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President Obama Signs Stimulus Bill; Cheney Furious With Bush?

Aired February 17, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, astounding pay and perks first for America's top mailman. If business is supposedly so bad for the Postal Service, why is he earning so much?

And parting shots between Dick Cheney and George Bush -- a denied request that reportedly left the former vice president fuming -- all of that and the best political team on television.

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

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

President Obama signing off on two major interventions, one for the economy, one for the war in Afghanistan. And both may have huge implications for this nation and for his time in office.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is standing by.

But let's go to White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's traveling with the president in Denver, where he signed this huge economic stimulus package into law today.

Tell our viewers what happened, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, actually, President Obama's on his way to Phoenix, Arizona. That is where he is going to unveil his plan to deal with the housing crisis. But today it was all about releasing big bucks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): It's President Obama's baby and burden, all $787 billion of it.

(APPLAUSE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There you go. It's done.

MALVEAUX: With Mr. Obama's signature, it becomes the first signature issue of his presidency.

OBAMA: Now, I don't want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems, nor does it constitute all of what we're going to have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end. MALVEAUX: With only three Republican senators backing his plan, the stimulus represents a key philosophical departure from the Bush years, a renewed faith in government to fix the problem.

OBAMA: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I will sign today is the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history.

MALVEAUX: Colorado's governor, Bill Ritter, says his state will create the jobs quickly.

GOV. BILL RITTER (D), COLORADO: We have $1.4 billion worth of shovel-ready projects. So, as soon as that money's here, we will go through our procurement process. We're hoping to do that in 90 to 120 days.

MALVEAUX: The White House says Colorado is especially poised to benefit from the stimulus package because of its economic investment in wind, solar and other sources of renewable energy. The federal government is providing Colorado with more than $130 million for clean energy and weatherization projects, plus tax incentives for companies that convert to wind and solar power.

Pascal Noronha is anxious to get the money. His company, AVA Solar, just north of Denver, is poised to make solar panels to power 40,000 homes starting in the spring.

PASCAL NORONHA, CEO, AVA SOLAR: What the government needs to do is provide the traction that's needed to get the first few projects on the ground.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And the government's Web site, Recovery.gov, says that some federal agencies will get money as early as the next couple of days. And then they have got to actually report how they're spending that money, using that money by July 15 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Huge economic development today, Suzanne. Thanks very much.

Chris Lawrence is our man over at the Pentagon. And there's a major military development unfolding right now as well, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The president has authorized up to 17,000 more troops for Afghanistan. And we have now learned that the first of these brigades to go were originally scheduled to go to Iraq, not Afghanistan, and that these higher troop levels will be in place probably for years to come.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The buildup in Afghanistan has begun. President Obama has made the first combat decision of his presidency, approving a significant increase in American troops, in all, up to 17,000, the first to go, roughly 8,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune and about 4,000 soldiers from an Army Stryker brigade at Fort Lewis.

Senior defense officials say both brigades can be on the ground by the end of spring. Both are being trained for dual missions, fight the insurgency and mentor the Afghan army. And even after they're deployed, the military still wants up to 2,000 more dedicated trainers to join them soon -- one of their first missions, reclaim the southern part of Afghanistan, where the Taliban operates uncontested in some areas. That means securing roads against bombs and allowing commanders to hold territory long enough to put economic programs in place.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: By being a permanent presence there, by being a long-term presence, rather than flying out by helicopter for a day's operations or a couple of days' operations, and then flying back to their base.

LAWRENCE: A team of Navy Seabees has already arrived to build basic infrastructure for the incoming troops. And Defense Department officials tell us more forward bases will be established soon.

The additional troops come ahead of the president's review of Afghanistan's strategy. In an interview with Canada's CBC Tuesday, the president said the situation there is deteriorating.

OBAMA: I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means. We're going to have to use diplomacy. We're going to have to use development.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Now, the Stryker brigade may not get to Afghanistan until a month or two after those Marines. The last 5,000 support troops will get their orders at a later date.

But, Wolf, a U.S. military official with specific knowledge of Afghanistan deployment tells us, this is not a surge. This operation in Afghanistan is being planned as a three- to four-year sustained commitment, over three to four years. And you just cannot do a surge for that long.

BLITZER: All right, Chris, thanks very much for that report.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Wolf, you probably already know this, the U.S. economy hemorrhaging jobs, two million, almost, lost in the last three months. But it turns out, surprisingly, to me at least, that Americans are not that concerned about losing their job.

A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows 68 percent of workers polled said they have not been laid off in the last six months and are not worried about getting a pink slip in the near future. Two percent say they have lost their job during that time. And 29 percent say they're worried about that happening.

Forty-one percent say they have family or close friends who have been laid off in the last six months. Meanwhile, there are some who suggest that there is an upside to losing your job. The bishop of London says it actually might be a blessing in disguise -- quoting here -- "Sometimes, people seem to be relieved to get off the treadmill and to be given an opportunity to reconsider what they really want out of life" -- unquote.

He describes the so-called "CrackBerry culture" as being dangerously addictive. The other stuff that's addictive is things like food and clothes and rent. The online magazine "Mental Floss" writes about eight successful people who were actually grateful when they lost their jobs.

These include Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Bloomberg, Robert Redford, and Bill Belichick, who coaches the New England Patriots. After getting the boot from one gig, each of these people was inspired to reach even higher levels of success.

Still, it may not be totally convincing for the millions of Americans out of work, struggling to make ends meet, or those who are worried that they might join that group some time soon.

Here's the question, then. How concerned are you about losing your job?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, and post a comment on my blog.

You know, whether that thing the bishop in London said is true or not, timing's everything. And this isn't the time to be talking about that stuff.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point.

All right, Jack, stand by.

He became a United States senator amid scandal, but now Roland Burris is caught up in his own. He's facing new questions, very serious questions, about what he said and when he said it.

The nation's top mailman reportedly saw a pay and perk package worth $800,000. How, when the Postal Service says the recession might mean fewer mail delivery days?

BLITZER: And Dick Cheney was reportedly furious with George Bush, said to be angry at the refusal to pardon Lewis Scooter Libby in the administration's final days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DEFRANK, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": As most senior officials in the Bush White House are worrying about their resumes and packing bags, the vice president went at President Bush time and time and time again, I'm told from Cheney sources.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now there are growing questions about whether President Obama's successor in the United States Senate, Roland Burris, may have committed perjury. We have new comments coming in from the senator right now on tape defending himself against the accusations.

Let's go to Chicago. CNN's Susan Roesgen has got the latest -- Susie.

SUSAN ROESGEN, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the senator still insists that he didn't pay anything to get that appointment. But he's been changing his recollection of various conversations that led up to it. And here is what he's saying today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: There were never any inappropriate conversations between me and anyone else. And I will answer any and all questions to get that point across to keep my faith with the citizens of Illinois.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to...

ROESGEN (voice-over): It all comes back to this. Last month, when Roland Burris testified under oath in the Illinois impeachment proceedings against Governor Rod Blagojevich, state lawmakers wanted to know if Burris had been asked to give the governor money in exchange for his appointment. And Burris was asked specifically if he had had any dealings with some of the people in Governor Blagojevich's inner circle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me throw out some names: John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenlee, Lon Monk, John Wyma. Did you talk to anybody who was associated with the governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the governor's arrest?

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes.

ROESGEN: That's it right there, the crux of the controversy. Burris says he answered all questions truthfully, but what he did not say is that, in fact, he had been asked three times by the governor's brother to give money to the governor's campaign funds.

Burris did not reveal that until last week, when he filed an amendment to his testimony, an affidavit he sent to the Illinois Impeachment Committee. And Burris now says the FBI has been talking to his lawyers, leading several state lawmakers to theorize that the feds have Burris on tape talking to the governor's brother as part of the wiretapped conversations in the Blagojevich corruption probe. Senator Burris still maintains that he never gave any money to get his seat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN: And, so, Wolf, the plot thickens. And if Senator Burris is on that tape, on one of those government wiretaps, things will get really, really sticky -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, what a story this is, no end in sight.

All right, thanks very much, Susie, for that.

Another story that potentially could shock you. The chief who is responsible for delivering your mail reportedly is paid like some of the wealthiest corporate executives out there.

Let's bring in CNN's Elaine Quijano. She's been looking into this story for us.

It's pretty surprising.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What's so interesting is that the Postal Service just recently announced the need to increase by 2 cents the cost of mailing a letter. But now, Wolf, there are some new questions about whether top officials in the Postal Service are feeling the economic (AUDIO GAP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO (voice-over): Last month, Postmaster General John Potter told a Senate panel -- and later CNN -- that business was so bad, the Postal Service might have to cut mail delivery to just five days a week.

JOHN POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL: We hope not to have to reduce six-day delivery. We hope that our aggressive plans to reduce our costs are effective.

QUIJANO: But "The Washington Times" reports that even as he warned of dire economic straits, Potter watched his own compensation and perks climb to more than $800,000 last year.

PETE SEPP, VICE PRESIDENT FOR POLICY AND COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION: This is the equivalent of Detroit auto executives flying to Washington in a fancy jet to ask for tax dollars.

QUIJANO: According to a regulatory filing from December, Potter was paid $263,000 in salary last year and was paid $381,000 in retirement benefits as well. Sixty-nine thousand dollars went for a security detail required by the Secret Service, and $8,000 more for perks, including life insurance premiums. He's also due to receive a $135,000 bonus when he leaves the postal service, an independent government agency that's not funded by taxpayers, but is subject to congressional oversight.

A spokesman for the Postal Service defends Potter, saying that under his leadership, the Postal Service reduced costs by $1 billion a year for the last six years. CNN could not independently verify that claim. The spokesman also noted that the compensation in question was agreed to in the early part of 2007 before the full effects of the economic crisis were known.

Still, that doesn't assuage critics.

SEPP: I would not be surprised to see the Postal Service asking for a bailout just like Wall Street firms.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO: Now, just a quick correction: The security detail, Wolf, was not required by Secret Service, we should tell you.

And we should also mention that, through his spokesman, John Potter himself declined to comment on this story.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Elaine, for that story -- Elaine Quijano here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A rift during the final days of the Bush presidency. Dick Cheney and George W. Bush reportedly were at odds over one man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG GORDON, WHITE HOUSE EDITOR, "POLITICO": For some conservatives, Scooter Libby was sort of robbed right, you know, beginning, middle and end. And I think Dick Cheney and some of his loyal supporters feel that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What President Bush wouldn't do for Scooter Libby that some say left Dick Cheney fuming.

Plus, today is the deadline for the big automakers to present their survival plans -- what Chrysler and GM are asking for now.

And those personal pictures and details you delete from Facebook -- why a change in the fine print means a lot for you, potentially out there could come back to haunt you. Stay with us. We will explain right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are reports that in President Bush's last days in office, the vice president, Dick Cheney, repeatedly pressed the president to do something, and the president repeatedly refused. And that's causing apparently some bitter feelings between both men.

Let's go straight to our Brian Todd, who's been looking into this story.

Tell our viewers, Brian, what this one is all about.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was over the Scooter Libby case, which you remember very well, a trial that stirred controversy when it began about two years ago, grew worse with time and in the end reportedly left the vice president furious.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Their storied partnership, forged with a strong belief in loyalty, reportedly frayed in the final days of the presidency over that very same principle.

"The New York Daily News" says former Vice President Dick Cheney was left fuming when his efforts to get President Bush to pardon former Cheney aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby were rebuffed. The paper's Washington bureau chief, Tom DeFrank, who's covered Mr. Cheney for more than 30 years, writes of Cheney's efforts as the Bush administration wound down.

TOM DEFRANK, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": As most senior officials in the Bush White House were worrying about their resumes and packing bags, the vice president went at President Bush time and time and time again, I'm told from Cheney sources.

TODD: DeFrank reports that after repeatedly telling the vice president he'd made up his mind, "... Bush became so exasperated with Cheney's persistence, he told aides he didn't want to discuss the matter any further. . ." A Bush spokesman wouldn't comment on the report. CNN could not get a response from Mr. Cheney's office.

Libby was convicted in 2007 of perjury and obstruction in the federal probe of the leak of a former CIA officer's identity. President Bush later commuted his 30-month sentence, saying he thought it was severe, but indicated even then that a pardon for Libby was not likely.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I felt like the jury verdict ought to stand. And I felt like some of the punishments that the judge determined were adequate should stand.

TODD: In a recent interview with writer Stephen Hayes of the conservative "Weekly Standard," Cheney publicly disagreed with the president's decision, and Hayes quoted one Libby sympathizer as calling Bush dishonorable. Observers say that's emblematic of an alliance that became strained over Libby's case.

CRAIG GORDON, WHITE HOUSE EDITOR, "POLITICO": For some conservatives, Scooter Libby was sort of, you know, robbed right, you know, beginning, middle and end. And I think Dick Cheney and some of his loyal supporters feel that way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, Mr. Bush clearly didn't have the relationship with Scooter Libby that Dick Cheney did, but there are other clues as to why the former president didn't pardon Libby.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Mr. Bush told her he was proud of the fact that, unlike previous presidents, he didn't grant pardons to people who had special access to the White House, Wolf.

So, that could have given us a clue as to why Scooter Libby in the end didn't get that pardon.

BLITZER: All right, thanks for clarifying that, Brian Todd.

A change in Facebook's fine print over content ownership has a lot of people out there online outraged. Those photos you posted, does the Web site actually own them forever, even if you want them deleted?

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is joining us with more on a story that is causing a lot of concern.

Exactly what is going on, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is all about the content, the stuff that Facebook users put up on their profiles, the photos that they're sharing with friends, personal data and information that they're putting up there on the Web site.

And who owns that? Once it's up there on Facebook, is that the user's or is that Facebook's? That's the question that's blown up online in the last couple of days after the blog The Consumerist noticed that Facebook had changed their fine print to say that all this content, Facebook has a license to all of it forever, even if you delete your account.

Now the outcry online is such that the CEO and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has gone online on the blog to clarify and say that this fine print is necessary for the way that we run the site and to point out that actually the people on the site own and control the information. They said, we wouldn't share your information in a way that you wouldn't want. You control it.

But that clarification hasn't worked for some. In fact, 33,000 people have now joined a group on Facebook to protest these changes of use, some of them threatening to delete their accounts. Put that in context, though, 33,000, that's a pretty big group, but there's an estimated 175 million on the site.

BLITZER: That's huge.

All right, Abbi, thank you.

The ink still is fresh on that $878 billion economic rescue package.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With a recovery package of this size comes a responsibility to assure every taxpayer that we are being careful with the money they worked so hard to earn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're about to hear at length from the president of the United States on where all that money will go.

And breaking news on a U.S. -- on the U.S. carmakers in crisis. Stand by. You are going to find out what Chrysler and GM want from the federal government right now.

And he founded a TV station to counter violent stereotypes of Muslims. Now he's under arrest, accused of beheading his own wife. There are shocking new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: a sharp warning to North Korea from the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. The North is threatening to test-fire a long-range missile. Secretary Clinton warns, such an action would harm chances for better relations between North Korea and the United States.

Former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney downsizing. The Romneys put their suburban Boston home and Utah ski lodge on the market. A spokesman says, it's not the economy; their kids are grown up, and they just had too much space.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: But, first, there's breaking news involving those troubled U.S. automakers announcing more massive job cuts, even as they seek more government money to simply survive.

Brian Todd is working this story for us.

What are we learning right now, Brian?

TODD: Pretty big news from GM and Chrysler, Wolf.

They both say they have survival plans now that will satisfy the administration after squeezing concessions from workers and creditors.

First, GM, they're expected to ask for up to $16 billion more in government loans. They have already gotten more than $13 billion. GM plans to cut 47,000 jobs worldwide, close five more U.S. plants. They plan to sell or phase out some brands, Saturn, Hummer, Saab, and most of Pontiac. That's pretty big news.

Chrysler is also asking the government for another $5 billion in loans, on top of the $4 billion they have already gotten. Chrysler says it will cut 3,000 more jobs this year -- that's 6 percent of its remaining work force -- and reduce production by about 100,000 cars.

The United States Autoworkers Union has announced it's reached tentative deals with GM, Chrysler and Ford on modifications to its 2000 agreement, but the UAW is providing no details of note of those new deals. No word yet from the administration on how long it's going to take to review and approve the carmakers' plans.

So far, Ford has not asked for any government money -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Huge news, indeed. All right, Brian, we will stay on top of this story.

Now that the $787 billion rescue package is a reality, the president signed it into law today, many of you may be wondering, how soon will you see jobs, money and other positive effects?

Listen to what the president said as he signed the plan into law earlier today in Denver.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What I'm signing then is a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments. It's a plan that's been put together without earmarks or the usual pork-barrel spending. It's a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability.

With a recovery package of this size comes a responsibility to assure every taxpayer that we are being careful with the money they worked so hard to earn.

And that's why I am assigning a team of managers to ensure that the precious dollars we've invested are being spent wisely and well.

We will...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Governor Ritter, Mayor Hickenlooper, we're going to hold governors and local officials who receive the money to the same high standard.

And we expect you, the American people, to hold us accountable for the results. And that's why we created Recovery.gov -- a Web site so that every American can go online and see how this money is being spent and what kind of jobs is being created, where those jobs are being created. We want transparency and accountability throughout this process.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Now, as important as the step we take today is, this legislation represents only the first part of the broad strategy we need to address our economic crisis. In the coming days and weeks, I will be launching other aspects of the plan.

We will need to stabilize, repair and reform our banking system and get credit flowing again to families and businesses. We will need to end the culture where we ignore problems until they become full- blown crises, instead of recognizing that the only way to build a thriving economy is to set and enforce firm rules of the road. We must stem the spread of foreclosures and falling home values for all Americans and do everything we can to help responsible homeowners stay in their homes -- something I'll talk about more tomorrow.

And we will need to do everything in the short term to get our economy moving again, while at the same time recognizing that we have inherited a trillion-dollar deficit and we need to begin restoring fiscal discipline and taming our exploding deficits over the long term.

None of this will be easy. The road to recovery will not be straight. We will make progress and there may be some slippage along the way.

It will demand courage and discipline. It will demand a new sense of responsibility that's been missing from Wall Street all the way to Washington.

There will be hazards and reverses. But I have every confidence that if we are willing to continue doing the critical work that must be done, by each of us, by all of us, then we will leave this struggling economy behind us and come out on the other side more prosperous as a people.

For our American story is not and never has been about things coming easy. It's about rising to the moment when the moment is hard and converting crisis into opportunity and seeing to it that we emerge from whatever trials we face stronger than we were before.

It's about rejecting the notion that our fate is somehow written for us and instead laying claim to a destiny of our own making. That's what earlier generations of Americans have done. That's what we owe our children. That's what we are doing here today.

Thank you, Colorado.

Let's get to work. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Then he goes on and he actually signs the legislation into law.

Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

She's looking at the gamble that a lot of Republicans are taking in opposing this popular president's initiative.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. As you well know, many Congressional Republicans believe that during the Bush years, they lost their way by supporting too many spending priorities and that the path to victory requires returning to roots as fiscal conservatives. For them, opposing the stimulus was the first step.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): President Obama is declaring the new stimulus the first step to economic recovery.

But Republicans are bragging about their opposition to the bill.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP: We believe that this Congress can do better.

YELLIN: In this new Internet video, House Republicans suggest their stand as fiscal conservatives will launch their political comeback.

(VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: But Democrats insist that stand will backfire, saying Republicans bet against the American people.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: Sixty-five percent or more of the American public wanted this bill to pass, not because they knew every jot and tiddle and every paragraph of this bill. But they knew we needed to act.

YELLIN: And one top Democrat says the Republicans made a calculated decision to bank on failure. It's a familiar refrain. Not long ago, Democrats were the ones accused of voting for failure by opposing spending in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM NOVEMBER 14, 2007)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Trying to tie the hands of our troops and trying to ensure, frankly, failure in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Republican opposition to a popular president's economic agenda could pose political risks. The latest Gallup poll shows support for the stimulus has grown 7 percent since President Obama hit the road promoting it. And according to CNN's polling, Republicans make up the majority of people who oppose it. The party could be playing to its base.

And there's this. When Republicans ran Congress, they weren't exactly fiscal conservatives. Their last year in charge, they approved almost a trillion dollars trillion in discretionary spending. But if they're concerned about being accused of inconsistency, they aren't showing it.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: The concerns that I have for the next generation are how do we pay this deficit back?

What kind of burden are we placing on our children and our grandchildren?

(END VIDEO TAPE)

YELLIN: Now, what is clear is that Obama and the Democrats now own this stimulus. And the first political test of its success will come next year when voters go to the polls.

If Republicans can argue that the stimulus was not effective, they could make a big dent, Wolf, in Democrats' majorities in both the Senate and the House.

BLITZER: Yes. But if the economy turns around, the opposite, presumably, will occur.

YELLIN: Exactly.

BLITZER: Jessica, thanks very much.

President Obama goes on the road, as we've just seen, to sign his stimulus plan with great fanfare. But the bill was already signed.

So why does the White House keep on trying to sell it?

What's going on?

We'll discuss.

Republican governors are conservative by nature, but they're also desperate to get their hands on some of those stimulus dollars. The best political team on television is standing by to discuss all of this and more, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's bring our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political contributor, Steve Hayes of the "Weekly Standard;" and senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

All you guys, you can see this live picture. Air Force One has now touched down in Phoenix. The president about to unveil a huge foreclosure housing plan tomorrow in Phoenix -- Gloria, it's obvious why he's going to Phoenix. I was just there over the weekend and there are some serious housing problems in the State of Arizona right now.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And as he says, you know, these are three legs of the stool. And so he has the financial bailout for the banks, which is pretty unpopular, that he's had to deal with; he has the stimulus package and mortgages he wants to deal with.. So I think today was a big day for him -- you know, signing the stimulus package. But he had to make sure that people understand that relief is not going to come overnight. Not...

BLITZER: He's still...

BORGER: He's got to sell that.

BLITZER: Yes. He's selling it on the road, which he does very well. STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, he's good at this. I mean this is not rocket science. He is very good at giving this kind of a presentation, this kind of a speech, making this kind of an argument. So if I'm his advisers, I want him doing this as much as possible, until, I think there will come a point where it starts to look a little gimmicky and it looks like he's campaigning, you know, back in 2008. And then I think it might -- you know, a diminishing return.

BLITZER: Because this week, if it's Tuesday, he's in Denver; if it's Wednesday, he's in Phoenix; and if it's Thursday, he's in Ottawa, Canada.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. But I think it gets trickier from now out. The stimulus package, I think, was nothing compared to what comes up.

I think, in particular, the housing bailout will be really interesting, because you've basically got 9 percent of mortgage owners who are either in default or foreclosure.

BLITZER: One out of 10.

CROWLEY: And then you have got like 91 percent who are not. And so they say, oh, we want to help the people that really need it and lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

But you know what?

I think people who made bad judgments, bought more than they could...

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: ...because they thought that the market would keep going up and up and the speculators, I don't want them, you know, helped. And so he's got to -- it will be interesting to see what this package is.

HAYES: Yes.

BORGER: It's difficult. And they're having a tough time with exactly that. I mean I spoke with someone in the White House who said, look, we want to reward irresponsible behavior.

HAYES: Right.

BORGER: And so you have to have a plan that walks a very fine line.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people are struggling to make their mortgage payments, Steve. And they're working really hard. And they look at their neighbor, who maybe isn't struggling as much. And all of a sudden, the neighbor is going to get a discount on those mortgage payments every month and the guy who's working really hard struggling to make the mortgage payments gets nothing. HAYES: Yes. And the neighbor's driving a BMW and you're driving a 10-year-old Toyota Camry.

(LAUGHTER)

HAYES: I mean (INAUDIBLE)...

CROWLEY: Yes.

HAYES: That's a serious issue. And I've got a friend who said you know what, had I known this was likely to happen, that we were going to get some kind of a bailout, I would have bought a mansion.

BORGER: But the argument...

HAYES: This would have made sense for me to be more irresponsible. I'm not sure it's going to work out that way. And certainly the Obama administration has not made the argument that they're going to do everything they can to keep it from working out that way. But it's a risky (INAUDIBLE)...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, Candy, what you're saying, it's a tricky subject.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: It's not clear cut.

CROWLEY: It absolutely is. Yes.

BLITZER: But something has got to be done, because millions of folks are worried about holding onto their homes.

CROWLEY: Well, no. And I don't think the 91 percent are saying don't help anybody.

BORGER: Sure.

CROWLEY: But it's -- you know, we're going to have stories about, you know, so and so spent, you know...

HAYES: Right.

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: But...

CROWLEY: ...this much of their equity on a vacation in, you know, the Bahamas.

BLITZER: I want to quickly ask Steve about this report. We saw it in "The New York Daily News" today, that the former vice president, Dick Cheney, is "furious" at the former president for not issuing a formal pardon for Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

You wrote a book about Dick Cheney. You interviewed him in the final days in office and you spoke about "Scooter" Libby with him.

HAYES: Yes. I pressed him to give me some kind of an answer. And it was clear that he didn't agree with the president's decision not to pardon "Scooter" Libby.

BLITZER: He had commuted his sentence earlier.

HAYES: He had, back in 2007. And I think the article by Tom DeFrank is right, that Dick Cheney pressed the case. They made the case that "Scooter" Libby should receive a full pardon. The president disagreed.

I think what's frustrated some people in Cheney world is that there's a sense that in the White House, the reason that the president didn't do this or the reason that aides argued against pardoning "Scooter" Libby had everything to do with public relations and not to do with the merits of the case. And that, I think, is what has sort of piqued people in Cheney's world.

BLITZER: You think it's had an impact on the relationship between Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?

BORGER: I think -- I think we're going to learn that there was a lot more friction in that relationship, particularly in the second term, than we really knew about. And I think we'll probably learn about it in one of their books...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because we know that the vice president was not happy when the president fired his long time friend, Donald Rumsfeld, as the Defense secretary.

CROWLEY: Well, that and there was a diminishing role for the vice president.

BORGER: For Dick Cheney.

CROWLEY: I mean you could, you know, from the time that war went south until the time he flew off in that helicopter, the president -- former President Bush had less and less use for Dick Cheney.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We've got to leave it there.

I want to check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour on his show.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.

Tonight at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN, President Obama promising a new era for this nation's middle class as he signs into the law the costliest piece of legislation in our nation's history.

Also, General Motors and Chrysler presenting their survival plans to the government, as the government pumps another $4 billion of taxpayer money into Detroit. The carmakers saying they need billions more.

And it's his war now -- President Obama ordering thousands more of our troops to Afghanistan.

And reunited with their families, former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean finally released from prison.

Join us for those stories and all the day's news at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

We'll see you in a few minutes.

Thank you.

New details of a divorce that apparently took a deadly turn -- a TV executive accused of beheading his wife. Stand by.

Plus, they may be cute, but they're still wild animals -- the dangers of chimpanzees as pets.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now of a shocking family drama -- a television executive accused of beheading his wife after she filed for divorce.

Let's go to New York.

CNN's Mary Snow is working this story for us.

Wow, what happened -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we just got a copy of a letter sent out by the Islamic Society of North America. It sent it out to the leaders of American Muslim communities, expressing its shock and sadness and says: "This serves as a wakeup call to all of us that violence against women is real and cannot be ignored."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Muzzammil and Aasiya Hassan in happier times. Now the 44-year-old Hassan stands accused of beheading his wife.

Police in Orchard Park, New York say Hassan went to the police station last Thursday and reported his wife was dead. Her body, according to police, was found at Bridges TV -- a cable station the couple founded in 2004 targeting Muslim-Americans.

When Bridges was launched, Hassan said the intention was to counter stereotypes of violence in Muslim culture. He said it was his wife who came up with the idea after September 11 while listening to a radio show. MUZZAMMIL HASSAN, FOUNDER, BRIDGES TV: There were some derogatory comments were being made towards Muslims. And Aasiya, at the time, was seven months pregnant and felt that, you know, that would not be a good environment for her -- for our children to grow up, in terms of good, strong self-esteem.

SNOW: Aasiya Hassan was listed as the general manager of the station. Police said there had been several domestic violence calls to the couple's home and that Aasiya had received an order of protection.

The South African newspaper "Die Burger" quotes a woman identified as the sister of the victim, who says she was on the phone right before she was killed. She says she heard her sister tell her husband to calm down and then heard a noise that sounded as if her sister was struggling to breathe.

An attorney for the victim would only say she had filed for divorce within the last month. A professor of Islam and family law says the horrific case should raise awareness about the difficulties of Muslim women getting divorces.

NADIA SHAHRAM, UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO LAW SCHOOL: If a woman wants to get a divorce among Muslim families, right here in 21st century in Buffalo, New York, you have to convince your family that this is really a better choice for you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Hassan is scheduled to be in court tomorrow for a preliminary hearing. He's been charged with second degree murder. We contacted a Buffalo area attorney who says he expects to represent Hassan. But because it isn't finalized just yet, he declined any comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a shocking story that is.

All right. Mary, thank you.

Let's go back to Jack.

He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: A timely question this hour -- how concerned are you about losing your job?

Kerry writes: "Wrong tense for me. I've already lost mine. But I'm still very worried and concerned for everyone else who hasn't. The real downturn, I think, is just beginning."

Phil writes: "I lost a great job in 2002. I opened a small business. It went under a year later. Now I sell real estate. I'm self-employed, so there's no pension, no unemployment, no welfare. My first job was pushing carts at an A&P store. I expect that at 60 years old, I'll end up doing that again."

Larry writes: "Not at all. You see, I'm a police officer in Trenton, New Jersey and crime is a growth industry in Trenton. The irony is I will probably make more money in overtime due to a hiring freeze that was instituted in order to save money."

Greg in Detroit writes: "Worried? Yes. Just last week, my job in the steel industry gave 22 people a half hour notice that their services were no longer needed. Worried went out the window a while ago.

I'm downright scared."

Adrienne writes

"I was once not concerned at all, being that I'm an accountant and this is tax season. However, now that accounting firms have been outsourcing U.S. tax prep to India for the last couple of years, I wonder if my firm will replace me with a foreigner in a foreign land. A sad day for Americans when tax returns aren't even prepared in this country and the firm does not have to disclose to the client what country their return was prepared in."

Edouard in New York writes: "Frankly, Jack, I'm fine with what's happening. As a freelancer, I've been living in fear for years."

And Sue in Idaho writes: "I'm a business manager, so I get up every day not only worried about my job, but the jobs of those I supervise. I work in health care, but let's face it, Jack, nobody's job is safe -- not even yours, although I'd hate to see you go."

Me, too.

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

BLITZER: It's heartbreaking how worried folks are out there right now, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Scared to death...

BLITZER: They are.

CAFFERTY: And people have no place to turn because there are -- you know, where are you going to go to get hired?

BLITZER: Yes. It's shocking.

All right, Jack.

Thank you.

They may seem cute when they're small, but when wild animals grow up, it's a very different story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give them a big smile. Give them a big smile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ahead, the danger even experienced trainers watch out for.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. There's a new development involving Kansas and its money, just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go back to Zain for details.

What happened -- Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we told you yesterday that Kansas was having some serious budget problems -- so bad that they had to suspend tax refunds and may not meet payroll.

Well, that impasse that caused concerns has been resolved.

Wolf, the governor, a Democrat, met a key demand from Republican legislative leaders and signed a bill to balance the state's budget. GOP leaders now say that they'll give the governor the go-ahead to borrow money internally to shore up the state's main account -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So at least they've got a temporary solution in Kansas.

Thanks very much.

Lots of other states in trouble right now.

A woman in Connecticut remains in critical condition after her friend's pet chimpanzee mauled her badly.

CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at how and why seemingly fun, charming and harmless chimps become ferocious animals.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're adorable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stick out your tongue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: They're cuddly. They love to play around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: We love to watch them do the things we do.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But a good chimp can turn into a bad chimp.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And it doesn't take a zoologist to explain why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a chimpanzee. It belongs out in the wild.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And so you get the story of Travis, seen here when he escaped from his owner's SUV back in 2003. This time, Travis used the house keys to let himself out, attacked a neighbor. His loving owner had to stab him. Police had to shoot him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chimpanzee belongs out in the wild.

LYNN MECCA, NEIGHBOR: She lived for this chimp. This chimp was like her child.

MOOS: And when chimps are children, they're wonderful. I fell for one named Chippy doing a story 10 years ago.

(on camera): And you'll have to excuse the decade old hairstyle.

(voice-over): Chippy acted like a Q-Tip grooming me.

(on camera): Did I say my ears needed cleaning?

That chimp story was one of the most memorable stories I've ever done -- namely because I'd never before been hugged by an animal.

(voice-over): But despite all the bonding, the Larry King suspenders, the clowning around...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make them a funny face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: We learned that day that older chimps aren't nearly so funny.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, all right, all right. She's trying to intimidate you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: She succeeded. Frank and Janet Berger were animal trainers. They used to be regulars on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Frank lost a finger and his big toe to a big chimp named Tarzan.

FRANK BURGER, TRAINER: The one that got me didn't have no teeth. He got me with the gums.

MOOS: A chimp's jaws are so powerful...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...teeth aren't required.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he just literally tore the finger off. He didn't bite it off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But Chippy was four back then. He didn't bite, he kissed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give me a good morning kiss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: The trainer said that in another couple of years, it wouldn't be safe for us to pal around with Chippy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a chimpanzee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Especially one that's been tased.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: He tossed saw dust, but it could have been us getting tossed.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Wow! All right. Thanks, Jeanne.

I want to just alert our viewers, tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll have two special guests -- the president's top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers. He'll be here. We'll be talking about the president's new financial plans involving your homes. That's coming up tomorrow.

Also, the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, will preview the president's visit to Canada on Thursday.

All that and a lot more tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

Let's go to New York.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.