barack Obama and the potential to make history with the first black president.

(on camera): Did you struggle with it at all?

CLAUDIO SIMPKINS, MCCAIN SUPPORTER: I did. There was a time where you can't deny the historical significance of all this. And Barack Obama is definitely an inspirational figure. A role model to me and a lot of other young black people and young minorities. And you can't discount that. But at the same time, historical significance isn't going to make America better place.

SNOW: For other black Republicans?

KEVIN ROSS, "THE KEVIN ROSS SHOW": For me, this election, I have to go with Barack Obama.

SNOW: Kevin Ross says while he'll vote for Obama for president, he'll vote along Republican Party lines for the rest of the ticket. He said his two young sons are one of the reasons he's supporting Obama.

ROSS: When I look at those young people and I look at my boys and say, you can be anything you want in this country, that holds true, except for one position. And that one position has been president of the United States. SNOW: Michael Fauntroy, author of "Republicans and the Black Vote," says the GOP is facing hurdles with many black Republicans this election. For one, he says many became disenchanted with the handling of hurricane Katrina. He said some black Republicans are wrestling with history.

MICHAEL FAUNTROY, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: I believe there are going to be numerous conversations generations from now if Barack Obama should win, in which the grandkids and kids are going to ask their parents and grandparents, you know, what did you do to help him get elected. And for many of these voters, these African-American Republicans, you know, they don't want to have to say to their kids and grandkids, I didn't support him.


SNOW: Some black Republicans we spoke with were critical of the GOP's outreach to them. In response, the Republican National Committee says it is working on a number of different levels to increase support among African-Americans. And that includes, it says, a strong grass roots program. It also points out that Senator McCain addressed the NAACP conference and the Urban League Convention -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting for us.

Let's bring in our political contributors. Amy Holmes is an independent conservative, who was a speech writer for Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist. And Donna Brazile is a Democratic strategist. She runs a political consulting firm in Washington. She was also Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager.

Can you relate, Amy, with that dilemma that some of these African-American Republicans are feeling right now?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I certainly can. When I first heard Barack Obama in 2004 give that thrilling speech at the Democratic convention, I was so impressed, so inspired. Wolf, in my own family, that there's division, that some family members, they like McCain, others like Barack Obama. It's not easy. But for me, I try not to pay so much attention to the complexion of a candidate or to other voters. And really look at the ideas. That's one of the things I actually like about Barack Obama's candidacy. His promise to move us past all of this racial angst, and that we can move toward post- racial politics.

BLITZER: Have you decided in your own mind, Amy, who you're going to vote for yet?

HOLMES: I haven't come to the moment of truth. I'm trying to keep an open mind. Again, for me, it comes down to ideas. It comes down to my idea of how government should work. I'm listening to Barack Obama and his plans for America.

BLITZER: I know Donna Brazile has no such dilemma. You've decided who you will vote for, for sure. What do you think about the dilemma that some African-American Republicans are facing. You were just in St. Paul. You probably ran into some of them. What are they saying to you?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Wolf, clearly this is a historical election season where we have the first minority candidate at the top of the ticket, and a woman on the other ticket. So this is a historic campaign season.

But I think African-Americans really vote the issues. Today we heard that unemployment spiked in this country. 10 percent of African-Americans are now without jobs. African-Americans tend to vote for candidates who share their values. And most of the values that they have are similar to the values of all other Americans. They want good jobs; they want education, they want health care. And because Barack Obama is really pushing forward an economic plan that would put us back to work, I think that's another reason why African- Americans right now are leaning Democratic.

BLITZER: Anyone who went to the Democratic convention, Amy, in Denver, and the Republican convention in St. Paul, is simply looked out at the crowd as I did, saw a very, very different picture. In Denver, the crowd really did look like America. There were all colors and shapes and forms. In St. Paul, it was largely white. There was a scattering of some African-Americans, but certainly not the numbers that represent the American mosaic, if you will. Why do Republicans have such a hard time attracting African-American support?

HOLMES: Well, traditionally African-Americans do vote Democratic at the presidential level. That's no news flash there. But Republicans are trying. Ken Melman back in 2004, he worked very hard to conduct outreach, and reconnect the Republican Party with African- American voters.

You know, part of my theory is that when Republicans say smaller government, African-Americans think a government that's not going to protect them from state-sponsored, state-level discrimination. This goes back to the civil rights movement. I'd also remind viewers that the Republicans are the party of Lincoln, and that first wave of black voters were Republican.

So it is in the history of the African-American community to vote Republican. But it's certainly an uphill Republicans in this day and age to attract African-Americans, particularly this election year.

BLITZER: Good discussion, Amy Holmes and Donna Brazile, thanks, as usual.

HOLMES: Thank you.

BRAZILE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is about to speak live. We're going to go there live once she starts speaking. You're looking at these pictures.

And a new place for spies. That would be online. Yes, get this, a social networking site just for the intelligence community.

Plus, it will be her most closely watched debate ever, pitting her against a foreign policy master. It's only a few weeks away. How is the GOP Sarah Palin prepping? Right now, we'll tell you.

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


BLITZER: Social networking for the intelligence community. That's the idea behind a brand-new website. Most of us will never even be able to see it, let alone join it.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's got a little sneak peek for us. All right. Barbara, what is this all about?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we did get a sneak peek. The next time a real world James Bond blogs on, here's what he might see.


STARR (voice-over): Facebook, one of the many social networks where millions meet online. The U.S. intelligence community has been eyeballing all of this, not to spy but to politely steal the whole idea. Welcome to Aspace, perhaps the most exclusive social networking site ever. It's open only to top U.S. intelligence experts.

(on camera): This is like Facebook for spies?

MICHAEL WERTHEIMER, ASST. DEPUTY DIR. OF NATL. INTEL.: It's much more than Facebook for spies. Finally the spies are not only going to get Facebook, but they're going to get Facebook, they're going to get YouTube and Google.

STARR (voice-over): You need a security clearance to join this unprecedented online revolution for an intelligence community trained to not share secrets. This is the place for experts to connect the dots.

WERTHEIMER: It's a place not only where spies can meet but share data they've never been able to share before.

STARR: Each analyst has a page like Wertheimer's to post information, ideas, even pictures. All aimed at unfettered discussion.

WERTHEIMER: Work spaces for us are private enslaves where you can invite five people, ten people, 100 to work a problem in collaboration with you.

STARR: Analysts from different agencies will be able to chat online about secret matters like a new Osama Bin Laden video, if there is one.

WERTHEIMER: They can put it up in almost real-time and share it with a network of folks working that issue.

STARR: The ultimate hope is this ability to think out loud and share classified information may someday prevent another 9/11.

WERTHEIMER: I don't know that it is preventable. But when I see analysts working here, I think it is our best chance to prevent it.


STARR: And Wolf, anticipating a question a lot of people might have, the intelligence community says it's got plenty of cyber security to protect this site. They even hope President Bush will want his own classified web page.

BLITZER: I hope they do have good cyber security. Thanks for that.

It wasn't music to their ears. A classic rock band is demanding John McCain's campaign stop using one of its hit songs.

And Sarah Palin preparing for her vice presidential debate against Joe Biden, how she is bracing for a face-off with a foreign policy veteran.

Plus, what are sources telling us about public troop cuts in Iraq? We'll tell you what we know. We're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There is a controversy over the play list at the Republican convention. You're looking at live pictures from Michigan. We're standing by to hear from Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket. Once he starts speaking, we'll go there live.

As far as the controversy is concerned over the music that the Republicans used at their convention, our entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson reports mixing music and politics can be tricky business. Brooke?

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Sarah Palin may be nick named the barracuda, but the group heart doesn't care. Less than an hour after McCain and Palin capped off the Republican convention with music, including barracuda, heart condemned the use of their song. "We have asked the Republican campaign publicly not to use our music. We hope our wishes will be honored."

CHRIS WILLMAN, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It was kind of a misconception out there that artists have total control of how their songs are used. It's not true. The venue has a performance like that allows them to use performance music. They don't have to get approval from the artist or publisher.

ANDERSON: That hasn't stopped artists like Van Halen and Tom Petty from issuing public calls for campaigns to quit using their music. And no campaign wants to get in a public fight over background music.

HILLARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's embarrassing when an artist calls up and complains about their song. They don't typically make a quiet phone call to the campaign and say, can you stop using the song? Typically it's their press agent calling a newspaper decrying the use of that artist's image to enhance a candidate.

ANDERSON: And embarrassing musical moments happen despite efforts by candidates both sides of the aisle to protect themselves against an angry performer.

ROSEN: I have been in many conversations over the years where a candidate will call me and say, can you check this out with an artist and see if they like us or if we'll get in trouble.

WILLMAN: Republicans are the ones that have had the real mishaps with songs. Part of that is because there is no more reliably Democratic demographic than rock stars.

ANDERSON: Country music stars, on the other hand, are usually reliably right wing, like Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, whose song "Only in America" became an unofficial theme song for George Bush in 2004.

When the Democrats resurrected that diddy during Obama's convention speech, a lot of observers were left scratching their heads.

JOHN STEWART, TV SHOW HOST: It's the exact same song used in 2004 after President Bush's acceptance speech. The slight change, very slight, the Democrat's version was sung by Albert Brooks and Nora Dunn.

ANDERSON: As for Hearts request to stop using barracuda on the train, the McCain campaign has not responded.