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Record-Breaking Flood Threat; President Obama's War on Terror; Interview With Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker

Aired March 27, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. A river rises to historic levels, and one city vows to go down swinging.

This hour, parts of the Plains and upper Midwest could be just hours away from a flooding disaster.

Plus, President Obama launches his own war against terrorists. He says new battle plans in Afghanistan won't simply rely on bullets and bombs alone.

We're going to hear directly this hour from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a shocking explanation for the global economic crisis. One world leader says white people with blue eyes are to blame.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for extraordinary reports from around the world and breaking news.


In Fargo, North Dakota, no one alive has ever seen a flooding crisis like the one playing out right now. The Red River has risen higher than it's been in 112 years. It's more than 22 feet above flood stage, and it could rise another three feet before it crests tomorrow.

Residents are bracing ice cold weather to pile sandbags along the river. And Fargo's mayor has asked for some 800 additional, extra National Guard troops to fan out in the flood zone.


MAYOR DENNIS WALAKER, FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA: If we're going to go down, we're going to go down swinging. And what I mean by that is we're going to continue to provide all of the possible support that we can. So -- and we appreciate everybody's efforts. We have never had more support than we have this year, and we've never...


BLITZER: Let's go right to the scene. Ted Rowlands, he's right on the banks of the Red River right now.

And it's rising even as we're speaking, Ted. TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This is a shot of what we're talking about.

This is the Red River, and you can see it's come up all the way up to the Main Avenue Bridge. This is the bridge that connects Fargo and the other -- and Moorhead, Minnesota. And what you're seeing there is very dramatic.

You mentioned it, people have never seen it, anyone who's been alive, the river this high. So what's being done, it is all hands on deck. People are sandbagging at levee spots around the city.

Here's one example where volunteers have come up to basically shore up a levee. This side, the one you're looking at right now, if this goes, the water would literally go into downtown Fargo and create thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage. And ruin not only homes, businesses, including City Hall, so there's a lot at stake. And this is going on around the entire area at different dike points as the Red River continues to rise.

BLITZER: I want...


ROWLANDS (voice-over): The fate of Fargo will come down to this: If the Red River rises even two more feet, the city's main protective dike won't be able to hold the water back. And word from the National Weather Service that flooding could reach that peak has sparked a frantic effort to shore up the levees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in a stand and defend, and our focus is now going to change to defending the dikes.

ROWLANDS: And as a last defense, fill as many sandbags as possible.

Officials say the frigid temperatures also gripping the area could actually be helping their efforts to fight off the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think the cold weather has helped to slow down the flow of the river, and that's kind of the break we think that we needed.

ROWLANDS: More evacuations have been ordered and additional National Guard troops called in. Residents are being told to stay off the streets.

WALAKER: Another phrase of the day is if we're going to go down, we're going to go down swinging.


ROWLANDS: There has been one small breach in south Fargo. Not a lot of water has come out of that, though, but some homes were evacuated as a precaution. Wolf, there are a number of little pockets that have been under a mandatory evacuation. Thousands of people have literally gathered all of their stuff -- medicine, personal items -- and are just waiting for that word to get out. Thus far, though, it is holding. Just a matter of waiting and seeing.

BLITZER: Well, how many feet -- I wonder if we could pan that camera, Ted, back to the river to see how much space they have between the top of the river right now and that bridge, because it doesn't look like there's a whole lot of space left before the water starts going over the bridge.

ROWLANDS: Not at all. You can literally see it. It's already come up to the flashing in the middle part of the bridge. There's a little gap here on the near side. But you're right, you can literally see, there is only a matter of feet before it gets all the way to the top of the bridge.

But you're talking about five to six feet. If it got that high, there would be real trouble, because it would have already cleared the water, many of the dike points in the city. So, the bridge itself most likely is going to stand, but if the water gets too much higher, we're talking just another couple of feet, all bets are off here in this area, because it's already above that record 41, and it's pushing higher.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Ted. We're going to be getting back to you.

Our Internet Reporter Abbi Tatton is looking at some iReports coming in from residents who are preparing for the floods.

Show us what our iReporters are sending us, Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are residents who have been working literally around the clock trying to protect their homes.

Going, first of all, to Fargo, to the southern part of the city, to a development called Rose Creek. It's just to the west of the Red River.

Sandbagging operations have been going on 24/7 in the last few days, but look what was happening last night. An extra line of defense being added, a contingency dike, just in case those sandbags don't hold.

I just spoke to Kevin Johnson, who is in that area, sent these pictures. He said that the work is still going on right now. The residents there who are on the safe side of these sandbags are just watching and waiting to see what happens.

BLITZER: Now, Moorhead, Minnesota, is right across from Fargo, North Dakota. Are we getting any iReports in from Moorhead?

TATTON: Right. This is the neighboring city, the other side of the river.

If we could just fly up there to an area which is under an evacuation order, the pictures we're getting in from there are from Jennifer Sondag, who has been recording this area of homes right along the Red River. They are literally right alongside.

And take a look at what -- she was at a friend's house yesterday. She talked about what was going on, the preparations in that house's basement last minute.


JENNIFER SONDAG, IREPORTER: Today they are working on packing up their basement and moving as much as they can upstairs because in 1997, our last big flood, the water came up to about here.


TATTON: Wolf, that's a house that now has a concrete levee. It will need it, because these waters are now at record levels.

BLITZER: Still getting a lot of these iReports in. Stand by. I want you to show them to us as these hours continue.

We're going to get back to this story shortly, but I want to move on to President Obama's war against terror.

Today he gave the order to send 4,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. He vowed to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the al Qaeda network there and in neighboring Pakistan.

Let's go to our White House Correspondent Dan Lothian.

The president's new strategy in Afghanistan, it's now been formally unveiled, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it involves more than just the military buildup there. It's also about training. It's about humanitarian aid.

The president really believes that a lot of attention and resources were taken away from Afghanistan because of Iraq. So he wants to refocus in order to take on what he believes is a central challenge facing the U.S.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: We will defeat you.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): President Obama going after terrorists. Not with firepower, but with a message, money and manpower.

OBAMA: A campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone. LOTHIAN: The president has ordered 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to train that country's army and police force, and to significantly increase their numbers, and hundreds of civilians to advise the government on agriculture, education and law. But this new strategy also focuses on neighboring Pakistan, where Mr. Obama there is a significant threat.

OBAMA: Multiple intelligence assessments have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States' homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.

LOTHIAN: But no public plans to go after that threat, what some experts consider a potential weakness.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Focus on economic development in Pakistan is smart, but I'm not sure there's enough emphasis on strengthening the Pakistani counterinsurgency capability for that northwest frontier area.

LOTHIAN: When pressed, spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested that threat was not being ignored.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You can be very assured that we're taking the steps necessary to address the threat and to protect the American people.

LOTHIAN: What the U.S. is offering Pakistan is an incentive to do some of the dirty work. The president is pushing Congress to pass a bipartisan bill that would provide $1.5 billion in aid annually over five years, but this new push will not go unchallenged. Violence is rising in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the same day the president unveiled his new plan, a suicide bomber destroyed a mosque in Pakistan, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100 others. And two coalition soldiers were shot and killed in Afghanistan.


LOTHIAN: Interestingly, Republicans up on Capitol Hill seem to like the president's plan. They see it as hawkish and similar to the Bush strategy of being on offense in order to keep America safe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Dan Lothian over at the White House.

This important note to our viewers. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, he's standing by. He's going to be coming in here to THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll talk to him. I'll try to pinpoint some of the safe havens that the terrorists have in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the hunt for Osama bin Laden. My interview with Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, coming up. Let's go right to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, with more and more Americans out of work, the government is putting up roadblocks for companies that want to hire foreign workers. It's about time. That includes higher-and-lower-skilled workers, everyone from dude ranchers and fruit pickers, to lifeguards and computer programmers.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports at least three avenues of legal immigration have been cut back. For starters, companies getting federal bailout money must prove that they've tried hiring American workers for highly skilled positions before they can hire guest workers.

The State Department is calling on some sponsors of seasonal employers, places like hotels, golf courses, resorts, summer camps, to voluntarily stop hiring as many foreign workers. And the Labor Department is considering suspending an agricultural guest worker program.

It's a bit of a sticky situation for the Obama administration, which insists it doesn't want to become protectionist when it comes to goods and services. However, with an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, there are millions of Americans out of work who don't want to see these jobs filled by foreigners.

Critics say that it's hypocritical to be protectionist when it comes to hiring practices. One immigration lawyers told The Journal, "You don't abandon regulations because you had one bad year."

But many seem to finally be questioning the idea that there are certain jobs Americans can't or won't do. Some employers say now they're getting more U.S. applicants for positions that were normally filled by guest workers, while others say they still can't find Americans who want to do certain jobs.

So the question is this: As more Americans lose their jobs, what restrictions, if any, should the government place on hiring foreign workers?

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

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thank you very much.

The mayor of Fargo, North Dakota, standing by live to talk to us. That's coming up next.

Plus, lawmakers who have railed the loudest against corporate greed, some of them have actually taken checks of their own from employees of those bailed-out companies. We're following the money and the outrage.

And some big bankers who met with the president today over at the White House say they want out of the bailout. Will they be forced to keep the cash anyway? And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, he'll be here to talk about the president's new strategy in Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen is standing by. We'll go over to the magic wall. He's going to show us where he thinks those terrorists might be hiding.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, what's going on, the flooding in North Dakota right now.

Joining us, the mayor of Fargo, the largest city in North Dakota, Dennis Walaker.

Mayor, thanks very much for joining us.

We see them sandbagging right behind you. How much time does Fargo, with a population of nearly 100,000, have?

WALAKER: Well, right now we think the river is beginning to crest, sometime tonight or sometime tomorrow. Now, they said that we could have a bubble, and so forth, of another half a foot and so forth. But as long as we stay under 42 feet, I think we've got a chance. If we go over 42, there's going to be some more evacuations.

BLITZER: Where is it right now?

WALAKER: Forty point six, 40.7 right now.

BLITZER: So with a little luck, you might be able to survive this disaster, this potential disaster. Is that what I hear you saying?

WALAKER: And that's basically correct.

This has been an unusual -- we've had very little time to get ready. They've changed the forecast four times for us, as far as the levels are concerned. And that's the biggest problem as we continue to be successful.

Right now, you have to understand that the river, it normally right now would be about 14 feet. And we're talking about record levels in the last 115 years of going to over 41.

BLITZER: Did you ever expect to see anything like this in your lifetime?

WALAKER: No. I thought 1997 was going to be our benchmark as long as I ever lived. And this has been a unique thing because we had less water and so forth, less snow than we had in '97. But the circumstances are, and we got to live with it.

And everybody here, including all of the agencies, federal and state, are pitching in together. Everybody is extremely impressed by what we're doing. Now it's just a matter of succeeding for the next eight days. BLITZER: Are you getting all the state and federal assistance, FEMA, specifically, that you need?

WALAKER: As much -- well, FEMA normally is a recovery unit. But we do have the director of FEMA here in Fargo today. She came down with U.S. Senator Dorgan yesterday -- or Conrad today. So they're out trying to understand what we're doing and why we're doing it.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit of how personally this has affected you. I've heard that you've received -- you had actually very little, if any, sleep over these past few days.

WALAKER: Well, today, now especially, we got called at 2:00 this morning, and I had been in bed for about three hours. But then I did get a call from the president of the United States, and that energized me for a certain extent. I mean, why not? A person of history.

BLITZER: What did the president say to you?

WALAKER: He wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed to be successful. And I tried to assure him of that. And also, the privilege of talking to the president of the United States.

He was here during his campaign, and I had met him at that time. But no, this was a unique thing for somebody -- a little boy from North Dakota.

BLITZER: If -- we're all praying and hoping it doesn't reach 42, God forbid 43 feet, the crest. But describe the scenario. What would happen if that were to occur?

WALAKER: We've already had two voluntary evacuations. Our biggest hospital here that's never been evacuated in the 100-year history evacuated last night. And we're trying to get the vulnerable people out of the nursing homes, the high-rise, which is low-cost housing, New Horizons Manor, all of these people that have problems that are going to be difficult to transport.

And we're trying to get those people out of the area. And that's working quite well.

We've issued some more voluntary -- and I mean voluntary -- people leaving. You want your children out of there. We still need the people to continue to fight in their back yards.

BLITZER: Mayor, good luck to everyone in Fargo. Indeed, in the entire region. And we'll stay in close touch with you.

WALAKER: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Dennis Walaker is the mayor of Fargo, North Dakota.

We're all praying for that community and, indeed, all the communities in that area. There's something the government doesn't want air travelers to know, the damage records the FAA wants to keep secret from the flying public.

Plus, we could be just days away from a North Korea missile launch. How real is that threat? We're going to ask the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. He's here. We'll talk about North Korea and Afghanistan.



BLITZER: President Obama also wants Pakistan to play an even bigger role in the war against terrorists. But can the U.S. trust Pakistan? I'll ask the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll talk to him and Tom Foreman. They're over at the magic map.

And it turns out that some lawmakers who seem the angriest about those corporate bailouts know a thing or two about accepting cash.


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

Happening now, drugs crossing the Mexican border into the United States at a staggering rate. How are the smugglers getting by all the security? CNN cameras now getting a firsthand look.

The global economic crisis blamed on people with a certain look, why one world leader says blue-eyed white people are behind the mess.

And the most expensive home for sale in America. The jaw- dropping price for the mansion of a former Hollywood mogul.

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

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's standing by. We'll go to the magic wall in just a moment.

But first, President Obama today laid out his strategy to try to tackle the problem he says puts the safety of people around the world at risk -- terrorism emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan.


OBAMA: For six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq. Now we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals.

I've already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that had been requested by General McKiernan for many months. These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border. This push will also help to provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August.

At the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country. That's how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security and how we will ultimately be able to bring our own troops home.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. He's just come here to THE SITUATION ROOM from the Pentagon.

Admiral, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Tom Foreman is here. We're going to use this map at our magic wall for you to better explain some of the things that are going on.

And just to set the scene, Tom, we want to show our viewers Afghanistan. That's where the U.S. now is going to be deploying an additional 4,000, in addition to the 17,000 troops the president earlier announced. And then the yellow here, Pakistan.

These are two -- Admiral, two very different countries with two very different U.S. military missions under way.

MULLEN: Indeed they are. And I've actually been in the region an awful lot over the last year.

One of the, I think, great strengths of the strategy the president has rolled out is the focus on both these countries and really making it a regional approach.

It's much bigger than just one or the other. It really is them. And, actually, I would also add it's -- you know, India is an important player in this part of the world as well.


One of the great big questions in this, of course, has always been the question of this border here and how do you control this area. What difference would the extra troops make?

MULLEN: Well, I think that is at the heart of the challenge.

We worked hard over the last several years to -- to increase our focus there. I have been in Pakistan on multiple trips to meet with their leadership. And, in fact, in the last year, the Pakistan army and the Frontier Corps, who are the -- the local troops on the border...

FOREMAN: And they're -- they're based where...


MULLEN: They're actually based here in the FATA. And when we talk about...

FOREMAN: Right here.

MULLEN: ... a safe haven for al Qaeda and the president's focus on al Qaeda, this is where they live.

BLITZER: And that's where you assume Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahri are hiding out, on the -- on the Pakistan side of this border?

MULLEN: Absolutely, and -- and they hide very well. I get asked often about...


BLITZER: Give us an approximate -- point to where you think they could be, or at least draw it -- you know, use with your finger.


MULLEN: Clearly, in the area that Tom has pointed out, it -- they could be anywhere in here. And they do a great job of hiding.

BLITZER: Now -- now, we know there are no U.S. troops, at least that we know of, on the ground inside Pakistan, although there are these drones, these unmanned drones, that go after targets there.

MULLEN: Sure. We actually had a small number of trainers there in Pakistan...

BLITZER: Helping the Pakistani military?

MULLEN: ... training -- training the Pakistani military trainers, actually. But we don't have any combat troops on the ground in Pakistan.

BLITZER: Well, because the fear is all that these al Qaeda and Taliban bad guys -- and you can point this out, Tom -- they're simply going from Afghanistan -- as we beef up the presence there, they're going across this border and establishing a safe haven in Pakistan.

MULLEN: Actually...


FOREMAN: What do you do with them once they get over here?

MULLEN: Actually, they move back and forth very readily. And the safe haven gives them an opportunity to train, gives them an opportunity to rest, and actually gives them an opportunity, particularly the Taliban, to move back in.

The Taliban gives them living room and -- and breathing room. And that's the safe haven we have got to eliminate. We...

FOREMAN: Why -- why does this remain a safe haven? Is it simply the geography here? Because we know these are very rugged mountains and tribal areas. Is it just the geography, or is it the culture, or is it both?

MULLEN: I think it's a combination of many things, to include the geography, which is very difficult terrain.

The culture, it's never been a governed area, certainly from the national perspective. And -- and the culture there, it's very tribal. And, in fact, there are tribes -- this is -- this is known -- this border is now as the Durand Line, which was drawn by Westerners many, many years ago.

And, in fact, when you go there and talk to the locals, they don't recognize that...


BLITZER: It's just an artificial line as far as they're...


MULLEN: Exactly.

BLITZER: But here is what of deep concern. And I'm going to quote to you from a story in today's "New York Times" about the Pakistanis, because the U.S. is relying on Pakistan to help, to take the lead in going after these Taliban, al Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

"American officials told 'The New York Times' this week that Pakistan's military intelligence agency continued to offer money, supplies and guidance to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan as a proxy to help shape a friendly government there once American forces leave."

How much can you, the U.S. military, the U.S. government, trust the Pakistanis?

MULLEN: The -- the agency you're really talking about, Wolf, is their -- is their intelligence agency, the ISI.

And I have believed for a significant period of time now, fundamentally, the strategic approach with the ISI must change. And their support for militants, their support for militants actually on both borders, has to fundamentally shift in order for...

BLITZER: Are there still elements in the Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, who are sympathetic or, even worse, actually supporting the Taliban and/or al Qaeda?

MULLEN: There are certainly indications that that's the case. And fundamentally that's one of the things that has to change.

BLITZER: Can't the president, President Zardari, do something about that?

MULLEN: Well...

BLITZER: Or is he too weak?

MULLEN: The civilian leadership and the military leadership is very committed -- we've actually put a lot of pressure here over the last year, and particularly the Pak military, the Frontier Corps, and that pressure needs to continue as we put pressure here. And we've certainty raised this issue and addressed this issue with -- with the Pakistani leadership, civilian and military.

FOREMAN: One of the questions is that, that, really, Hamid Karzai -- some people suggest he doesn't have much influence once you get beyond Kabul. Do you buy that?

BLITZER: They say he's the mayor of Kabul, if that.

MULLEN: I think a really important part of this strategy is -- is the area of governance. And when we talk about governance, it's not just the -- the central government here in Kabul. It's the local government, as well -- the provincial governments, as well as the district governments.

And there are elections this year. And they must be free and fair. And providing governance, good governance for the Afghan people is really critical in this strategy.

BLITZER: I don't want you to go away. We have more to talk about. We have more maps to use, as well. Admiral Mullen is staying with us. So is Tom. We want to map up another threat to the United States. We're going to zero in on North Korea's missile power on our Magic Wall.

That's coming up.


BLITZER: All right.

We're back with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. And Tom Foreman is here, as well.

Afghanistan a huge problem, but North Korea right now a huge problem for the United States, indeed, for a lot of our allies, as well. The suspected missile that they're getting ready to launch, an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Admiral, show us what's going on.

MULLEN: Well, basically, what they have declared is a time from the 4th to the 8th of April. We've seen them -- and, Tom, you can bring up just one of those images -- we've seen them stack the boosters.

And -- and there's an expectation, even though that, you know, they -- the North Koreans say this is a satellite launch, what is of most concern to us is we believe it violates the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. You can see here -- here's the missile itself. Or here's -- I'm sorry...


FOREMAN: ... today.

MULLEN: Right.

FOREMAN: A lot of cloud cover, but that's the site.

MULLEN: And you can see the shadow right here that it casts.

BLITZER: But the question is this. They say, the North Koreans, Kim Jong Il, this is a missile, yes, but it's designed to launch a commercial satellite and poses no danger to anyone.

MULLEN: The United Nations Resolution 1718 says very clearly that the technology supporting the development of ballistic missiles is counter -- is against that resolution, no matter what their package is.

BLITZER: You believe they do have a satellite on that missile?

MULLEN: I actually believe that -- so far, that they intend to do this in the 4th to 8th. What concerns me is the guidance, the engineering, the engines, those are all identical to the kinds of capabilities you'd put on a ballistic missile.

FOREMAN: So you're saying it's -- it doesn't matter what's sitting on top of this missile here. The missile itself is actually the issue?

MULLEN: That's correct.

FOREMAN: The fact that what's sitting down here in this shadow, but we really can't tell what's sitting up top here.

MULLEN: No, but the technology that -- that takes this potentially into space is the same technology...

BLITZER: And let's just set the scene for potentially what this means. You think this is a long-range missile, that intercontinental ballistic missile that could actually reach the United States?

MULLEN: Not -- this one, don't know for sure. Basically, what we're seeing, based on what's stacked so far, probably -- probably not. But this works towards the technology clearly that would be able to do that.

BLITZER: You have two options, as far as I can tell, if you wanted to use military options. You either launch a preemptive strike and just destroy that facility right now, which the U.S. certainly has that capability, or you wait until it takes off and then you blow it out of the sky.

MULLEN: Well, I think, actually, I'm not going to talk specifically about options and what we might do. Clearly, we -- we're concerned about what he's doing. I'm very concerned about his history of proliferation of this kind of technology.

Again, there are an awful lot of people who have spoken out strongly, diplomatically and internationally, against what he's doing. And I think it will be very disturbing to the region and -- and potentially with where this could go long term, he can develop a system that could actually target us.

BLITZER: I just want to point out that you are moving some ships, some destroyers into the Sea of Japan. Is that right?

MULLEN: There are certainly precautions that were taken. And I think I saw earlier today some of the ships that we're moving out of Japanese home ports...

BLITZER: U.S. ships?

MULLEN: United States ships.

BLITZER: Because the Japanese supposedly are moving ships, as well. And there's been some speculation they might decide to try to destroy that missile.

MULLEN: Well, each of the country's...

FOREMAN: The missile site's up here, right?

MULLEN: Correct. And so, you know, a launch here could, you know, very clearly go over Japan, which is out here. And, obviously, the Japanese are very concerned.

He's -- he's done this before. And, in fact, the one in 2006 failed, and -- and there was debris from that. And just the debris alone, you know, can be a threat to people in this area.

FOREMAN: How technologically capable are the Japanese -- because they made some noise about this -- if they're sitting over here with a warship, what capability do they have to shoot down a missile launch from here?

MULLEN: We've -- we've looked at what the technology is that -- that the North Koreans are development -- developing, and we work very hard to be able to address that from an overall readiness perspective. But I'm not going to go into the details of our capabilities at this particular point in time.

BLITZER: I'm going to show our viewers -- Tom, if you could show us the U. S. , the United States and North Korea, these are thousands and thousands of miles away.

MULLEN: Right.

BLITZER: And the question has always been, do -- would the North Koreans have a capability of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, potentially with a nuclear warhead, on U.S. soil, whether in Alaska or the West Coast of the United States?

MULLEN: This -- this missile, which he says he's going to launch here in a few days...

BLITZER: Show us.

MULLEN: ... is on -- is on the path to do exactly that, to get it in space and -- and, in fact, be able eventually, with the technology, to reach the United States and very specifically threaten us.

BLITZER: Show us a line of how...


BLITZER: ... could potentially happen.

MULLEN: Yes, I mean, clearly, from here, you know, all the way over here would be one particular arc.

FOREMAN: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland?

MULLEN: Sure. I mean...

FOREMAN: It's that -- it's that capable?

BLITZER: They have that -- they have that range?

MULLEN: They don't have it -- no, they don't have it now that we know of, in terms of the missiles that we've seen, but you add to this missile that they're proving out right now, and they will have it. And your point, Wolf, is the package could be a nuclear weapon, which we know he has.

FOREMAN: Do they have the range so far to reach this far, Hawaii, Alaska?

MULLEN: In -- in some -- in some cases, yes, they could probably get -- they could probably get down to Hawaii.

FOREMAN: So this is not an impossible shot for what we believe they currently have and up here?

MULLEN: Well, within -- I mean, within range of what possibly could happen, you know, is the possibility, depending, obviously, what they do, that it could head for Hawaii.

BLITZER: One final question, political question. Kim Jong Il, the ruler over there, is he still in charge? Or are there others now who are really controlling what's going on, based on what the United States knows? MULLEN: Everything I have seen is he's still in charge.

BLITZER: So he would make this decision if, in fact, as some have suggested, he would want to test the new American president?

MULLEN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Kim Jong Il. Admiral, good luck to you.

MULLEN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

MULLEN: Good to see you. Thanks.

BLITZER: A racially charged comment about the global economic crisis -- one world leader is actually laying blame on -- get this -- white people with blue eyes.

And the president puts one of his Cabinet members on notice that he's got game.


OBAMA: Eric even had the audacity to comment to a reporter on my basketball skills.



BLITZER: A lot of harsh words and fuming on Capitol Hill in recent days, a new round of backlash over those government bailouts. Critics say some lawmakers may be protesting too much, given their own history of taking cash.

We asked Brian Todd to look into this story for us.

Brian, what did you find out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Wolf, if anything gives a congressman political juice back home, it's railing on companies that are taking bailout money.

But we have looked through the records of political contributions from employees of nine of those firms, companies that have gotten each more than a billion dollars in bailout money since October. And, just last month, some of those same congressmen who have been pretty vocal got some pretty good money from those companies.



TODD (voice-over): They seem as outraged at the bailout recipients as the rest of us. POMEROY: You are disgraced, professional losers. And, by the way, give us our money back.

TODD: But Democratic Congressman Earl Pomeroy got $1,000 last month from employees of one of those bailed-out firms, Chrysler. That's according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: More bailouts is not a prescription for economic recovery. It's a prescription for further economic decline.

TODD: Republican Congressman Mike Pence, whose political action committee also got $1,000 last month from employees of Chrysler.

Congressional leaders have done even better.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Nobody in America wants all of this money to be given to our financial institutions in the form of a bailout.

TODD: But employees of three of those institutions, Bank of America, Bancorp, and American Express, gave House Republican Leader John Boehner or his political action committee $11,500 just last month.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: A binge of irresponsibility and greed.

TODD: Records show Democratic House Leader Steny Hoyer or his political action got $6,500 from Bank of America employees in February. Just that month, employees of nine firms getting bailout money gave more than $170,000 in contributions to members of Congress or their political action committees.

None of this is illegal. But a watchdog group which monitors campaign money says it sure doesn't look good.

MASSIE RITSCH, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Congress just doesn't get it. Americans are not going to believe their anger at Wall Street, when, during the day, they're yelling at these companies, then, at night, they're taking money from them.


TODD: So, we called and e-mailed the offices of Congressman Hoyer, Boehner, Pence and Pomeroy. An aide to Hoyer said he doesn't pick and choose between legal contributions because they don't affect his decisions.

An aide to Boehner emphasized, his contributions were from individual employees of those companies, as we reported, not bailout money that the companies got. And they also said that it didn't affect his decisions. We did not hear back from Pence's office. An aide to Pomeroy said his outrage was directed more at AIG, but that accepting Chrysler employees' contributions while they're getting bailout money is not appropriate. He says he's going to be returning that money that he got from Chrysler -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good reporting, Brian. Thanks very much.

It often seems as though President Obama is everywhere, meeting with his Cabinet, answering reporters' questions, or facing the American public. Some say he's in a constant campaign mode already.

And he's not the only one.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here.

Jessica, Democrats are harnessing the energy of the president's supporters, aren't they?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. You're right. I will tell you, the president's supporters are not letting the campaign assets go to waste.

A new group is taking advantage of that massive database of supporters they developed during the Obama campaign and now putting them to work across the nation.


YELLIN (voice-over): President Obama's grassroots army is on the move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm part of a nationwide movement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As you know, we're part of a national canvass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to sign on to support the president's agenda?

YELLIN: By the group's estimate, 10,000 volunteers have fanned out across the nation, pushing the president's budget.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's having some difficulty in Congress, as you might expect.

YELLIN: They're talking issues, but their larger mission is to keep the president's supporters active and growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We encourage you to sign on right here.

YELLIN: Supporters come from the 13-million-strong volunteer database developed during the campaign. It's coordinated by a new group called Organizing For America. Its goal?

MITCH STEWART, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ORGANIZING FOR AMERICA: Move the debate out of Washington and move into Main Streets and front porches across the country.

YELLIN: The effort is hardly apolitical. Volunteers urge people to lobby members of Congress. It's funded by the Democratic National Committee. And the group is up with this ad.


NARRATOR: Call Congress and tell them to support President Obama's budget plan.


YELLIN: Some Republicans see a contradiction. During the campaign, the president vowed to bring:


OBAMA: A new kind of politics, one that favors common sense over ideology.


YELLIN: Critics see this effort as partisan base-building, with the old-politics goal of ensuring supporters are ready to roll when the next campaign comes along.

DANNY DIAZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Is it inconsistent with the new politics or -- or the change politics that he promised? Yes. But it would be naive -- one would be naive to believe that he wouldn't be doing this.

YELLIN: But the group's director rejects the campaign comparison, saying, this is about issues, not elections.

STEWART: The comparison I think would be better to look at it as an issue-advocacy effort, as opposed to, like, a political campaign.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, they do emphasize that the issues are based on what local groups want to focus on. For example, the e-mail list will be used to organize on charitable efforts. One group in North Dakota decided that, instead of signing people up on the budget, they're going to go around and help folks out in Fargo.

So, they're -- they have a number of focuses, but they are primarily working on behalf of the president. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica Yellin, reporting.

Up next: bragging about basketball. You're going to hear who's ready to take on the president.

And we will take you back to the flood zone in North Dakota right now, fear rising, along with the river.


BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," it's no secret that President Obama loves basketball. His attorney general, Eric Holder, does as well.

In a ceremony today, the two power players started bragging about their skills on the court.


OBAMA: In fact, several months ago, Eric even had the audacity to comment to a reporter on my basketball skills.


OBAMA: He said -- and I quote...


OBAMA: This is what he said. He said, "I'm not sure he's ready for my New York game."


OBAMA: We will see about that, Mr. Attorney General.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me just depart here and say that he's never going to see my New York game.


HOLDER: He's got 10 years on me. He works out. I'm the coach of the team in which he will be playing, and nothing more than that.


HOLDER: But had I been 10 years younger...



BLITZER: Let's talk to someone who has got New York game. That would be Jack Cafferty.

Very funny stuff, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Oh, that's great stuff. Are you kidding? A little trash-talking, that's all right.

The question is...

BLITZER: I believe he's from Queens, New York. I could be wrong, but I think he's from a place called Queens, New York, Eric Holder.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I have heard about that.


CAFFERTY: It's about three wood and a seven iron from where I'm sitting.

The question, as more Americans lose their jobs, what restrictions ought the government place on hiring foreign workers?

Mike writes: "Restrictions? How about just not paying them to do it? IBM fires 5,000 Americans, hires 5,000 Indians, and then says they could generate a million jobs in 12 months with $30 billion in stimulus funds. Where? Are we really stupid enough to keep bankrolling our demise? I'm a software developer who made over $100,000 in the year 2000, and now can't find work for $25 an hour."

Chris in Buffalo writes: "Government regulation is what got us into this. What the government should do now is get out of the way, let these businesses hire whomever they choose, and let us, the people of this nation, pick ourselves up and out of this recession. Developing a xenophobic attitude will not do one thing to lift us out of this mess we're in."

Molita in Texas: "Don't hire guest workers. There is no shortage of labor, just a shortage of livable wages for U.S. citizens doing physical labor. How many white faces do you see at the large growers in California, Florida, and Texas? Companies that employ green card workers are the problem, because they see their bottom line as being less profitable for them. They will scream bloody murder if they're ever forced to hire legal citizens at livable wages."

Kevin writes from CENTCOM in Iraq: "We can't simply alienate our legal immigrants who are seeking work in this country. However, it is important to ensure that American applicants are considered first to ensure that our capital is staying here, in our economy, where it is needed the most."

Pam says :"Jack, Americans ought to begin to migrate to other countries, where their skills are needed. It is a global economy, and Americans have to make adjustments."

And Geri in Oklahoma says: "If we want to continue to see the unemployment rate go up and consumer spending and local, state, and federal revenue plunge, then, by all means, we should continue to hire as many foreign guest workers as we possibly can."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, Look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.