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War Over Health Care; Attacks on the Rise in Iraq

Aired April 24, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

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

Democrats in Congress are going to dramatic new lengths to help the president make good on one of his campaign promises, health care reform.

That might boost his grade on CNN's national report card, marking his 100th day in office on Wednesday. But don't expect high marks from Republicans, who say the president's party is effectively declaring war.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is watching the story for us.

And it underscores, Dana, the increasingly partisan tone that's developing here in Washington.


What happened today is Democrats struck a deal that effectively allows them to work around Republicans to pass health care reform. And Republicans who have been in the trenches working with Democrats, trying to find consensus, they say that tactic is exhibit A of why the bipartisanship President Obama promised barely exists.


BASH (voice-over): The Democrats' decision to use controversial rules preventing a GOP filibuster against health care reform almost guarantees the president will get his wish.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to get health care reform done this year.

BASH: But the move means Democrats do not have to make concessions to Republicans to pass health care. So GOP lawmakers working with Democrats on a bipartisan bill call it...

SEN. MICHAEL B. ENZI (R) WYOMING: A declaration of war.

BASH: It's too early to know if the bipartisan work on health care is over. But if Democrats ultimately pass it without much GOP support, health care will look like a lot other key Democratic victories during the president's first 100 days.

Take President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan. It passed with just 300 votes. Earlier versions of his budget, no GOP votes at all. Even $410 billion to fund the government became a partisan clash. Promises made 100 days ago seem like ancient history.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: If we renew in this body our commitment to bipartisanship, the 111th Congress will be a tremendous success.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: If we see sensible bipartisan proposals, Republicans will choose bipartisan solutions over partisan failures every single time.

BASH: In the blame game over the bipartisan breakdown, Republicans say Democrats shut them out. Democrats call the GOP the "Party of No," but the real reason for the partisan divide may just be a genuine philosophical one, especially on the economy. Republicans returning to their small government roots.

MCCONNELL: We're on a spending spree of gargantuan proportions here.

BASH: And Democrats using their power to push their very different approach.

REID: Now, we're going to have to spend some money to get out of this hole. The government's only body that has any money.


BASH: Now, there has been some bipartisanship. President Obama actually has big support among Republicans for his policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wolf. That is a pretty surprising 100-day achievement for a president who had deep differences during the campaign about those two issues.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much. Dana is on the Hill.

In auto industry news right now, a once-hugely popular car brand is being driven off a cliff. GM is killing Pontiac, according to a source familiar with the decision. Pontiac was once strongly identified as GM's performance brand.

And we have learned that the Treasury Department loaned General Motors $2 billion more on Wednesday. GM's government loan now stands at $15.4 billion as the automaker tries to avoid bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy protection could be the final option for Chrysler. According to a lot of reports right now, Chrysler could enter Chapter 11 next week if it can't close deals with creditors and the Italian automaker Fiat.

Meanwhile, Ford, considered the healthiest of the three U.S. automakers, loses $1.4 billion in the first quarter, but that's slightly better than expected.

On this, his 95th day in office, President Obama is trying to make a college education more affordable during these hard economic times. He's renewing his call for the government to stop backing private loans to college students and to give them direct financial aid instead.

The president says that would help an additional 8.5 million students secure the money they need to pay for college. Right now, access to higher education is shrinking as costs rise.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This trend, a trend where a quality higher education slips out of reach for ordinary Americans, threatens the dream of opportunity that America's promised to all of its citizens. It threatens to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

And it threatens to undercut America's competitiveness, because America cannot lead in the 21st century unless we have the best- educated, most competitive work force in the world.


BLITZER: The president says that by the end of the next decade he wants to see America have the highest percentage of college graduates anywhere, anywhere in the world.

Finance officials from the world's top economic powers are pledging to fight the global recession together. The treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, emerged from the talks here in Washington just a short while ago to say some progress is being made.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Some measures of spending, some measures of output activity in the United States and other economies may have begun to stabilize. Financial conditions in some markets have shown modest improvement.

And these are encouraging signs. But it is too early to say the risks have receded and it's too early to conclude that we're beginning to emerge from this remarkably challenging set of pressures still working their way through the financial system and the global economy.


BLITZER: One major goal for the top economic powers, to get banks in every nation to start lending again. Today, regulators in this country gave us a glimpse into the so-called stress test they're giving to the big banks.

In Iraq right now, suicide attackers are making a bloody comeback, raising questions about President Obama's timetable for a U.S. withdrawal. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's working the story for us.

After a period of relative calm, it's getting ugly out there, big time, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Very dreadful developments in Iraq, Wolf, and the top general who led the successful surge was back on Capitol Hill today reminding lawmakers that security in Iraq is still very fragile and that this war is not over.


STARR (voice-over): Suicide attacks killed at least 60 people near a holy Shia shrine in Baghdad. More than 100 others wounded, many said to be Iranian pilgrims. It came just one day after suicide bombers killed nearly 100 people in attacks in Baghdad in Diyala province.

It's the deadliest 48 hours in Iraq this year. Commanders say it's not unexpected.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Some of this is actually a bit of the result of the relaxed security, to some degree, over the very, very tight security in the innumerable checkpoints and walls and barriers and all the rest of that, some of which has been taken down over time as, in fact, the security has been improved.

STARR: U.S. commanders in part blame the latest violence on foreign fighters who have snuck back into Iraq posing a direct challenge to Iraqi security forces. Insurgents are expected to launch more attacks as U.S. forces get ready to withdraw from the cities by the end of June, when still fragile Iraqi forces are scheduled to take charge.

LT. GEN. RAY ODIERNO, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL CORPS, IRAQ: The one area I'm still not sure about is Mosul. But we will do a joint assessment, we'll provide recommendations to the prime minister. And he ultimately will make that decision whether we stay with combat forces in the city.


STARR: You know, Wolf, all of this now raising fundamental questions about whether the Obama administration is going to be able to meet its timetable for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A dangerous situation in Iraq, a very dangerous situation in Afghanistan, and certainly in Pakistan right now. Barbara, what's the latest we're hearing on these Taliban insurgents, these extremists? Are they moving closer and closer towards Islamabad, the capital, or are they retreating a little bit?

STARR: Well, Wolf, we heard today about a so-called retreat from that Buner district, about 60 miles from Islamabad. I have to tell you, I don't think I have heard top U.S. military officials as grim about Pakistan as they have been over the last few days. They don't buy that this Taliban retreat is under way. The assessment now is that the Taliban control large swathes of Pakistan. They don't want to take over the government, the U.S. believes. The Taliban are just out to create as much havoc as possible.

Today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said that he is worried Pakistan is at a tipping point. Another official said the situation is rapidly deteriorating. They believe President Zardari no longer really capable of making quick decisions about what to do in his own country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And let's not forget this is a country that has a nuclear arsenal as well.

All right, thanks, Barbara, very much.

On Wednesday night, you can grade the president and the Congress on a lot of issues, including national security. We will be marking President Obama's 100th day in office with the "CNN National Report Card: The First 100 Days."

We will begin at 7:00 Eastern with a prime-time special, including the president's news conference at the White House. I will be joined by Anderson Cooper, John King, Soledad O'Brien, and the best political team on television.

And you will be able to take part in live voting online at, Wednesday night 7:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Let's check in with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There is a growing chorus of voices, Wolf, in California who think it's time to rip up that state's constitution and simply start over.

Support for a proposed constitutional convention, once considered nothing more than a gimmick, has been building. Even the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says he would back an effort to change the constitution, so the state's government could function more smoothly.

California's constitution, which has been amended more than 500 times, is one of the longest, most complicated in the world. Supporters of a constitutional convention want to put a proposal on the ballot November 2010 that would focus the convention on a few key issues, things like budget reform, open primaries, and allowing local governments to collect and spend tax revenues, instead of the state. It would not include controversial social issues like gay marriage.

One supporter insists California needs to change its constitution because the state is in crisis. He points to serious issues with education, the transit network, the water supply, and an overcrowded and overflowing prison system. But critics claim this is all just a ruse to raise taxes and could open up the constitution to changes that are driven by special interest groups. One expert says it's reasonable for voters to be scared of this idea because -- quote -- "Once you open it up, you don't know where it's going to go" -- unquote.

So, here's the question. If you could do this, what new law would you add to your state's constitution? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Get ready for a lot of comments.

CAFFERTY: There you go -- 500 times, they amended that thing out there.

BLITZER: I know. All right, Jack, stand by.

Fears of a global flu killer -- a disturbing new virus mixes genetic material from pigs, birds, and humans in ways never seen. Did it kill at least 60 people already?

And the top general in the Middle East outlining ways to stop piracy -- General David Petraeus outlines what shipping companies can and must do.

And if the Obama goes after former Bush officials for so-called torture tactics, what legal problems might they have?


BLITZER: Let's get to a story right now Americans deeply care about. Now that there's a possibility that Bush administration officials could be prosecuted for what some call torture, what would be the legal paths or the obstacles to doing precisely that?

We asked our Brian Todd to check in -- check this story out and find out.

What are you finding, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, most experts agree that it is rare for government lawyers to be prosecuted for their legal advice and tough to do it. But there could be at least one opening to bringing the authors of those interrogation memos into court.


TODD (voice-over): They give legal justification for techniques like water-boarding, which has been deemed illegal by the U.S. military in the past and by the current attorney general.

How tough would it be to prosecute the authors of the interrogation memos? Experts say it's rare for lawyers to be tried for giving legal advice, even bad advice. STEPHEN SALTZBURG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What they really would have had to do is say, to themselves, we know that what we're writing is wrong, and we intend, essentially, to write this because we want to join in the effort to violate the torture statute.

TODD: Did these Justice Department lawyers know that? Legal analysts say one path to prosecution could be through the 1996 War Crimes Act.

It says, a person who commits or conspires to commit an act intended to inflict severe pain is in violation of the Geneva Convention. In a 2002 memo to President Bush, then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales recommends that Mr. Bush not recognize the Geneva Convention in the war on terror.

Gonzales writes, if he opts out of the Geneva Convention, it "substantially reduces the threat of criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act."

SCOTT HORTON, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: An independent prosecutor, stepping back and looking at this memorandum, could well very say, this is mens rea. That is, it reflects a guilty mind. It reflects his recognition that what he's doing is a crime.


TODD: But that Gonzales memo only shows that some members of the administration at least thought of the possibility of future prosecutions. And we need to make clear Alberto Gonzales was not one of the drafters of those interrogation memos -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much -- Brian Todd reporting for us.

Next Wednesday is President Obama's 100th day in office, and CNN will have special coverage with a national report card. We want you, our viewers, to tell us what grades you would give President Obama and Congress on the job they have done so far. Today, we're going to be giving you a sneak peak.

Starting right now, in fact, you can go to and vote on this question: Grade the Obama administration on whether it has made the country safer from terrorism. You can take a look at the various grades. Go to the front page of in the next 10 minutes or so. Cast your vote. We will reveal the results just ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A killer outbreak that's claimed dozens of victims so far -- now health leaders in America have a big concern. Are several cases of swine flu connected?

And, for the first time, records of airplane bird strikes are out in the open, the disastrous consequences and the airports with the most hits.

Plus, a White House lockdown and a president's forced to go away, at least briefly. What prompted this reaction? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There are fears of a global flu killer.

Health officials suspect they may have a new strain of swine flu on their hands in California and Texas. And they're looking into a possible connection between eight known flu cases, with an especially deadly outbreak in Mexico. That outbreak is blamed for the deaths of at least 60 people so far.

Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has more -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the head of the CDC says he's more worried today than he was yesterday about this new outbreak of swine flu.


COHEN (voice-over): Mexico city, schools closed, people wear masks because at least 60 are dead from a strain of swine flu that's never been seen before, and now more cases in the United States.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: And -- and we are worried as well. Our concern has grown since yesterday.

COHEN: Today, an eighth case of swine flu in the U.S., this one in San Diego, a child who's recovered. The other seven cases, in California and Texas, have also recovered.

Now Mexican and U.S. authorities are investigating. Is there a connection between the cases in the two countries?

Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control, told reporters they have examined 14 Mexican cases so far, and seven have the same genetic fingerprints as the cases in the U.S.

Now the CDC is warning doctors to be on the alert.

BESSER: Having a high index of -- of suspicion is -- is -- is a good idea. Travel histories are useful. If -- if you have a patient who has traveled to Mexico, to a part of the country that's been affected, it's really important that you do the proper testing.

COHEN: The symptoms of swine flu include fever, nausea and vomiting. According to the CDC, some antivirals are not working against this strain of swine flu.

In the U.S., there are usually only a few cases of swine flu each year, if any, not usually eight, like this, all at one time.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: Swine flu originates in pigs, but then can spread person to person. None of the eight people in the United States with swine flu had any contact with pigs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

The head of the U.S. military's Central Command tells Congress there's only so much the U.S. and its allies can do about the pirate threat off the coast of Somalia.

General David Petraeus says, given the vast size of the area and the thousands of vessels that sail through it, ship owners are going to have to do more to protect themselves.


PETRAEUS: We need the maritime shipping companies to do more than they have. We started off by saying that if you would just speed up when the pirates approach you, that will help. If you take evasive action, that's even better. And if you unbolt the ladder that allows the pirates to climb on to your ship before you set sail, you get extra credit for that.


BLITZER: General Petraeus suggests shipping companies look at hiring armed guards or security forces, as well as basic barriers that would make it harder for pirates to board.

Gore vs. Gingrich, two political heavyweights -- they're back in the ring.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am here today to lend my support to what I believe to be one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This bill will increase your cost of living and may kill your job.


BLITZER: Stand by for more on their heated clash up on Capitol Hill today, Al Gore vs. Newt Gingrich.

And Dick Cheney is fighting mad. He's vowing to do his damndest to defend Bush era officials from what Republicans call a torture witch-hunt.

And candid glimpses of the president's first 100 days -- "TIME" magazine is sharing extraordinary photos with all of us.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: Federal officials are sorting through what happened today when two small planes ventured into restricted airspace near the U.S. Capitol. President Obama and Vice President Biden were briefly relocated and the White House locked down. One plane landed before being intercepted. The other was escorted down by fighter jets. Officials say it was simply pilot error.

Attorneys say a South Georgia peanut plan was tied to a deadly salmonella outbreak is riddled with problems. They say they found evidence of vermin, a leaking roof, and gaping holes in the building. The plant has been shut down.

South Carolina's governor says massive damage from the massive wildfire burning near Myrtle Beach has already reached 16 million acres -- $16 million -- excuse me. The fire has charred almost 20,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Al Gore and Newt Gingrich, they're clashing today over climate change. They both appeared on Capitol Hill. They both strongly disagree with the other.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar. She watched it all unfold.

Brianna, how did it go?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a bit of a showdown between two political power players, in one corner, the Nobel Prize-winning global warming activist, and, in the other, a conservative icon and the architect of the Republican revolution.

Gore and Gingrich weighed in, as Congress takes up one of the president's top priorities, combating global warming and overhauling the nation's energy policy.


KEILAR (voice-over): Al Gore told Congress the fate of the planet is in their hands.

AL GORE: The Wilkins Ice Shelf which is roughly the size of Northern Ireland is now beginning to disintegrate right before our very eyes. If it were to collapse and slide into the sea, we would experience global sea level rise of another 20 feet.

KEILAR: But some republicans question whether man-made global warming is real.

GORE: There is a consensus on the science.

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) LOUISIANA: You must have been listening to our testimony that we've had for the last few days with dozens of experts that have come in who have given completely different views. So I would encourage you to go back and look at the testimony this committee has heard.

GORE: There are people who still believe that the moon landing was staged on a movie lot in Arizona.

KEILAR: Gore's appearance was meant to bolster democratic plans to cut carbon emissions by setting up a complex system where industries would buy and sell pollution credits. Republicans had their own heavy weight, Newt Gingrich, who said the democrats' proposal would levee a huge tax on all Americans.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: This bill will increase your cost of living and may kill your job.

KEILAR: Gingrich said tax breaks, not penalties, will get polluters to clean up their act. Democrats pounced.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D) CALIFORNIA: Mr. Gingrich, I'm sure glad you're not in charge of foreign policy. Do you think the only way to incentivize a country is by offering them more and more carrots?

GINGRICH: Mr. Chairman, I don't think of American citizens the way I think of foreign dictators, and I don't think this congress should punish the American people.


KEILAR: Now, democrats face a bigger problem. The democrats pushing this plan, they face a bigger problem than republican opposition. Some of their fellow democrats are not on board with their proposal. These are mainly democrats from coal and manufacturing states who are afraid their states will suffer economically because they pollute more than other states. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much for that. Brianna Keilar watching the debate between Al Gore and Newt Gingrich. Let's bring in our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, our CNN political contributor Steve Hayes of "The Weekly Standard," and our CNN political analyst Roland Martin. A little while ago, guys, we asked people out there to go to and vote on this question involving the first 100 days.

We asked them to grade the Obama administration on whether it has made the country safer from terrorism, and look at this. The answer, the grade that they got, thousands of people voted. B minus on this specific question. I want to talk to you guys about that. But starting right now, we're going to post another question at This is the question. In this first 100 days, has President Obama tried to do too much? Go to the front page of You can vote right now. Voting will be open for about seven minutes. We'll reveal the results coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's talk a little bit about national security and what's going on. Steve, you had a chance to interview the former vice president Dick Cheney, a very revealing interview. I'm going to read a little excerpt of what he says about this whole battle involving legal opinions, enhanced interrogation, whether it was torture. Listen to what he told you.

"I think it's fundamentally unfair to the lawyers, referring to Bush administration lawyers. I have strong feelings on the subject, Steve. Because I went through the Iran/Contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry. And this time around, I'll do my damnedest to defend anybody out there, be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions. I don't know whether anybody else will, but I sure as hell will."

All right. He's obviously not backing down at all. Steve take us behind the scenes, how did that interview go?

STEPHEN HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You just saw an example of exactly how fired up he is about this. I expect that we will likely hear more from Dick Cheney, not less, in the coming days about these issues because he feels so strongly about them. At another point in our interview he actually praised George Tenet. He said, I think George Tenet did the same thing. That's why he sought these legal opinions, was to sort of protect the people who he was going to have carrying out these policies that he believed strongly was going to protect the United States. So he -- Dick Cheney is clearly fired up. I think he's not going to be back being down anytime soon.

BLITZER: And he's not accepting the advice of the former president, George W. Bush, Roland. George W. Bush is refusing to criticize the new president. Dick Cheney was asked about that by Steve and he said this. "I worked in the trenches and I was a loyal and supportive vice president. And when the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him. Now we're talking about after we've left office. I have strong feelings about what happened and what we did and didn't do and what's happening now, and I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views." Anything wrong with that?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, nothing wrong with it, but you also have a vice president who I think is still angry that President George W. Bush did not pardon Scooter Libby. So he clearly is making a case, look, I was a loyal soldier, but frankly he no longer has any allegiance to President George W. Bush and he can be his own man and say what he wants to say.

BLITZER: Candy, this debate, I don't think any of us who know Dick Cheney and have covered him for many years should be at all surprised that he is really out there making his case.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, because he believes what he believes. This is not something for the sake of politics. He is at least out of elected politics at this point, this is Dick Cheney really unleashed here and saying what he truly believes. And I don't think former President Bush said that Dick Cheney should be quiet, he was basically talking about himself, saying that he, former President Bush, didn't think he should criticize Barack Obama. But, listen, he is definitely his own man. The former vice president has always been so, and now he's just freed up. HAYES: But Wolf, I don't think this has anything to do with Scooter Libby. Clearly they had a disagreement about Scooter Libby. But I think if George W. Bush had pardoned Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney would be making this case today the same way that he's making it and as forcefully as he is making it.

BLITZER: All right guys, stand by for a moment, because we have much more to talk about. I want to remind our viewers right now, you can go online and you can vote on our 100-day question. This is the question we're asking you about right now. In his first 100 days, has President Obama tried to do too much? Go to the front page of Vote right now. We've got, what, three minutes and 15 seconds left for voting. We'll get the results to you right after this.


BLITZER: Just before the break, we asked our viewers to go to and vote on this question. In his first 100 days has President Obama tried to do too much? Take a look at this. There's nine seconds left for you to vote. If you move very, very quickly, you can still get in and weigh in on this question. In his first 100 days, has President Obama tried to do too much? Here are the answers. 64 percent of you say no. 36 percent of you say yes. I don't know if that's a surprise or not a surprise, but let me ask Candy Crowley, what she thinks. There have been a lot of questions raised, that the president during these first 100 days has simply gone way too far in having such an ambitious agenda, he should focus in on a few issues rather than do all of these things as he's doing. 64 percent of the public agrees with the president, that he's doing the right thing.

CROWLEY: Some of that criticism has come from congress, both democrats who say it privately, as well as republicans, who actually are talking about their own process. It might be hard to get all of this through congress. I don't think it's a surprise that a president, who has over a 60 percent approval rating, gets a good score on all of these other things. In general, people trust him, they believe he knows what he's doing. That's what the approval rating is about. So when you get down to these individual questions, I don't think it's at all surprising that he ranks very high.

BLITZER: We're not considering this as clearly Steve a scientific poll or anything, it's just a snapshot of those who want to participate who actually go to and weigh in, what they're thinking over the course of seven or eight minutes that we kept that poll up there on the main page of the website. But Candy makes a legitimate point. Sort of consistent with his job approval numbers right now.

HAYES: Yeah, I completely agree with Candy. I think this is consistent. I mean I think it's supported, when you look across the board at the scientific polls that have been taken about his job approval rating, what people want Barack Obama to be doing. He clearly has not alienated people by taking on what some people, including myself, think has been too much. We think he's been a little bit too ambitious. We are out of step with the mainstream of America. Most people think that he's not.

MARTIN: Shocker. That's a shocker.

BLITZER: I just want to alert our viewers, Wednesday night during our special coverage of the first 100 days, we're going to have a lot of these kinds of opportunities for folks to weigh in, go to and tell us what they think, these kinds of questions. But I interrupted you, Roland. Go ahead.

MARTIN: Wolf, I think it's a perfect example of the disconnect between people who are in Washington, D.C. and the rest of the country. You have people in congress who say, oh, no, slow down. Take it slow. This is too much. While, the American people are saying, wait a minute. We go to work every single day. We multi- task, why can't the president, with all his staff and all the resources, be able to do more than a handful of things? So I think you're seeing the difference between folks who are pundits, who always talk about slow down, and the public who is saying, no, get this thing going.

HAYES: I think that's a little too simple. If it was really a difference between America and just Washington, D.C., his number would be of course at about 98 and 99 percent, given the population.

MARTIN: Well still 64 percent is very strong Steve.

HAYES: No, it's very strong, but I don't think you can say that the American people quote, unquote, are speaking with one voice on this. Clearly a majority are supporting him, we've seen that consistently in polls, but it has a lot more to do with them being inside or outside the beltway.

MARTIN: I feel there's a big difference between the people who are in D.C. who have a different sort of thinking and the other folks who say, wait a minute, you can do more than a handful of things at one time.

BLITZER: We're going to get Roland to come to Washington, D.C.

CROWLEY: And watch congress at work.

MARTIN: That's one place I do not want to move to.

BLITZER: I know. I know. Candy, listen to this i-Reporter. Yesterday we asked our viewers to send us in some i-Report comments about whether or not the president has delivered on his promise to create more jobs during his first 100 days. This is Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas.


EGBERTO WILLIES, KINGWOOD, TEXAS (on camera): Even though it may not be immediately apparent, President Obama has proposed more for job creation than any president since the new deal.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Still losing jobs every single month, but he's doing the best he can to try to create some.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And this is why yesterday we saw those wrong track/right track numbers, with so many people thinking now that we're on the right track. And I think that gentleman is one of them. We don't know whether what has happened is going to create jobs. We don't know what the jobless rate is going to be by the end of this year. But there is that huge hope out there, and I think that's what you see reflected here.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much. Roland's getting ready for his show that will start in a little bit more than an hour from now, "No Bias, No Bull." We'll see you at 8:00 p.m. eastern Roland.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Guys thanks very much.

Information the government didn't want airline passengers to know about until now, bird strikes, like the one that forced the US Airways jet to land on the Hudson River, they're more common than almost anyone realized.

And candid photos of the first family as we count down the first 100 days in office.


BLITZER: As President Obama nears his 100th day in office, a major policy change from his administration. The first ever release of comprehensive information about birds that strike planes. CNN's Jeanne Meserve has more. Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today all the data about wildlife strikes was put online and it's startling.


MESERVE (voice-over): There was no more dramatic illustration of what a small bird can do to a big plane than the so-called miracle on the Hudson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Cactus 1539. Hit birds. We lost thrust in both engines. We're turning back towards LaGuardia.

MESERVE: The plane put down on the river, no lives were lost. But according to data made public for the first time, there have been 11 fatalities and more than 98,000 wildlife strikes reported since 1990. Denver's airport reported the most strikes, followed by Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago's O'Hare, New York's Kennedy, and Memphis International. The FAA says more birds and more flights have led to an exponential increase in bird strikes. But the data doesn't reflect it because only about 20 percent are voluntarily reported by airports and pilots. MARK ROSENKER, ACTING CHAIRMAN, NTSB: If you strike a bird, you really don't have to report this to the FAA. Which means we're really not getting the full picture.

MESERVE: The NTSB wants reporting to be mandatory to better guide research on how to keep birds away from planes.

RAY LAHOOD, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Look if safety is number one and he way people learn about safety is through information.

MESERVE: Birds aren't the only issue. The FAA database provides details on planes hitting dear, caribou and even a fish.


MESERVE: According to records, in May of 2000, a fish hit a US Airways flight as it landed in Warwick, Rhode Island. The fish had been dropped by an Osprey. The plane put down safely, the Osprey got away, the fish, well, you could imagine. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right Jeanne, thanks very much. Let's check in with Jack once again for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY: Well the birds were up there first.

BLITZER: Yeah. The planes sort of invaded their territory.

CAFFERTY: Yeah, it's like the woman who climbed in with the polar bears.

Question this hour, what new law would you add to your state's constitution.

Tom writes, "Any employer caught employing illegal aliens should have their business confiscated and should be given automatic one year jail sentences." Kristy in Texas, "We should allow any dim-witted governor and his group of followers to secede immediately and form their own country. They can call it a second Texas if they like. They will not receive any federal funding at all. We wouldn't want them living in a socialist nation. However, the governor and his followers would never be allowed on U.S. soil again."

Dennis in North Carolina, "Two terms for all elected offices instead of the present system with no limit which leads to greed and corruption." Rob in New York, "Marriage for all, gay or straight, enough already. Equal rights for all Americans." A.J. writes, "Persons must prove U.S. citizenship in order to receive free social services." Collin in Wisconsin, "Hey Jack, if I could add a new law to the Wisconsin state constitution, it would be the legalization of cannabis. Then Wisconsin would become rich from taxes and tourism to our wonderful state."

And Lee in Bloomington, Indiana. "Indiana needs to amend its constitution to allow Sunday liquor purchases. I thought the last eight years of republican tragic comedy were bad. The last few months have been worse. I need to go out and buy booze after republicans appear on the Sunday talk shows." If you didn't see your email here you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among hundreds of others. You have yourself a tidy little weekend Mr. Blitzer see you Monday.

BLITZER: All right, good, enjoy I'll see you back here Monday and I'll be back in New York next week, too.

A sight of President Obama that's not in the public eye. Photos capture some private family moments at the start of an historic presidency.


BLITZER: Here's a look at today's hot shots. In Russia a soldier shot a slogan as they practiced for an upcoming military parade.

In Florida state workers rally to protest pay cuts. In Britain, Prince William talks to children during a visit to Rochester. And in Denmark a baby albino kangaroo and its mother hop around over at the zoo. Some of this hours hot shots, pictures worth 1,000 words.

Behind the scenes in the White House, captured in some amazing photos in the new issue of "Time" magazine.

And joining us now, Callie Shell, she's the photographer for "Time" magazine, our sister publication. The president of the United States and the vice president of the United States, by most accounts, they seem to have a pretty good working relationship.

CALLIE SHELL, TIME MAGAZINE PHOTOGRAPHER: I believe they have a great working relationship. They do. I mean they can kid around with each other, but at the same time, they have different views and in my opinion they seem to really respect one for the different opinions and different views. This is a photograph where he's just telling the president something funny that his mother had said and it is -- the vice president's for support system too for the president, giving him a little bit of comic relief.

BLITZER: Now take a look at this picture, it's a very different picture, this one the president and the first lady, they're getting ready for the first formal affair at the White House, the governor's dinner right there, the black tie, the elegant gown.

SHELL: Yes. Michelle Obama always looks beautiful and I wanted to show that Michelle Obama is his best friend and his companion, but at the same time, she may tidy him up and take care of him, she also says, ok, you're president, we got to get back out there. And it's a hard place to be and it helps if you have your best friend around. And they do things jointly.

BLITZER: Look at this next picture, this is at the governor's dinner, they were dancing, I believe to the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, is that true. SHELL: That's true, "The Fantasy." This man loves his wife and I wanted to show that he's madly in love with his wife. And I hope that when my husband dances with me, he looks that happy. And in a room with 100 other couples dancing, they're able to just kind of shut the world out for two seconds and share a dance and a moment with his wife.

BLITZER: He certainly loves his wife but he also loves his daughters. There are two great pictures you have with Malia and with Sasha, let's put the first one up. You see the first family there with daughter Malia, she's the older young girl.

SHELL: What's granted about I think being president that he couldn't do on the campaign is he would be away from his children for weeks on end. Now he can come out of an ESPN interview and run right into Malia and she had just gotten out of school and she was telling him about school. And to me it just seemed like he really wanted her to know that he was listening and he's a very physical person and he kids around with his children. But they're a great outlet. There's another photograph where Sasha just walks into the oval.

BLITZER: Yeah, we have that picture, we want to put that up right now. This is what you call a chat with dad in the oval office. There's Sasha, the younger one with her father.

SHELL: And they can do this. They can see their dad every day almost now and he gets to see them. So there is this great, people say how are the kids holding up? I don't know but I think for them it must be wonderful now because they can just drop in on their dad. They can say, hey, dad, this is what I did today. And for him when you go through 10 or 15 meetings a day, you know it's got to be a great break just to hear what's going on. They're the ones with the real world every day.

BLITZER: They get to see their dad almost every day after almost two years when he was out on the campaign trail and there was a limited amount of time they could spend with their dad. So this is great for all of them. We got to leave it there Callie, once again, Callie, is doing some great photography. You've got great access for our sister publication "Time" magazine. The new issue entitled 100 days behind the scenes photographs by Callie Shell.

SHELL: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Remember next Wednesday night 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 live in voting online over at Next Wednesday night it all begins, 7:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN. And this Saturday countdown to the CNN national report card, a CNN SITUATION ROOM special report, 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Lou?