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If Terrorists Grab Pakistan's Nukes; Were Funds Spent on Mistress?; Interview with Shimon Peres; GOP Back to the Future

Aired May 4, 2009 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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

Happening now, a threat to the entire world -- Israel's president sounds an ominous warning about Iran's nuclear program.

But would Israel attack to keep Iran from getting the bomb?

My exclusive television interview with the president of Israel, Shimon Peres. That's coming up.

Could Pakistan's nuclear weapons actually fall into the hands of terrorists?

There's growing concern in this country, as Pakistani troops battle with the Taliban. And his political career ended with a sex scandal -- now the former presidential candidate, John Edwards, is under federal investigation.

What's going on?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's America's nightmare scenario and there's fresh concern that terrorists may get their hands on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. It comes on the eve of a visit by the president to the White House.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's investigating -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, when the Pakistani leader sits down this week with President Obama, topping the list of concerns will be the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Since the deal between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and the Taliban in the Swat Valley collapsed, the Islamabad government has faced the ultimate question from the U.S. -- are Pakistan's nuclear weapons really safe?

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Obviously, the worst downside of -- with respect to Pakistan, is if those nuclear weapons come under the control of terrorists.

STARR: Mullen emphasizes he doesn't see that happening. But a former CIA officer warns it could all change.

ROLF MOWATT-LARSSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: The most important concern is any possibility that instability might lead to a security breakdown where they might lose either material or parts of a weapon or, in the worst case, an entire weapon.

STARR: President Obama is promising billions in aid to Pakistan to fight the Taliban.

Republicans and Democrats agree this time springs have to be attached.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're going to be measuring from every perspective, whether it's, you know, diplomatic and development efforts -- excuse me -- or military efforts or intelligence efforts.

STARR: Mullen, who sounded the alarm call about declining security, says he's more hopeful because the Pakistani military is attacking some militant strongholds. But so far, Zadari has rejected U.S. offers for expanding counter-insurgency training in favor of millions of dollars in new helicopters and night vision gear -- the very cost the U.S. wants to make sure Pakistan really uses to fight the Taliban.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And, you know, still, Wolf, the bottom line, U.S. officials will tell you privately, they don't even know, at this point, where all of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are located -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And this is a story that's only just developing.

Barbara, thank you.

Here's the question -- can Pakistan protect its nuclear arsenal from extremists?

I'll ask the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari. That question, among many others, tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What would you ask the president of Pakistan?

Submit your video comments, your questions. Remember to keep them clear and concise. We'll try to use some of the best ones on the air. Go to ireport.com/situationroom.

A sex scandal put an end to his political career, but that may be just the beginning of the troubles facing former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards.

Brian Todd is here. He's working the story for us.

And I take it, Brian, you got a chance to speak on the phone with Elizabeth Edwards?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I spoke to her briefly today on the phone, Wolf.

Mrs. Edwards spoke about the investigation that's apparently now underway into her husband's campaign and its connection to the affair that brought everything crushing down around John Edwards.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): John Edwards and his family acknowledge he's the subject of a federal investigation -- the probe believed to be looking into whether his presidential campaign might have improperly paid money to Rielle Hunter, a woman with whom Edwards admitted having an affair.

I spoke by phone with Edwards' Wife, Elizabeth, who says: "There won't be anything that sticks on this."

John Edwards told ABC's "Nightline" last year, he knew of no money doled out to cover up the affair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "NIGHTLINE," AUGUST 8, 2008)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've never paid a dime of money to any of the people that -- that are involved. I've never asked anybody to pay a dime of money. Never been told that any money has been paid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: In a statement, John Edwards says he's cooperating with the government and: "I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly."

Election records show Rielle Hunter was paid $114,000 by Edwards' political action committee to produce Web videos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so glad you like it.

EDWARDS: I like it.

TODD: Fred Baron, an Edwards supporter who died last year, reportedly paid tens of thousands of dollars for housing for Hunter and Andrew Young, who says he's the father of Hunter's child. Neither of those payments would be illegal and Barons said last year, Edwards didn't know about the money he gave.

Hunter is never mentioned by name in Elizabeth Edwards' new book, due out Friday. But according to the "New York Daily News," Mrs. Edwards writes that Hunter's life is "pathetic." She also writes, according to "The Daily News," that when John Edwards confessed the affair to her: "I cried and screamed. I went to the bathroom and threw up."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Mrs. Edwards hinted to us she believed this investigation of her husband's campaign money might be politically motivated. "The Charlotte News & Observer" reports George Holding, a Republican U.S. attorney in North Carolina, who's prosecuted several Democrats, is leading this probe. Contacted by CNN, an aid to Holding said he would not confirm or deny that he is investigating John Edwards -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In the book, Mrs. Edwards, she writes pretty openly about the whole campaign, what was going on.

TODD: That's right. Now, remember, when Edwards confessed the affair to her, that was in late 2006. She basically sat on top of it for a long time, not saying anything publicly about it. Now, according to "The Daily News," she writes in the book: "He should not have run." That's the quote attributed to the book from "The Daily News."

We'll know more about the book on Friday. But, clearly, it's something the family struggled with in the early days of that campaign.

BLITZER: Wow!

What a story.

All right. Thanks very much for that, Brian Todd.

Let's go back to Jack.

He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Jeb Bush says it's time for Republicans to leave the Reagan era behind them and look forward.

Former Florida governor and brother to the president and son of another president insists the Republican Party's ideas need to be forward looking and relevant, instead of dwelling on the nostalgia of the good old days, i.e. Ronald Reagan.

He's also acknowledging how well President Obama's message of hope and change resonated with voters during the election.

Jeb Bush, who is part of the Republicans' new effort to reconnect with voters, is, of course, right about all this stuff. But there's a problem -- he is the brother of the man who could very well be more responsible than anyone else for the downfall of the Republican Party.

Jeb Bush's name has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, but it seems hard to imagine the American people would go for that again. Meanwhile, former Georgia Congressman and former Republican turned libertarian, Bob Barr, says it is hard to, "overestimate the damage that's been inflicted on the GOP." Barr sways the party likes any coherent philosophy, vision or leadership."

And Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, continues to speak out about this stuff, as well. She says the party needs to become more inclusive if it wants to rebuild and attract younger voters.

As things stand now, Meghan McCain says Republicans tend to look down on moderates, such as her, saying get rid of the dirty moderates.

So as the Republican Party continues its search for a voice and a leader and redemption and a future, here's the question: Is Jeb Bush the right person for Republicans to listen to at this time?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog -- the comment from Bob Barr, I thought, was particularly interesting -- you cannot overestimate the amount of damage that's been done to this party.

BLITZER: Yes. Bob Barr is always outspoken.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: He never shies away from a -- a good quote.

CAFFERTY: No.

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

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: How close might Iran be to developing a nuclear weapon and how close might Israel be to taking military action?

I'll speak about that and more with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres. An exclusive television interview coming up.

A world leader's wife wants a divorce, but he wants an apology after her public complaints about his so-called womanizing.

And it was part of a movie shoot, but it wasn't supposed to happen this way -- take a look.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We have the pictures -- the scare in Times Square. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Will Israel attack Iran in an effort to keep it from getting a nuclear weapon?

Can U.S. diplomatic efforts underway right now bear fruit?

I sat down for an exclusive television interview with Israel's president, Shimon Peres.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: How much of a threat do you see right now from Iran's nuclear program?

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: I see it as a threat to the entire world. I don't think that Israel has to monopolize this threat.

BLITZER: How much time is there, do you believe, before the Iranians actually have a nuclear bomb?

PERES: I don't know. It may be a year. It may be two years. Nobody knows. I am not sure the Iranians know.

BLITZER: Is Israel considering some sort of military action to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, along the lines of what you did to the Iraqi nuclear facilities back in 1981, and, more recently, a Syrian suspected nuclear facility?

PERES: What Israel hopes for is that world leaders, headed by President Obama, will do whatever possible not to allow the Iranians to have a nuclear bomb.

BLITZER: What if that fails?

PERES: Well, let's see. Maybe it will succeed.

Why start with the failure?

Let's start with the hope.

BLITZER: So far, it hasn't succeeded. They seem to be accelerating their enrichment of uranium.

PERES: I'm not sure. It's partly succeeded.

Why?

Because they have

two problems. One is the enriched uranium and the other is the nature of the present rulers of Iran. What they did already, they split the Arab world so deeply, so meaningfully, that they changed the situation.

Ahmadinejad organized an Arab profound opposition to his policies, to his government. He created a new chance for peace, unwillingly.

BLITZER: Because you're talking about the Arab countries like Israel, who -- who are worried about Iran's nuclear ambitions. PERES: I'm talking about the Arab countries -- most of them are Sunnites -- 70 percent of the Arab world...

BLITZER: Sunni?

PERES: Sunni. They think that Iran is the greatest danger, not Israel.

BLITZER: Which countries are you talking about specifically?

PERES: I can mention Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Principalities, Morocco, who can't have relations with Iran -- most of the Arab countries.

BLITZER: I recently interviewed the vice president, Joe Biden, almost exactly a month ago. And I asked him about Israel and Iran and the possibility of an Israeli military strike. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu would do that. I think it would be ill-advised to do that. And so my level of concern is -- is no different than it was a year ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERES: Let me say, look, Israel did not take any decision to attack military Iran. Israel took a decision to coordinate our policies with that of the United States.

The friendship with the United States is an ally -- a most important strategic asset. We are not going to endanger it.

Now, if President Obama thinks he wants to start with engagement, OK. But as long as the president doesn't say all other options are out -- he doesn't say it because he wants that Iran will take seriously his proposal. Even Putin says I cannot agree that Iran will have a nuclear weapon.

The same is with Israel. We don't agree that they will have a nuclear weapon.

You know, nobody suggests you'll start tomorrow with a war. It's nonsense.

Nobody suggests that you will tranquilize Iran unnecessarily.

You want engagement?

OK.

You want economic sanctions?

OK.

You want to limit the distance of the production of the long- range missiles?

OK.

You want to control the situation in the Persian Gulf?

OK.

We should listen carefully. We are a responsible government. We don't have any crazy missions. And we should wait for the situation according to its development.

BLITZER: The defense secretary, Robert Gates, told Congress the other day it probably wouldn't make much of a difference if you or the United States or any one used military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

He said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Even a military attack will only buy us time and send the program deeper and more covert.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERES: My answer is this is not a question. Nobody suggests today that we will sit down and decide to declare a war against Iran or not.

The question today, do we have to tranquilize Iran?

Why do you suggest engagement?

This is the only problem to date.

BLITZER: Because all of these comments seem to be sending a signal to the Iranians that, you know what, you probably don't have to worry about that military option.

PERES: I don't know if it's necessary. I think to say we want engagement -- but if you want to go for engagement, we can't guarantee you anything. I think this may be a more helpful approach to make engagement a success.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem...

PERES: This is the only problem to date.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem with the Obama administration reaching out and seeking a dialogue with Ahmadinejad?

PERES: Look, if it will be successful, God bless them.

Who wants a war?

We're not crazy. We don't want that Iran will be a menace to us, to the Arabs, to the entire world.

BLITZER: So you think it's realistic -- it's potentially realistic, that Iran could step back from a nuclear weapons program through diplomatic or political means?

PERES: I won't count it out, because this is not the only thing. There is an opposition against Ahmadinejad already inside Iran itself. We have two problems -- to change the system, to prevent a nuclear war. The combination between the two, that is what makes it so dangerous.

BLITZER: Because he's up for reelection. There are elections coming up in Iran, as you know, in a few weeks.

Does it make any difference, do you believe, who's elected president of Iran?

PERES: What makes a difference is the real state of economy and social conditions in Iran. The fact that the price of oil went down already introduced a deficit in the Iranian budget. They are not terribly rich. There is 30 percent inflation. There is 25 percent unemployment. There are a million youngsters who took to drugs. Young people are leaving the country. It's -- everything is not directions. You know, people think that democracy is 24 hours in four years. It's nonsense.

It's the feeling. It's the attitude of the people, that's what counts.

Finally, I believe the one that will overpower the present rulers of Iran will be the Iranian people. They don't bring them any promise, any message, any hope but dangers...

BLITZER: So you can see...

PERES: ...and hatred.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is there could be a collapse of that system from within, sort of like the way the old Soviet Union collapsed?

PERES: Like the collapse that happened already in Iran several times.

Why should they be a Soviet Union?

Iran wasn't always like it. Iran, traditionally, tried to enrich their minds, not the uranium. This is a new experience and a strange one. And a negative one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The president of Israel, Shimon Peres, speaking with me earlier.

Showdown at sea, meanwhile -- a North Korean ship pursued by pirates. Wait until you hear who came to the rescue.

And a movie stunt veers out of control on a New York street -- video you're going to be seeing right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a rare scene of cooperation between North and South Korea. I want you to see this video. South Korean Army snipers in a helicopter -- well, South Korean authorities say they scared off pirates who were chasing a North Korean freighter off the coast of Yemen. South Korean officials say one of their warships sent the chopper crew to help when they picked up a distress call.

And listen to this story. A pregnant British woman accused of drug trafficking is facing death by a firing squad. Laos authorities arrested the 20-year-old back in August, accusing her of smuggling heroin. Well, her trial starts this week. And if convicted, Laos authorities say the punishment is death. A British human rights group has taken up the case, saying it is worried about the woman's health, especially since she became pregnant in prison.

Well, the man accused of being the so-called Craigslist killer now faces charges in a second state. Rhode Island authorities say they have an arrest warrant for Phillip Markoff, accusing him of assaulting an exotic dancer he met on Craigslist. The 23-year-old medical student is in a Boston jail right now, charged with murder of a masseuse. And police say he met that person on Craigslist.

All right. You've got to take a look at this -- a movie stunt that went horribly wrong on the streets of New York City this morning.

Take a look and let's just listen for a second.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I got -- I got this on tape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: According to "The New York Post," a crew was filming a car chase for a Nicholas Cage movie when the Ferrari stunt car slid -- oh -- out of control, jumped the curb, crashed into a restaurant in Times Square. Two people slightly injured. One person was knocked to the ground by a falling lamp -- there you see it right there. There it is one more time. Another person rushed by the car. The roads were wet at the time of the crash. The scene was being shot for the upcoming movie, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".

Wow!, that is one expensive mistake. Luckily, no one was severely injured. But Wolf, that is not the kind of movie magic they were hoping to capture.

BLITZER: No. That's pretty scary stuff. It could have been a whole lot worst. Forget about the car, we're talking about humans.

NGUYEN: Yes.

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

Back to the drawing board -- first there was the election, then a big defection -- what Republicans are trying to do to reshape their party.

And stimulus sticker shock -- big money to build a brand new bridge a quarter mile from another bridge -- what critics are calling a boondoggle.

And a world leader's wife wants a divorce, but he wants an apology after her public complaints about his so-called womanizing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, some encouraging signs in the fight against the swine flu -- kids are heading back to school and Mexico lowered its alert level.

So why are U.S. experts warning not to let your guard down?

A fourth grader puts the former secretary of State on the spot. The child's very adult question and the debate Condoleezza Rice can't seem to escape.

And a big rally on Wall Street to start off the work week. The Dow shooting up 214 points today, after unexpectedly good news on pending home sales.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First, there was the election, then a big defection -- now Republicans are trying to reshape their party.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Lots going on the GOP side.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And it's a party that is in need of some rehab. They are beaten, battered and blue.

Republicans are going back to the grassroots, literally -- a series of town hall meetings by Republican headliners -- McCain, Jindal, Romney, Barbour and Jeb Bush. They are in search of the heartbeat of America. The latest self-help group doesn't mention the world Republican. It calls itself the National Council for A New America.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Please note the laid back attire and the venue -- a pizza parlor.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: We've chosen Patanza (ph) because it is emblematic of thousands of small businesses across the country.

CROWLEY: The national council for new America has officially arrived in cyberspace -- and later at town hall meetings coming to a town near you.

Mission -- rebrand, recalibrate, reconstitute, reunite -- whatever it takes to save the grand old party.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: It's time for us listen first, to learn a little bit, to upgrade our message a little bit.

CROWLEY: Interesting this first session was, A, held in Virginia -- a Republican stronghold which voted Obama last year; and, B, included two people who have, from time to time, been mentioned as presidential timber -- Bush brother and Florida governor, Jeb Bush, and former Massachusetts governor and one time presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not going to have just one idea that comes from one place. We're going to have a lot of ideas coming from different places. Those that -- that generate real interest and build up a head of steam are going to become the -- the vision of our party. We don't have to come up with all the answers today, thanks heavens, we have a little bit of time. Certainly by 2010, we better.

CROWLEY: Where do begin? Ideas of course, but there is process, advocates say Republicans need to start -- there is philosophy, a split between those who want to grow the party, and those who think the party needs to be ideologically pure. Republican consultant Rich Galen warns the latter would be disastrous.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know that the Republican Party will go away, I do think it's the -- it doesn't have run the risk of being not just the minority party, but a minor party.

CROWLEY: Getting back into the graces of American voters will take some work, but politics is a game of gravity. What goes up, usually goes down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And therein lies the history of party politics, Republicans can revamp, but minority parties generally get back into power when the majority messes up.

BLITZER: Candy, don't go away. I want to talk about this and a lot more. The question is can the GOP put itself back together right now. Joining Candy and me are CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Frank Donatelli, the chairman of GOPAC.

Frank, let's start with you. The party's got some problems, not the first time for the Republicans or the Democrats for that matter. What do you think about this effort to comes to grips with it?

FRANK DONATELLI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's a very, very good thing I believe. There's two things that we have to do. Number one we have to realize that the majority party is going to make mistakes and give us opportunities. I personally think the budget deficits that the president has proposed are unsustainable and that gives us an opening.

Secondly, we do need to talk about some new things, some new ideas, we need to really connect with people and talk about things that are of concern to them. Health care, energy, security, infrastructure, talk about things that really matter.

BLITZER: Are the faces we saw at this weekend retreat, these Republican leaders that got together to create this new grass roots organization, are these the faces of the future leadership of the Republicans?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Governor Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, Jeb Bush, a very talented guy, kind of an unfortunate last name. Eric Cantor, I would also look at John Huntsman, the governor of Utah. He's doing the one thing that no other Republican is doing, and that is really challenging the established orthodoxy. Bill Clinton took on welfare, crime, Reverend Jesse Jackson, the famous sister soldier speech, that's how he remade the Democratic Party. Barack Obama remade the Democratic Party by taking on Bill Clinton. Somebody's got to punch --

BLITZER: The very popular governor of Utah, John Huntsamn, is going to be here THE SITUATION ROOM on Friday. You're not the only one, there are a lot of Democrats who are saying you look down the road, what do you think of Governor Huntsman?

DONATELLI: He an interesting candidate, comes from Utah, but speaks a little bit more moderately, I think it's way too early to be thinking about individual personalities. We have Bobby Jindal, we have John Koon, we have Meg Whitman, if she runs for governor of California, Carly Fiorini if she runs for the Senate. So I think we're putting the cart before the horse if we look at personalities.

BLITZER: Candy?

CROWLEY: But the problem also is we're talking about presidential people here, they have a problem out there district by district by district, and that's where I these the people you talk to on the phone say listen, you have got to look and say, it's more important to win this district then that back sourcing totally buy into the Republican Party orthodoxy.

BLITZER: And you know it's very sad, all of us were deeply saddened over the weekend when we learned that Jack Kemp unfortunately passed away. He suffered from cancer. A lot of us knew him quite well over many years. I went back Frank and I'm going to have you react. This was an interview I did with Jack Kemp back in November of 1997. This is after he was a running made of Bob Dole. They lost. Bill Clinton was re-elected. But listen to this exchange I had with Jack Kemp back in '97.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Isn't there a sense that this could further give the impression that main stream Republicans aren't really main stream, that they are moving to an ideological right wing mode that could alienate a lot of other Americans?

JACK KEMP, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no doubt in the mind of this Republican that we must be a party devoted to the principal of conclusion rather than exclusion and progressive conservatism. Now having said that, it is extremely important demographically as well as for the 21st century that the Republican Party be exclusive and it reach out to people basis of civil, human, legal, voting and equal rights for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He was saying then what could be said right now about the Republicans. You got to have this big tent, you got to bring in a lot of folks. His voice though seemed to be a minority among the mainstream Republican leadership but tell me what you think?

DONATELLI: I don't know if it's a minority.

BLITZER: In terms of actively reaching out to African-Americans, for example, which he dedicated a lot of his political agenda to.

DONATELLI: Jack Kemp stood for two things, number one was supply side economics, he sold that to Ronald Reagan, he was the first politician to do that. Secondly outreach to constituencies which have not traditionally been Republican. Opportunity and outreach, that sums up the legacy of Jack Kemp. I would endorse that for the future of our party.

BLITZER: You knew Jack Kemp.

BEGALA: A great guy, a great public servant, great patriot, really had lived the American dream himself. All about idealism, ideas, and inclusion. Three I's that are missing from Republicans these days. There are very few Republicans you could describe as Kemp would be described in these obituaries as a happy warrior.

CROWLEY: The thing about Jack Kemp is authenticity because he didn't come by this inclusion thing via politics. He came by it from his experience in the locker room, where of course he became great friends with African-Americans. So there were a number of things that brought him there with great authenticity instead of in order to win elections we need to reach out and there is a difference.

BLITZER: Yes, he was my hero when he was quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. Sitting in the end zone, freezing at the Old War Memorial Stadium. I remember my dad taking me. It was snowing. Jack Kemp was the quarterback leading the Bills to championship seasons. We spoke about that just late last year when we went to a Redskins game together and shortly thereafter he diagnosed with cancer. We'll all miss Jack Kemp.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: I want to go right to Betty Nguyen. She is monitoring a horrible story that's unfolding in Turkey right now at a wedding.

Betty, what do we know?

NGUYEN: It's really kind of shocking. We understand that really an attack has occurred at a wedding ceremony in Turkey. This happened about 200 miles near Istanbul. Here's what we know. According to CNN affiliates, 41 people have been killed, at least 20 people wounded in this. This was a nighttime attack where they used grenades and automatic weapons. And according to Turkish media, the motive for the attack was a feud between rival groups of pro-government village guards who fought alongside Turkish troops against Kurdish rebels. Again, an attack at a wedding ceremony in Turkey, about 200 miles away from Istanbul, according to our CNN affiliate in the country, 41 people are dead, at least 20 are wounded, an investigation is underway and we will stay on top of it for you.

BLITZER: We'll be back for more. All right. Betty, thanks very much.

Disaster hits the Dallas Cowboys, why their training facility blew apart with devastating consequences.

And Michelle Obama calls it the icing on the cake, what she's telling kids about her role as first lady.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Critics say President Obama is getting swindled. Florida's most expensive transportation project has hit the Jackpot. $128 billion to build a bridge that opponents say is not needed. Following this story, Abbie Boudreau of our special investigations unit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): See if you can see this picture. Hundreds debate bridge. This is back in 2003. In fact the debate over the Indian Street bridge between the communities of Palm City and Stewart in Martin County, Florida hasn't died down for 20 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could call it the damned bridge to nowhere.

BOUDREAU: In 2004, a D.C. watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, listed this bridge project as one of the most wasteful projects in the U.S. Odiah Smith is suing the state to stop the bridge.

ODIAH SMITH, FLORIDA RESIDENT: The president should know that this is a boondoggle and he's getting swindled.

BOUDREAU: The bridge Smith calls a boondoggle is expected to get $128 million in stimulus money, topping the list of projects in Florida. But critics like County Commissioner Sarah Heard say there's one big problem.

There's a bridge that already exists between these two communities. And so where will the new bridge be?

SARAH HEARD, COUNTY COMMISSIONER: The new bridge will be just about a quarter of a mile south of here.

BOUDREAU: Only a quarter of a mile? This is the bridge used now. Four lanes, more than 1,000 feet long. Is there something wrong with this bridge structurally?

MIKE MORTEL, COMMITTEE CHAIR: Absolutely not, that bridge is in fine shape, it just simply doesn't have the capacity to move more cars over it.

BOUDREAU: Mike Mortel, the chairmen of the committee planning the bridge says there's so much congestion during hush e rush hour and a second bridge will solve the problem. We were told the season for the second bridge is because this bridge is so congested.

HEARD: You can see how congested this bridge is. It's not.

BOUDREAU: We wanted to see how congested it was during rush hour. It was a bit congested leading up to the bridge at this intersection. It's busy and I'm interested to find out what it's like when we get to the bridge. But at 5:45, the height of rush hour, we had no problem driving across the bridge. Heard says not only the new bridge a total waste of money, but the project should not have even qualified for stimulus dollars.

HEARD: I'm flabbergasted to tell you the truth because my understanding of stimulus money was it was supposed to be for shovel red projects that could be completed in three years.

MORTEL: I think she misinterpreted shovel ready. Shovel ready doesn't mean it's finished, it means it's ready to begin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still praying that it won't happen.

BOUDREAU: Who refused to give up their homes and properties to make way for the bridge? The county would have to declare eminent domain over the properties. Once that stimulus check arrives, this 20-year long debate will be over.

Does that debate even matter?

HEARD: No, it's been taken out of our hands then.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOUDREAU: Mike Mortel says the state has already posted hiring notices hoping at least 3,500 jobs will be created. He says the goal will be to break ground in July.

BLITZER: Abbie, how did this project get the green light?

BOUDREAU: County officials told us that this project got top priority; it was backed by the governor and then approved by the Florida legislature.

BLITZER: Abbie Boudreau looking into the story, thanks Abbie.

He's a leader with a reputation for grabbing headlines only this time, it's the private life of Italy's prime minister that's playing out in the newspapers, the spat with his wife and the scandalous allegations capturing attention.

And first lady Michelle Obama reveals what surprised her the most about the white house.

Stay with us. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Scandalous allegations are turning the private life of Italy's prime minister into a scandalous affair. Silvio Berlusconi is demanding a public apology from his wife who openly accused Berlusconi of frequent flirtations and announced she wants a divorce. CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney picks up the story. Fionnuala?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's all being played out in the newspaper, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's private married life in the very public eye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SWEENEY (voice-over): I'd like to close the curtains on our married life. The words of Veroncia Laria, the wife of one of the most powerful and richest men in Europe, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Telling her husband and the world in a very public manner that after 19 years and three children their marriage is finished and she now intends to file for divorce. The revelation came in an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Republica, only days after another very public row regarding the 72-year-old Italian prime minister's decision to attend a birthday party for an 18-year-old woman, a spat which once again played out through the media. Laria wrote an open letter to the news agency criticizing her husband's behavior and also accusing him of choosing candidates for the European parliament for their looks rather than professional attributes, a practice she labeled shameless. In 2007, Mr. Berlusconi apologized to his wife in a letter printed in a national newspaper, once again after she wrote her own letter to La Republica accusing him of damaging her dignity after he was spotted flirting with a former pageant contestant. Mr. Berlusconi initially was tight lipped saying it was a private matter. Now in an interview with Corriere Della Sera he's demanding an apology but admits the marriage is probably over. The Italian public waits for the next twist or turn in this real life soap opera. His aides must be praying that any divorce will not undermine the high level of support for the prime minister.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SWEENEY: In Italy, couples wanting to divorce have to be separated for at least three years. We probably won't have to wait all that long for developments in the very public life of the Berlusconi's -- Wolf?

BLITZER: What a story. Thank you very much.

Italy's prime minister has a history of grabbing headlines with outrageous comments. At the launch of Silvio Berlusconi's 2006 political campaign, he said, I'm quoting now, I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim. I put up with everyone. I sacrifice myself for everyone. In November 2008, some accused him of being racist when he described candidate Barack Obama this way.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Obama has everything need in order to reach an agreement with him. He's young, handsome and even tan.

BLITZER: Mr. Berlusconi accused critics of not having a sense of humor and after last month's earthquake in Italy, the prime minister said the thousands of people living in tents should see their plight as a camping trip.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File." I'm not making this stuff up.

CAFFERTY: I understand. It just occurs to me this whole flap about his marriage, they're behaving sort of like Americans. The Europeans are supposed to be blase about all this romance and sex and matrimony. Nobody pays any attention to that stuff over there. Now all of a sudden it's a big deal.

Question: Is Jeb Bush the right person for Republicans to listen to at this time?

Maurice: "The GOP's isolated to one region of the country, the south. Those good old boy ideologues no longer work in America that is progressing toward a center left future. I'm a black conservative who for years has said our party needs to be inclusive of all creeds and backgrounds. Now we're a dying breed. Everyone wants to listen. Bashing our president is the wrong way to find our way back to the top. Meeting him in the middle is only way." Trevor writes: "Funny how the Republicans can recognize that Americans liked Obama and his message of change yet the GOP still has a hard time showing any of it. I mean here's their list of leaders for change; Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, John McCain. Seriously? When the conservatives said they don't believe in Darwinism and the idea of adapting to survive, they weren't kidding. Good-bye, GOP."

Kay in California: "Jack no, the future leader of the Republican Party hasn't been born yet.

Chris writes: "Jeb is probably the best of all the Bushes. Had his brother not been president, Jeb probably would have held that office for two terms and been very popular. "W" may have ruined his chances of ever becoming president."

Lynn writes: "No Republican should listen to another Republican because, well, they're Republicans."

Pam in Baton Rouge, Louisiana: "This only proves how much gall the Bushes have, or perhaps out of touch they are about how little this country thinks of their family. No more Bushes ever."

Lisa writes: "Hello? He suffers from the same problem as Hillary Clinton; he has the wrong last name."

And Barry in Denver writes: "Doesn't it bother you when the brightest of the Bush family is named Jeb?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile and look for yours among hundreds of others.

BLITZER: I don't have a problem with that name.

CAFFERTY: It's fine. It's like Wolf. It's a name. Going to make something of it?

BLITZER: Better than Wolf.

CAFFERTY: You and Shimon Perez look a little alike.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. He's 85 years old. We'll talk about that later. All right.

The First Lady and the first time she stepped into the white house. Michelle Obama says something the Bush family did really impacted her. What she revealed, that's just ahead.

And some positive signs today in the spreading swine flu. U.S. experts worry the worst may lie ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The First Lady marked Cinco de Mayo one day early, visiting students at a Latin American charter school right here in the nation's capital. The kids asked the questions. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was it like your first time stepping into the white house?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Oh, wow. Well, the first time I stepped into the white house, it was to visit the Bush family, because they hadn't moved out yet and after my husband won, and he was the president-elect, we went to go visit. And it was actually a very exciting experience for me, because I had never set foot in the residence of the white house, so it was very exciting. But the thing is that the Bush family, they were so kind to us, they were so nice. The Bush daughters were so nice to Malia and Sasha and showed them where their rooms might be, and they told them all the secrets of how life at the white house can be fun, so it was really exciting for me, probably like you might feel if you walked into the house where you were going to live, right, for the first time? That's how I felt. I was pretty excited.

Tell me your name.

AMELIA, STUDENT: Amelia.

M. OBAMA: Amelia. Thank you for the flower, by the way.

AMELIA: You're welcome. I'm 8 years old and I wanted to know what has surprised you mostly about the white house?

M. OBAMA: Oh, see, this is a question. Seriously, what has surprised me most. I think, you know, I didn't know that I would have this much fun doing what I'm doing, you know? I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how hard it would be. I didn't know how much work it would be. I didn't know completely what to expect, but what I found is that this is a really good job. I have always felt like public service is a really good thing to do. I used to be a lawyer. I went to law school. You knew that because it's in the book, isn't it? That's good. But I practiced law and I enjoyed practicing, but I decided early in my career that I wanted to make my career be something that helped others, and being the first lady is like the icing on the cake of helping other people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The first lady also used the opportunity to draw attention to the flu crisis. She said at a time when we are celebrating Mexican culture, it's important to remember the health challenges Mexico is facing right now.

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

Happening now, the global flu outbreak reaches an ominous new level. But over at ground zero for the virus, a new effort to get back to normal.

Plus, President Obama launches a tough fight with big business in Congress.