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Financier Found; Warning Issued Before Buffalo Crash; Last Moments of Doomed Flight; "These Troops Are Necessary"

Aired February 19, 2009 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, a financer accused of bilking investors of $9 billion has been found, even as new details emerge of his millions of dollars in donations to some of Washington's biggest political players.

Also, a massive build up of U.S. troops in Afghanistan -- can it turn around a deteriorating situation?

I'll ask President Obama's special representative to the region, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. He just got back from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And Vice President Joe Biden tells the CIA give us the facts, not what you think we want to hear.

Is that a dig at the Bush administration?

James Carville and Ed Rollins -- they're here to discuss that and a lot more.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world joining us on CNN International right now as well as here in the United States.

We're following breaking news. The investor Allen Stanford, accused of bilking clients of more than $9 billion, has been found and served by federal agents. But he remains free.

Let's to go CNN's Brian Todd.

He's been working this story for us -- Brian, was going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we just found out from the FBI that they have located Allen Stanford in Fredericksburg, Virginia area and have served him papers. Now, very clearly here, Stanford is not charged with criminal matter. He is not in FBI custody. He has been served with papers related to the Securities and Exchange Commission civil filing against him. The SEC is charging him with about $9.2 billion in fraud relating to efforts that he made on behalf of his clients.

But he is not formally charged with a criminal matter. He has been served papers by the FBI in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They located him there. So he is no longer technically missing, at least not now.

He is, at the moment, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Those papers served on him this afternoon.

Meanwhile, we are getting some new detail on the efforts that Allen Stanford made to try to insert himself into Washington politics. He gave money to President Obama and John McCain. But they and some other very powerful people in Washington are now running as far away from Allen Stanford as they can.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi...

TODD (voice-over): A warm embrace between Allen Stanford and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at last summer's Democratic Convention. This video, posted on Stanford's company Web site, a public display of the efforts by the financier to be a major player in Washington.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Stanford and his firm definitely had deep reach in Washington, giving $2.4 million back to 2000 and spending more than that on lobbying.

TODD: Sheila Krumholz's Center for Responsive Politics has complied lengthy documentation on money that Stanford, his employees or his political action committee gave to Washington's most powerful. Pelosi didn't get any money directly from Stanford. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which Pelosi works with to get Democrats elected to Congress, got more than $200,000. Barack Obama got nearly $32,000 -- money since given to charity; John McCain, more than $28,000. Members of Congress who sit atop the major financial committees, like Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby and Congressman Charles Rangel all got significant contributions from Allen Stanford or those around him. They all say they're giving the money to charity. But there are other questions.

KRUMHOLZ: Whether anyone in Congress or elsewhere stepped in to put in a good word for Stanford Financial Group with the SEC, to ensure that or to request that they be given a break and not be subjected to more aggressive regulation.

TODD: Krumholz doesn't have evidence of that. And aides to the president and all those members of Congress say they don't believe any appeals were made. But Krumholz believes the Securities and Exchange Commission has been slow to investigate Stanford. The SEC this week charged him with defrauding clients of more than $9 billion. But a former employee told the "Houston Chronicle" he saw problems a while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CHRON.COM) CHARLES RAWL, FORMER STANFORD FINANCIAL EXECUTIVE: In mid-2006, I noticed that the performance of my clients was not tracking the published, advertised returns.


TODD: Now, contacted by CNN, SEC officials deny that they were slow to investigate Allen Stanford. They say that this is a very complicated case involving difficult matters of jurisdiction and it took a while to gather enough evidence to bring a strong case -- Wolf.

They're strongly defending their actions in this case.

BLITZER: He wasn't just trying to stay well connected to the powerful in Washington, but others, as well?

TODD: No. He was -- really had his tentacles all over the place. "The London Times" compiled a kind of a pie chart of some other very famous people who Allen Stanford tried to influence. We've got -- he tried to -- he was close to Prince Charles of England, who set up a charity -- excuse me -- a polo event sponsored by Stanford. Prince Charles hosted that event.

Also, star golfer Tiger Woods hosted an event sponsored by Stanford and star golfer Vijay Singh has been sponsored by Stanford or his investment group at one point. Also, Courier, a tennis player, and Michael Owen, a world-renewed soccer player, both had been hired by Stanford to promote various things. So Allen Stanford, Wolf, has his, as we say, his reach goes all over the world in many different fields.

BLITZER: Yes. $9 billion -- that's a lot of money.

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

We're also getting late breaking news right now that may impact the investigation into that commuter plane crash that killed 50 people near Buffalo last week. Just weeks earlier, Southwest Airlines warned pilots about potential hazards with so-called instrument approaches in Buffalo because of a problem with the airport's navigation system. According to the warning, the problem could trigger the nose to pitch up abruptly and cause the plane to come close to stalling. That's similar to what the flight data recorders show happened to that Colgan Air Flight 3407 just before it plunged into the ground. But the warning applied to planes approaching from the north, while that plane was -- that crash was approaching from the south.

Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, has been covering the investigation for us from day one.

He's joining us from a flight simulator to give us some insight into the plane's final minutes -- Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, investigators are trying to determine whether it was pilot error, executive icing or some other factors that caused the crash of Flight 3407. What we do know is that the plane was on autopilot as it approached the Buffalo airport when suddenly it gave a warning that a stall was imminent.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): The plane's control column began shaking -- an emergency warning of an imminent stall. Automatically, the column pushed forward, pointing the nose down to accelerate the aircraft.

LEWIS LIEBERT, CEO, PERFORMANCE FLIGHT: The idea of recovering from a stall is to bring the nose of the aircraft down to generate a little bit more speed. By adding more speed, that's going to hopefully reach the air flow to the wing and generate lift again.

CHERNOFF: But for some reason, the nose pitched up 31 degrees, triggering a catastrophic stall. With the aircraft at low altitude, there were only seconds for the pilot to recover.

LIEBERT: The nose breaks from the stall. Somewhere near came the downward recovery possibly, and a recovery attempt, although it looks like the plane then went into a spin.

CHERNOFF (on camera): And this is happening very quickly?

LIEBERT: Very quickly. As you can see right here, we just went through this entire segment from 2,500 feet and that took us seconds.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Only 26 seconds after the stall warning, the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop crashed six miles from the airport. Bombardier, the Canadian manufacturer of the plane, will not comment on the cause.

(on camera): Pilot reaction has to be different depending upon whether there's a wing stall or a tail stall. In a wing stall, the pilot has to wait a bit before pulling back on the control column to lift the nose up, whereas in a tail stall, he has to respond immediately. Confusing the two could be disastrous.

(voice-over): Did pilot Marvin Renslow pull back too quickly on the control column, triggering the crash?

That's one of the many questions NTSB investigators are examining. The board says it's too early to draw that conclusion. Some veteran pilots say Captain Renslow he can't be faulted.

KIRK KOENIG, PILOT/EXPERT AVIATION CONSULTING: At that point in the flight, I don't think it matters if Neal Armstrong and Chuck Yeager are flying the airplane, the outcome would not have been any different.

CHERNOFF: Colgan Air, which operated the plane, said: "Our crew training programs meet or exceed the regulatory requirements for all major airlines. Captain Renslow was Airline Transport Pilot rated -- which is the highest level of certification available."


CHERNOFF: The National Transportation Safety Board is examining 250 different parameters captured by the flight data recorder a part of its investigation and it's likely to be many months before the NTSB comes to a definitive conclusion as to what exactly caused the crash -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan, thank you.

Allan Chernoff reporting.

Let's go back to Jack. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Some tough words from the nation's first African-American attorney general. Eric Holder says the U.S. is essentially a nation of cowards when it comes to openly talking about race relations.

Holder was speaking to Justice Department employees collaborating Black History Month. And he says that although the workplace has become mostly integrated, Americans still self-segregate themselves on the weekends and in their free time.

Quoting here: "Though this nation has probably thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in thing racial, we have always been, and, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards."

Holder says race is often a political discussion, but not among average Americans. He says he was motivated by President Obama's speech on race last fall. At the time, then candidate Obama, called on the nation to break what he called a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. He delivered a landmark speech trying to distance himself from the hateful sermons of his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Holder echoed Obama's words in saying that there's still much work to be done in this area. He called on people to be more honest with one another and open to criticism. And the attorney general described Americans as being stuck in what he calls their "race- protected cocoons."

He said that when it comes to how most of us spend our free time, the country, in many ways, isn't so different from 50 years ago.

So here's the question: Do you agree with the attorney general, Eric Holder, that the United States is a nation of cowards when it comes to race?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

After the financial crisis, it's one of the most pressing issues facing President Obama -- the troubled war in Afghanistan. Now the president is deploying 17,000 more U.S. troops.

But can they turn the situation around?

The special U.S. envoy, Richard Holbrooke, has just returned from Afghanistan. And he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by.

Also, the CIA gets new marching orders from the Obama administration. Tell us the facts -- just the facts, not what you think we want to hear.

Is that a slam at the Bush administration?

We'll speak about that and more with James Carville and Ed Rollins.

And the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President Bush -- he goes on trial and tells the court why he did it.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: President Obama ordering an additional 17,000 U.S. forces to Afghanistan -- a controversial move with no guaranteed results.

So is the Obama administration making the right move?


BLITZER: And joining us now, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, the current special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: You're just back from a critically important mission to Afghanistan, Pakistan, elsewhere in the region. A lot of folks are fearful that this whole troop buildup in Afghanistan right now could turn out to be a waste given the inherent problems in that country.

Can you look in the camera and tell the America people right now it's not a waste, this is going to work?

HOLBROOKE: There is no question that these troops are necessary. This is a request that General McKiernan, the commander in Afghanistan and General Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander, put in to President Bush last summer. It did not get actioned on and it landed on President Obama's desk on day one.

There was no question -- and I can tell you this having just been in Afghanistan -- that these troops are needed to stop the deteriorating situation.

BLITZER: But will it work?

HOLBROOKE: Will it work?

It will turn the tide, but I cannot tell you for sure what will happen after that because there are many other variables. This is a war that includes political components, military components and the president has asked us to give him a full-scale strategic review, which we're doing now.

And we are going to try to revamp strategy in a way that upgrades the civilian and economic and reconstruction components. And above all, Wolf, we've got to deal with Pakistan. We have to stem the deterioration in the tribal areas.

BLITZER: I want to get to Pakistan in a moment, but Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, a member of the Intelligence Committee, he says you guys may have it reversed.

This is what he said on Tuesday. He said: "We need to make sure we have a strategy in place for Afghanistan that will actually work before we commit thousands more U.S. troops. A military escalation without a strategy to address the complex problems facing Afghanistan and the region could alienate the Afghan people and make it much more difficult to achieve our top nation security goal of defeating al Qaeda."

So you say you're going to come up with a strategy, but the decision to send troops -- additional troops, double the U.S. troop presence -- has already been made.

HOLBROOKE: It's not a doubling, Wolf. It's about a 40 or 45 percent increase. The doubling is some kind of misunderstanding. But let me go to my friend, Russ Feingold's, point, because in an ideal world, Senator Feingold would be correct. You do everything in the core order he suggested. But in the real world, the military, having waited for six or seven months for action on their request, made the case to the president that if these troops were not sent immediately, the effect on the situation and our ability to support the government of Afghanistan and in their elections and to help with reconstruction would be severely compromised.

BLITZER: A lot of us are concerned about what's happening in Pakistan, especially this deal that they've reached with the Taliban to effectively give them authority in a critically important part of the country.

What's going on here? You just met with the leadership there.

HOLBROOKE: I not only met with them, I talked to President Zardari of Pakistan on the phone about two hours ago. And I expressed to him the same kind of concern you have just stated to me.

It's hard to understand this deal in Swat -- the area you're talking about, less than 100 miles from the capital in Islamabad. President Zardari says it's an interim arrangement while they stabilize the situation.

He doesn't disagree that the people who are running Swat now are murderous thugs and militants and they pose a danger not only to Pakistan, but to the United States and India.

BLITZER: Did he give you a commitment to stop it?

HOLBROOKE: To stop what?

BLITZER: The deal.

HOLBROOKE: Well, he hasn't signed the deal.

BLITZER: Will he?

HOLBROOKE: That I don't know. But the issue isn't whether he signs the deal or not. The issue is the negotiations themselves. And I'm concerned -- and I know Secretary Clinton is and the president is -- that this deal, which is portrayed in the press as a truce, is not -- does not turn into a surrender.

President Zardari has assured us that's not the case.

BLITZER: Here's what your friend colleague, the former secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, told me in December about Pakistan.

Listen to this.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My whole sense is Pakistan has everything that gives you an international migraine. It has nuclear weapons. It has terrorism, extremists, corruption, very poor. And it's in a location that's really, really important to us.


BLITZER: How worried are you, Ambassador, that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could get into the hands of terrorists?

HOLBROOKE: This is a legitimate concern. The United States cannot ignore it. The American intelligence community has briefed us. Of course, we're new in government, Wolf, as you know. As you know, we've been in office as a team less than a month.

But we have been assured by the American intelligence community that this arsenal is under the control of the Pakistan military. But it's an issue of high concern and it can't be ignored.

BLITZER: You brokered a deal -- a peace deal in Bosnia.

What's harder, what you did in Bosnia or what you're trying to do now in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

HOLBROOKE: This is harder, Wolf.

BLITZER: Much harder?

HOLBROOKE: Much harder.

BLITZER: Who's got the harder assignment, you in South Asia in dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, or your friend and colleague, George Mitchell, in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

HOLBROOKE: Well, that's a tough question.

Who's got the tougher job, you or John King?

BLITZER: Well, what's your answer?

HOLBROOKE: I think you have a much harder job, Wolf.

BLITZER: No, no, no. I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about you or George Mitchell.


Well, George has an incredibly difficult job. The difference between what George is doing and what I'm trying to do is simple. He is trying to intermediate between parties and conflict. I have an -- I have a responsibility not only to do mediation, but to oversee our foreign assistance efforts in these two countries, to coordinate the efforts, to work between countries.

It's a different kind of assignment. And that's why my title is special representative not special envoy.

BLITZER: That's a diplomatic answer. I'll let you go. I'm going to give you a pass on that one.

One final question, Ambassador, before I let you go.

Who do you report to, the secretary of State or the president?

HOLBROOKE: The secretary of State. And through her, as we all do, to the president of the United States.

BLITZER: Good luck on your assignment. It's a tough one, Ambassador Holbrooke.

Thanks very much for coming in.

HOLBROOKE: Thank you, Wolf.

It's good to be with you again.


BLITZER: And secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, popping up in an unlikely place -- an Indonesian TV show aimed at teenagers. We have details of her surprise appearance and what she said.

And Michelle Obama meeting and greeting government workers. Her latest message is to the Agriculture Department. We're going to hear from the first lady of the United States in her own words, raw and unfiltered.

That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: It's the tournament ban that caused an uproar around the world. But now the United Arab Emirates is coming out with a decision on whether another top ranked Israeli tennis player will be allowed to compete in Dubai.

Let's get right to our Zain Verjee.

She's got the latest on a developing story.

What's happening now -- Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer may not be able to play in Dubai, but it looks like a countryman, Andy Ram, will. The Association of Tennis Professionals says the United Arab Emirates has granted a visa to the world's seventh ranked doubles player. That's ahead of a Friday night deadline. And it now means he can now take part in next week's Dubai Tennis Championships. Ram has already got his plane ticket.

Now, in a statement, the UAE's ministry of foreign affairs said this: "The decision to issue the permit is line with the UAE's commitment to a policy permitting any individual to take part in international sports, cultural and economic events or activities being held in the country without any limitation being placed on participation by citizens of any member country of the United Nations."

It goes on: "This is a well established policy and has no political implications nor does this decision indicate any form of normalization of relations with countries with whom the United Arab Emirates does not have diplomatic relations."

Wolf, the small Gulf nation ignited a real firestorm of a controversy, as you know, when it denied Shahar Peer a visa for this week's WTA Tournament. Players, including Venus and Serena Williams and the legendary champion Billie Jean King came to her defense. Organizers, Wolf, had said that -- in Dubai -- they had said that feared riots would erupt over Israel's recent military offensive in Gaza.

But overall, it really undermines Dubai's imagine at hosting these current events.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect they regret the first decision. That's why they went ahead with the second decision. We'll see what happens down the road.

VERJEE: And issued that long statement explaining themselves.


All right, good.

Thanks very much for that, Zain.

Vice President Joe Biden talks to CIA employees. And some say he snuck in a dig at the Bush administration. We're going to play that for you.

Also, after chastising CEOs for their business travel habits, apparently Congress is saying do as we say, not as we do. Nancy Pelosi's -- some are calling junket -- to Italy.

What will it cost you?

And Hillary Clinton appears on Indonesian television -- a teen music show.

And guess what?

She's asked to sing. We'll tell you what happened after this.


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

Happening now, California's $42 billion financial meltdown averted -- a budget for the cash-strapped state finally passes and gets high praise from the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But is it in time to keep thousands of people from losing their jobs in California?

An eye for an eye -- an Iranian woman is blinded and disfigured in a horrifying attack. Now she wants her attacker to know the pain she went through firsthand.

And booted out of the Oval Office -- why did President Obama show Winston Churchill's bronze bust the door?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


I want to go right to CNN's Drew Griffin. You've got a story involving members of Congress, lawmakers, flying on military planes to Italy and elsewhere. It's causing somewhat of a stir, isn't it, Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little bit, Wolf. After criticizing excessive travels of business executives, some critics are asking if Congress doesn't have two sets of rules, especially when it comes to travel.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Shortly after passing the reinvestment and recovery act and shortly after making this statement about struggling Americans --

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The American people are feeling a great deal of pain.

GRIFFIN: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and seven fellow Democrats in the House boarded a military charter like this government owned Boeing 737 executive jet and flew off to Italy. Why in a time of economic crisis would the speaker who happens to be of Italian heritage travel to Italy?

The United States has no greater ally in NATO than Italy, the speaker said in a statement, which is why the delegation looks forward to meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano and other Italian government officials. She also has been going to museums in Florence, receptions at night and was even presented the birth certificates of her grandparents by the head of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

PELOSI: Surprised me with the birth certificate of my grandfather and my great-grandmother.

GRIFFIN: Wednesday, Speaker Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, and her husband Paul, also on the trip, had a private audience with the Pope. Her office would not release the entire Italian itinerary of the all Democratic delegation due to security reasons.

What's the cost of her Italian trip to the taxpayers back home? We won't know yet. Congress gives its traveling members several weeks to file their expenses, to tell us what hotels they stayed in. To tell us who took their spouses or staff.

But the government-owned Boeing executive jet doesn't fly cheap; about $10,000 an hour, according to Air Force. 20 hours flying between Washington and Italy adds up to about $200,000.

That is interesting news to the president of the U.S. Travel Association. For weeks now, Congress has chastised banks and bailout recipients for unnecessary trips and conferences. And Roger Dow says that has hurt the travel industry.

ROGER DOW, U.S. TRAVEL ASSOCIATION: By demonizing or by sensationalizing travel, all you're doing is you're not hurting the business man, you're hurting the bellman, the maid, the town that counts on that travel for taxes.

GRIFFIN: He hopes Congress maybe after these trips will recognize the value for doing business.

Right now, there's a Congressional delegation in Gaza, another in Brussels and Paris.

And CNN caught this group of House members on their way to India last Friday to mark the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. journey to meet Ghandi. The details: six Democratic members of Congress, Martin Luther King III, Andrew Young, musician Herbie Hancock and others. Both the U.S. State Department and Congress are picking up the bill. Martin Luther King III who along with his sibling sold his father's papers for $32 million two years ago, was among the guests of the state department. He called it the trip of a lifetime.


GRIFFIN: Well, we should know all the details in about 60 days, when they are required, members to file their expenses. But I must tell you, some of them, judging by their staff comments, not even happy we're bringing this subject up. One congressman staff even told us it was a joke, our story. They have.

BLITZER: All right, Drew. Thanks very much.

Let's talk about this and more. Joining us now: the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, James Carville; the Republican strategist also a CNN contributor Ed Rollins. Ed, what do you think about the story?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Bad judgment particularly this particular -- I mean junkets have been going on forever. And obviously they'll continue forever.

But I just think the idiocy of this trip was to go right at the time we're in the midst of a crisis and they've got to basically show a different -- they have to play a game differently than they've ever done before.

This is an enormous trip. It's going to put some -- take some of the luster off from the speaker and I think to a certain extent gives us an advantage to throw some hand grenades at her.

BLITZER: James, you're smiling.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, she's the highest ranking woman in the history of U.S. government. The highest ranking Italian American and I think most Americans are grateful. People, they are an ally of ours. She visited the Pope.

But I kind of agree with Roger Dow, too. People are -- God knows I've made a good living speaking at these conferences, but if you go out, the tourism industry and the travel industry is hurting.

You're right, there are a lot of bellmen and people out there. I think people should travel. The hardest thing about it is going to Gaza for fun. Name five people who want to vacation there.

Some of this is necessary business of the United States government and I think it's good public relations with Italy that we have the highest ranking Italian American we have to go there instead of seeing anything --

BLITZER: That's the point is you can fly commercial from Washington Dulles to Rome, too, James.

CARVILLE: You could but I don't know if as an American I want the Speaker of the House to be flying commercial on a visit like this. We're having difficult economic times, I agree with that, but by God, we're a major world power and I sure don't want my president and vice president, people like that, I just think that we're -- I understand that the story is that they've criticize travel, some of these people that have received bailouts.

I don't necessarily agree with that, too. There are a lot of good that goes on at these conferences. I kind of agree with my friend Mayor Goodman in Las Vegas about this. But be that as it may, I think that most Americans are proud that we have -- in regards to public relation, we have a high-ranking Italian American in our government go over there and receive this kind of publicity in Italy. It's good for our country.

BLITZER: Ed, you --

ROLLINS: James, you lost your instincts, pal. That's all I can tell. Maybe you've been going to too many Las Vegas conventions or what have you, but when you're talking about, in this time of crisis, spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Her state as a high-ranking woman, it's her job to basically go to Italy --

CARVILLE: You know, I've been talking to too many bellmen and sedan drivers and maids who clean up hotel rooms, too. And they're not happy about this either. I think my instincts are just fine.

BLITZER: Let's move and talk about something you wrote, Ed, on; some provocative words. "The one lesson that the Obama team needs to learn is that every day for the rest of his presidency, there will be an opposition to everything he wants to do or thinks he should do." Explain what you mean.

ROLLINS: That's always the way it's going to be. There's going to be Republicans, there's going to be Democrats, whatever it is, no president ever gets unanimous approval either by the country or by the Congress. You learn to live with that and you move on.

Bill Clinton didn't get unanimous opinions from his team. Certainly Ronald Reagan didn't, neither George Bush did. It's all part of the game and you keep moving forward. You keep taking your case to the public. Take your case to individual members.

But there's always going to be opposition. That's one of the good things about America.

BLITZER: I guess they should brace for that, don't you think, James?

CARVILLE: Yes. You know, Ed and I disagreed on the first segment. I'm very completely with him here. I also think that the president is playing a very smart political hand by saying I'm trying to talk to these guys. I expect him to oppose, I don't know if the opposition is that effective, they look a little angry to me.

But Ed's absolutely right. There's very much of a small limit as to what bipartisanship can accomplish. In fact, if these Republicans got too bipartisan I'll be primary to lose.

ROLLINS: Well, at the end of the day, if you're too -- the key thing here is you have to have principles. Both parties, and we only have two parties for some reason, it's been our history. Both parties have an obligation to bring forth what it is that they believe in. And I think that's -- what we're trying to do now is to sort of re- group and become a significant opposition party. That's our role for the next period of time here.

BLITZER: James, here's what some suggest was a dig by the vice president, Joe Biden at the former president and the former vice president. Listen to what Biden told CIA employees today.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We expect you to provide independent analysis and not engage in group think and we expect you to tell us the facts as you know them. Where ever they may lead, not what you think we want to hear.


BLITZER: All right. Is that a subtle little dig? What do you think?

CARVILLE: I don't know if it's even subtle. I can't imagine that anybody wouldn't interpret that as a dig at the previous administration. And it wasn't like the Vice President Biden or the president didn't sort of run against the policies of the previous administration.

I think it is a dig. I think it's obvious that it is. I don't think it's anything major. The moral at CIA has been very, very low. They felt like it didn't have the kind of autonomy and the freedom to present their own findings and I think he was doing that and I think it was a dig. Absolutely.

ROLLINS: The critical thing here is these are good government employees that work very hard. Obviously, it's how they're directed and they're now Obama's team. They're going to give him the best council they can.

And whoever runs the CIA, I assume it's going to Leon Panetta, he will direct them. He'll ask for the things that he needs to have to serve the president. But to chastise them or anything else for anything in the past, we don't know what went on. That's one of the beauties of the CIA. Whether the president got good information out, we don't know.

BLITZER: He was sworn in, I think, by the vice president over at the CIA, the CIA director. You noticed he was speaking in the lobby at the CIA with those stars behind him, each one of those stars representing a CIA officer who was killed in action for the United States.

ROLLINS: Anonymous. BLITZER: Most of them anonymous; not all of them but most of them anonymous, even decades after their deaths. All right guys. Thanks very much for that.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

CARVILLE: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: He'll go down in history as the man who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush while the world watched. But right now he's on trial, possibly facing years in prison. We'll have details of what he's saying in court.

Plus, the first lady says it's the most valuable thing she can do second only to spending time with her daughters. We're going to hear at length from Michelle Obama in her own words. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The Iraqi journalist on trial right now for throwing his shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad late last year, is calling the former president, I'm quoting now, "a murderer."

During an hour-long appearance in an Iraqi court today, Muntadar al-Zaidi said President Bush is responsible for, in his words, "killing our nation." He said the American president's, quote, "soulless smile and joking banter" prompted him to throw his shoes, a sign of total disrespect in Iraqi culture. Al-Zaidi is charged with assaulting a foreign head of state during the official state visit and could face up to 15 years in prison.

Now a really rare look inside Iran and a very disturbing report some viewers may find difficult to watch. It's about a young woman, the victim of a horrifying attack, demanding her stalker suffer the same fate she did.

CNN's Reza Sayah has the story from Tehran -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is an extraordinary story. Acid attacks are extremely rare in Iran, especially in the capital of Tehran. And when they do happen, they don't make headlines. This one is because of what the victim is demanding.


SAYAH (voice-over): Ameneh Bahrami says her big, brown eyes used to be the envy of her friends. But this is what a jilted suitor did to Ameneh's eyes he threw acid in her face.

AMENEH BAHRAMI, ACID VICTIM: I was just yelling, "I'm burning. I'm burning. For God's sake, somebody help."

SAYAH: The attack has made headlines in Iran because Ameneh, now 31, is demanding an eye for an eye.

BAHRAMI: People like him should be made to feel my suffering.

SAYAH: In accordance with Islamic law, Ameneh wants to blind Majid Mohavedi (ph), the man who blinded her.

The two met in college in 2002. First came his unwanted advances, says Ameneh, then the threats.

BAHRAMI: He called me every day and harassed me. He told me he would kill me. He said, "You have to say yes."

SAYAH: This corner that you're looking at right now, that's where her jilted suitor, Majid, used to hide. And a couple of days before this incident, she said, "Look, I don't want to marry you."

But Majid wouldn't take no for an answer.

November 2004 as Ameneh walked home from work, the threats turned to violence.

This is Ameneh's first visit back to the scene of the attack in Tehran. She says she went up a little bit and then she sensed someone was right behind her.

The moment she looked back she says, Majid attacked. What felt like fire on her face was acid searing through her skin.

So these are the clothes that Ameneh was wearing that day. Her mother has kept them. This is the coat that she was wearing. And just look at it; it is just absolutely shredded.

I can right now smell the acid. Yes. I have trouble breathing.

Attack victims in Iran often get what's known as blood money from the culprit; a monetary fine in lieu of harsh punishment. With no insurance and mounting medical bills, Ameneh could have used the cash, but said no.

BAHRAMI: I don't want to blind Majid for revenge. I'm doing this to keep this from ever happening to someone else.

SAYAH: Ameneh's demand has outraged some human rights activists. Usually they support victims of acid attacks, but on Internet blogs they criticized her. Her determination to blind her attack her is as barbaric as the crime, they write.

Late last year, a court in Tehran handed down the sentence: acid in each of Majid's eyes. He's appealed the decision, but this month the court ruled the sentence stands.

Today, Ameneh is remarkably self-sufficient, but challenges remain. She says she can't afford to pay for her medical care, so she's turned to the Internet to ask for help. She's lost her big, brown eyes, but her smile is still there. Determined, she says, to get justice.

BAHRAMI: If I don't do this and there's another acid attack, I will never forgive myself for as long as I live.


SAYAH: The punishment could be carried out within the next few weeks. The attacker will be put out with general anesthesia and blinded. The only way this will not happen, says the victim's lawyer, is if Ameneh changes her mind, but she tells us she's going through with this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Literally, an eye for an eye. Wow, what a story. Reza Sayah, our man in Tehran reporting.

These are the kinds of reports you'll see only here on CNN. Wow, what a story.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears on an Indonesian teen talk show and is asked to demonstrate her singing skills. We're going to show you what's going on.

And the first lady, Michelle Obama continues to make the rounds in Washington. We're going to show you who she's meeting with today and what she's saying at length in her own words, right here on "THE SITUATION ROOM."


BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in South Korea today on the third leg of her four-nation tour of Asia. Yesterday in Indonesia, Secretary Clinton stopped by a talk show geared toward young people.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has more on this story. Abbi, what happened?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: The show's called "Dasha" (ph) roughly translated, that's "awesome" in English, described as a mixture between the Tyra Banks Show and MTV.

Secretary Clinton chose to make this, the biggest youth show in populous Muslim nation, part of her visit to Indonesia. The host had questions about Gaza, U.S. relations with the Muslim world. But it was when they asked Secretary Clinton to sing to the audience that she got the biggest response.

She spared them, but she did attempt a greeting. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would love to hear you sing.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Here is the problem. You see all of these people? If I start to sing, they will leave.

Say that again?

(END VIDEO CLIP) TATTON: There was also audible excitement when Secretary Clinton mentioned that she had just been talking to President Obama before she came on -- Wolf?

BLITZER: She also was asked what music she liked and she mentioned the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, good for her.

TATTON: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Good taste.

Let's get back to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Would you ever sing in public?

BLITZER: No. Would you?


The question this hour is: Do you agree with Attorney General Eric Holder that the United States is a nation of cowards when it comes to race.

CJ in Atlanta: "I agree with the attorney general. Race is a taboo topic, especially here in the south. There are still lots of racists among every race, especially among middle-aged and retiree- aged people. And until they move on, out of roles where they shape company and public policy, we who are among younger generations won't be able to make race an open topic for discussion."

Emma in Ashtabula, Ohio: "No, we are not a nation of cowards. Attorney General Holder is exhibiting traits of most of President Obama's appointments so far; very intelligent, but with a total lack of common sense. Let's hope Holder is better at enforcing the law and the Constitution. Stick to what you're good at, Mr. Holder."

Tom in Philadelphia: "Who let the black guy in on closed-door racism? We've gone from overt, in your face racism to closed door let me make sure who I am talking to racism. Overall, on the outside, it's going away. But in the hearts and minds of many, and in private, it's the same as it always was. He is bold and brave to confront it. Good job."

Ann in Seattle says: "Americans do have issues when it comes to being up front about matters of race. Yet using the word coward will do nothing to encourage more openness. Mr. Holder would have been wiser and facilitated exchanges between all people if he had instead stayed at his willingness to engage in honest dialogue" -- that's boring, I'm not going to read that.

Jasmine in Germany says: "Yes, I agree. Blacks and whites and all the others in our melting pot country still continue to blame each other for whatever might not be just right. It's time to get over it. Holder's courageous to have made the statement. P.S., I'm a Caucasian person. But why would I have to add that?" If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at file and look for your there among hundreds of others. Will you make a solemn promise never to sing on television?

BLITZER: I can't promise that because I never do that. But I hope not to. Jack thank you.

CAFFERTY: We all hope not.

BLITZER: I know you do.

The first lady, Michelle Obama, is offering thanks, but also a warning to workers over at the Department of Agriculture. We're going to hear from her in her own words. That's coming up next.

And the Republican Party chairman sets his sights on hip-hop. How will the GOP play in that community? I'll ask the best political team on television.


BLITZER: The first lady, Michelle Obama, dropped in over at the Department of Agriculture today and touted her husband's initiatives.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Like many parts of this country, rural America is hurting economically. The president is taking steps to turn our economy around and help struggling families.

And the expansion of the children's health insurance program will ensure more children, including those in rural communities, so that they get the health care that they need. The new investments that will double the nation's renewable energy capacity is going to bring new jobs and economic opportunity to rural communities who will play a central role in creating America's clean energy future.

And the president's plan to address the home mortgage crisis is going to help rural families refinance their mortgages, modify loans and secure loans with more affordable monthly payments. And this effort's not just going to help keep families in their homes, it's going to help strengthen rural neighborhoods and communities across this country.

So there's a lot of work to do. And we have great leaders in Secretary Vilsack and President Obama that we can count on through the next several years.

But it's, again, important to remember that these great leaders are only as great as the people who hold them up. And again, that's where you all come in. They can only do the work that they do because there are thousands and thousands of dedicated federal workers like you who are willing to make the sacrifices in their own lives, with their own families, to devote the time and energy that is so needed to get the work done.


BLITZER: She also warned that it will take "quite a long time" to get this country back on track.

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