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U.S. Swine Flu Deaths Feared; Republican Defection

Aired April 28, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: an ominous warning that swine flu deaths in the United States are, likely, may be inevitable. The virus keeps spreading around the globe, with no signs a slowdown. I will ask a World Health official if a full-blown pandemic is just around the corner.

Senator Arlen Specter walks away from the Republican Party mad. This hour, why Specter is joining the Democrats and what President Obama hopes to gets out of it.

And the president is said to be furious about that flyover that gave New Yorkers 9/11 flashbacks. Now an internal investigation is being ordered.

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

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

The swine flu outbreak is taking a growing toll on the entire world right now. At ground zero, that would be Mexico, more than 150 deaths appear to be linked to the virus. And now business officials estimate the disease is costing Mexico $57 million a day alone. That's just Mexico City, by the way.

Here in the United States, researchers are under a new alert to possibly make a swine flu vaccine. A top health official says he expects some Americans will die from swine flu. More than 60 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the United States, but hundreds more are suspected.

Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's watching all of this unfold -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, swine flu is spreading, and the White House is requesting $1.5 billion from Congress to fight it.


MESERVE (voice-over): Custodians disinfect a school in California, trying to stop the spread of swine flu. But cases continue to pop up across the country.

This virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control official statistics, has now sickened 64 people in five states, with five hospitalized. But New York City officials say hundreds of schoolchildren appear to have contracted it. All are recovering.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We do not know whether it will continue to spread. Sometimes, new strains just fizzle out over time. And we don't know whether it's worse. It doesn't appear to be worse so far. But it's early.

MESERVE: In California, the governor declared a state of emergency while two deaths were investigated for possible connections to swine flu. One has been ruled out. Preliminary indications are, the second will be, too. But federal officials continue to sound a warning.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: As this moves forward, I fully expect that we will see deaths from this infection. They are seeing many deaths in Mexico.

MESERVE: As a command center at the Department of Health and Human Services tracks the illnesses spread, the White House is asking for $1.5 billion to ramp up production of antivirals and possibly vaccine, as the government girds for a marathon.

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This particular outbreak may die off naturally. And we may see a resurgence again in the fall. So, we're in this for the long haul.


MESERVE: The federal government is distributing antiviral medicines and medical supplies to the states right now. Texas and California are expected to get theirs today. All states will have them by the 3rd of May -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Jeanne Meserve is working the story.

There's enormous scares along the border between the United States and Mexico.

Let's go to CNN's Dan Simon. He's along the border in California right now.

What's going on, Dan?


This is where people cross into Tijuana, Mexico. Seen a lot of people coming and going, a lot of people wearing masks. That's obviously the most glaring difference, but we're told, other than that, things are pretty much the same.


SIMON: Activity along the border seems the same as usual, even though the Centers for Disease Control recommends only essential travel to Mexico. Americans we talked to either didn't hear the message or, like this guy, are just plain ignoring it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think everybody is a little bit too nervous for it.

SIMON: As for people entering the U.S., we were told it was also the same as usual. And, to Claudia Ortiz, that was surprising.

CLAUDIA ORTIZ, BORDER RESIDENT: They just ask for your passports and they just let you through.

SIMON: Ortiz thought that since she was wearing a mask and traveling with her children, also wearing masks, agents might ask her whether anyone seemed ill.

(on camera): Did you see them checking or asking anybody else ask about their situation?

ORTIZ: No. I didn't see any of that. So, I just did my own thing and, you know, they didn't ask me for anything like that or to see if my kids or I was sick or anything like that, no.

SIMON: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says agents are instructed to do only passive surveillance and question people if they exhibit symptoms.

But, to some, including Republican California Congressman Duncan Hunter, that may not be good enough. He's recommending the administration draw up plans to close up the border entirely if the swine flu continues to progress. "If the State Department is restricting all nonessential U.S. travel to Mexico as a precaution," he says, "similar steps should also be taken to restrict cross-border traffic entering the U.S. from Mexico."

Napolitano, so far, has dismissed the idea.

NAPOLITANO: It would close the border if you thought you could contain a disease, the spread of disease. But the disease already is in a number of states within the United States, so the containment issue doesn't really play out.

SIMON: The World Health Organization agrees that border closures are ineffective.

Back here on the U.S. side of the border, the turnstiles keep moving.


SIMON: While there are 11 confirmed cases in California, obviously, many more suspected. Getting results has been a time- consuming process, because, as you know, everything needs to be shipped to the CDC in Atlanta, but that is now changing here in California. There is now an approved lab to test for swine flu in Richmond, California, the San Francisco Bay area. That should yield results a lot faster -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Dan Simon along the border, thank you.

The U.S. Senate has just confirmed the Kansas governor, Kathleen Sebelius, to become the next secretary of health and human services, the vote, 65 in favor, 31 against. The president of the United States will now get a new secretary of health and human services. She will be sworn in, I am sure, very, very soon, and get on the job of this swine flu virus, a key component being what's being done over at the Department of Health and Human Services -- Kathleen Sebelius confirmed 65-31.

We're going to get back to the swine flu in a moment.

But there's another major story we're following today. The Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter says his decision to bail on the Republicans and join the Democratic Party wasn't an easy one. Specter's move puts the Democrats on the brink of achieving a long- sought goal, a filibuster-approved 60-seat majority in the Senate, assuming the party's apparent Senate win in Minnesota becomes official.

That certainly helps explain why the GOP loader in the Senate is calling Specter's switch a -- quote -- "threat to the country."

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is up on Capitol Hill. She watched all of this.

It was a pretty stunning development today. Dana, a lot of us were totally surprised.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of us were surprised and a lot of Arlen Specter's colleagues were surprised, because Arlen Specter was in trouble politically with Republicans. As soon as he voted for the president's $787 billion stimulus plan, he knew that he was going to potentially lose the Republican primary in his state.

But just two weeks ago, he said he wasn't switching parties. And that is a big reason why everybody here today was shocked.


BASH (voice-over): Calling his decision painful, Arlen Specter announced that, as a moderate, he no longer felt welcomed in the GOP.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party.

BASH: But the reality is that Specter's decision to bolt the Republican Party is more about raw politics than philosophy. Specter admitted he made up his mind to become a Democrat this past weekend, after receiving news from his pollster Friday that he would likely lose the Republican primary in Pennsylvania.

SPECTER: The prospects for winning the Republican primary are bleak. I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.

BASH: Specter's GOP colleagues slammed him for playing crass politics.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: This was simply nothing more, nothing less than political self-preservation.

BASH: Democrats are rejoicing that Specter's move gets them tantalizing close to a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority, which many Democrats say would make it easier to pass President Obama's agenda. Not so fast, says Specter, who has long been known as unpredictable. He said that will not change.

SPECTER: I want to emphasize that I will not be changing my own personal independence or my own approach to individual issues. I will not be an automatic 60th vote.


BASH: And Democratic leaders did acknowledge just because Specter will be one of them, it doesn't mean that he will vote with them all the time, especially on controversial issues, like labor rights or even health care reform.

But, Wolf, Specter said he did get a promise from President Obama and the Democratic leader that they would help him raise money and even campaign for him, even if other Democrats are going to be running against him for a Senate seat.

BLITZER: He will join a list of some other Democrats who don't always vote with the majority of the Democrats. No shortage of those guys.

BASH: Not at all.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that, Dana.

Let's bring back Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: These guys are shameless.

What did he say, 29 years a Republican senator from Pennsylvania? Polls show he might lose the primary. "I'm a Democrat."

I mean, what is that?

BLITZER: He wants to get reelected.


Ever since the Obama administration lifted the ban on media coverage of fallen troops returning to the United States, most military families are choosing to allow reporters and photographers to witness the ceremonies. The press had been banned from covering these solemn ceremonies, ostensibly to protect the privacy the soldiers' families. Cynics suggest it was because President Bush didn't want attention drawn to the fact that soldiers were being killed in the phony war that he started in Iraq. The ban was actually started 18 years ago by Bush's father, the first President Bush, during Operation Desert Storm.

The father of one Army corporal who was recently killed in Iraq, said -- quote -- "I think it was to protect the government's butt" -- unquote.

That's exactly what it was. So far, 14 of 19 families have allowed the media to cover their loved one's return. The Pentagon calls that a pretty good majority. The Air Force Mortuary Affairs Office says reporters have been cooperative, there have been not been any problems, and they say that they will help facilitate a meeting with reporters if the family requests it, although only one family has done that so far.

Sadly, the media interest in all of this has dropped off rather dramatically in just a few short weeks. Almost 40 members of the press turned up for the return of the first combat casualty they were allowed to cover. At a more recent ceremony, Associated Press says its photographer was the only one.

The question is this. What does it mean if most military families want the media to cover the return of fallen troops to the United States?

Go to my blog,, and you can post a comment and give us your thoughts.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a very personal decision for every one of these families.

CAFFERTY: And there is no one more solemn ceremony perhaps in the world than when they bring those caskets off the airplane.


BLITZER: I remember during the first Gulf War, back in 1991, when they wouldn't let us. I was the Pentagon correspondent. It stayed in effect for almost, what, 20 years.

CAFFERTY: Eighteen years, yes, until Obama rescinded it.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jack, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Here's a question. Should we all be worried right now that this swine flu outbreak will turn into a global pandemic? I will ask a top health official from the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He thinks the alert should go even higher.

And the worst could be around the corner, so health officials hope to do the near impossible: predict the path of the swine flu outbreak.

And, before your next trip, you may want to see how some major airports are trying to detect potential cases of swine flu.


BLITZER: We have been reporting new evidence that the swine flu may be racing across parts of the United States and the potential for the first swine flu death here in the United States. This and other fast-moving developments are already raising heightened fears of a global pandemic.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Geneva, Switzerland, the acting assistant director general for health security and environment of the World Health Organization, Dr. Keiji Fukuda.

Dr. Fukuda, thanks very much for joining us.

How worried are you right now that this crisis involving the swine flu will actually develop into a full-blown pandemic around the world?

DR. KEIJI FUKUDA, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Wolf, well, we're taking the situation very seriously. I think the assessment is that the situation is evolving quite rapidly, and we are monitoring it very closely. I think that we don't feel that we're quite there yet, but we are looking at the different outbreaks and the different cases being reported. And so it's quite a concern.

BLITZER: Are you more concerned today than you were yesterday?

FUKUDA: Well, I think that over the last couple of days, we have been, again, paying a lot of attention to this, and have been very concerned about it from beginning -- from the beginning. But I think that we are hoping to see that this would just slow down and disappear, but it doesn't show any signs of doing that so far. So, yes, I would say that we are, you know, quite concerned about it.

BLITZER: Yesterday you raised that threat level of a possible pandemic from a 3 to a 4. The most serious level would be a 6.

What would it take for you to go now to the next level, which would be a five?

FUKUDA: Well, one of the things that we're looking for is that we see signs of established transmission from person to person in multiple countries. The signal from going from 3 to 4 told us that the virus had changed its behavior considerably and was showing the ability to transmit from person to person. And now what we're looking for is evidence that this kind of a pattern is occurring in multiple countries.

BLITZER: Why have there been so many deaths in Mexico but so far no deaths in the United States? FUKUDA: I would say that we're really quite early in the characterization of this disease. This is a new infection. We haven't heard about it or seen it before. And so we're just really into it in a very short way.

This is one of the big issues, however. What is the relationship of this virus to mild cases and to serious cases? And so hopefully in the days and weeks to come, we'll understand how often this leads to a serious infection versus a more mild infection. Right now we don't know.

BLITZER: Does the World Health Organization believe that people should be putting up barriers to travel right now, to prevent people, for example, from visiting Mexico or coming out of Mexico, or the United States, for that matter?

FUKUDA: The WHO is not recommending any restrictions to travel, and we are not recommending any border closures. We believe at this point, based on much of the work which has been done over the past few years to study pandemics, and what can be done to control them, that travel restrictions at this point would not significantly hamper the movement of this virus.

On the other hand, we are quite concerned about the safety of people who might be infected, and so we are stressing that people who are feeling sick should seriously consider deferring travel, while travelers who become ill on their journeys upon returning should seek proper medical attention, both to get the care that they need or deserve and then, in addition, possibly to see whether they have this new infection.

BLITZER: To our viewers here in the United States, Dr. Fukuda, what do the next two weeks realistically look like?

FUKUDA: I think it's hard to predict what's going to happen over the next two weeks. But if we see the establishment of person-to- person transmission in multiple countries, then this really is the signal for moving up to an even higher phase.


BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more coming up on this swine flu outbreak. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's in Mexico right now. He's over at what we call ground zero. We're going to be speaking with him live. That's coming up momentarily.

Also, a break for U.S. carmakers -- one carmaker staring bankruptcy in the face. We will tell you what's going on.

And a little forgiveness -- what banks did today that could help Chrysler make a comeback from the brink.

And a seismic shift -- why Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party could have a huge impact on an issue that affects every single American.

And the pope has a special message for the construction workers in Italy -- why he says they need to do some serious soul-searching.


BLITZER: We will get to Dr. Sanjay Gupta momentarily. He's over at ground zero in Mexico. Stand by for that.


BLITZER: A health emergency goes high-tech. It's a way to detect travelers with a fever and possibly the swine flu. Is thermal screening worth the cost and the manpower?

Also, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on the scene for us in Mexico. He's tracking the swine flu outbreak and where it might spread next.

And it left many feeling like it was 9/11 all over again. We're going to tell you how much that flyover of New York City will end up costing taxpayers.


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

Happening now: Banks that loaned Chrysler about $7 billion will now reduce the debt. And that could help Chrysler avoid bankruptcy.

Consumer -- consumer confidence increased in April. The New York-based Conference Board says consumer confidence is now at the highest level since November.

And dropping the F-bomb on TV is not OK. That's essentially what the U.S. Supreme Court has decided. It ruled the FCC can in fact punish broadcast TV networks for so-called fleeting expletives. The court didn't decide if punishments against fleeting expletives violates free speech rights.

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

The State Department has just updated its warning about travel to Mexico in the midst of the swine flu crisis. It points out that much of the country has virtually been shut down because of the outbreak that apparently has caused more than 150 deaths in Mexico.

Here in the United States, New York City's top health official suspects many hundreds of schoolchildren may be infected. In California, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, declared a state of emergency, after state officials had suspected two deaths might be linked to swine flu. But now they have ruled that out.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is on the ground in Mexico. He's been watching what's going on, as the swine flu emergency unfolds.

Sanjay, you have been there now for a couple days. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? Is this crisis escalating, or is it easing? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's easing in so many ways. If you look at numbers, Wolf, the fatality rates seem to be going down over the last few days. Obviously, that's a good sign.

One of the things that the doctors -- the epidemiologists sort of have set their sights set on is trying to figure out where exactly this originated. And that's where we -- we've made our way, as well -- high in the -- the Veracruz Mountains, the State of Veracruz here in Mexico.

There's a small town. It's called La Gloria. And there are several pig farms in this area. And villagers living in the town of La Gloria really believe that swine flu started here. The reason being that as early as February -- now, you know, this was a long time before we were talking about swine flu -- several residents, lots of them -- hundreds of them began complaining of unusually strong flu symptoms. And then they were tested at the time. And some of the tests, at that time, came back indeterminate.

But there was a 4-year-old boy -- once all the swine flu news came out, they went back and tested his sample. And, in fact, his did come back positive.

Now, there was confirmation that he had the H1N1. That's the swine flu virus that we're talking about -- the strange combination of avian, human and swine viruses all together.

So that -- that's where we are. We're trying to find this boy, trying to figure out what his care was. The goal here is lessons that might be learned and applied to other places in Mexico and to other places around the world.

But this has -- this has become the area where a lot of epidemiologists and World Health Organization officials are going to focusing some attention.

BLITZER: I've been asking a lot of experts, Sanjay, why people are dying from swine flu in Mexico, but they're not dying in other parts of the world, including here in the United States.

Do we have any better clues now to explain this mystery?

GUPTA: Well, you know, the answer is -- is really no. I think people have been asking that question, trying to figure it out. It could be that, you know, it started here in Mexico. And for a while -- at least a couple of weeks -- nobody knew just how big of a problem this might be. So I don't think there was as much attention on it -- people not going to the hospital and getting care. That could be part of it.

It could be a little bit of a variant in the virus here in Mexico versus other places around the world. And that could that possibly explain it, as well.

It's -- there's just no absolute answer to that. We've been talking to epidemiologists over here. That's something that they'd like to learn, to figure out what's protecting or being protective of people in other places in the world. That could that be some valuable information.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to stay on top of this, together with you, Sanjay.

Thanks very much.

Some countries are going to dramatic lengths to screen travelers who might be carrying the swine flu virus. It's a high tech way of finding people who are running a fever.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look into what's called thermal imaging -- Brian, what are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, health officials haven't been able to stop this swine flu from traveling. And they obviously can't stop people from doing that, either. So they're scrambling to hold this virus off at some critical entry points and using some very creative technology.



TODD (voice-over): A critical front line between an outbreak and a possible pandemic -- at major airports in Asia, thermal imaging devices screen passengers for symptoms of swine flu.

BLAIR JENNINGS, FLIR SYSTEMS: Once the camera is in focus, it is measuring the hottest and coldest spot in the area that we define on the image.

TODD: Blair Jennings is with FLIR Systems, which makes detectors used a few years ago during the SARS virus scare in Asia. Jennings says the Centers for Disease Control has bought one of their units and is testing it.

The infrared scanners are color-coded. When I walk in front of one with a hot beverage, it touches off a green reading.

(on camera): What is this device looking for in an average airline passenger coming off the plane?

JENNINGS: The camera is measuring temperature. And it's specifically looking for temperature variances -- establishing a baseline using the tear duct as the focal point and establishing what would be a problem, a temperature variance over that.

TODD (voice-over): Jennings says the device would register a body temperature of over 101 degrees Fahrenheit for possible fevers. Jennings acknowledges, it's not foolproof. It can miss potential fevers, especially if someone is wearing glasses to shield their tear duct. People also have to be completely stationary to be scanned.

Homeland security expert Randy Larson points to another big drawback.

COL. RANDY LARSEN (RET.), CENTER FOR BIOSECURITY: People who feel ill, have, you know, fever, chills, whatever. They tend to take things like aspirin, Tylenol and Motrin, which would mask, temporarily, that temperature.

TODD: Another problem, says Larsen, with some types of flu virus, people are often contagious before they show symptoms. These detectors, he says, wouldn't work on them either.


TODD: Larsen also says, in his mind, it's not cost-effective. Blair Jennings says the average unit, including scanner and software, costs up to $20,000. And at some airports, you'd have to multiply that several times, depending on the number of passengers you want to screen.

Jennings and others with that company, FLIR Systems, say thermal imaging devices are just one tool in detecting swine flu. If it can help maybe detect one, two, three, even, you know, just a few people at an airport, Wolf, it will help contain this thing.

BLITZER: And save some lives, potentially, as well.

Brian, thank you very much.

It started with just a handful of cases, but now there are 113 confirmed cases in at least seven different countries. Many more, of course, suspected.

Abbi Tatton has a time line of the outbreak -- Abbi, tell us how this spread.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, for this, we can start one week ago, April the 21st. That was when the first two confirmed cases of swine flu were discovered here in the United States and reported.

By Friday, that number had grown eight cases in the United States. And, disturbingly, the CDC had established a match between those cases and 18 confirmed cases in Mexico. And that number doesn't tell the whole story then.

By Friday, even, there were 60 deaths in Mexico -- hundreds more sickened by this virus.

That news put health officials around the United States -- around the world on alert. And tested -- testing began on suspected cases, mostly of people coming back from vacation in Mexico. Testing going on from New Zealand to Israel to Europe, all across the globe, from people returning from trips overseas.

Then, yesterday, with more testing, we got more confirmations. The number up to 75 yesterday. That number was 40 in the United States. We had cases in Europe that were confirmed. And then today, the number has grown again to 113 confirmed cases, adding Israel to that list; adding New Zealand.

And that number in Mexico, 26 confirmed cases -- again, that's not the whole story. Officials there say, in Mexico, the number of deaths is actually at about 152. That number is just what has been confirmed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi watching all of this unfold around the world.

Thank you.

A balance of power isn't the only thing that could be affected by a switch on Capitol Hill -- why Senator Arlen Specter's shift to the Democratic Party could have a big impact on you and your family.

Plus, the Air Force photo-op that created panic in New York City yesterday -- it certainly wasn't cheap. You're going to find out what it cost you, American taxpayers.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN contributor, Steve Hayes, with "The Weekly Standard;" and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin -- Gloria, the decision by Arlen Specter to become a Democrat, does it make President Obama's life easier now?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's not going to hurt. I mean, look, Arlen Specter marches to his own drummer. He is somebody who will be with the Democrats some time and he'll oppose them sometimes, as he said today.

But should the White House be happy that, if Al Franken becomes the senator, that they will have that magic number of 60, in which they can stop filibusters?

Sure. But he's not a dependable Democratic vote right -- right down the line, not in any way.

BLITZER: And there's a few other Democrats who are not necessarily automatically, Steve, going to vote to block a filibuster -- Evan Bayh, for example, of Indiana; or Ben Nelson of Nebraska. They're sort independent themselves.

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, I'm not sure how much affect this is going to have on the actual day to day Senate voting. But I think that it gives him some wind at his back going into this 100th day press conference and all of the talk that we're seeing on the -- in the media over the past, you know, the next day or two, is going to focus on Barack Obama bridging this partisan divide. He said he was going to come in, be post-partisan. And this gives him -- you know, he can hold up Specter and say, here's the example.

BLITZER: Was this the only way that he -- he was going to survive politically, Roland -- we're talking about Senator Specter -- by -- by becoming a Democrat? ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, my opinion doesn't matter. He spoke to it himself. He basically said that, according to his own polling data, look, it was not looking good. He was 20, 25 points down. You look, also, at the Quinnipiac Polls showing that, look, Democrats liked him around 16 percent, Republicans 29 percent.

The bottom line is this was his only shot. And so, yes, he talked about it in terms of how he's more centrist and more in line with the Democratic Party. But, look, a lot of this has do with the fact that he was looking to save his political butt. That's what it boils down to.



MARTIN: And so -- because we can -- we can dance all around it all day.

But the other piece is also interesting, that, from the president's standpoint, this causes even more chatter about how the Republican Party is in trouble.

If you were the GOP, you did not want to have this conversation again -- a major Republican like this leaving the party.

BORGER: Right.

MARTIN: It was the last thing you wanted.

BORGER: That's right.


BORGER: And, you know, particularly after we saw a poll this weekend which said that people who self-identify as Republicans is now down to one in five. And that's the lowest number in 25 years.



HAYES: But I don't think...


HAYES: I don't think you can...


BLITZER: Steve, I was going to say...

HAYES: I think you just in...

BLITZER: Hold on one second, Steve... HAYES: As a...

BLITZER: ...because of I want you to respond. But look at this. In this poll that we've done, we've asked, do you have a favorable opinion of the parties?

In February, the Democrats had 58 percent favorable; 39 for the Republicans.

It stays the same for the Republicans, 39 percent. It's gone down a little bit for the Democrats, 51 percent.

But if Arlen Specter, for example, is looking at those numbers saying I want to get re-elected in Pennsylvania, it sort of makes sense to run as a Democrat.

HAYES: Yes, sure. But sure I don't think somebody sitting in Green Bay, Wisconsin is going to look at Arlen Specter's defection and say oh, jeez, Republicans are -- are worse and my opinion of them goes down even more.

I mean, I think, you know, Roland is right. In a sense, I think the Republican Party has its problems. I don't think Arlen Specter's leaving the party actually speaks to those problems for the reasons that Roland articulated quite nicely.

This was a specific decision about his specific political circumstances in Pennsylvania. And what was amazing about it is the guy admitted it in his press conference. He said yes, well, basically, I probably wasn't going to win, so I bailed.


BORGER: But, you know, I...

MARTIN: If you are...

BORGER: I think the question...

MARTIN: You are -- go ahead, Gloria.

Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: I think that the question is, is the Republican tent, such as it is, large enough anymore for moderates to be in -- in that party, because if the country is center right, as a lot of people say, then where's the center now in the Republican Party?

MARTIN: When you have people like Senator Lindsey Graham make a statement, look, I do not want to be a part of the Club for Growth wing of the party, then that is a problem.

BORGER: Right.

MARTIN: Like it or not, I think where the Republicans are in 2009 is the same place Democrats were, frankly, in '84 and '88. And that is, you had the DLC created because you had to create a different kind of focus.

You could not simply say, on the Democratic side, we're going to have the left dominate the party.

BLITZER: All right...

MARTIN: You had to have a place for some other people in the party. It cannot be a one-sided deal or you will lose. Democrats figured it out. Let's see if the GOP figures it out.

BLITZER: We'll see you, Roland, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, "NO BIAS NO BULL." That's coming up a little bit more than an hour from now.

We'll see all of you here tomorrow, guys.

Thanks very much.

MARTIN: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: Tomorrow also marks President Obama's 100th day in office.

What grade would you give him on his job performance so far?

You can submit your video questions to

Tell us what think. We'll get some of them on the air.

A photo shoot that scared New Yorkers -- they feared it was another terror attack. And now we're finding out how much it cost you and me, the taxpayers.

Plus, the top 10 bloopers from President Obama's first 100 days -- Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.


BLITZER: How could it happen that a look-alike plane from Air Force One flying so low over Lower Manhattan yesterday, chased by U.S. fighter jets -- what happened exactly and what's the fallout today?

We'll have details.

That's coming up.


BLITZER: Heads could roll. The president is furious about that plane incident yesterday. Wow! It was amazing. It ignited fears of another 9/11 type episode. And he wants to get to the bottom of it.

Let's go to our correspondent, Jill Dougherty.

She's over at the White House getting the fallout.

And there's enormous reaction -- Jill? JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There is, Wolf.

The president certainly is angry it. And, you know, the officials made sure that they notified federal, state and local agencies -- everyone, it appears, except for the public.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): New Yorkers panic as a government photo shoot near the site of the 9/11 attacks brings back heart-stopping nightmares. The 747 functions as Air Force One when the president is aboard. And aides say President Obama is furious.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a mistake, as was -- as was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.

DOUGHERTY: The White House spokesman says the president has ordered a review.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: To understand, as I said, why that decision was made and to ensure that it never happens again.

DOUGHERTY: The FAA flight notification does note the possibility of public concern regarding Defense Department aircraft flying at low levels, but adds, "No media or press releases are planned."

The Defense Department says standard operating procedure is to not publicize any movements of Air Force One.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says someone dropped the ball, but...

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: They've said publicly they made a mistake. OK. Now it's the time to go on.

DOUGHERTY: The man responsible for approving the flight says he's sorry.

Louis Caldera, head of the White House Military office, says: "It's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption."

But a former chief of Homeland Security, who lost a friend on 9/11, says it shows crass insensitivity.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Frankly, as I would say as a former prosecutor, I'd call this felony stupidity.


DOUGHERTY: The White House says this originally was a training mission and they tacked on the photo shoot. The Defense Department says it estimates that it cost almost $329,000. But, they say, those -- those hours would have been flown anyway and simply chalked up to another mission -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jill.

Thanks very much.

Let's bring back Jack Cafferty.

You were the first yesterday to say, 24 hours ago, somebody's got to be fired for this.

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean this is ridiculous. And the real travesty is nobody will be. You know, it's some government bureaucrat. The president ought to publicly demand this guy's resignation. He ought to come and say this was -- you know, you said it was your fault and you take responsibility, I want your resignation. But he won't.

The question this hour, what does it mean if most military families want the media to cover the return of fallen troops to the United States?

An 18-year-old ban recently lifted by President Obama.

Annette writes: "As the mother of an Army infantry sergeant who has served two deployments in Iraq, I welcome the decision to raise the ban. If, God forbid, my son is ever killed in action, I would want to honor his courage and make sure that the country never forgets that war that continues so far away."

Steve writes: "It's an excellent idea. Let the families of fallen soldiers decide whether they would like their losses honored by dignified media coverage. The decline in such coverage since the rules were changed is more a sign of the implosion of newspapers nationwide than media insensitivity. In the past, local papers would have moved heaven and earth to cover their fallen sons and daughters. But today, the decimation of newspaper budgets make this a budgetary impossibility."

Kate in Canada writes: "It's sad that more media are not covering the arrival home of fallen soldiers. In Canada, it's a moving ceremony that brings home to all of us the sacrifices that these soldiers and their families have made on behalf of each of us. Our media here cover every homecoming."

Kristen in Sherman Oaks, California: "The majority of families wanting or allowing press coverage means the Bush administration never did it to protect these families. It was to protect their own agenda."

And Johnny in Pittsburgh writes: "It means most people who suffer this kind of loss don't want it to be unspoken. It means they don't want the loss ignored. They have lost something of utmost importance and they want everyone to know. We should know. It's part of the true cost of the war and part of our national grief."

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.

BLITZER: Because you never forget the sacrifice these men and women made.



All right, Jack.

Thank you.

Counting down to President Obama's first 100 days -- as you might expect, not everything has gone as planned.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just noticed that I jumped the gun here. Go ahead and move it up.


BLITZER: From teleprompter problems to a bowling blunder, President Obama's top 10 faux pas.

That's next.


BLITZER: A nice shot of the White House on this day.

When you're president of the United States, you certainly have to be able to roll with the punches -- especially, especially when things don't always go as planned.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a Moost Unusual look at President Obama's first 100 days.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to faux pas, former President Bush set the bar high.

And in his first 100 days, you couldn't expect President Obama to misstep quite this high.

Nevertheless, we present the new administration's top 10 faux pas.

Number ten, the oath.


B. OBAMA: I, Barack...

ROBERTS: Do solemnly swear.

B. OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama.

MOOS: OK. So it was really Chief Justice Roberts' fault.

But the next one the president can only blame on himself. Number nine, the head bump. It happened boarding Marine One. But the president has since learned to bow his head.

Number eight, the bow they said never happened. The bow the administration says we're imagining as we look at this video of the president greeting the Saudi king.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He bent over with both -- to shake with both hands to shake his hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray Charles can see that he bowed.

MOOS: Number seven, the first lady touches the queen. But Queen Elizabeth didn't seem to mind.

Number six, the president rolls a gutter ball with this gaffe about his bowling.

B. OBAMA: This is like Special Olympics or something.

MOOS: From bowling to dancing...


MOOS: ...number five, stepping on his wife's dress.


MOOS: Number four, tripping over teleprompter.

B. OBAMA: In addition to John -- sorry, the -- I just noticed that I -- I jumped the gun here. Go ahead and move it up.

In France, liberte...

MOOS: Leading to that frozen prompter moment.

(on camera): Number three, talking too much -- no, not the president, his cute little daughter interrupting her mom.



M. OBAMA: Get out. We don't have tennis.

MOOS (voice-over): Someone should have interrupted President Obama at his first news conference.

(on camera): Number two, dissing a former first lady over seances.

B. OBAMA: I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.

MOOS: Actually, it was astrologers, not seances. President Obama quickly called Mrs. Reagan to apologize.

Mrs. Obama should apologize to the dog for this gaffe.

(on camera): Number one, putting the first dog second.

M. OBAMA: You'll get to see where Barney -- not Barney, but where Barney used to run and now Bo.

MOOS (voice-over): Bo, Barney, Barney, Bo. Now, that's a gaffe that bites.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos...

M. OBAMA: He loves to...


M. OBAMA: ...chew on people's feet.

MOOS: ...New York.


BLITZER: Remember, tomorrow night, we will be marking President Obama's 100th day in office with our 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. You'll be able to take part in live voting online at It all begins 700 p.m. Eastern, tomorrow night, only here on CNN.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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