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THE SITUATION ROOM
Israelis Picking A New Leader; Race Against Time for Rescue Plan; Obama Administration's Golden Parachutes
Aired February 10, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Obama gains another victory for his economy recovery plan, even as drastic new steps are announced.
The crowds are still cheering, but they're also pleading for help. It's a race against time for the president and his rescue effort.
Fallen troops -- the Bush administration kept cameras away from their final homecomings.
Will the Pentagon now drop the ban on photographing those flag- draped caskets?
And even as one baseball all star finally comes clean about performance enhancing drugs, another is charged with lying -- lying to Congress about steroids.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
New emergency measures unveiled -- the Obama administration ready to pour vast amounts of money into the nation's staggering economy. The Senate passes a massive stimulus plan, but many lawmakers have very serious doubts and so, it seems, do investors.
Amidst all of this today, the Dow Jones dropping nearly 400 points -- not a ringing endorsement from Wall Street. But the president and his rescue plan are drawing cheers and pleas for help in a hard hit area of the country.
Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
She's got more on what's going on. These are very, very sensitive moments in the administration of President Obama.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, you watch these town hall meetings, Wolf, and what you see is a president in balance -- dire warnings about the economy versus hope it will recover, telling Congress it is out of time, while asking Americans for more time.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate just passed our Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. That's good.
CROWLEY (voice-over): When the Senate passed its $827 billion stimulus plan and the Treasury secretary talked about what may be a trillion plus effort to stabilize housing and financial markets, President Obama was in Fort Myers putting real faces on those unimaginable numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we need something more than the vehicle and the parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go from making $3,000 a year -- or a month to $1,100 a month, how are you able to take care of your family?
CROWLEY: The truth is that the stimulus bill, likely to be signed into law, offers only marginal immediate help for people in dire straits -- $25 more a week for unemployment, an increase in food stamps, a $500 tax rebate.
All can be accomplished fairly quickly within months. But building bridges and roads and clean water facilities takes time. Some of those projects may take up to two years to produce jobs. And so the president, whose political capital is in his public support, uses these town hall meetings not just to tell Congress they are running out of time...
OBAMA: If we don't act immediately, then millions more jobs will disappear.
CROWLEY: ...but to ask the American people for more time.
OBAMA: The American people understand that these are some really big, tough problems. And it's going to take some time for us to get ourselves out of it.
CROWLEY: With most administration officials now saying it may take a year before the country begins to feel the first effects of the stimulus bill, this president needs a longer honeymoon than most. So far in Fort Myers, Florida, a fairly Republican area, the bloom is still on the rose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it is such a blessing to see you, Mr. President.
Thank you for taking time out of your day.
Oh, gracious God, thank you so much.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CROWLEY: Equally important to the president is the ability to counterbalance his dire warnings about an economy in freefall with the confidence that things will get better -- because things cannot get better unless Americans believe they will. Two-thirds of the U.S. economy is consumer spending -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy Crowley.
Let's go to the Pentagon right now.
Barbara Starr is working a story involving showing the American public those caskets of fallen troops as they come back to Dover, the US Air Force Base in Delaware. It's a sensitive issue that came up yesterday at the news conference.
What's the latest?
What are you hearing from the military today -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is one of the most sensitive issues for America's grieving military families. It looks like there may be some movement on it.
STARR (voice-over): Rare photographs of the fallen coming home for the last time -- solemn ceremonies at Dover Air Force Base pay tribute. But for years, the Pentagon has banned news coverage.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Will you overturn that policy?
OBAMA: We are in the process of reviewing those policies in conversations with the Department of Defense.
STARR: Indeed, it was after this exchange that Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked for a review. He says the ban protects families.
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There were some privacy concerns. I think that looking at it again makes all kinds of sense.
STARR: Some family groups don't want anything changed.
KATHLEEN MOAKLER, NATIONAL MILITARY FAMILY ASSOCIATION: It would be -- we feel it would be very unsettling to other families to see pictures of the flag-draped coffins and not know whether it's their son, their daughter, their husband, their mother in those coffins.
STARR: The restrictions started tightening back in 1989, when the first casualties from the invasion of Panama appeared on television at the same time President George H.W. Bush appeared light-hearted. Five years ago, Senator Joe Biden suggested the ban was kept in place to keep Americans from seeing the Iraq War dead.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea that they are essentially snuck back into the country under the cover of night so no one can see their casket has arrived, I just think is wrong.
STARR: Congressman Walter Jones says it's a matter of paying respects. REP. WALTERS JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: And one way to do that is when that flag-draped coffin is coming off that plane at Dover -- and you don't know the name, nor should you know the name, but you know it's an American hero.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: Of course, all of this is coming as the Pentagon is telling American military families to get ready for the possibility of more casualties as the fighting is certain to ramp up in Afghanistan -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, unfortunately.
All right, Barbara.
Thanks very much.
Let's go to Jack.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: So, Tim Geithner, the wunderkind secretary of the Treasury, who didn't bother to pay all his taxes and kept the nation waiting breathlessly for an extra 24 hours, finally unveiled his plan to save the world today. Well, actually it's the banking system. But if he doesn't save that, then somebody is going to have to come along and save the world.
The plan Geithner announced is sort of like a Chinese crossword puzzle, unless you happen to have a Ph.D. In economics and finance. So allow us to simplify.
It may cost another trillion dollars to keep the banking system afloat and get credit flowing once again.
When Wall Street heard this news, it immediately threw up on itself, with the Dow dropping 300 points in a matter of minutes. It eventually closed down almost 400.
And if Wall Street doesn't like it, I find it difficult to imagine why the rest of us ought to get too excited, either.
Nevertheless, at this point, we don't have much choice, do we, except to pull for Geithner and his plan. Thirty-four banks have failed in the last year. As the cost of dealing with our financial crisis soars into the trillions of dollars, I have this nagging feeling that we were never told the truth about how bad things were last year -- right up until Lehman Brothers went belly-up in September. And I still don't think we know.
Here's the question -- how concerned are you about the nation's banking system?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
Thanks very much.
Buddying up to President Obama -- is Florida's Republican governor, Charlie Crist, looking for political capital or does he really want to work with the president to help his struggling state?
Donna Brazile and Dick Armey and James Carville -- they're all here to discuss.
And families ripped apart in the chaos of a deadly fire catastrophe. Now one couple is reunited.
Plus, a rising star now falling -- the singer, Chris Brown's, career takes a hit in the wake of an alleged assault on his girlfriend Rihanna.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The Obama administration is trying to pull out all the stops in an effort to turn the economy around. But the bottom line is jobs, jobs, jobs.
Listen to President Obama today at that town hall meeting in Fort Myers, Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We'll begin by ensuring that Americans who have lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage.
OBAMA: That means that an additional -- that means an additional $100 per month to more than 760,000 Florida workers who've lost their job in this recession. It means extended unemployment benefits for another 170,000 folks who've been laid off and are looking for work but can't find any right now.
That's not just a moral responsibility to help -- give a lending hand to our fellow Americans in times of emergency, it makes good economic sense. Because if you don't have money, you can't spend it. And if you don't spend it, that means businesses don't have customers. Our economy will continue to decline.
For that same reason, this recovery plan includes $1,000 of badly needed tax relief for middle class workers and families -- putting money back in the pockets of nearly 6.9 million workers and their families here in Florida.
(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: And we will provide a partially refundable $2,500 per student tax credit to help 195,000 Florida families send their kids to college, relieving your household budget.
OBAMA: That provides household budgets relief right now, but it also awards America in the long run with a highly skilled workforce.
And most importantly, this plan will put people to work right now by making direct investments in areas like health care, and energy and education and infrastructure -- investments that save jobs and create new jobs and new businesses and help our economy grow again.
Now, more than 90 percent of the jobs created by this plan will be in the private sector -- 90 percent. And they won't be make work jobs. They'll be jobs that lay the groundwork for a lasting economic boom, jobs that put people to work today preparing America for tomorrow, jobs building wind turbines, and solar panels, and fuel- efficient cars...
OBAMA: ... Doubling our investment in clean energy, helping end our dependence on foreign oil...
OBAMA: ... Jobs upgrading our schools, jobs creating 21st century classrooms and libraries and laboratories for millions of children across America...
OBAMA: ... Jobs computerizing our health care system, which saves billions of dollars and countless lives, jobs constructing broadband Internet lines that reach Florida's rural schools and small businesses so they can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world...
OBAMA: ... Jobs rebuilding our roads and our bridges and repairing our dangerously deficient dams and levees so we don't face another Katrina...
OBAMA: ... And the jobs that Charlie Crist has to worry about -- the jobs of firefighters and teachers and nurses and police officers that would otherwise be eliminated if we don't provide states some basic relief.
OBAMA: Now, of course, there are some critics -- always critics -- who say we can't afford to take on these priorities. But we have postponed and neglected them for too long. And because we have, our health care still costs too much. Our -- our schools still fail too many of our children. Our dependence on foreign oil has actually grown since the 1970s. It still threatens our economy and our security. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.
They say we can't afford to take on these tasks?
Florida, you know we cannot afford not to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president of the United States, speaking in Fort Myers.
There you see Air Force One. It's now back at Andrews Air Force Base, bringing the president and his entourage back to Washington from Florida.
We're going to see him getting off that plane pretty soon, boarding Marine One and making the short little chopper flight over to the south Lawn of the White House.
So President Obama is back in the greater Washington, D.C. Area right now.
A couple separated by the worst fires in Australia's history now reunited.
BLITZER: We have details of how they found each other, plus new information on the rising death toll.
Plus, President Obama railing against so-called golden parachutes. But it turns out some members of his own administration got huge payouts when they left their corporate jobs for the White House.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's a disturbing story developing up on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Let's go to Brianna Keilar, our Congressional correspondent.
What happened -- Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm on the north side of the Capitol, where -- at the entrance where cars go in -- there is a blue truck that has been stopped and has been searched by Capitol Police here.
According to Capitol Police, in the last hour, a man drove up to this checkpoint outside the Capitol and told officers that he had a delivery for President Obama. And according to a statement from the police, they say after further questioning, he admitted to having a rifle in his vehicle. And, indeed, one of our producers, Ted Barrett, was outside of the Capitol watching as Capitol Police went through this vehicle and found a rifle and set it aside.
Now this man, according to police, was arrested without incident. He was transported to Capitol Police headquarters for processing and charges are pending. And they obviously are continuing to look into the situation.
But according to a police official on the scene, police officers have been going over the vehicle with a fine tooth comb, really checking to see if there could be really anything -- whether it's more weapons, whether it's some sort of chemical hazard -- they're just making sure, Wolf, that it is a safe situation.
In the meantime, they've got officers posted on street corners all around the north side of the Capitol, restricting pedestrian traffic to the area.
BLITZER: Brianna, thanks for the update.
We'll watch that story.
Let's check back with Mary.
She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Mary.
SNOW: Well, Wolf, we begin with the story about the salmonella in peanut butter. Operations at a second peanut processing plant are suspended now after test results show the possible presence of salmonella. The Peanut Corporation of America says it's voluntarily halting operations at its Plainview, Texas plant while state and federal officials investigate. The company's Blakeley, Georgia plant is linked to a salmonella outbreak that killed eight people and sickened 600 across the country.
It's going to cost you an extra two cents to mail a letter soon, unless you stockpile those Forever stamps. The Postal Service says the price of a first class stamp will rise to 44 cents. That happens on May 11th. The so-called Forever stamps remain valid regardless of rate hikes -- at least until May, when their price will also go up.
And Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is rejecting a Bush administration plan to open huge areas of the Pacific and Atlantic Coast to offshore oil and gas drilling. The Bush drilling proposal was announced four days before President Obama took office. Salazar criticized what he called "the enormous sweep of the plain -- of the plan," that is. Instead, he's calling for studies on how much oil and gas might be found off both coasts -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you.
The death toll from those catastrophic bush fires in Southeastern Australia is now 181. But as recovery teams move from town to town devastated in this area, they're finding charred bodies across roadsides and even in crashed cars. And the number of dead is expected to top 200.
Many families separated in the chaos are only now being reunited.
Simon Bodal of Australia's 9 News has more.
SIMON BODAL, 9 NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A moment of joy amid days of despair.
BODAL: Rodney and Leila Pitt-Wood back together after being separated at the height of the bush fires.
RODNEY PITT-WOOD, HUSBAND REUNITED WITH WIFE: Do you want to see the boys?
LEILA PITT-WOOD, WIFE REUNITED WITH HUSBAND: (INAUDIBLE).
BODAL: Nine News arranged the reunion because blocked roads prevented them from being together at a time when they needed each other so much. They've lost their home. They've lost everything.
BODAL: We met Leila Pitt-Wood after relatives contacted the Nine Network asking for help.
L. PITT-WOOD: (INAUDIBLE) now I (INAUDIBLE) where he was and I know he's safe.
BODAL: It's been a horror three days for her. She was at work when the fires broke out and tried desperately to get home, but was turned back.
L. PITT-WOOD: (INAUDIBLE) a wall of flames coming up the mountain.
BODAL: She didn't even know if her husband had survived until the next day.
L. PITT-WOOD: I didn't know whether he was safe and I (INAUDIBLE) that I couldn't get to him, because I love him so much.
BODAL: But Rodney had made it out and spent the next three days at a tent camp at Yea.
R. PITT-WOOD: It's hard. It's sort of like she's on that side of the mountain, I'm on this side of the mountain. BODAL: For him and the couple's two dogs, this has been home. He's missed his wife.
R. PITT-WOOD: Just to put your hands around her and (INAUDIBLE) just yes.
Are you ready to go?
L. PITT-WOOD: Yes.
BODAL: So we offered to fly Leila back into her husband's arms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I'm just getting the helicopter now.
BODAL: But from up here, she could see for herself the charred mountains she calls home.
L. PITT-WOOD: (INAUDIBLE). Oh, my God.
BODAL: As we neared Yea, her excitement grew.
L. PITT-WOOD: (INAUDIBLE) I can't believe it was happening to me.
BODAL: Touching down, all Leila wanted was to be in her husband's comforting embrace.
(on camera): He looks pretty happy.
L. PITT-WOOD: I want to run there...
BODAL: Well, you can run if you want to run. You've got it.
(voice-over): People here have had little to be happy about. But seeing the couple together, they clapped.
Simon Bodal (ph), Nine News.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: President Obama says he inherited this economic crisis, but how much time, though, will that buy him?
Standing by, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and former House Republican leader, Dick Armey.
And President Obama has railed against big payouts that some executives get when they leave their jobs. But some key aides have floated into his administration on golden parachutes.
Plus, thanks to the latest technology, an ancient mummy mystery has now been revealed. We'll tell you who's inside the coffin right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, is there a different standard for the Obama administration?
We're taking a closer look at what some members of his economic team are receiving from their old companies. Stand by.
The hope for better relations, but with a firm line on weapons -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assesses the issues in future talks with Tehran.
And edging out hard-liners -- Israel's moderate foreign minister taking an early lead in the exit polls in Israel.
But can she form a coalition government?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up, but first to Brian Todd.
He's looking at a story involving the Obama administration and people coming in getting what are called golden parachutes as they leave.
What is the story here -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we found that some top officials on the Obama team did get a lot richer when they walked away from their old jobs. So we dug through the disclosure forms and did some comparing to see if these were similar to the eye-popping payments that some top Wall Street execs get.
TODD: A hallmark of the president's economic reform plan, punching holes in those so called golden parachutes, huge lump-sum payments that major executives get when they walk away from a job or are fired.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We're putting a stop to these kinds of massive severance packages we've already read about were discussed. We're taking the air out of golden parachutes.
TODD: But some top members of the president's economic team got lump-sum payments of their own when they left their old jobs. Mary Shapiro, new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission got more than $7 million when she left the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA, a self-regulating group for brokerage houses.
Treasury secretary Tim Geithner got more than $430,000 when he left the New York Federal Reserve Bank to become treasury secretary. But for Shapiro and Geithner, much of that money was in retirement or other benefits. And some analysts believe that's money they are entitled to. Not the same thing as a golden parachute for a Wall Street exec who got fired or just walked away. PROF. RAJEEV OHAWAN, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: That's different from some people willingly leaving a job and then cashing out whatever their benefits were.
TODD: In Shapiro's case, there could be questions about potential conflict of interest because the SEC has some regulator regulatory over FINRA. Disclosure records also show that when she joined the SEC Shapiro got hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred compensation from Kraft Foods and Duke Energy where she sat on boards. Nothing wrong with that on its face, but it means that she still holds stock in companies which the SEC might some day have to take enforcement action against. This is the thing that has people at the watchdog group Common Cause worried.
MIKE SURRUSCO, COMMON CAUSE: There would be a conflict of interest if there were a case where a decision needed to be made about going forward against either one of those companies.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, an SEC spokesman said Mary Shapiro's always made it clear if her agency needs to take any enforcement against Kraft Foods or Duke Energy she'll recuse herself from that and for anything the SEC might have to do in its oversight of her own group FINRA for at least two years.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Isn't it true that almost all of these officials take huge pay cuts when they leave the private sector to come back and work in the government?
TODD: They really do. When you talk about lump-sum payments you have to talk about that side of it as well. Shapiro made more than $2 million a year as head of FINRA and will pull in a little over $160,000 a year as the SEC chair. Tim Geithner made over $400,000 last year as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. He's going to make less than half that as treasury secretary now. You and I both know, and everybody knows that's still great money for most of us, but analysts do give them credit for walking away from a lot more money taking on the jobs they have to help turn the economy around. You have to mention that in the same breath.
BLITZER: Absolutely. Brian, thanks very much.
President Obama is taking almost everything on his economic recovery plan right now. Listen who to what he said at the town hall meeting earlier today in Ft. Myers, Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Look, I won't lie to you. If it turns out that a few years from now people don't feel like the economy has turned around, that we're still having problems, that folks are still unemployed, that our health care system is not more efficient, then you guys won't applaud me next time I come down here. You know, there may be a couple of diehard Obama folks out here, but -- so I expect to be judged by results. And there's no -- I'm not going to make any excuses. If stuff hasn't worked, and people don't feel like I've led the country in the right direction, then you'll have a new president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss what's going on right now with Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile and the former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Thanks to both of you for coming in.
Donna, it's only three weeks or so into this administration, but he seems to be putting it all on the line right now. This economic recovery plan and the plan to try to bail out Wall Street.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This president understands that unless we act quickly and boldly and responsibly, we can find ourselves in just a few months off the cliff. I think the president is doing the right thing trying to rally the American people behind this investment package to encourage people who have lost their homes, lost their jobs to believe in this plan and to really work with him so they can find the help that is needed in this moment of crisis.
BLITZER: Listen to how he framed it last night because he heard him repeatedly make this point, Mr. Armey. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The situation we face could not be more serious. We've inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the great depression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That's a constant refrain he makes. Some say he's already starting to whine. Others saying he's simply telling the truth that he's inherited an economic mess from the eight years of the Bush administration.
DICK ARMEY (R), FORMER MAJORITY LEADER: Well, first of all, it's standard fare for every president to say, look, bad things we got from my predecessor. President Obama is a young man and probably doesn't remember the '70s as clearly as I do. Things are bad now, but they aren't as bad as they were in the '70s. Quite frankly, many of us are fearful that all that is being done with this massive public hand wringing this, public panic displayed by public officials that should, in fact, show more restraint in their public anxiety. We could end up in as bad a shape as we were in the '70s and then of course it will be obvious that today wasn't as bad as they said it was.
BLITZER: All the dire talk, Donna, suggesting to some that it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dana Milbalm writing in the "Washington Post," "If the economy isn't already in a depression, Americans themselves are likely to be if they've been hearing their leaders drop the d bomb again and again." Is he being overly -- overly dire in his assessment and that's merely reinforcing the doom and gloom that's out there which has this cyclical impact?
BRAZILE: Wolf, I don't think you can talk this problem down. What he's trying to do is to lift people up. For 13 months, we were in denial. No one wanted to use the "r" word. No one wanted to tell the American people the truth. This president is not only telling the American people what the problems are. But he's also trying to spell out how he can solve the problems.
You know, there's an old saying. Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. This president is being forceful. He is action oriented and he's taking this plan to the American people so that they understand what's in it for them.
BLITZER: He may not have received a lot of Republican support. He received no Republican support in the house. Only three Republican senators. But out there, some governors are standing by the president on this economic stimulus plan, Mr. Armey, including Charlie Crist, the very popular Republican governor of Florida, who introduced him in Ft. Myers at that town meeting earlier today. Governors see things differently than those inside the beltway.
ARMEY: Let me say first of all, there was a bipartisan vote in the house. Republicans and Democrats voted against the package. This is bad economic analysis. It's bad public policy. It's all about massive expansion in government, which is already a burden. As far as the governor is concerned, it's a matter of good manners and sound protocol, decent behavior when the president comes to your state for --
BLITZER: But it wasn't just that. He says he wants the money and he's anxious for the states -- the governor of California, that where there's economic distress, he wants the money. He's a Republican. There are plenty of Republican governors out there who see it differently than those members of the house, the Republicans in the house.
ARMEY: It's a rare burden indeed, a governor that doesn't want what they perceive to be pre-federal money. But the fact of the matter is and the question is this plan is about will it stimulate growth in the economy? He will grow the public sector, but to reinflate this big old bubble, prop it up with federal money and -- without asking the fundamental question, where does the money come from? I believe in the long run this is going to be a very, very painful consequence of inflationary recession in the lives of the American people. A problem that might have been resolved in a few short months is now going to be stretched out into a decade.
BLITZER: On that sour note, we'll leave it unfortunately, guys. We've got to go. Thanks, Donna and Dick Armey.
Major league baseball reeling right now as another star player is charged with lying to congress about steroid use, one day after the Yankee Alex Rodriguez admits he used performance enhancing drugs.
Plus a pop star's career in free-fall right now. Chris Brown charged with felony assault. There are new developments in his criminal case involving his girlfriend Rihanna. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More bad news out of major league baseball. Let's go to Richard Roth. He's a great baseball fan but a lot of fans like you and me are pretty upset by what's going on.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this time of year, baseball fans are excited. In a few days in Florida and Arizona, pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Well, you could be calling it now maybe steroid training because now today happening now, another stunner. All-star shortstop Miguel Tejada with the Houston Astros linked in a steroids case in what appears to be a plea bargain deal. He's expected to plead guilty tomorrow to lying to congress about steroids. According to officials close to the case, Tejada is accused not over use of steroids by the player but lying when he denied that a former teammate used steroids or human growth hormone. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Tejada is likely to receive zero to six months, which likely means probation without jail time. Yesterday, of course it was New York Yankees star third baseman Alex Rodriguez who admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, though he told ESPN, Wolf he didn't know what he really took.
BLITZER: "The New York Post," New York Daily News having a field day with this story as you well know.
ROTH: It's a huge story in New York. Fans are divided. He hasn't brought the Yankees the elusive world series someplace say he's not a true Yankee. Highest paid athlete in the United States. It's time to put up or else he's going to face brutal reception from the fans in the new Yankee Stadium.
BLITZER: Getting ready for spring training right now. All right. Thanks, Richard Roth.
Let's go out to Los Angeles. Our entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter is working on a story involving assault charges against a young rising pop star.
What's going on out there, Kareen?
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: The case against singer Chris Brown was presented to the Los Angeles county district attorney today, but the DA's office kicked it back to the LAPD for further investigation.
WYNTER: Double trouble for music sensation Chris Brown who was arrested and released on bail Sunday on charges that he beat a woman. Now the young star has a major endorsement deal that may be in jeopardy. Wrigley Gum suspended this ad campaign saying they are, "Concerned by the serious allegations made against him." Brown has also pulled out of the NBA all-star event he was scheduled to attend this weekend in Arizona.
While police have not confirmed the identity of his alleged victim, sources close to both singers tell CNN it was Rihanna, his girlfriend, whose 2007 hit "Umbrella" put her on the charts. SMOKEY FONTAINE, GIANT MAGAZINE: So here we have these two young superstars who are perhaps the biggest superstars we have on the pop charts right now. Both of them are going into mini crisis mode. Seems Rihanna has canceled her upcoming performance in Malaysia due to personal reasons.
WYNTER: While Brown's arrest has shocked many in the music world, some say the young star is no stranger to domestic violence. In 2007, Brown spoke candidly with "Giant" magazine. Smoky Fontain was editor in chief at the time.
FONTAINE: The trauma that Chris Brown suffered through as a child was so severe. He even kind of peed himself as a boy.
WYNTER: Rihanna gave his own interview to his publication just months prior where she disclosed a painful past.
FONTAINE: She remembers loads of arguments between her parents and she also internalized that pain and that struggle where she would walk around with headaches, really severe headaches.
WYNTER: Neither singer's camp is commenting at this time. An arraignment is scheduled for March 5th.
WYNTER: Police say there are photos related to the case and that a tape of the 911 call which first alerted them to the call contains the voice of a screaming woman but no further details released.
BLITZER: What a sad story for these two individuals. Thanks, Kareen, for that story.
While the president was out of town pitching his stimulus plan, his absence was noted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's Obama?
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: He's in Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't live with you?
OBAMA: No, he doesn't live with me. He just went to Florida for the day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He lives with you?
OBAMA: He lives with me, really.
BLITZER: You'll hear much more about this visit.
And the secrets of a mummy revealed right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: While the president was in Florida today pitching his stimulus plan, the first lady, Michelle Obama, she was visiting with kids at a social services center in Washington. Listen to this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you want to come out here to meet us?
OBAMA: Well, a whole bunch of reasons. You know, number one, this is the best part of my day. You know? Really. Short of being with my own kids. I have always -- I was raised to believe, number one, when you get, you give back.
We've now just moved into this new community. We're not from D.C. I've visited here. Barack has been a senator. But we've been visitors. Now we live here. This is our community now. And if we were taught that you have to get to know your community that you're in, and you have to be a part of that community. You have to get to know it in order to, you know, actively engage in it. And D.C. is our community now. It's our home.
So Barack's real busy right now. So I figured, well, I've got a little time on my hands. And while the kids are at school, I want to come out and hear about the programs. I want to meet students. The other thing is that, you know, I have in some way been where you are. Because, you know, I didn't come into this position with a lot of wealth, with a lot of resources. And I think it's real important for young kids, particularly kids who come from communities without resources, to see me. Not the first lady. But to see that there is no magic to me sitting here.
There is no miracles that happen. There's no magic dust that was sprinkled on my head or on Barack's head. We were kids much like you.
BLITZER: First lady speaking with some kids earlier in the day.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now for the "Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How cool is she?
BLITZER: She's cool.
CAFFERTY: She's amazing.
BLITZER: She's very intelligent. She's serious about getting into the community of D.C.
CAFFERTY: The humanity and genuineness when she's out interacting with the people, that's the real deal there.
The question this hour is how concerned are you about the system's banking system?
Rich in San Clementine said, "My concern is the banking system won't be changing in any substantial way. The same people running them, the rules haven't changed and the result this recession won't be going away anytime soon. Institutions that are insolvent because of risky investments need to enter bankruptcy and be reorganized before anyone will really have any confidence in our system again. It's a lack of confidence that's put a stop to our economy."
David writes, "Bank, what bank? It seems to me they don't want our business any longer. I'm not concerned unless we give them more money. What happened to all the requirements they were going to start giving loans again? I went in for a home loan and all but got laughed out the door even though my credit's superb and I've had three mortgages from the very same bank that turned me down."
Bob writes, "Henry Paulson did exploratory operation on the banks last year and ended up just sewing the patient back up. Better to pass on the problem to a new administration. Now Geithner is expected to have a miracle cure and there are none. But we can't tell the American people this, because it would cause a huge panic. Wall Street already senses this, but is looking for some Washington, D.C. magic. There is none. Obama will gradually tell us the truth, and it will be very painful. Nationalization of our banking system is no longer out of the question."
And Corey in Florida writes, "I'm very concerned. It seems the beginning of every American century we need to rein in and severely regulate some manifestation of robber barons. Now the robber barons of the credit industry. I wish I had more confidence in this congress to do what needs to be done."
If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post hundreds of e-mails for your reading pleasure.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you. See you in a few moments.
The breaking news coming out of Israel. The election is over. Who will be the next prime minister?
Also, an ancient mystery solved through modern technology. Who is inside this nearly 3,000-year-old coffin?
BLITZER: A mummy and a caftan? What's going on? Susan Roesgen is working a 3,000-year-old mystery for us.
We learned something intriguing today, didn't we?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We sure did Wolf. Picture this, 1920, a young girl moves to Chicago. She's actually 2800 years old and nobody knows what she looks like, until now.
ROESGEN: The hieroglyphics on this Egyptian coffin say inside is the mummy of a young woman named Maresamon. From the time she was first brought to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 1920, no one knew what she looked like. If they open the coffin, it's so old it would be destroyed. It took medical science nearly 3,000 years to invent the technology to actually see the mummy inside.
DR. MICHAEL VANNIER, RADIOLOGIST: We were fortunate that the mummy could fit within the aperture of the CT scanner.
ROESGEN: Dr. Michael Vannier is a diagnostic radiologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He used what he says is the most sophisticated cat scanner in the world to unveil this young woman who died 2,800 years ago.
VANNIER: Her eyes are set far apart. She has a very full mouth and high cheek bones. I think I could recognize this individual if I saw her in life.
ROESGEN: She was about 30 years old, and she was one of the singers in an Egyptian temple.
EMILY TEETER, EGYPTOLOGIST: She was a working woman. And this has great resonance for today, that she had a job in the temple and then she'd come home. Making those sort of connections between modern day and ancient day.
ROESGEN: A beautiful young woman who achieved the Egyptian goal of immortality.
TEETER: One of the ideas in ancient Egypt is to live forever. You want to be remembered by living people. So, she has her wish.
ROESGEN: Wolf, the only thing we don't know in this mystery is how did she die? She seemed apparently healthy, but no one knows yet how did she die.
BLITZER: We'll learn that obviously in the years to come. Thanks very much.
Let's check in with Lou. He's got a show coming up in an hour.
You're working on your line item veto. What's the latest, Lou?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely Wolf. We're doing that on Chris Belenti's birthday here tonight on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."
We'll have much more on the government's spending legislation that's being called a stimulus bill. In the senate, we found about $200 million that had been set aside for something you may not think of as stimulative. It's for the Filipino Veterans World War II. We'll tell you about that. It's good for the Filipino economy, but what's it doing in this legislation? We'll also be talking about how the money in that bill would create jobs or stimulate the economy. No one in congress seems to know the answer to any of it either.
We'll be talking about oversight, and analysis, all of that, joining us for Lou's line item veto at 7:00 p.m. eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." We hope you'll let your elected officials know about how you feel what's going on in the nation's capitol.
Wolf, back to you. BLITZER: See you in an hour, Lou. Thank you.