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THE SITUATION ROOM
"We're In Uncharted Territory"; Mexican Vacation Nightmare; Drug Smugglers' Secrets; "I Call It Like I See It"
Aired March 26, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The residents of Fargo, North Dakota fighting back against the river threatening to inundate them within hours. We're following the breaking news.
Also, a Mexican vacation turns into a horror story -- a California family recalls the nightmare they endured at the hands of gunmen and the moment they were certain they were going to die.
Plus, the actor Tom Selleck, the former "Magnum P.I." He's here in Washington on a special assignment. He talks to us about President Obama, his Republican critics and a lot more.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We begin with the breaking news. The mayor of Fargo, North Dakota says his city right now is in uncharted territory, facing a rising river, expected to crest this weekend at a record level and threatening the worst flooding ever recorded in the region. The focus now building up the dike that protects the city from the Red River and creating a backup barrier, as well.
CNN's Susan Roesgen is on the front line in the battle in Fargo -- Susan?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are more than 3,000 volunteers here in the Fargo Dome trying to fill more than half a million more sandbags than they have already, between now and Saturday. And no one is giving up.
ROESGEN (voice-over): Fargo is trying to defend itself against an approaching enemy -- and the enemy is growing. On Saturday, the Red River is expected to crest here at a record high 41 feet.
MAYOR MARK VOXLAND, MOOREHEAD, MINNESOTA: If you know you have to get out, don't wait until tonight. Get out now and let us be able to work, keep our people safe by being able to operate in the daylight. Don't ask us to come back in an hour, because we don't know what's going to happen in an hour. This thing has been happening fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, it is approaching the rail. ROESGEN: The Coast Guard has rescued more than a dozen people. Others are getting out on their own.
DIANE BARIL, HOMEOWNER: Higher ground, that's where we're going. We'll just take some -- a couple of suitcases and away we go.
ROESGEN: City leaders didn't want to do it, but they've got an evacuation plan for Fargo now, even as they build a second circle of dikes -- worried that the first one won't be enough. This could be the difference between relief and ruins.
ROESGEN: Wolf, you can imagine doing this for hour after hour after hour. Each of these sandbags weighs about 35 pounds and you won't hear anybody here complaining -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Susan Roesgen.
Our heart goes out to these people -- what they're about to go through over the next few hours.
Let's bring in our severe weather expert, our meteorologist, Chad Myers.
What do people along the Red River and all of our viewers need to know, Chad, right now, because this -- I can't under -- or over score how significant this is going to be.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is.
And you know what?
The entire town and, you know, the other side of the river not protected by that flood wall -- by that levee. Those people are going to have that 23-foot wall of water in their home.
Look at all these people trying to make all of these sandbags. But let me tell you something about a sandbag wall. You just don't stack them on top of each other.
We're going to the next map and we'll show you how many it actually takes to make a wall.
To make a two-and-a-half-foot wall, it takes 25 sandbags, because you have to make them wide at the base and then make a big pyramid. To make a four foot high wall, takes 72 bags for one foot. You need 7,200 bags at 40 pounds apiece to make 100-foot long wall.
And that's what these people are doing. They're trying to build it. You need this type of support, rather than just a tall wall that will fall over from the weight of the water.
So keep on going. We'll show you the things that we've going for you here. This is the 41-foot level.
What does that number mean?
Eighteen feet is where the flood starts. So you can't start at 41. You start at 18 and you count from there.
Twenty-three feet -- how high is that?
How high is that?
On the White House, the water would be to the top of the upstairs windows through the entire White House itself. Now, that's not saying everybody in Fargo is going to get that much water. If the -- if the levees hold, if these sandbags hold, we're in good shape. If not, Wolf, there's going to be a lot of people in deep, deep misery. I can't imagine every one of these levees holding for seven days. That's how long this flood is going to last.
This is not a one hour flood. This is going to be at record levels for seven days. That water is going to go under some of those dirt and levees, I'm sure of it.
BLITZER: All our viewers, Chad, remember the flooding during Katrina, down in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Can we compare what is about to happen, God forbid, in Fargo, in that area, to what happened in Katrina?
MYERS: You know, I know some of the deepest water in Katrina was about 15 feet deep. We're going to have 20 feet of water in some of these homes.
Here's the river itself. And this is kind of on the south side. There's no protection here whatsoever. There's no levee. There's no wall. This is an old stock picture of when the water was down. These people already have water in their homes right now. I know we're talking about protecting downtown, but there are already a lot of people underwater at this hour.
BLITZER: And the difference -- a huge difference between Katrina and now up in North Dakota, the weather was relatively warm down in Louisiana and Mississippi and Texas. During Katrina, as all of us remember, it was hot. It's still very cold up in North Dakota. They still have snow.
MYERS: They still have snow. The wind chill factor yesterday was four degrees above zero. And you had tens of thousands of people outside downtown trying put those sandbags in order to keep that water out.
Another thing, Wolf, at least this water is rising slowly. People know it's coming. They can get out. The people in New Orleans -- boy, that water came way too fast.
BLITZER: Chad, stand by.
As the river rises, iReporters are volunteering.
Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is here.
What's going on, because we're getting -- and I hate to use the expression flooded with these iReports -- but we are.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Certainly. So many of them coming in, Wolf. And some areas are particularly vulnerable.
We'll show you this video here. Driving through some of the flattest terrain -- this is right -- just a couple of miles south of Fargo. Already some sections underwater. And this was taken yesterday afternoon by iReporter Wade Baird, who going to help friends there. Wade is one person, Wolf, who has been working since Sunday to try and help the effort.
BLITZER: I assume this has already turned into a 24/7, around the clock effort, because we -- we could be just hours away from the worst.
TATTON: We've been getting these images coming in all day, all night from about Sunday, Monday.
Take a look at some of this. This is Wednesday, last night, about 10:00 p.m. Three hundred to 500 people lined up to meet the trucks of sandbags coming in to shore up one area in the southern part of Fargo. That went on to well after 2:00 a.m. Then you've got the efforts going on during the daytime. It isn't much easier, because that's -- some of it is going on during blizzard conditions, this trying to shore up defenses at local businesses, at a country club. That one taken by Ernest Feeland (ph).
And where it's all starting, we've all seen the pictures of the Fargo Dome. Take a look at this -- just one section of the Fargo Dome. Hundreds and hundreds of people there working. Wolf, that one at 3:00 a.m. Yesterday morning.
So this is really all hands on deck.
BLITZER: It sounds terrible.
All right, stand by, Abbi.
So Fargo is bracing for a record 41 feet -- 41 feet starting Saturday, possibly lasting for as long as a week. And that would surpass the devastating flood of 1997, when the river hit 39.6 feet. That disaster displaced tens of thousands of people along the river and caused more than $3 billion damage.
If the river reaches its predicted 41-foot crest, it would break a record that stood since -- get this -- 1897, when it hit 40.1 feet.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.
He's got "The Cafferty File."
Have you ever been to Fargo, North Dakota -- Jack? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: No, I haven't, but I've been through a couple of floods in Reno, Nevada on a smaller scale when the Truckee River would overflow its banks. We'd get a real warm snow melt up in the Sierra Nevadas and the water would come rushing down out of the mountains and overflow the banks in Reno.
And the damage that water can do in a very short period of time is breathtaking. I mean this is -- this is horrible stuff. And I hope those people up there can -- can manage to get something up in the way of protection. But it sounds like this will be just overwhelming.
Drugs and related violence from Mexico infect 230 cities in this country right now. Some politicians, economists, even drug enforcement people, are saying that legalizing drugs may be the answer.
One Texas city councilman told CNN: "It's the least/worst option to ending drug cartel violence." He says decriminalizing drugs would take away a lot of the financial incentive for the cartels to kill.
Arizona's attorney general -- 60 percent of the battle is marijuana. And he's called for at least a rational discussion on ways to take the profit motive out of weed.
Some insist legalizing drugs like pot would help the economy. A senior economics lecturer at Harvard says federal, state and local governments spend $44 billion a year fighting the drug wars. If drugs were legal, he says they could be taking in about $33 billion in tax revenue -- a $77 billion swing.
Jeffrey Myron describes how prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. He says the same was true with alcohol during Prohibition and it's also the case for illegal gambling and prostitution
He says prohibition of drugs also corrupts politicians and law enforcement, which is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for industries that are prohibited but rare in other cases.
Critics say no way, the consequences of legalizing drugs would far outweigh the benefits. Some focus on the moral and health-related concerns about drug use. One former special agent for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration told CNN: "No way we could do this. We would lose a whole generation."
At today's virtual town hall meeting, President Obama said he doesn't think legalizing marijuana is a good way to grow our economy.
Here's our question: Is it time now for the U.S. to legalize drugs?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog.
This is a debate, I think, Wolf, with the influx of these Mexican cartels, that's only going to get louder in the months ahead.
BLITZER: It certainly will, Jack. Thank you very much.
Get ready. You're going to get a lot of e-mail.
A California family on their way home from a Mexican vacation when their nightmare began.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBRA HALL, KIDNAPPED IN MEXICO: They first got in the truck and opened the back door. Our son said, oh, my God. Please, no, God. And if I live to be 100, I will always hear that tone in his voice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And that was just the beginning if -- of their ordeal at the hands of Mexican gunmen. It's a horror story that still reduces this family to tears.
Also, months after the election, Sarah Palin still has a battle going on with the news media. And she says she's going to call it like she sees it.
Plus, the cause -- a very important cause -- that's brought the actor, Tom Selleck, here to Washington and into THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Increasing violence in Northern Mexico raising concerns about Americans traveling south of the border.
CNN's Randi Kaye has the story of one family's terrifying vacation.
D. HALL: We're not anyone to them.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Debra and Chris Hall don't sleep very well, though it's better now. Nightmares that used to keep them awake for days now keep them up for hours.
D. HALL: They first got in the truck and they opened the back door. Our son said, Oh, my God. Please, no, God. And if I live to be 100, I will always hear that tone in his voice.
KAYE: Debra and her husband live near San Diego. And for years, since their teens, they've been driving into Mexico to vacation. But they'll never go back again -- not now, not after their last trip.
(on camera): The Halls were driving along this road in Mexico, just about seven miles from the U.S. border. It was a cold, foggy November night shortly before midnight, when they suddenly saw flashing lights in their rear view mirror. They thought it was police, so they pulled over.
Within seconds, they were surrounded by 10 masked gunmen -- all dressed in black, pointing guns at their heads.
D. HALL: And they said, we're getting in. Shut -- shut up. Put your heads down. We're going to kill you.
KAYE (voice-over): The Halls were pulling a camper that was covered with race car stickers and the gunmen demanded to know where the race car was -- a prize that could have been traded for cash or drugs.
(on camera): The Halls say their abductors drove them about a mile or so into the hills. They demanded jewelry, including Debra's wedding ring. And they ripped the radio and navigation system out of their truck. Then, they told them all to kneel face down in a ditch.
D. HALL: I thought they were going to kill us and that they were covering us with the sleeping bag so that they wouldn't get blood on them.
CHRIS HALL, KIDNAPPED IN MEXICO: I tried to cover my daughter with my body to -- to protect her.
DIVINIA HALL, KIDNAPPED IN MEXICO: I was OK with the fact that I was with them and that if it was my time to go, it was my time to go. And at least I was with my family. And I knew that they knew I loved them and they -- I knew that they loved me, too.
KAYE (voice-over): They were face down in a ditch, waiting to be executed. Time passed slowly, until suddenly, the Halls realized they were alone. The gunmen had left in their truck.
It took them two hours to walk to a town. Baja police drove them back across the border.
(on camera): The Halls had no money and no I.D. When they got to this McDonald's on the U.S. side of the border. They told me someone gave them a quarter so they could use a pay phone and call a relative to pick them up.
(voice-over): The men who terrorized the family were never caught. Even worse, the gunmen know where they live. They stole their driver's licenses.
Aware that cartel hit men are striking on the U.S. side of the border, they don't feel safe. It's as if fear is always stalking them. And, still, they feel like they lost much more.
(on camera): You'll never go back?
D. HALL: No.
C. HALL: No.
D. HALL: No way. No way. And that's sad.
KAYE (voice-over): The country they loved stolen from them in the middle of the night on a Mexican highway. Randi Kaye, CNN, on the U.S.-Mexico border.
BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico this week. She says American demand for illegal drugs is helping to fuel the violence there.
Let's walk over to CNN's Tom Foreman.
He's over at the magic map for us -- Tom, the truck route going into Mexico, coming out of Mexico, show us what's going on.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really astonishing, Wolf. The Drug Enforcement Administration tells me, really, for 20 years, they've been building up a genuine industry -- a retail distribution route.
And it starts like this. Typically, you might have a load down here in Colombia of, say, a ton of cocaine that's been ordered by the Mexican cartel. It's loaded into a truck, maybe wrapped in coffee, things like that. So you won't see it.
But it begins down here in Colombia and then starts driving north along to Central America.
If they run into a problem point, where they think they have a difficulty, the DEA says they simply load it onto a boat, they go around it and then back on the other side, they reconnect with the truck.
And then from here, they keep going all the way up until they get right up to the border here. And that's where the truck waits.
What are they waiting for?
Well, as they look at the border up here, they're waiting while the drug bosses look at traffic. And they're trying to pick an optimum time to go across the border.
What are they looking for?
Well, they're looking for a time when you might have an awful lot of traffic on the border and lots of people there -- maybe a holiday, something like that. They're looking for a big storm -- something that disrupts the flow of people -- anything, frankly, that distracts law enforcement.
And if they can get law enforcement distracted enough, that's when they wave their own people through. And at that point, this truck full of drugs just drives right across the border. And it's now inside the United States with a ton of cocaine -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom, where do the trucks go from there?
FOREMAN: A very good point, Wolf. Because once it gets inside the country like this, I want you to point out what's going to happen here. If I take this map and just move this one aside, what this truck that comes into the country may do at this point is simply follow a route -- a delivery route, exactly as a truck would for a major retailer. They may start moving up through here. They may drop off part of this ton in Las Vegas, part of it in Los Angeles.
They may go up and drop some in San Francisco and then up to Portland. At each stop, they're met by middlemen of the drug delivery system, which has been set up for decades. They split this load up. They mix it with talcum powder. They turn that one ton into maybe five tons. And literally, Wolf, within 48 hours of crossing the border, that five tons may now be in hundreds of cities with hundreds of dealers supplying thousands of American users.
That's how it happens, Wolf.
BLITZER: Pretty shocking stuff.
Thanks for that explanation.
Tom Foreman, thank you.
An NFL player and his family rushing to the hospital to see a dying relative when they're pulled over by Dallas police. The entire incident captured by the police dash came. You're going to see why it's now exploded into a huge controversy.
Also, Sarah Palin back in the spotlight, accusing the news media of what she calls "an unprecedented level of slant."
Is it a prelude to a White House run in 2012?
I'll ask Donna Brazile and John Thierry.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?
FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, again, Wolf.
A state of emergency is in effect in at least 12 counties in Southern Mississippi after several storms, including two tornadoes, tore across the region last night. The storms damaged more than 100 homes and knocked out power in some areas. At least 24 people are reported injured.
To Greece now, where police clashed with firefighters in Central Athens today. The firefighters were demonstrating to demand permanent employment status when some protesters tried to break through a police cordon. The police responded with tear gas and stun grenades. The firefighters union accuses the government of breaking a pledge to grant more than 5,000 firefighters permanent job status. And declining newspaper readership and ad revenues are taking a toll at "The New York Times." The company, which also owns the "Boston Globe" and a series of other media outlets, will cut the pay of most employees by 5 percent over the next nine months. In exchange, "The Times" says those employees will be granted 10 days leave. The company is also laying off 100 people and making other budget cuts.
And Major League baseball All Star Miguel Tejada will spend a year on probation for lying to Congress about performance enhancing drugs. Earlier today, a federal judge sentenced the Houston Astros shortstop to probation, ordered him to perform community service and imposed a $5,000 fine. Last month, Tejada pleaded guilty to misleading Congressional investigators about the use of steroids and human growth hormones by a former teammate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Don't mess around with the Feds. That's what they say.
WHITFIELD: That's right.
BLITZER: You shouldn't lie.
WHITFIELD: You will strike out.
BLITZER: All right. Yes, you definitely will.
The former vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, is talking to the -- talking about the news media once again. We're going to tell you what she's saying this time and why.
Also, commander-in-chief and politician-in-chief -- Bill Schneider on how the president is going about pushing his agenda.
And the actor Tom Selleck -- he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about an emotional issue so close to his heart. My interview with him -- that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, America's difficult battle in Afghanistan -- the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a new approach.
Also, the Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, grilled by lawmakers about proposals for a tighter leash on financial institutions. One lawmaker blasting it as radical.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The election is long over by now. Sarah Palin continues to make headlines, though -- still taking on the mainstream news media.
Let's go to CNN's Kate Bolduan.
She's got the latest for us -- Kate, what's going on?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Wolf.
Well, she stormed onto the national political scene. She's now a household name and she continues to attract quite a lot of attention.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Here she goes again, back in the spotlight. More than four months after the election, former vice presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, taking on what she calls the unprecedented level of media slant.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Complaining or whining? Absolutely not. But I am going to call it like I see it. It doesn't do any good to whine about any of this. But I can call it like I see it. Sometimes that gets me in a lot of trouble when I speak candidly and I speak from the heart and -- and I do such a thing. But I'm going to.
BOLDUAN: Former Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, is even giving a nod to his former running mate, speaking to a conservative think tank Thursday.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Although 50 million voted for me and for Sarah Palin -- mostly for Sarah Palin.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: The media never allowed Sarah Palin to go back to Alaska and return to her job. She is somebody that, you know, not only political junkies really want to know what she's up to, but, also, just everyday Americans.
BOLDUAN: Governor Palin most recently grabbed headlines for joining a handful of Republican governors to say thanks, but no thanks, to part of the stimulus funding. Palin passing on nearly $290 million, money she says put the state on the hook for too much once stimulus dollars run out.
PALIN: The strings attached to Washington stimulus package are real and they're binding.
BLITZER: I want to play for our viewers another part of Governor Palin's speech. Listen to this.
I understand, Kate, that sort of hit a raw nerve with some McCain staffers, is that right?
BOLDUAN: It seemed so. Palin did say she meant no disrespect in the comments to the McCain campaign but seems it hit a nerve. Campaign staffers that traveled with Palin nearly every day during the campaign tell CNN they're now questioning her judgment as a leader because it's the few staff still loyal to her that are, quote, continually getting thrown under the bus and slapped in the face by her comments like those.
BLITZER: All right. Kate, thank you.
Let's get right to our Democratic strategists, Donna Brazile and Republican strategist John Feehery. What do you think? She's tough and blunt.
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She can really fire up the base, the base loves her. She does poorly with women, latest poll doesn't do well with independents. If she wants to be a national figure, a presidential contender she has to do better among women voters.
BLITZER: Does well with women voters in Alaska, but when talking about nationally what do you think?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: She's one of the most visible women in American politics today and I thought soon after going back to anchorage, that Sarah Palin would immerse herself in some of the details of running the government not just in Alaska, but being a voice for women and champion for, as John said, a more diverse group of Americans. Unfortunately she's still on the same, you know, record that she had last year.
BLITZER: We asked our I-reporters out there, people all over the country, all over the world, indeed, to take a look and offer some thoughts about whether or not Republicans were doing enough to give an alternative to President Obama's proposed budget it turn around and listen to this I-reporter, Manny Dorado of Oxnard, California, who is a Democrat.
MANNY DORADO, I-REPORTER: Bobby Jindal pretty much doing the same thing, saying he doesn't want Obama to fail but wants his policies to fail. What policies do you have, Mr. Jindal you do not have any policies that are going to help us. I haven't heard of one.
BLITZER: Republicans seem to be on the defensive. You saw the Republican leadership saying yes, yes, yes, to try to show they have some alternative substantive plans.
FEEHERY: They do. They don't have the votes to pass them. That's the frustration about being in the minorities. You don't get a lot of play on them. Bobby Jindal has a lot of ideas on political reform, health care, a lot of things he's doing in Louisiana but don't get a lot of play because the thing that gets play is the Rush Limbaugh to say no, I want them to fail. The things that don't get play are the things the Republicans are trying to get passed and don't because they don't have votes.
BLITZER: He's an intelligent governor your home state of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. BRAZILE: Without the help of the federal government and providing the relief and the recovery money, Bobby Jindal will be doing much worse. We are all grateful the federal government has given us the money to help bail beam out, to get them in their homes and schools. Republicans put out a plan, finally they have a plan. The problem with the plan it's rhetoric, a road back down memory lane. This is a budget without even any numbers. And what Mr. Boehner and others said, just wait. Wait until next week, we might give you some numbers.
BLITZER: The beginning of a plan. Is that right?
FEEHERY: The beginning of a plan and the concepts are out there. They'll fill out the numbers. This is the other part about being in the minority, you don't have the staff and takes a while to crunch the numbers, part of the deal. They're going to have the numbers next week.
BLITZER: Should they have waited to when they had a real plan when they had the numbers before releasing what is basically just this?
FEEHERY: I think they get too much of the apple. We get the concepts out there and next week the numbers. It's going to spend less, tax less and have less depth. That's the big concept.
BRAZILE: We heard the rhetoric before. It's the rhetoric of the past that got news this huge mess. What this budget blueprint is another repeat of giving tax cuts to the wealthy and using any savings we achieved to bring our troops home to once again provide relief to those who already have. It's really dead on arrival.
BLITZER: Donna and John, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Tomorrow, President Obama will announce his new strategy for Afghanistan. It's expected to include thousands of additional troops. Do you support sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan? Submit your video comments to ireport.com/situationroom. We'll show some of them on the air tomorrow right here.
The actor Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I., here in Washington on a special assignment and he's also speaking out about President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM SELLECK, ACTOR: He got a mandate from the American public but he didn't get a mandate from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's speaking about the Republican critics including the former vice president Dick Cheney. You're going to see the full interview with Tom Selleck coming up.
And police prevent a pro football star from seeing his dying mother-in-law. A controversial confrontation all caught on tape. The police dash cam video for you.
BLITZER: Part of President Obama's efforts to push his economic agenda this week, he's asking Americans to stay informed on the issues. That's certainly not a problem for one Hollywood star. Joining us now the actor Tom Selleck, here in Washington.
You're here for a really important cause, the Vietnam War memorial, the new exhibit there. I want to talk about that. It's really moving and really important that we never forget what happened. But let's talk politics a little bit. I'll take advantage of you while I have you. Bill Gates, arguably the world's richest man, Bill Gates, gave him a vote of confidence to the president's economic strategy today. Are you willing to go that far?
SELLECK: I don't know -- I'm willing to go along because he's my president. You know, I'm very concerned whether it will work, which I'm sure everybody is, but I think we have to try stuff. I think most people agree that we need to do something.
BLITZER: What do you think about --
SELLECK: I don't have any problem stimulus bill, wish more of it was actual stimulus and I understand the impulse on people who have been in the minority to want to -- to get projects they think are important to the forefront but I don't think that was a proper vehicle.
BLITZER: The liberals and Democrats? Used to be in the minority, now in the majority.
SELLECK: They weren't in the majority for the last two years, but I think the stimulus bill is full of stuff that is better served by the budget debate that's going on now.
BLITZER: We've seen a difference in public posturing since this new administration took office. Former President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, they say you know what, hold your fire. Don't criticize publicly. Dick Cheney on the other hand, he's going full speed ahead. Which is the right strategy?
SELLECK: What's ever right for them. What I do and nobody really asks, is I think it's appropriate to mind your own business for a while.
BLITZER: Let this guy either --
SELLECK: It's two months, you know. He's our president. I don't --
BLITZER: I hear you saying is you want him to succeed. You don't want him to fail.
SELLECK: I do want him to succeed but I don't want him to think -- he got a mandate from the American public but didn't get a mandate from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
BLITZER: What does that mean?
SELLECK: He didn't get a mandate from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
BLITZER: You want him to be more centrist.
SELLECK: I would like to see a more centrist agenda and god knows he talked eloquently about that.
BLITZER: You live in California.
SELLECK: We do.
BLITZER: A lot of concern what's happening in Mexico, not far away. Some are vague the availability of -- some are saying the availability of guns here in the united states is fueling the violence south of the border now spilling over north of the border and we know you've been active in the National Rifle Association. What do you think?
SELLECK: About what?
BLITZER: The gun and -- some say the U.S. is at least partially responsible for the violence in Mexico?
SELLECK: I think people who commit violence are responsible for the violence they commit. Where they get the guns is up for conjecture, but whether or not they have them is still up to the person who possesses something to determine their behavior.
BLITZER: Should there be tighter restrictions?
SELLECK: I have no idea. I'm not prepared to comment on that.
BLITZER: At that point, let's talk about what brought you to Washington right now. This Vietnam War memorial project, it's a subject close to my heart. I know it's close to your heart. Our parent company Time Warner gave a lot of money to help build this new facility.
SELLECK: Time Warner gave us $10 million.
BLITZER: They really believe in what's going on. Tell us about it.
SELLECK: Well the next step -- look, the Vietnam memorial evokes incredible emotion for people who visit it. It's a very personal emotion. The only war memorial I can think of, dedicated to a given war that has names on it and those names aren't even alphabetical, they're chronological. I think the next step we're working towards is building an educational center, under ground, near the wall, to tell the stories of the individuals who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Not only in Vietnam but in all of America's wars. And I -- BLITZER: Why is this so personal to you?
SELLECK: It's my generation. As it is yours. I served. I'm a veteran. I think the long-term lesson of Vietnam is really that we didn't always treat our troops so well. I think you hear that every day. No matter where anybody is politically. They don't just pay lip service to the fact that we need to support our troops. They mean it. And --
BLITZER: It's changed dramatically since now we -- we treat the troops, everybody, no matter if they agree or disagree with the policy of the war, the troops are sacrosanct.
SELLECK: As someone who wore the uniform in those days, it wasn't always popular to walk through an airport wearing one. I always thought that was a shame. This is -- it's important to take this positive recognition of people who served their country, they don't give orders, they take orders and they take it in the name of freedom and preserving our liberty and I think we need to celebrate our heroes. I think -- I hate to quote Calvin Coolidge, but I think he said a nation that forgets its heroes is destined to soon be forgotten.
BLITZER: You came with a poem to Washington.
BLITZER: And you read it at this Vietnam War memorial. Do you want to read it or just say it from the heart?
SELLECK: I think I can say it from memory. If you are able, save a place for them inside of you. And save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always, take what they have left you and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own, and in that time when men feel safe, to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind. That was written by Major Michael Davis O'Donnell two months after he wrote that he was listed as missing in action on a helicopter mission in Cambodia. In 2001, they recovered his remains and he's in Arlington cemetery now and on the wall.
BLITZER: That brings back a lot of memories of what happened, not all that long ago. Thanks for what you're doing.
SELLECK: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we have more of the interview with Tom Selleck just ahead, including his answer to the question about whether his most famous character, Magnum P.I., will make a comeback on the big screen. And we'll also show you the exchange between a police officer and an NFL player that's causing outrage in Dallas and, indeed, around the country. We'll tell you about the sad ending to that story and why some people now say that police officer should be fired. And President Obama set to issue a major new order on Afghanistan. We have details on the strategy he'll officially unveil tomorrow.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty here, he has the Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File." Here's the exchange I had with Tom Selleck earlier.
Tom, I want you to turn around and look at the video screen. Look the other way, right there. You remember that, right?
SELLECK: That would be Thomas.
BLITZER: That would be you.
BLITZER: We all remember that on the big screen. You know there's a lot of rumors circulating that there will be a major motion picture.
SELLECK: Yes. They haven't called or they haven't written, but whatever happens with magnum feature film, I have no idea. Here's what I hope doesn't happen, and I think people recognize this. When studios buy television shows and make big movies out of it, they spend $100 million and create big explosions and make fun of it. That will not work with Magnum. Magnum is more like "Star Trek." The fans of Magnum are now two or three generations, no more alliance from the show than I remember. If they do make a Magnum movie, I hope they pay homage to it.
BLITZER: Will you be a star in it?
SELLECK: As soon as they ask. As long as he is not 26 years old.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, you remember "Mack Magnum PI."
CAFFERTY: That's right. I heard Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey and another guy are doing a Three Stooges film. I can't wait for that. The first job I ever had in television was doing a kids program in Reno and we used to run the old original Three Stooges comedies. If the comedies are anywhere near true to those, it will be hysterical. This is serious.
The question this hour: Is it time for the U.S. to legalize drugs?
Kevin in the Netherlands where drugs are legal: "Let American politicians ask us here in the Netherlands how we are successfully dealing with the drug problem. Most of the junkies here are foreigners who are not free to smoke weed in their countries. Check the crime stats in America and in the Netherlands and then I'll leave the answer to you."
Steve writes: "We seem to be running out of ideas to make money. Legalizing and taxing the hell out of some softer drugs like marijuana could bring us considerable amounts of money."
Danny in Kentucky: "Absolutely not. You don't legalize murder or rape because they keep happening nor should you legalize drugs. Drugs put us all in danger not just from the violence that surrounds them, but because of their adverse effects on society. Don't trade one evil for another."
Jacob writes: "Only somebody who's high could think that fighting this war has been effective. I don't do drugs and don't support doing so, but we've got to realize that everything isn't in our control."
Mark writes: "Jack, it seems like more and more people are calling for this rational discussion, so why is Obama laughing off the question like it's some sort of joke? There have been many studies showing broad potential savings. Maybe if Obama would sit down and relax in quotation marks for a few minutes someone could explain some of the benefits that are not necessarily recreational."
Bill writes: "I don't agree with the legalization of drugs. I do agree with the legalization of marijuana."
And R. writes: "We should legalize drugs if Palin becomes president."
If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for yours there among hundreds of others.
What do you think, Wolf? Should they legalize marijuana?
BLITZER: Let me think about it and get back to you, Jack. Standby.
An NFL star pulled over by the police at the worst possible moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mother-in-law is dying right now!
BLITZER: Now this dash cam video is at the center of a huge controversy.
Plus, preventing the repeat of a current financial meltdown. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has a plan. Some lawmakers say he wants to play rhetoric.
BLITZER: There are significant changes occurring before our eyes. Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. We have now seen President Obama in a new roll.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are. We are seeing the politician-in-chief.
SCHNEIDER: You are used to seeing President Obama more and more in the role of president and politician-in-chief.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I promise to open up the white house to the American people. This event which is being streamed live over the internet --
SCHNEIDER: Appearances on "The Tonight Show," "60 Minutes" "ESPN." Two prime time news conferences, door to door canvassing by his grass root supporters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here getting support for Obama's initiatives in energy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, how are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Health care and energy.
SCHNEIDER: TV ads.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call Congress and tell them to support President Obama's plan to get our economy moving again.
SCHNEIDER: All the politicking, is President Obama valuing his promise to change American politics? Actually, the president's tone hasn't been partially harsh on partisan. Even when he spoke to two party fund-raisers, audiences eager for partisan red meat.
OBAMA: I said, show me your budget to the critics. Show me what you want to do and I'm happy to have that debate. Because I believe in the ambitious Democratic party.
SCHNEIDER: So far the president is leaving the harsh rhetoric to his critics.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president's budget will hurt the economy and destroy jobs in our country at the very time our country needs help. I think it is completely irresponsible.
SCHNEIDER: These days his harsh rhetoric is for us.
OBAMA: I know it can be hard for Washington to get caught up in the day-to-day chatter of cable television; it can be distracting by the petty and trivial.
SCHNEIDER: This week the politician-in-chief endorsed a special election for Congress, but he did not criticize the Republicans. The president urged voters to send a Democrat to Washington to "work alongside me and Democrats and Republicans in Congress."
BLITZER: Bill, thank you. To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Obama administration is proposing sweeping new power to regulate the financial system. Some are calling it a radical plan. That would allow the federal government to seize private businesses.
Also this hour, the breaking news. Sandbags, evacuations and prayers. The race against the clock to protect an entire city from historic flooding.
And just released video of an NFL player's traffic stop nightmare.