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Warnings of Israeli Strike on Iran; Firing Bosses of Bad Banks; Target: "Iron River of Guns"; GOP: Who's Hot in 2012; Ads Slam President's Health Plan

Aired April 2, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, new warnings that Israel's new government may launch a military strike at Iran's nuclear program -- how hard-line rhetoric may lead to some very dangerous action.

The Obama administration forced out the General Motors' CEO. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggests that bosses of bailed out banks could be next. CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with Geithner today. Anderson is standing by.

And Michelle Obama takes England by storm, but was she wrong to touch the queen?

I'll ask Tina Brown, the editor of TheDailyBeast.

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


There are new concerns that Israel's hawkish new government may move from ominous words to action and launch a strike at Iran.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

He's working the story for us -- Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, Israel's new prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu, has been giving those strong signals for months, even before he took office. Now, a top U.S. general is giving fresh warnings about that potentially game-changing military confrontation in the Middle East.


TODD (voice-over): America's top commander in the region tells Congress Israel may become so threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, that it would take preemptive military action to derail or delay it. An Israeli official tells CNN Israel considers the Iranian threat very severe and immediate.

Western sources say if Iran decides to, it could produce enough material for a nuclear bomb within about a year. But there is disagreement over whether Iran would have the expertise so soon to put it on a missile.

Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman tells Wolf Blitzer it's a 50/50 bet that Israel will strike Iranian facilities.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR, "HOT, FLAT AND CROWDED": Striking Iran now, what it might do to the global economy at a time when it's just getting recovered, does Israel want to take that on its head?

Does it want to really abandon the idea of containing Iran?

I don't know. I think this is going to be a really, really hard decision for Israel. So I'd call it a 50-50.

TODD: A decision from a new government perceived to be very hawkish. Some Western observers believe new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's top diplomat, hard-line Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, just signaled the death of a peace plan hatched in Annapolis, Maryland calling for an eventual Palestinian state with this comment.

AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The government of Israel never approved the Annapolis process.

TODD: But an Israeli official tells us the two state solution isn't off the table.

And this from former secretary of State, James Baker.

JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: But the guy that's going to call the shots is not the foreign men -- the new foreign minister of Israel, it's the prime minister of Israel, whose name is Bebe Netanyahu and who is, in my view, a lot more pragmatic than he's given credit for.


TODD: In fact, Secretary Baker says there's a good chance that Netanyahu might be the first Israeli prime minister to reach a peace deal with Syria. But on Iran, Netanyahu has given very dire warnings for several months and will likely press the Obama administration for strong, decisive action on Iran's nuclear program -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The Iranians have already had some strong words on what they might do if the Israelis were to launch such a strike.

TODD: They have. I spoke with an Iranian official today. He said there would be consequences. When I pressed him on what those might be, he referred me to statements that were made fairly recently by his president.

Now, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a few months ago that if anyone commits what he called even a tiny offense against Iran's interests or its territory, the quote was: "Our armed forces will break his hand before he pulls the trigger." Very strong rhetoric coming from both sides. It's being watched very closely.

BLITZER: As it should be.

Brian, thanks very much.

And as you just heard Brian report, Tom Friedman puts the odds of an Israeli strike against Iran at 50/50. I'll be speaking about Middle East tensions and a lot more with the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, Tom Friedman. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.

The old saying went: "What's good for General Motors is good for the country."

But if the Obama administration feels that firing G.M.'s boss was good for America's economy, why haven't they forced out any bosses of the troubled banks?

Let's go to New York.

CNN's Mary Snow is looking at this story for us -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, critics say there's a double standard when it comes to bank executives. But Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has indicated that he's open to ousting bank's CEOs if they mismanage their business.


SNOW (voice-over): Following the Obama administration's request for the resignation of General Motors' CEO, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is leaving the door open to doing the same to bank CEOs getting government bailout money.

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Geithner says he will take whatever action he deems necessary to fix the banks.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You said yesterday that you were open to firing CEOs in the future.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: If you look at -- if you look at what we've done in the financial sector already, what the government has done, so we've had to do exceptional things, in AIG or in Fannie and Freddie. We have changed management, made sure there's a stronger board in place and there were other conditions in place so that these guys, again, can restructure and emerge stronger.

SNOW: The question follows criticism of a double standard between the auto and banking industries.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: The people on my street in Baltimore, they begin to wonder whether there's one standard for blue collar and one standard for white collar. And what they really want is fairness. SNOW: One bank CEO coming under increasing scrutiny, Bank of America's Ken Lewis, who's been at the helm for eight years. His bank, one of the biggest recipients of bailout cash, taking $45 billion.

In an interview with CNBC, Lewis was adamant that his situation was different from the auto industry, starting with the terms of the bailout funds.


KEN LEWIS, CEO, BANK OF AMERICA: In October of last year, we were asked to take the money. We didn't go hat in hand, we were asked to take it.


SNOW: One major labor union is demanding his ouster and so is a shareholder activist group. Some on Wall Street say it's the board of directors that should be targeted, not Lewis.

DAVID LUTZ, STIFEL NICOLAUS: Removing Ken Lewis would make Main Street feel better. But at the end of the day, Ken Lewis isn't necessarily responsible for a lot of the issues that we have in place.


SNOW: Now, another bank under scrutiny is Citigroup, which has also received $45 billion in government help. Its CEO, Vikram Pandit, has only been at the helm since December, 2007. Its previous CEO took the fall for the subprime mortgage mess -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary.

Thanks very much.

Let's go right to London right now.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us.

He spoke, as you just saw, with the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner -- Anderson, and fill us in a little bit on what this Treasury secretary is thinking right now in the aftermath of this G20 Summit -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, he's certainly got to be relieved, to some degree. We -- we talked about the importance of this summit. He said it's agreed that it's, without a doubt, the most important economic summit since World War II -- vital to try to get a united front. And all these world leaders working, essentially, off the same script.

He tried to play down a lot -- and has been over the last several days, as has President Obama, any differences -- and very real differences which do exist between countries like the United States and England and France and Germany, as you know, as you've been following on your program, Wolf. There have been some very real differences. And a lot of finger- pointing, also, toward the U.S. All of that they tried to kind of minimize today, move beyond today and, at the end of the day, come up with a united front.

BLITZER: You pressed them hard, Anderson, on whether he believes the United States is responsible, largely, for this global economic meltdown.

How did he respond?

COOPER: Well, I think we have the tape. You know, I asked him a couple of times about it.

Here's -- here's what he said.


COOPER: So there has been a lot of finger-pointing to the U.S.

Does the U.S. have anything to apologize for, in terms of creating this financial crisis?

GEITHNER: We have a huge interest , as a country, in making sure we put in place a stronger system in the future. And the world depends on the recovery of the United States. The world depends a lot on us being able, working with the Congress, to create a more stronger system. But...

COOPER: So you don't feel there's any need to apologize?

GEITHNER: No. I -- I believe the U.S. bears some responsibility for this, but responsibility goes around. And I think all countries were sort of overwhelmed by the force of capital -- global capital flows. And I think you recognize that, that people recognize that around the room.

Our challenge now, though, is to make sure we're moving with the rest of the world, to pull the world toward higher standards. We want us to get a race to the top rather than a race to the bottom. And we need them to come with us if we're going to be effective in strengthening our system.


COOPER: We also talked about his belief in giving more money to the IMF, which is one of the things that came out of today. And, also, what Mary Snow talked about, the -- the criticism that there's a double standard in how he's been dealing with banks as opposed to how the Obama administration has dealt with the auto industry. And we'll have more of that later tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I know you're going to have much more of the interview with Timothy Geithner on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Anderson, thanks very much.

Anderson, as I said, will be speaking with -- has spoken today with Timothy Geithner. And that's going to be coming up -- much more of the interview on his program, "A.C. 360," later tonight.

You know what's coming up right now?

That would be Jack Cafferty.

He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Refreshing to hear a high government official like Geithner say that the U.S. has some responsibility for the way this thing has turned out. That's a different kind of response than we've seen in the past.

BLITZER: That's right.

CAFFERTY: The U.S. has some serious thinking to do when it comes to that so-called democracy we're supporting in Afghanistan. Almost eight years after we booted out the Taliban, U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai signed a law which critics say legalizes rape.

Human rights groups and some Afghan lawmakers say the law legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband by not allowing her to refuse to have sex and prevents women from leaving the house without a man's permission.

A very progressive country.

One legislator doesn't even remember the parliament debating or voting on the law. But the law, nevertheless, it is.

Karzai hasn't commented on any of this. But his critics say he only signed this thing for political purposes, as a nod to Shia clerics in the country, who control about 20 percent of the vote.

See, Karzai is up for reelection in a few months. And a politician is a politician first.

They worry that laws like these could erase any gains that have been made for women's rights since the Taliban left power.

Meanwhile, secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.S. is backing Afghan plans to hold talks with moderate Taliban members. Clinton says moderate factions of the Taliban should be offered: "an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society if they're willing to abandon violence, break with Al Qaeda and support the constitution."

Presumably, they'd also renounce raping their wives.

The question remains, though, if there's anyone moderate in those parts that's worth talking to when the official government can pass laws like the one I just described. Here's the question: In light of the new Afghan law that might legalize rape, should the U.S. be talking with moderate members of the Taliban at all?

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

If ever there is a stark reminder of the vast cultural differences that exist between this country and some of those countries in the Middle East, this is a pretty good example.

BLITZER: It's stunning when you -- and it's amazing. And it's hard to believe in this day and age.

CAFFERTY: Unbelievable.



BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thank you.

Money and guns flowing from the United States to Mexico -- it should be a growing concern for American law enforcement.

But is it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am more concerned with what's coming into our country, sir, than what's going out.


BLITZER: But what's going out is fuelling a lot of violent drug wars that are spilling from Mexico into the United States -- why things at the border are getting more complicated.

And Mitt Romney sounding very much like he wants to take on President Obama in 2012 -- what the former Republican presidential candidate is saying.

And the first lady's first big test overseas -- Tina Brown of TheDailyBeast is here to grade her performance. We'll have extensive coverage of what Michelle Obama did today in London.


BLITZER: We'll get back to London and take a closer look at the first lady. What she was doing today -- that's coming up.

But right now, it's been called an iron river of guns -- American weapons moving into Mexico help keep the drug war raging. The U.S. government has launched a new effort targeting that southbound supply route. Let's go to CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the theory is that inspecting vehicles heading into Mexico will help slow the flow of weapons and money to the drug cartels and help stop the violence along the border.

But the question is, does the U.S. have the right resources and will it work?


MESERVE (voice-over): On a typical day, more than 331,000 vehicles heading into the U.S. are stopped and checked for illegal immigrants and drugs. Until now, U.S. inspections of cars and trucks heading into Mexico have been infrequent. But the Department of Homeland Security is promising more -- to stem the flow of money and weapons into Mexico.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're deploying 100 more border patrol agents to the port of entries, also to help with southbound inspections.

MESERVE: But officials in Napolitano's own department have doubts that's enough.

SALVATORE NIETO, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: We don't have the personnel or the infrastructure to do full, outbound inspections. The ports of entry are not set up for that right now. And there's officer safety issues, because as vehicles go south, there's seconds to minutes before they are in Mexico.

MESERVE: In recent weeks, inspections of vehicles heading south have resulted in significant seizures of weapons and cash. But some law enforcement officials from border communities say the top priority should be the drugs and illegal immigrants coming north.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope this is not taken the wrong way, but I am more concerned with what's coming into our country, sir, than what's going out.

MESERVE: The Department of Homeland Security insists there will be no reduction in inspections of vehicles coming into the United States.


MESERVE: One Border Patrol union official says the drug cartels will quickly figure out where the outbound checkpoints are and will simply use other routes. He says outbound inspections will only divert the flow of weapons and money, not stop it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jeanne Meserve.

Thank you. The leading Republican prospects for 2012 are speaking out -- at least several of them.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill, this political season, is it really starting already, looking ahead to 2012?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it's spring. That's when a young man's fancy rightly turns to thoughts of the next presidential race.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): It's spring training. The scouts are out there eyeballing hot prospects for the next Republican pennant race.

Mitt Romney is the Republican's power hitter. Republicans have a history of nominating candidates who ran once and lost -- Ron Reagan, Bob Dole, John McCain, like Romney. On Wednesday night, speaking to a Republican fundraising dinner, Romney sounded eager to take on President Obama.

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he incorrectly believes that the 2008 elections settled the great issues that divide America. I don't believe that's the case.

SCHNEIDER: His interest in the next race?

ROMNEY: That is a horizon too far away to possibly speculate on.

SCHNEIDER: That's the political equivalent of aw, shucks.

Sarah Palin got a late season call-up last year. She recently urged a dinner of Alaska Republicans to keep the conservative faith.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the middle of the fence is really the most uncomfortable place to be.

SCHNEIDER: Palin declined an invitation to address a national Republican dinner in June. She'll be replaced by the party's leading pinch hitter, Newt Gingrich.

Is this old-timer looking to make a comeback?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I am not undertaking any steps at the present time to do anything about a presidential campaign.

SCHNEIDER: Try taking that to the bank.

Mike Huckabee is Republican's position player. He ran last time and got most of his support from Southern Republicans and religious voters.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My conservatism is rooted in my understanding of the scriptures. SCHNEIDER: The leading rookie prospect?


SCHNEIDER: Bobby Jindal, who created a stir when he spoke to a Republican dinner last month.

JINDAL: Do you want the president to fail?

It depends on what he is trying to do.


SCHNEIDER: Is it too early to start the next pennant race?

Well, you might say the 2009 Democratic race started four years before, when an unknown player was selected to make a speech at a party event -- a rookie by the name of Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much for that.

Bill Schneider.

Behind the stiff upper lip and behind-the-scenes over at Buckingham Palace.


TINA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: The queen was really very excited about meeting the Obamas. And nothing really very much excites the queen at this point, after 57 years on the throne.


BLITZER: Tina Brown of TheDailyBeast -- she's here with new details of the Obama meeting with Queen Elizabeth, including what some say was a little breach of protocol.

Was it?

And they lead the world's 12 wealthiest nations. You'd think they could organize a simple photo opportunity -- why that's easier said than done.


BLITZER: Mary Snow is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Mary, what's going on?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two of America's most outspoken adversaries are together in Tehran. Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, is on a two day visit to Iran and meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Chavez says the U.S. is still acting like an empire and that he's not optimistic relations will improve under the Obama administration, but added, he will wait and see.

And starting Saturday, Michigan residents with a doctors note can now apply for a medical marijuana license. It allows them to grow and possess the drug in their homes and purchase it, although selling pot remains illegal. Michigan is the 13th state to allow medical marijuana use. Voters approved the move in December -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you.

Here's a question -- who was missing from the G20 leaders' photo- op?

Organizers have still not managed to get all the leaders together. And the British press is buzzing about why some of them didn't show up.

Let's bring in Abbi Tatton.

She's taking a look -- all right, Abbi, first of all, we've got the picture behind you.

Who's missing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, take a look. This is the first attempt at the G20 class photo this morning. You've got President Obama here. He's next to the Russian president. Behind him, the prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, is there. Move down the front, you've got the U.K. Brazil is there, Indonesia.

But the leaders at the end starting asking where's Canada?

The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, was missing -- a visible gap next to Germany's Angela Merkel there at the end.

Well, the British press had a field day. The BBC Web site declaring: "He's in the loo." That would be the bathroom, for those of you not from the United Kingdom.

But the G20 then organized a do-over. And this is round two. Let's take a look at it.

This time, there he is at the end, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it. But take a look. There's another couple of gaps this time. This time, the Italian prime minister and the president of Indonesia were also missing.

So at this point, the G20 photo-op is 0 for 2. Some people online are suggesting Photoshop. But the Canadian prime minister said that actually he told a Canadian TV reporter that he wasn't in the bathroom, he was discussing important details with aides.

At least people were having a laugh while they were doing the photo-op. You can see there, Wolf, if you look at it, the president with the leaders of Italy and Russia there giving the thumbs up.

BLITZER: Yes. They're having a good time, those guys. And let... TATTON: Hamming it up.

BLITZER: Let them enjoy it.

Thank you.

The loo.

TATTON: The loo.

BLITZER: That's like the john.

TATTON: I was told by the producers that I had to explain that one.


Thanks, Abbi.

Ads like this one helped torpedo President Clinton's health care plan back in the '90s.

And will a new set of ads do the same to President Obama's agenda?

And why was this man sticking so closely to Brad Pitt when the movie star recently made the rounds on Capitol Hill?


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

Happening now, another strong rally on Wall Street today, fueled by a change in accounting rules that many say made the financial crisis worse. The Dow and the S&P gaining almost 3 percent. The Nasdaq was up more than 3 percent.

An out of work father brings his young daughter along on an armed robbery, telling the victim he's doing it to help his child survive.

Is it a sign of the desperate times?

And is President Obama on a road to serious trouble in Afghanistan?

Does he have a reliable partner in neighboring Pakistan?

The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, Tom Friedman, of "The New York Times," -- he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He says he doesn't see a happy ending. I'll ask him why.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Health care reform one of President Obama's most cherished and ambitious goals. But it's also the target of a tough ad campaign just out by a high profile conservative group. And that now has liberal groups up in arms.

Let's go to CNN's Kate Bolduan.

She's taking a closer look at this story for us -- all right, Kate, what's going on?


That high profile conservative says he's not against reform. He's even started a private chain of low cost urgent care centers. But he says he will fight what he sees as government-run care.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Remember those Harry and Louise ads during the Clinton era healthcare debate? Prepare yourself for round two, a new campaign featuring Rick Scott.

RICHARD SCOTT, CONSERVATIVES FOR PATIENTS' RIGHTS: Americans know what works. Choice. That means choosing your own doctor.

BOLDUAN: Scott, a former health care executive turned healthcare activist, says he's ready to spend up to $5 million from his own pocket in the effort.

SCOTT: It's a debate over whether we want to end up with socialized health care or we believe we want to continue to have our individual freedom to pick our physicians, our insurance plans, all those things.

BOLDUAN: Scott founded Conservatives for Patient's Rights. He kicked off the campaign last month to fight President Obama's health plan with ads his PR firm says are running on CNN and Fox News. Liberal groups are coming out swinging, fighting Scott's policies by highlighting his past. In the 90s, he was forced out as CEO of the giant healthcare company, Columbia HCA, amid a massive fraud scandal. Scott was not implicated but the company owed the government $1.7 billion.

ETHAN ROME, HEALTH CARE FO AMERICA NOW: Rick Scott's about one thing and one thing only, lining his own pockets and protecting the profits of the people who make money on our broken health care system. We're trying to win quality, affordable healthcare for all.


BOLDUAN: To that, Scott responds some are just trying to discredit him rather than actually talk about the issues. Critics do note that the PR firm Scott is using has a controversial past as well. It's called CRC, known for those swift boat veterans for truths ads attacking John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Kate, thanks very much. Let's bring in our Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor Paul Begala and Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Those ads, they're only just beginning as this debate over health care reform gets underway. They did a pretty good job back in '94 and '93.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes but like momma used to say, consider the source. The source of these ads you just saw in the story we just ran is a guy, Rick Scott, who the chairman of the health subcommittee, the ways and means committee, a very powerful person, Pete Stark in the Congress, calls him a swindler because he presided over the company that had to pay $1.7 billion in fines for ripping off Medicare. I mean that's the largest fraud case.

BLITZER: That's a serious amount of money but there's going to be a lot of other groups speaking out saying what President Obama wants to socialize medicine, government-run medicine and it will scare a lot of people.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: People are becoming increasingly aware at the extent to which there aren't changed politics here. The Democrats go after anybody who disagrees with them by demonizing them and that's what they're doing with this guy who happens to disagree with taxpayer funded, centralized government-run, you can call it socialized, you can call it whatever you want to call it. People don't like the single payer centralized health care. In fact, they like it less today than they did when it was done the first time. People have gotten more informed about what other processes could reform health care, make it both affordable and maintain the quality.

BEGALA: We just had an election on that. President Obama ran on his campaign platform to extend health care coverage and he won. Mr. Scott though made his fortune off of government-run health care. His company ripped off Medicare. If he's so off against Medicare, he ought to give the money back, the millions of dollars that he made off of the Medicare program.

MATALIN: Well this is not quite a non-sequester but Obama didn't exactly run on that. In fact, he ran to the right.

BLITZER: He did say - he did say he would want major health care reform.

MATALIN: Extending it but he did sound sort of centrist and that he would entertain market reforms, none of that. all that has disappeared and he has done and he snuck through what he says to do what he's not going to get going forward and forget about all these ads and what is it looks like the Senate Democrats have stepped in front of the cap and trade which makes it more likely they might step in front of this radically escalating single payer socialized centralized healthcare Paul that you've been fighting for, for two decades.

BLITZER: Here's an interesting little item from "The Wall Street Journal" today on their op-ed page. Karl Rove, remember him?


BLITZER: He now writes for "The Wall Street Journal." He says, "The white house is faced with finding ways to nudge Congress without antagonizing it. But this overt campaign could infuriate members who won't appreciate being targeted by a president of their own party. They could react by becoming recalcitrant."

BEGALA: Pretty amusing coming from Karl Rove, who drove Jim Jeffs, moderate Republican, out of the Republican Party, according to Senator Jeffs own memoir. After he left the Republican Party, he cited Rove as a reason he left. I've always gotten along with Karl but I think you're seeing here is psychological phenomenon of projection where people project onto other people their own flaws. Barack Obama is as big hearted and big spirited a person as we've seen in the Oval Office in a long time. He reached out to his former primary rival Joe Biden, gave him the vice presidency, reached out to his most bitter rival, Hillary Clinton, gave her secretary of state, kept George Bush's defense secretary, gave Ray Lahood, a Republican Congressman the treasury secretary -- transportation, excuse me and offered commerce to Judd Grey, a Republican. If he is so all fired vindictive in going after his own party --

BLITZER: And he let Robert Gates stay on at the defense department.

MATALIN: This is not a question of vindictiveness and it's not Karl making this charge. It's the AP reported that Plouffe, sorry to not know his name, Obama's campaign manager, is literally using the offices of the DNC and the supporters of Barack Obama to target multi- dozens of districts of Democrats --

BLITZER: Is there anything wrong with that?

MATALIN: Well, I don't think Democrats anticipated when Barack Obama said he was going to change the way we do politics here in Washington that they would be the recipients of Chicago-style politics.

BEGALA: Great government -- come on.

MATALIN: I'm making -- trying to remember with all of us here, the only time in the 30 years I've been doing this that someone used the party apparatus to run against their own president, our friend Ed Rollins told the Congress in '90 or '92 to run against Bush. It's never good to divide and conquer like this. It's never good to use your own party's resources to target your own people.

BEGALA: I speak as a guy who was for Hillary Clinton in the primaries and not for Barack Obama. He has done a remarkable job of uniting my party and all of its factions and Karl, he's an amusing guy except for the fact that he helped ruin the country. I like him. He's making this up.

BLITZER: We're going to leave it there. Mary Matalin is from Chicago, so she knows something about Chicago.

MATALIN: That's how he's changing politics, running against you guys who are moderates and centrists.

BLITZER: We'll leave it there but we'll continue this conversation. Thank you.

A man holds up a convenience store with his young daughter at his side and tells his victim he's doing it for the child. There are new developments in this really detouring case.

And did Obama do the right thing when they met with the queen? Are concerns about breaching protocol and an inappropriate gift real? We'll talk a lot about that with Tina Brown. She's standing by.


BLITZER: The reviews are coming in. The First Lady, Michelle Obama's debut on the world stage at the G-20 Summit. She shared, some would suggest perhaps that she stole some of the spotlight from her husband.

Joining us now, Tina Brown, she's the co-founder and editor of "The Daily Beast," which is a fabulous new website.

Congratulations, Tina, on what you've done. It's only been a few months but it's really taken off.

BROWN: Thank you so much Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the First Lady in Europe now, this first trip aboard for the First Lady of the United States. Is this really a test for Michelle Obama?

BROWN: It's always a test when you go to the U.K. because that's a very tough audience. There's a thousand and one newspapers. They have opinions about everything under the sun. Michelle is passing with flying colors. People are just in love with her. The people I speak to on the phone, my friends in London say, this woman is so dynamic, and so real and authentic and so glamorous, in a very sort of real and 21st Century way.

BLITZER: Do they say that about all American first ladies that come over to London or is this something special?

BROWN: It's really something special. There's great desire right now for something optimistic, something good to happen in the world. In the U.K., quite honestly there aren't that many powerful black figures in public life, not enough, not nearly enough and they know there's not nearly enough. To meet these sophisticated, brainy, glamorous Americans in the seat of power, it's a huge novelty. They're saying this is like something we've never seen. I was told by one of the Queen's intimates, she was very excited about meeting the Obamas and nothing really very much excites the Queen at this point after 57 years on the throne.

BLITZER: When you saw the images, the video, the stills of the First Lady and the president meeting with Queen Elizabeth, did they do everything they were supposed to do? I know there's some dispute over whether or not the protocol is appropriate. What is the protocol?

BROWN: The protocol is actually that you don't touch the queen, usually. But you know the thing about the Obamas is they are allowed to break the rules. The fact is they're new and they are modern. The queen likes new, modern people and she also likes people who are real. She doesn't like being disrespected but there was not disrespectful about the way the Obamas behaved. I love the fact they just towered over her. The queen is very small anyway but she's getting tinier and tinier. She's turning into Queen Victoria. They towered over her. You can see the way Michelle just strode forth. Her body language was so confident and the queen likes confident working women who don't whine and don't sort of make a fuss. The queen likes women who can cope. Michelle's a coper.

BLITZER: And this notion that the gift they gave the queen, this iPod with show tunes and pictures of all the queen's various visits to Washington, appropriate or not so appropriate?

BROWN: I think it was inspired quite frankly. Because you know one of the things the queen dreads is something that will go into the case and the basement. She actually would have at least appreciated this 21st century technology. She's got an iPod of her own and I thought it was rather -- the original manuscript book, then the iPod that went with it. I thought that was quite imaginative and a good present.

BLITZER: What can the First Lady, Michelle Obama do on this trip abroad that the president of the United States can't do in terms of improving America's image around the world?

BROWN: I think Michelle is proving she's a real force to multiply when she's arrived. Because she is so warm and embracing wide demographic. She's also some kind of -- such a motherly woman, actually. When she hugs a child at the cancer center, I thought that had some reminiscent of Lady Di actually that she was willing to be so immediately spontaneous in the sense that she loves her children, that she's a real mother, a real wife and a smart woman to and all of it's coming across. It's a very good image right now for America which has pretty much taken a bashing. First with the Iraq war and now with the economy, we need an awful lot of personal PR to get over that. The Obamas are really doing it. One friend said, the Americans are so dynamic, they've arrived and maybe they can left the economy just by being there.

BLITZER: What about the comparisons with Jackie O., Jacqueline Kennedy when she was the First Lady?

BROWN: There's a little bit of that in the sense that Michelle is certainly as much of a style icon. There's a great distance, too. Jackie was a very well bred, French finishing school, she was young and hot, but still the breathless debutante. Michelle comes across as a power player, a powerful woman who can hold her own. Although she's a supportive wife, could do the job, too.

BLITZER: So you like the J. Crew sweater as opposed to a fancy designer? BROWN: I love the J. Crew. The people in Britain don't love showy stuff. Women in the parliament, not a particularly snazzy group. The Brits don't like flashy labels and talking about money. She's playing it absolutely right. And to have turned up in a lot of high-priced outfits would have been a very bad message. The J. Crew thing says you can look great at a price you can afford. That gets a lot of fluff points there.

BLITZER: Tina Brown, she's written a lot about this visit. Thanks for coming in.

BROWN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Do you think the First Lady is outshining her husband? Submit your video comments to and watch tomorrow to see if your video makes it on the air.

And the U.S. warning to North Korea not to launch the missile.

And when Brad Pitt came to Capitol Hill, why was this man staying so close to him?


BLITZER: Huge amounts of money on the summer releases. Now one of the most anticipated films of the season has been leaked online. Our entertainment correspondent, Brooke Anderson, has the details.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trust me, I've been through worse.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It doesn't get much worse than this for a film studio, preparing to usher out its movie of the summer. The month before X-Men Origins Wolverine is scheduled to hit theaters May 1st, a version of the film was posted on the internet and downloaded at least 100,000 times. 20th Century Fox told CNN, "A stolen, incomplete and early version was posted illegally on a website. It was without many effects, had missing and unedited scenes and temporary sound and music."

This isn't the first time a movie has leaked online. Another major film, Universal's the Hulk, appeared on the web two weeks before the film's opening day in 2003.

The X-Men franchise has been a juggernaut at the box office, the first three films raking in more than $1.1 billion worldwide. It's unclear whether the leak will impact potential box office revenue for Origins, but it does raise other concerns.

STEVEN ZEITCHIK, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: This has been something the studio has been pushing for a long time. The market campaign is starting to kick into high gear. And I think what this has the potential to more than anything else is throw a monkey wrench into those plans. ANDERSON: Bloggers who claim to have seen the film are breathless with reviews. Including this, "I wasn't so sure how this would turn out and it's good. Can't wait to see it on the big screen." A sign that maybe this film regardless of illegal cyber exposure is invincible. Just like Wolverine.


BLITZER: The FBI and Motion Picture Association of America confirm they are investigating the source of the leak.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

Jack, you can't wait to see it on the big screen, I'm sure.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Or on the internet, which I guess you can do.

The question: in light of the new Afghan law that might legalize rape, should the U.S. be talking to moderate members of the Taliban?

Lama in Boston writes: "If Hamid Karzai is willing to sacrifice the rights of young women and young girls in order to get reelected, we better expanding our talks with other leaders. We can't send a message that we support this action or him."

Mike says: "Just how low should the civilized world go to tolerate such evil and allow such atrocity? Do human rights mean nothing? The best I can think of is pulling every woman and child out of Afghanistan and relocating them away from there with a new identity. Some areas of the world controlled by such monsters should be declared unfit for human habitation."

Dave writes: "It's not our place to tell other folks how to live. Yes, it's wrong in our eyes, but it wasn't that many years ago that here in the United States a man could have been arrested and prosecuted for the same crime."

Stephanie says: "In light of the Afghan law legalizing rape, we should pack up and walk out. There's no longer anything there worth saving. Let the Taliban come back, throw up a physical and diplomatic wall around the country, cut off all travel to and from, and let them starve."

Joe in Delaware: "If we can get some Taliban to work with us to some extent, it could be worthwhile. We should never lose sight of the fact that they have a Stone Age mentality and no liking for human rights."

And Ariana writes: "As an Afghan American, who loves both of my countries dearly, I believe this is beyond depressing. Of course, the United States should not be backing talks with moderate Taliban. If they defend the rape of any woman, they're certainly not moderate."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog,, look for yours there among hundreds of others. We posted that question, it was posted on about an hour and a half ago. 106,000 people have looked at it in a little over 90 minutes. A lot of interest in this story.

BLITZER: There's so much outrage.


BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Jobless and desperate. A father robs a store at gun point with his daughter at his side. Where is the girl now? We're following new developments just coming in.

Signs of a thaw in relations between the U.S. and Iran. Can they be believed? The Pulitzer Prize and author Tom Friedman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He'll explain.


BLITZER: Staying close to Brad Pitt and helped the movie star deliver his message. They're promoting their causes, especially right here in Washington. Our entertainment correspondent, Kareen Wynter has the story -- Kareen?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. No self-respecting star would do without a publicist, an agent, manager, even a stylist. Now, you can add one more member to that team. A political consultant.


WYNTER (voice-over): Barbara Streisand got one. Steven Spielberg, too. Rob Reiner, check. Richard Dreyfuss, check.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was honored to help him accomplish his goals.

WYNTER: For a growing number of celebrities, a political consultant is a must-have member of the entourage. When Brad Pitt visited Washington recently to promote rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, political consultant Trevor Nielsen was at his side.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: I just want to say, thank you for the speaker.

WYNTER: Nielsen brokered high-level meetings and helped craft the message.

TED JOHNSON, MANAGING EDITOR, DAILY VARIETY: The biggest knock on celebrities engaged in politics in Washington, D.C. is that they really don't know what they're talking about. And these political consultants can help them overcome that image.

WYNTER: Nielsen, a former Clinton white house staffer, has advised Angelina Jolie, and Bono, on their humanitarian causes.

BONO, SINGER: We worked together on debt cancellation.

WYNTER: Richard Dreyfuss active in Democratic circles gets advice from Donna Bojarsky, the head of the round table in Hollywood.

DONNA BOJARSKY, PUBLIC POLICY CONSULTANT: If you really care about your politics and you're a busy actor or producer or director, you might not have the time to do the kind of research or outreach that you might want to do. So you hire a professional.

WYNTER: Bojarsky gets stars up to speed on issues. And can help them work the levers of power.

BOJARSKY: I have connections. So we can sometimes, you know, more easily make those kinds of contacts. And know kind of how the system works.

WYNTER: Still, some celebrities don't find the need for a consultant. George Clooney had no trouble gaining access to the white house. Following his recent visit to Darfur. His publicist told CNN pointedly, George does not use political advisers.


WYNTER: It was the issue of Darfur that prompted Steven Spielberg to back out of his role last year as an adviser to China on the Olympic Games. Helping him make that decision? His political consultant Andy Spawn -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Kareen, thank you.

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