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War Over Torture; Earth Day Energy Pitch

Aired April 22, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: At war over torture -- lawmakers pouring fuel on the debate over the whether the Obama administration should prosecute Bush-era officials.

And we will take you along for the wild ride when a plane makes an emergency landing on a highway.

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

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

The breaking news this hour: a mortal threat to the United States and to the world, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning, Pakistan could fall into the hands of terrorists. Taliban fighters are now in control of territory dangerously close to the capital, Islamabad.

CNN's Ivan Watson is here.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Taliban already control parts of Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, as well as the picturesque Swat Valley, once a popular destination for foreign tourists. Now another domino has fallen. The militants have advanced into Buner district, one step closer to the Pakistani heartland.

(voice-over): Taliban militants patrol the streets just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital. Hundreds of Taliban fighters moved in to Buner district from the neighboring Swat Valley, which they already control. Their commander says they're here to enforce Islamic Sharia law. Residents say the militants also warned barbers to stop shaving men's beards and stores to stop selling music and movies.

Last week, the Pakistani government signed a peace deal with this pro-Taliban cleric, Sufi Mohammed, allowing Sharia law to be imposed in Swat. On Sunday, he appeared before a crowd of thousands and denounced democracy, the Pakistani government, and the Pakistani legal system, calling them un-Islamic.

He said he wanted to spread Islamic justice across the rest of Pakistan. The same demand recently made here in Islamabad by hard- line cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz. Fresh out of prison, he told thousands of worshipers praying in the streets of the Pakistani capital that the time had come for Islamic law.

The Taliban's already been carrying out its own form of vigilante justice in territories under its control. In a phone interview, the Taliban spokesman in Swat, Muslim Khan, told me that anyone who disagreed with their rule was a non-Muslim, and he said Osama bin Laden would be welcome in Taliban-controlled territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sure, he's a Muslim. He can go anywhere. He can go anywhere in Pakistan.

WATSON (on camera): Wolf, the Pakistani government has made concessions to try to appease the Taliban. That strategy appears to have failed. The Taliban are emboldened and the militants are creeping closer to the capital of this nuclear-armed country -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Let's get to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's worst fears about the Taliban's power grab, how it's threatening an important, critical U.S. ally with nuclear weapons, and, indeed, the entire world.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is here.

And I must say, she testified today on the Hill, the secretary. She minced no words at all.


You know, in the strongest statement yet from this administration, Hillary Clinton said the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and extremists.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): A stark warning from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The prospect of a Taliban takeover in Pakistan, she says, poses a mortal threat...

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: ... to the security and safety of our country and the world.

DOUGHERTY: Secretary Clinton slammed the Pakistan government, saying it's abdicating to hard-line Islamic groups by allowing them to rule tribal areas just 60 miles from the capital.

CLINTON: I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances now within hours of Islamabad that are being made to a loosely-confederated groups of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistan state, which is, as we all know, a nuclear-armed state.

DOUGHERTY: The U.S. has poured more than $11 billion in aid into Pakistan, but now the Obama administration is threatening to condition more money on how Pakistan fights terrorism.

And, in an unusual move, Clinton called on Pakistani citizens and Pakistani-Americans to speak out forcefully against ceding territory to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

CLINTON: I don't hear that kind of outrage or concern coming from enough people that would reverberate back within the highest echelons of the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan.


DOUGHERTY: The Pakistani leadership thinks this policy can buy them peace, or at least some stability in those tribal areas. But Secretary Clinton wants to convince them that's a deal with the devil -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we will see what's going on.

Thanks very much, Jill Dougherty.

And, by the way, coming up, my exclusive interview with the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. He gives his country's first responses to the Taliban's advances and whether his country is actually losing its grip -- that interview this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, a majority of Americans see big government as a greater threat than big business.

A new Gallup poll shows 55 percent of those surveyed are concerned about big government. But that number's actually down from 61 percent in 2006. Meantime, 32 percent of Americans say they're worried about big business. And that number is up from 25 percent three years ago. Only 10 percent view big labor as the greatest threat, and that number hasn't changed much in the last three years.

The poll shows partisan differences -- no big surprise here. More Republicans think big government is the most significant threat to the country than did three years ago. And the same goes for Democrats, who see big business as a bigger threat than it used to be. Independents' views didn't change much over this time. More of them say they are concerned about big government.

But Gallup suggests these numbers show the change in administrations, from Republican to Democrat, along with the government's massive efforts to stabilize failing companies and try to right the economy, have not caused the fear of big government in this country to grow beyond what it was a year or so ago.

Meanwhile, failing banks, CEOs that jet around on corporate airplanes begging Congress for handouts, companies that pay taxpayer money to things like big bonuses and lavish parties, without giving it a second thought, well, those things have probably not helped the image of big business.

Here's the question: Which is the greater threat, big government, big business? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

BLITZER: Will the Obama administration prosecute Bush administration officials who approved what some call torture? The White House rushing to clarify its position, as the risks -- as this risks an explosive fight in Congress.

And he was said to be a happy husband, a dedicated worker and devoted to his community. But police say this top executive with mortgage giant Freddie Mac killed himself. They want to know why.

Who is afraid of Dick Cheney? Apparently not the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Wait until you hear how she slams the former vice president.


BLITZER: The controversy intensifies over those enhanced interrogation techniques during the Bush administration that some call torture.

In a memo to colleagues dated April 16, President Obama's intelligence director said the harsh interrogations yielded important information about al Qaeda. Republican officials gave the memo to CNN. But Dennis Blair now says valuable information was out-shadowed by negative aspects of the tactics.

Meanwhile, the White House hopes to clarify its own statements on possible prosecutions in this matter.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, has been working the story for us and she's got more.

What are you hearing, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this certainly isn't the kind of political headache that the Obama administration really wanted to deal with at this time. Earlier today, he was in Iowa, and he was going to highlight his environmental policy on this Earth Day, but still the news is focused on the policy of the Obama administration when it comes to torture.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Will the Obama administration hold the Bush administration accountable for torture? That is the question that has outraged some and put others in the hot seat.

Today, it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's turn. Not surprisingly, she defended President Obama's position not to prosecute those who carried out the torture, but to allow the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute the lawyers who approved it.

CLINTON: No one will be prosecuted who acted within the four corners of the legal advice that was given following that advice to perform any function that that person believed was legal. However, those who formulated the legal opinions and gave those orders should be reviewed.

MALVEAUX: The controversy stems from the fact that Mr. Obama and his top officials, as recently as 48 hours ago, implied everyone involved would be cleared from legal prosecution.

In a statement released from Mexico City Thursday, Mr. Obama said, "This is a time for reflection, not retribution."

But now the White House is on the defensive. On Air Force One traveling with Mr. Obama, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said reports that the president was opening door or changing his policy were just flat wrong.

He said, besides, it's not the president's call." If somebody knowingly broke the law, that's a determination that will ultimately be made by a legal official, not by the president."

That legal official, Attorney General Eric Holder, was asked about what he intends to do. He would only say: "We're going to following the evidence, follow the law, and take that where it leads. No one is above the law."


MALVEAUX: And the bottom line here is that the Obama administration says that it does not want to look backwards.

But, Wolf, if it does look backwards, let's say, and takes a look at the top officials in the Bush administration, it could go very much up the chain of command very quickly, looking at Secretary Rumsfeld or Vice President Cheney, or even President Bush himself.

That is obviously the concern of some Republicans. And it's also the reason why so many reporters are now pressing the administration, what are they going to do next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good point. Thanks, Suzanne.

This appears to be an explosive issue that's clearly dividing a lot of lawmakers as well.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is up on Capitol Hill.

Dana, there was a lot of applause, loud applause from some Democrats when they heard that the president may, in fact, authorize some prosecutions of Bush administration officials, but some Republicans obviously pretty upset.


You know, the idea of prosecuting or even investigating Bush officials for these controversial tactics really had been limited to the left of the Democratic Party, Wolf, but not anymore, because of the release of these new memos Suzanne was talking about and also because of some congressional inquiries.


BASH (voice-over): Interrogation tactics at Abu Ghraib prison that stunned the world and controversial methods at Guantanamo Bay all detailed in a fresh report from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: These are 230 pages of facts as to how abusive techniques were used. What I consider to be abominable legal opinions were written to justify those techniques.

BASH: Chairman Carl Levin says those were authorized by high- level Bush officials and wants the Justice Department to investigate.

LEVIN: They're the ones who are, by Constitution, by law, the ones decide what remedies, if any, should be taken or sought against whom.

BASH: On the heels of the release of Bush era memos detailing harsh tactics, a growing number of Democrats are calling for criminal inquiries, but John McCain, a vocal opponent of torture methods, told reporters in the halls of the Capitol, it's time to look forward.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If we prosecute individuals for providing their best recommendation to president of the United States, it will have a chilling effect from now on.

REP: That's evidence of an exploding partisan fight. Republicans do not want to go after Bush officials for their handling of detainees.

Even Arlen Specter, who often sides with Democrats, told CNN in a phone interview: "The idea of rushing to prosecute the prior administration sounds like Latin America. That's what they do in banana republics."

But Democrats like Jerry Nadler disagree.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: It is the duty of the United States under the law to at least have an investigation.

BASH: That's why he and a lead Democrat in the Senate promise public hearings.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm not out just to hand a lot of scalps on the wall. I want to know exactly what happened, so that it won't happen again.


BASH: Now, what Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy really wants to do is create an independent commission to investigate what happened, but because of that GOP resistance, I talked to Democratic sources today, they say it is increasingly unlikely that that independent commission will be formed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

Dana's up on the Hill, watching this explosive story.

General Motors workers may be looking at a longer-than-usual vacation this summer. Reports that GM may actually be closing most of its factories for most of the summer, we're going to have the latest.

President Obama on an Earth Day mission today, why he's making a pitch for wind power, and how your state may benefit.

Plus, new fears that violent extremists could take over nuclear- armed Pakistan. As Taliban fighters move closer and closer to the capital, we get the first response from Pakistan's ambassador.


HUSAIN HAQQANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Our military is quite capable of dealing with the insurgency.



BLITZER: All right, General Motors reportedly getting ready to shut down most of its plants, if not all of them, here in the United States this summer, some nine weeks of vacation presumably for these workers.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's taking a closer look.

What do you know, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know the information from the Associated Press.

It's reporting that General Motors as you said will close most of its factories for up to nine weeks this summer, but did not have specific dates. Now, this report cites two people who were briefed on the plans who didn't want to be identified because workers haven't been told.

Poor sales and growing inventories, of course, are to blame. And GM is declining comment on this report, a spokesperson saying, we have nothing to announce at this point. When we do, we will share the information first with our employees.

Now, this news comes, of course, amid concerns about GM facing bankruptcy, and a company spokesman today said that GM will not be making a June 1 debt payment of $1 billion -- Wolf.

So, these factories are shut for nine weeks, Mary. Do the workers get paid?

SNOW: Well, you know, we can only go from what's happened in the past. And, in the past, this is how it would work. GM factories do have weeks traditionally where they shut down. Normally, it's been to change from one year's model to the next. And, when that happens, hourly workers don't get paid by the company. But they can get unemployment benefits. It makes up roughly 75 percent to 80 percent of their wages.

BLITZER: All right, we will see how they do it this time. Thanks very much, Mary Snow, for that.

New rules for renewable energy projects, the Interior Department today issuing regulations governing the offshore use of waves, ocean currents, and wind. Coastal states will receive part of the royalties generated from electricity production. The initiative was announced by President Obama during an Earth Day appearance in Iowa. He visited a plant that manufactures towers for wind turbines.

The president says wind power can generate 20 percent of the country's electricity within 20 years. And he said it can support 250,000 jobs. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have got to get everybody involved in this process. I don't accept the conventional wisdom that suggests that the American people are unable or unwilling to participate in a national effort to transform the way we use energy.

I don't believe that the only thing folks are capable of doing is just paying their taxes. I disagree. I think the American people are ready to be part of a mission.


BLITZER: Pakistan is downplaying the threat posed by Taliban fighters moving closer and closer to its capital.


HAQQANI: This is not something that is going to be done by the pressing of a button anywhere in the world.


BLITZER: All right, stand by for my exclusive interview with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

Plus, military -- Hillary Clinton, that is, mocks Dick Cheney in a House hearing. Is the president failing to improve the tone in Washington during his first 100 days?

And a new move by the Obama administration to leave the 30-year- old Iran hostage crisis in the past.


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

Happening now: shock and sadness at the apparent suicide of a top Freddie Mac executive. David Kellermann was acting chief financial officer of the troubled mortgage giant.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now says she knew her fellow California congresswoman, Jane Harman, had been caught in a federal wiretap by federal investigators, something Pelosi initially denied.

And the Obama administration wants a $6 billion class-action lawsuit against Iran thrown out of federal court. It stems from the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran almost 30 years ago -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

But more on the breaking news coming in from Pakistan right now, Taliban fighters gaining ground dangerously close to the capital, Islamabad, the insurgents flexing their muscles more than seven years after U.S.-led forces ousted them from power in neighboring Afghanistan. ]


BLITZER: Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

Mr. Ambassador welcome back.

HAQQANI: A pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: I wish it was under different circumstances. I don't remember a time hearing the secretary of state of the United States offer this dire assessment.

What's going on in your country right now?

HAQQANI: Well, I don't think that the dire assessment should be seen as an assessment. I think it's the sentiment more than an assessment. There are factual errors in the way this story has been revealed just now.

For example, yes, Swat is 60 miles from the capital, but it's not 60 miles on the highway. It's 60 miles as the crow flies. So there are mountains that have to be taken over. It's not like Islamabad...


BLITZER: But it sounds like the Taliban is gaining and gaining strength right now.

HAQQANI: I don't think that is a correct assessment, Wolf. The fact of the matter is that Swat is an isolated valley surrounded by mountains. Yes, the Taliban have made an advance there in the sense that the Pakistani government cut a deal with a movement that supports the Taliban, but is not the Taliban itself. The idea was that the Taliban would lay down their arms as a result. It's sometimes important to have dialogue to prove the point that the government is moving...


BLITZER: There's no sign they have laid down their arms.

HAQQANI: And if they haven't then the government has the means. Pakistan also has one of the largest armies in the world. The army can and will move, as it has done in many other parts of the country.

BLITZER: Because we checked. You have a standing army of at least a half a million troops, and a reserve of another half a million. You have a million-man army right now that could easily go into Swat and end this.

HAQQANI: And the important thing is, what would be the collateral damage? After all, it's much easier talking about what's happening in the Swat Valley sitting in Washington, D.C., than it is sitting in Pakistan. These are Pakistani citizens we are talking about. We have to move -- in all insurgencies, you have to move very methodically.

BLITZER: She says this is an existential threat to the government of Pakistan right now. If they come into Islamabad, who knows what could happen?

HAQQANI: Wolf, first of all, what she's saying is essentially that the threat of terrorism is in existential threat to Pakistan, and that is something that the government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan generally agree with. The only question is, is just the recent development in Swat an existential threat to the government of Pakistan? And my answer to that is that is not.

BLITZER: Here is the criticism that we keep hearing, here in Washington. And you're right, it's easy to criticize...

HAQQANI: And we've been hearing it for seven years, by the way.

BLITZER: ... sitting in Washington, as opposed to Islamabad. You have other issues. But the criticism is the U.S. government has provided your government, Pakistan, with about $11 billion over these years since 9/11. Most of that money, almost all of that money, has been used to ease your concerns about India, it hasn't been used to go after the Taliban and al Qaeda.

HAQQANI: Wolf, any nation determines its own threat perceptions. Are there people in Pakistan who still do not consider the Taliban a threat? Definitely.

But an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis recognizes the Taliban as a threat. The government recognizes them as a threat. The Pakistani military and Pakistan intelligence services recognize them as a threat.

BLITZER: So, why make deals with them, even indirectly?

HAQQANI: I think, if you go back, for example, in Iraq, how was peace restored to Fallujah?

There were arrangements -- local arrangements with various tribes and various groups -- with various groups that were loosely affiliated with al Qaeda.

The Pakistani government is pursuing this strategy. And I am -- we are open to criticism of that strategy. But to think that that strategy somehow represents an abdication of our responsibility towards our people and towards the security of our country and the region is incorrect.

BLITZER: You heard Jill Dougherty outline what the secretary of state and U.S. officials fear is that worst-case scenario -- the Taliban taking over Pakistan, as they did years ago, of Afghanistan. The big difference, though, is that there's a nuclear arsenal, potentially, they could get their hands on.

HAQQANI: Two important things. Afghanistan, at that time, was in the middle of a civil war. It did not have a central government. If you remember, various warlords controlled various parts of Afghanistan and the Taliban took advantage thereof.

In the case of Pakistan, Pakistan has a legitimate elected government. Pakistan has a military and a police force.

Yes, we have capacity issues. Our military needs equipment and training to be able to do -- pursue counterinsurgency operations. But the United States and Pakistan are partners. And in that partnership, I think, together, we can deal with the Taliban.

BLITZER: Are the U.S. drone attacks -- these pilotless planes -- these attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda targets on Pakistani sovereign soil, are they helping or hurting what's going on?

HAQQANI: I think that it's not one of those simple helping or hurting questions -- answers. The fact of the matter is that these attacks have eliminated many bad people, including Talabani leader -- Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. On the other hand, Pakistanis would be far more comfortable if these attacks were undertaken in cooperation with the government of Pakistan, rather than unilaterally.

BLITZER: Well, would you like the United States and NATO, perhaps, to do in Pakistan what they're doing in Afghanistan -- in other words, come in and help your military eradicate this Taliban/al Qaeda insurgency?

HAQQANI: Our military is quite capable of dealing with the insurgency and the (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: But they're not doing it yet.

HAQQANI: Well, I think we are not going to do it -- well, first of all, we are not going to discuss military strategy in great detail on television, Wolf.

But at the same time, let me just say, we are not going to do anything on demand. This is not something that is going to be done by the pressing of a button anywhere in the world.

Pakistan will fight terrorism. We intend to fight terrorism. We will fight al Qaeda and the Taliban. As far as the question of aid and assistance is concerned, Pakistan was given assistance, as well as reimbursement for expenses undertaken in the war against terror since 9/11. And Pakistan has also borne the brunt of the fighting. More Pakistanis have lost their lives fighting terrorism than any other single nation.

BLITZER: It looks like it's do or die. It's a critical moment right now.

HAQQANI: Wolf, you and I are both going to be here in a few months and we will probably be on this show again. We will probably be able to look at the clips of this discussion. And hopefully, you will play this clip in which I'm saying it's not do or die.

Yes, we have a challenge. But no, we do not have a situation in which the government or the country of Pakistan is about to fall to the Taliban.

BLITZER: As a friend -- as a friend of Pakistan, no one would like to see that happen more than me.

HAQQANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for coming in and good luck.

HAQQANI: Thank you.


BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mocking the former vice president, Dick Cheney, in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill today. You're going to want to hear what she said.

Plus, President Obama promised bipartisanship.

Is he delivering?

He gets a first 100 days report card from the best political team on television.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Our top story, the insurgents -- the Taliban extremists moving closer and closer toward Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

What's going on? Let's assess with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political contributor, Steve Hayes, of "The Weekly Standard;" and CNN political analyst, Roland Martin.

As far as I can tell, the Obama administration right now, Gloria, has limited options.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They have very limited options. You were talking about the -- the drones that they're flying right now. They seem to be helping a bit over there. But the truth of the matter is that we don't have many options because the Pakistani government doesn't seem to have its act together in telling us how we can be helpful.

So I think it's a very, very tough situation for this president right now.

BLITZER: Did the Pakistani ambassador, Steve, convince you that his government is on top of the situation and doing everything they should be doing?

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": No, because I don't think it's possible to be on top of the situation right now to be on top of the situation. It's so fluid and I think there are so many components pointing in different directions, including part of the government -- part of the -- the intelligence services, the military, you know, they're infiltrated with Islamists. This is a very difficult situation for the Pakistanis and for the president.

But we should say, I think the president deserves a tremendous amount of credit for sending 21,000 troops to Afghanistan to sort of shore up at least that border, which I think at least sends the message to the Islamists that they can't get away with everything because there are reinforcements right across the border.

BLITZER: Twenty-one thousand troops to the thousands who are already there -- Roland, you know, it's so frightening because there are nuclear arsenals in Pakistan right now. And God forbid, that worst case scenario, the Taliban or terrorists getting their hold on nuclear weapons. We can only imagine.

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, absolutely. And so Americans should be fearful in terms of the possibility of increased attacks being planned to target the United States. And so I tell you one person who's probably sitting in the White House right now saying I told you so, is, indeed, the president. Remember, he caught a whole lot of flak during the campaign when he talked about if he had actionable intelligence striking in Pakistan, talking about taking our eyes off the ball of Afghanistan.

And so all of a sudden, here you have a situation where he was saying that region is so important. We all thought it was a matter of Afghanistan. Now the fight clearly looks like it might be moving to Pakistan. So we've got to shore that up because, look, you cannot allow the Taliban and Al Qaeda to get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: Gloria, we're at...

MARTIN: Absolutely not.

BORGER: You can...

BLITZER: We're at day 93 right now in the Obama administration. Next Wednesday, day 100. We're...

BORGER: But who's counting?

BLITZER: We're counting specifically.


BLITZER: But let's take a look at bipartisanship so far.

How -- what kind of grade -- what kind of grade would you give the president right now, as far as reaching out and trying to forge some sort of working coalition with the Republicans?

BORGER: You know, I -- I think that I'd give him kind of a B, B plus on that. I think honestly, Wolf, the president, at the outset, did try to reach out. He also tried to reach out, quite frankly, to his own Democrats, to moderate Democrats.

I think he's been rebuffed by Republicans to a great degree. And at certain point, a president has to make decisions about what he will or will not do.

It's not just that Republicans don't like Barack Obama. It's that they disagree on how to solve the economic crisis. And so they've -- they've parted ways.

But if you ask the American public, as lots of pollsters have, whether the president has reached out, 70 percent of them will tell you, yes, he's tried to be bipartisan. Republicans will say no way.

BLITZER: You know, Steve, listen to this exchange that the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had today with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on the whole issue of the interrogation memos that were released and potential prosecutions.


REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Are you in favor of releasing the documents that Dick Cheney has been requesting been released?

CLINTON: Well, it won't surprise you that I don't consider him a particularly reliable source of information.


BLITZER: All right. For the top diplomat, not a very diplomatic response from the secretary of State -- Steve. HAYES: Yes. Well, she went on to -- to totally fudge the answer. I mean, Dick Cheney is requesting these -- these documents, which he says show conclusively that valuable intelligence was gained by using these controversial techniques.

The Obama administration, thus far, has said we are not going to release this -- or at least hasn't answered the question. And you saw once again, she punted.

Really, if she doesn't think that he's a credible source of information, shouldn't she release the -- these documents and release this information so that the entire world...

BORGER: But have they said -- they haven't said they don't...

HAYES: ...can call them?

BORGER: They haven't said they don't want them released.

HAYES: They have -- well, they redacted them in the first place.

BORGER: Right.

HAYES: That's a problem. And they haven't indicated at all -- I mean she fudged. Robert Gibbs fudged yesterday on whether they're going to actually release them.

My point is this, call his bluff. Look, if she's right and she says Cheney's not credible, well, call him on it by releasing the documents and let the world see.

MARTIN: Well, Steve...

BLITZER: What do you think, Roland?

MARTIN: Steve, you've got to admit, that was a great line.


MARTIN: I mean, I'm sorry. I mean that -- that was a cool line in terms of going after him, because he's been slapping them around left and right. So I say to the secretary of State, hey, good job of smacking around Dick Cheney.

BLITZER: You know, Roland, a quick response from you.


BLITZER: Senators McCain, Lieberman and Lindsey Graham -- all of whom opposed the enhanced interrogation techniques that a lot of people call torture -- they issued a joint statement saying it would be a mistake to go forward now and -- and file charges prosecute those officials who wrote the legal opinions justifying those techniques.

MARTIN: I think part of that is because you complicate the matters, because then what happens with the next president? What happens when President Obama's term is over and then you have Republicans, who will say, hey, you know, let's go after him?

It sort of reminds me of people who haze -- you know what, I got hazed, so I'm going to haze you. And so you don't want this tit for tat. You don't want Republicans saying well, you went after our people, so we're going to go after your people.

And so I thought that's why when the president initially said, look, let's put the past behind and move forward, they should have stuck with that.

Now, all of a sudden, you open up this can of worms and now people are concerned as to where you're going to go next. They should have stuck with the original statement and moved forward.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because I want to continue this conversation.

This note to viewers. CNN will have extensive coverage of President Obama's first 100 days one week from today. That would be next Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll be joined by Anderson Cooper, John King, Soledad O'Brien and the best political team on television. You'll want to see that. And you'll be involved, as well.

A challenger takes on John McCain and slams the Arizona senator, saying he's failed miserably. Details of a potential re-election threat for the former Republican presidential candidate.

Also, our question to you this hour, which is a greater threat -- would it be big government or big business?

Jack Cafferty and your e-mail. That's coming up.

And a pilot looking for a place to land in a hurry. You have to see how this one ends.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at the top of the hour, the Obama administration now facing charges it's damaging the CIA and trying to muzzle a top intelligence official. We'll have that special report.

And the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee joins me here tonight.

Also, the Supreme Court today hearing arguments in a major racial discrimination case brought by white and Latino firefighters in the City of New Haven, Connecticut. We'll be talking with attorneys from both sides of the case and one of the firefighters.

And the controversy over Congresswoman Jane Harman and her reported efforts to free two pro-Israel lobbyists accused espionage is escalating tonight. We'll tell you what the Justice Department may be planning to do now. Join us for all of that, all of the day's news and more, at the top of the hour.

THE SITUATION ROOM continues in just a moment.


BLITZER: All right. We're back with the best political team on television.

Steve, let me run this by you first. John McCain looks like he's going to face a challenge for the Republican senatorial nomination as he seeks to get reelected in 2010 from someone named Chris Simcox. He's a founding member of the Minutemen. He says this: "John McCain has failed miserably in his duty to secure this nation's borders and protect the people of Arizona from the escalating violence and lawlessness."

Is McCain in trouble?

HAYES: I think it's early to say that he's in trouble. What -- Chris Simcox is apparently a pretty serious guy. We had a long profile of him in our magazine a couple of years ago. One of our reporters spent a lot of time with him, said he's articulate, he's smart.

I think the challenge for Simcox, of course, is going to be to expand his message beyond immigration and beyond just attacking John McCain on immigration. Whether he can do that or not remains to be seen.

But, you know, John McCain is John McCain. I'd be shocked if he had a real challenge.

BLITZER: Yes, he's very popular in Arizona, always has been -- Gloria.

BORGER: Yes, he is. And I think if John McCain is in trouble, then the Republican Party is -- is really in trouble, because the party has to think about expanding its base and not narrowing its base. And what McCain was trying to do with his proposal on immigration reform, which he had to partly move away from during the primaries, if you'll recall, is to set up a system whereby, you know, there was a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in this country.

And his party reacted terribly against it. And I think that what he was trying to do was broaden the tent. And that's a real problem for the party. If they can't do that, they won't get more than one out of every four voters than they already have.

BLITZER: How worried, Roland, should the senator be?

MARTIN: I don't think McCain should be worried at all. I mean, look, you know, he's hugely popular. But I must say this here to the guy running against him, I say hats off to him. You know, I'm tired of the politicians, frankly, who think they own these seats, no one can ever run against them.

And so we should have folks who are running against these incumbents every single two years, because they deserve to be challenged...

BORGER: I'm with you.

MARTIN: ...on the records.

BORGER: I'm with you -- I'm with you on that. I think there should be no safe Congressional seats and there should be...

MARTIN: Democrat or Republican.

BORGER: Exactly. And they should be determined by geography and not drawn by politicians and we would have a much more competitive Congressional races and Senate races.

BLITZER: So you think there are going to be more challenges for Democrat incumbents and Republican incumbents...

MARTIN: There should. There should.

BORGER: There should.

MARTIN: They should challenge them, because they should have to own up and stand up to those records and deal with the people. And so what often happens is -- and this is, frankly, where corruption comes in and people get soft. They run, members of Congress, every two years -- the Senate every six years. Folks don't challenge them and they just keep going on and on and on.

Challenge them. Force them to answer the questions...

BLITZER: It's a healthy...

MARTIN: ...and we need the answers.

BLITZER:'s a healthy development, don't you think, Steve?

HAYES: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, I think we may see, actually, given the kinds of polarization that we're seeing in Washington, I think that's taking place out in the country. And, you know, if the tea parties were an indication -- I think it remains to be seen exactly how strong that movement will be, if it becomes a movement. But you could see...


HAYES: ...a lot of challenges.


BORGER: But it...

HAYES: You could see a lot of challenges. BORGER: Until you make the Congressional districts more competitive...

MARTIN: That's right.

BORGER:'re going to have a more partisan Congress. You know, there isn't going to be -- a president won't be able to reach across the aisle because people will be really dug in because they're only appealing to one political contingency.


MARTIN: That's right.

BLITZER: I think that's a good point. A lot of these guys think they're elected for life, in any case...

BORGER: And some are.

MARTIN: Some are, yes.


BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, guys.

See you tomorrow.

One week from today, President Obama will mark his first 100 days in office. He promised transparency in the White House.

Has he delivered?

Submit your video questions to Tell us what you really think.

Jack Cafferty always tells us what he really thinks and he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: I'm going to do that right now.

The question is: Which is a bigger threat, big government or big business?

Alex in Seattle: "Both in cooperation are the threat. Corporate money funds politicians who then vote to let the corporations regulate themselves. Lack of regulation allows the greedy to make huge profits without personal responsibility, which strains the system and yields more money to buy more politicians. Meanwhile, the system collapses and people wonder why."

Jen writes: "The financial oligarchy is the greatest threat to this country. Big banks ought to be nationalized, broken up, cleaned up and then resold." Time writes: "Big government is the greatest threat. I can do something about business practices I disagree with -- I cannot buy their products. I cannot pay my -- cannot not pay my taxes if I disagree with how the government's spending my money."

Jesse writes: "It seems pretty cute to me, clear cut. It was big business that got us into this mess by becoming too big to fail. So now we need big government to get us out. We need to somehow find a happy medium to balance the two once this crisis of the millennium is over."

David in Maine: "Big business without a doubt. Big government still has to answer to people come election time. And if we don't like what they are doing, we can vote for someone we think will do better. Big business only answers to the board of directors, all of whom are only interested in what makes them richer in the end."

Jim in Chicago: "Definitely big business. We now have seen the economic devastation that results when corporate greed goes unchecked without adequate government regulation. The Wall Street foxes are sitting on the front steps of the empty henhouse picking their teeth while we poor suckers are left to pay for their feast."

And Mike in Denver: "Our government is the biggest business around. So what's the difference?"

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

BLITZER: Mike in Denver makes a good point. The government is deeply involved in big business right now.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. Huge.

BLITZER: Jack, see you tomorrow.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Looking for a place to land -- planes are touching down on highways, on top of R.V.s and even on a cow. Jeanne Moos finds it "Moost Unusual."

And in the Philippines, an activist shouts slogans on Earth Day, one of our Hot Shots -- pictures from around the world.


BLITZER: Here's a look at today's "Hot Shots" -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In South Korea, workers hold torches during a rally against restructuring at a Chinese auto plant.

In South Korea -- that is, in the Philippines, an activist shouts slogans in front of an effigy of a sad Mother Earth.

Some this hour's "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Pirates looking for a place to land wherever they can -- CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it "Moost Unusual."


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can bet it wasn't a pilot who said silence is golden. Not when it's your engine that's silent. You could copy Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, crash landing and harvesting beets simultaneously.


MOOS: But when a Florida pilot's engine died...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to the

MOOS: ...Kyle Davis opted for setting it down on the road he normally drives to work on. He ended up parked in front of a closed furniture store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our motto around the office now with Kyle is, if you don't like the way he flies, stay off the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch the wing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch the wing. Watch the wing.

MOOS: Watch the wing is what this pilot in England should have done during a forced landing in a pasture.

(on camera): Did you see that?

That plane clipped a cow.

(voice-over): Watch the pilot turn his head to see what he hit. According to the accident report, the plane was slightly damaged, but the cow was uninjured.

As the pilot put it: "I have to say, it's the first cow I have ever hit in 22 years flying."

The next best thing to putting your plane out to pasture -- playing fields in Anchorage, Alaska. Watch the home plate umpire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a plane coming down onto the field, folks, right now. We've got a crazy landing going on. Here it comes, right onto the field, right behind the field.

MOOS: All four people aboard the plane lived to tell about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, boy. MOOS: Oh, boy is right. Look what the dash cam on a Wisconsin state patrol car captured.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We had him landing on the highway.



Are you calling about the airplane?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We've got it. It landed.

MOOS: License and registration, please.

Sure, James Bond made it look easy -- landing and rolling right up to the closest gas pump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fill her up, please.


MOOS: Now this is something 007 would attempt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Landing on the world's shortest runway.

MOOS: But don't try that on Interstate 70 near Indianapolis, where this pilot was forced to land without so much as a turn signal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stayed slightly ahead of the car for a little bit just to give the driver an idea that I was about to touch down.


MOOS: Of course, there's the little matter of taking off again. They had to close the Interstate. But watch your language when you land.


MOOS: Better make it holy cow.

Jeanne Moos, CNN New York.


BLITZER: One week from tonight, ;we mark President Obama's 100th day in office with a CNN national report card -- "The First 100 Days." I'll be joined by Anderson Cooper, John King, Soledad O'Brien and the best political team on television. And you'll be able to take part in live voting online at That's next Wednesday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

And this Saturday night, "Countdown to the CNN National Report Card" -- a SITUATION ROOM special.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.