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Elizabeth Edwards' Resilience; Highway Robbers in Badges; First Lady at the U.N.; Biden Prods Israel on Settlements; Climate Bill Divides Dems; Inspectors Seek Cause of Dallas Cowboys Facility Collapse

Aired May 5, 2009 - 17:00   ET


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

Happening now, a very risky meeting and a very chilly message - CNN's Nic Robertson meets with a top member of the Taliban, who warns about U.S. troops - and I'm quoting now - "we will win and they will die." It's a CNN exclusive.

A personal journey in search of a family's roots - CNN's Jim Acosta is back from Cuba right now with a very personal and remarkable story.

And all she wanted was for him to be faithful - Elizabeth Edwards talks about her husband's extramarital affair in a new book and on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


This time, the blunt warnings about the economy are mixed with words of hope. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke today said the U.S. economy is stabilizing and will begin to rebound in the months ahead. But among the positive signs - housing, consumer sentiment and spending - Bernanke sees plenty of dangers and continued weakness on the job and credit front.

Listen to what Ben Bernanke told Congress today.


BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: We continue to expect economic activity to bottom out and to turn up later this year. An important caveat is that our forecast assumes continuing gradual repair of the financial system. A relapse in financial conditions would be a significant drag on economic activity and could cause the incipient recovery to stall.

We expect this recovery will only gradually gain momentum and that economic slack will diminish slowly. In particular, businesses are likely to be cautious about hiring, implying that the unemployment rate remain high for a time, even after economic growth resumes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The Federal Reserve chairman did not give any details at how 19 large banks did in the government's so-called stress tests. The results are to be released on Thursday.

Vice President Joe Biden today pressed Israel to halt expansion of West Bank settlements and to work toward a two state peace deal with the Palestinians. The comments came at the annual conference of AIPAC, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Those are pretty well established benchmarks, but may be a challenge to Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who's getting ready to come to Washington.

Let's turn to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry - all right, Ed, what's the thinking at the White House?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the thinking, in part, it was very significant about today, is that the president and vice president met with Israeli President Shimon Peres here at the White House, not the prime minister, who is not here in Washington right now, though they are planning to meet here in Washington later this month.

Peres emerged from this meeting saying that he felt very good about the talks, it was a strong start to try and restart the stalled Mideast peace process.

But as you mentioned, earlier today, the vice president was at AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby here in the United States, making clear that despite what the prime minister has been saying, this White House wants a two-state solution.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is strongly and personally committed to achieving what all have basically said is needed - a two-state solution with a secure Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a viable and independent Palestinian state.


BIDEN: He and I both believe that it's absolutely necessary to ensure Israel's survival as a Jewish democratic state that this occur.


HENRY: So what you can see there is this administration trying to put some not so subtle pressure on the Israeli prime minister to try and come along. He has not been keen on supporting a two-state solution so far, Wolf. And, obviously, the heavy lifting is going to be when the prime minister comes here to Washington later this month. There's even been speculation that President Obama could go to Israel as early as next month, though the White House has not confirmed that yet - Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much. Ed Henry is over at the White House.

Now to the Democrats' divisions over the president's efforts to ease global warming.

Our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows just over half of the public opposes the so-called cap and trade plan to set a limit and a price on greenhouse gas emissions from large companies. That helps explain why negotiations on climate and energy legislation right now are so tense in the Congress.

Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us right now with more on this story for us - Dana, the president met with some House Democrats on this really sensitive issue.


You know, Wolf, we always knew that just because President Obama has a big Democratic majority here in Congress, it doesn't mean his agenda is going to sail through. Well, legislation addressing climate change has become a primary example of that. It's delayed.

And so, President Obama gathered Democrats to try to get beyond their differences.


BASH (voice-over): More than 30 Democrats march up the White House driveway, summoned by President Obama to try to save his signature issue - climate change - from being derailed by division within his own party.

REP. HARRY WAXMAN (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Our committee is attempting to develop a consensus. Many of the issues split us along regional basis.

BASH: Split is an understatement.

REP. GENE GREEN (D), TEXAS: If you're going to do something to hurt the district I represent, I can't vote for it.

BASH: Congressman Gene Green represents Texas oil country. He backs the president's massive effort to curb pollution and encourage cleaner energy. But he says fellow Democrats crafted legislation that does not give the oil industry and others enough assistance to comply with new regulations and still remain competitive.

GREEN: I want those plans to - to lower their carbon emissions. But I want to give them some time so they can do it without literally costing our businesses and my consumers countrywide.

BASH: Meanwhile, a big concern for Democrats in other regions is the high cost of steep mandates for making cleaner energy.

REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D), NORTH CAROLINA: The mandate to require the states to derive 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2025. That's going to be incredibly difficult for many states, including my state of North Carolina.

BASH: Democrats know that settling their vast differences is the only way to deliver energy reform to the president, because they won't get support from Republicans.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: It amounts to nothing short of a national energy tax.


BASH: Now, that Republican message is actually resonating - the idea that consumers will pay more for their energy. And that is a central reason, Wolf, that President Obama's key priority appears to be delayed here in Congress.

But despite that, House Democratic leaders said today that they do still believe that they can finalize a bill in committee by the end of this month. But no one can tell us exactly how they're going to bridge the Democratic divide in order to do that - Wolf.

BLITZER: A tough issue.

All right, thanks very much for that, Dana.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Don't hold your breath.

As the Taliban keeps advancing in Pakistan, the situation there is becoming more and more critical. Half a million people expected to follow a government evacuation order now and flee one region ahead of an expected Pakistani military offensive.

The Taliban claims to be in control of 90 percent of the Swat Valley, about 60 to 70 miles from the capital city of Islamabad. Pakistan's army began an assault on these militants about a week ago.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers want to triple non-military U.S. aid to Pakistan. A Senate bill would authorize $7.5 billion to Pakistan over the next five years to help boost economic growth and development, with another $7.5 billion for the five years after that.

Never mind the Bush administration gave billions and billions - I think $12.5 billion in all - to Pervez Musharraf's government, ostensibly to fight terrorism. Now, the Taliban has got a stronger grip than ever in parts of that country.

Senator John Kerry points out that an alarming percentage of Pakistanis now see the United States as a greater threat than Al Qaeda and there's little chance of ending the influence of the terrorist groups until we change that perception. That's what all this additional non-military money would be used for.

President Obama, who's set to meet with both the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan this week, said he's gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan. Washington believes that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure for now, but there's an ongoing concern that, at some point, militants might try to get their hands on nuclear weapons.

You bet they would if they could.

Here's the question, then - in light of the increasing threat from the Taliban, should the United States triple non-military aid to the country of Pakistan?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

I was watching your interview earlier with the president and he's kind of playing down the threat that the Taliban poses, particularly when it comes to that country's nuclear weapons. But there are a lot of people in this country that aren't so sure that it's not more serious than it's being indicated by the Pakistani government.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Jack. It's a huge, huge issue.

And coming up, we're going to have that excerpt from the interview - the whole exchange we had on the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan - it's a very, very critical issue unfolding right now.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: My exclusive interview with the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari. That's coming up.

They call it highway robbery - dozens of drivers say they've been held up by police. And now they're fighting back.

And a CNN exclusive - a blood curdling message from a top Taliban figure delivered in a secret meeting to our own Nic Robertson.

And we're learning more about the collapse of the Dallas Cowboys' training facility.

Was it built to stand up to fierce winds?


BLITZER: Let's get to a CNN exclusive right now - a very risky visit and a very chilling message for Americans.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, was taken to a secret location, where he met with a key member of the Taliban who had a warning for American troops in Afghanistan, saying - and I'm quoting now - "We will win and they will die." Listen to this.


ZAIBULLAH MUJAHID, SPOKESMAN FOR MULLAH OMAR (through translator): I will clearly tell you, if there are more, we will kill them more. If there are few, we will kill them few. If the Pentagon is thinking of changing its policy, we, too, are thinking of changing the policy. If they want to send 20,000 to start a new campaign, this is a war. And we will see the war and make our policy.


BLITZER: That's Zaibullah Mujahid, a representative of one of the world's most wanted men - the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. He warns that Afghanistan's - Afghans participating in an upcoming election - he warns that they also will be targeted.


MUJAHID (through translator): This is not election, it is selection. People are selected from the White House. This is just a joke. We asked from our Muslim brothers and our population not to take part in this election.


BLITZER: All right. Let's join our Nic Robertson right now.

He's joining us from Kabul.

I know this is not an easy communications ability we have, but we managed to hook up with you, Nic.

Walk us through this process, how you got this interview, because this was extremely risky for you even to go anywhere near the Taliban.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know how important it is to have good, local fixers - go- betweens on the ground. And our local fixer had got word that this might be possible. We talked about it. He communicated to the Taliban spokesman that this is something we could do. We both had a set of - a sort of a set of guidelines that we - neither of us were going to break out of.

So it became, then, how - how do you mutually agree where you're going to do it and who is sort of less intimidated that they may be setting up - being set up for the capture.

I mean, clearly, when he came in, he was nervous and - and you could tell that he didn't know if he was walking into some kind of trap - we were going to hand him over to the coalition.

But on our side, as well, we didn't really know, was this going to be a trap by the Taliban?

I know, certainly, as we were getting closer to the location, we saw a couple of people who we thought they were on mobile phones. We thought they were spotters to see just how many of us were coming into that meeting.

And we went into a safe house, Wolf. And there was only one door in and one door out. And you know when you're in there, if it's a bad setup, you're in a bad presentation.

But I think there was mutual trust on both sides.

BLITZER: When you - when you go into a meeting like this, the fact he's even willing to meet with a Western reporter like yourself, is that a sign these guys - the Taliban - are becoming more confident?

ROBERTSON: I'd say they're certainly becoming more sophisticated, Wolf. I mean I think sometimes we're deluded into thinking because they look like they've stepped out of another century, they'll go to war in sandals and live in dirt and mud huts - that they're not sophisticated in their approach.

They're fighting a very basic war without a lot of high tech gadgets. But it's strategic. They do have a plan and policy.

And, look, President Zardari, President Karzai meeting with President Obama - what better time for the Taliban to get their message out?

Was this part of their calculation?

Certainly a response to the increase in troops - again getting - getting their message out.

One of the interesting things, though, when I asked them in the interview, would you - do you can you win by military means alone, or does that need to be talked, he did say that - that he did believe that they couldn't win by military means and there would, at some point, need to be talks, which was quite - quite an interesting thing for him to say.

So there's a level of sophistication there, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nic Robertson, one of our courageous journalists, on the scene for us in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Excellent work from Nic.

Thank God he's OK right now, after a harrowing experience.

And you can see a lot more of Nic's exclusive interview tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." It airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Nic, by the way, is also blogging about all of this. You can read it on

Frightening moments on the high seas captured on video - we're going to show you a pirate attack on a U.S. cargo ship off the African coast as it happened and we'll tell you what happened.

Also, fallout from the disastrous weekend collapse of the Dallas Cowboys' training facility.

Why did it happen?

Investigators are gathering clues.

Stay with us.



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

NGUYEN: Wolf, you have to check out this video released today - new video of a U.S. cargo ship, the Liberty Sun, under attack by pirates back in mid-April. The terrifying encounter happened off of Somalia, in the same waters where the Maersk Alabama was hijacked six days earlier. The pirates never boarded the Liberty Sun and the ship did make to port in Kenya. Crew members of the Maersk Alabama were scheduled to testify today to the Senate Commerce Committee.

But just look at that video there.

In other news, the Navy says it has canceled deployment of one of its ships because of concern about the so-called swine flu. The USS Dubuque was to leave for the Pacific on June 1st, on a four month humanitarian mission. But one sailor from the amphibious transport ship has a confirmed case of H1N1 flu. And Navy officials say dozens of others are symptomatic. All crew members are taking Tamiflu. The ship is staying in port and being scrubbed down.

And North Korea's foreign minister gets a warm welcome from Cuban President Raul Castro. Pak Ui Chu met with President Castro in Havana yesterday afternoon. And he's been in Cuba for more than a week for a summit of nonaligned nations. Yesterday, he and his Cuban counterpart signed agreements aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between the two communist countries - Wolf.

BLITZER: Betty, thanks very much.

Early potential clues are emerging in the investigation of the stunning collapse of the Dallas Cowboys' training facility on Saturday. The accident injured a dozen people. One of them is permanently paralyzed.

CNN's Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM - all right, OSHA inspectors, Brian, what are they finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're being very cautious, Wolf, right now about revealing any findings at this stage. They insist this investigation is just beginning.

But federal officials are interviewing witnesses, looking for hazards and looking for any possible code violations that might have led to this tragedy.


TODD (voice-over): The Dallas Cowboys' practice structure is crashing down around them. Frantic calls to the local 911 dispatcher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Dallas Cowboys Valley Ranch complex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you need an ambulance?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We need paramedics or something. We've got people that caught in a - in a collapse of the building.


TODD: Now, with a dozen people injured, including one the team says is paralyzed, federal investigators are looking for answers.

One focus is whether any building violations might have contributed to this. Court documents show the manufacturer of the Cowboys' facility, Summit Structures of Pennsylvania, was found negligent in the construction of a membrane-covered building on the Philadelphia waterfront.

That structure collapsed from snow build-up in 2003. No one was hurt, but Summit was ordered to pay more than $3 million in damages.

Contacted by CNN, the communications firm representing Summit said it would not comment on the Philadelphia case - that its president would not do interviews. We were referred to a statement issued Monday by company president Nathan Stobbe, saying: "Rather than speculate, we are focused on being part of the effort to find answers."

But Stobbe also calls attention to the weather event on Saturday - an isolated, intense downdraft called a microburst. Winds were reported to be about 70 miles an hour on the ground. They could have reached 100 higher up.

We asked a forensic engineer about those conditions.

DONALD VANNOY, FORENSIC ENGINEER: Given its location, the basic building code would require a structure to be designed for, fundamentally, a 90 mile an hour wind. So I would not have expected a collapse in 60 or 70 miles an hour. If the winds would get up to 120 or 140, then you would expect some major damage to occur, if the winds from a microburst got to that level.


TODD: There are other questions about this structure, but those are focused on the Dallas Cowboys. Records show the team was granted a request to replace that fabric roof last year and listed itself as the contractor. But the office of the planning and inspection director in Irving, Texas has just told us their records do not show that the Cowboys sought an inspection after replacing that roof - an inspection that would have been required.

When we contacted the Cowboys about all of this, they would not comment on any aspect of the building's construction - Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know, Brian, if the Cowboys are gearing up for legal action? TODD: They have hired an attorney in Dallas named Levi McCathern. He specializes in what's called catastrophic damage litigation. We called Mr. McCathern and an assistant said he was in meetings at the Dallas Cowboys complex, not available to talk to us. But considering his specialty, you'd better believe something is going to happen in this case.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that.

Brian Todd reporting.

The wife of two-time presidential hopeful, John Edwards, opens the book on her husband's extra-marital affair and the baby some say could be his.


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I've seen a picture of the baby. I have no idea. It doesn't look like my children. But I don't have any idea.


BLITZER: Elizabeth - Elizabeth Edwards talks about coping with infidelity and her own terminal cancer.

And a woman who received a ground-breaking face transplant meets the press and speaks out - what she lost and how she got it back.

And Michelle Obama visits the United Nations - what the first lady has to say to the world's body.


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

Happening now, the future of Pakistan - is it hanging in the balance right now?

We'll have more of my exclusive interview with the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari. Stand by.

She lost her face to extreme trauma. Now, a woman reveals the results of a ground-breaking surgery that gave her a new face.

And the stock market held steady in the wake of the bank's stress test. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped just 16 points, to close at 8410.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


She faces terminal cancer. And last year, she faced public embarrassment when her husband and two-time presidential candidate, John Edwards, came out and acknowledged an extramarital affair.

Now, Elizabeth Edwards is talking about all of this in a brand new book and in an interview with the TV talk show host, Oprah Winfrey.

CNN's Alina Cho previews their conversation - Alina?


In an interview with Oprah Winfrey set to air this Thursday, Elizabeth Edwards talks very candidly about her marriage, her husband's affair and how she's dealing with her terminal cancer. She's asked about whether she's still in love with her husband, to which she responds: "That's a complicated question."

Edwards also talks about the first time her husband met face-to- face with the woman with whom he had an affair - documentary filmmaker Rielle Hunter.


EDWARDS: What John had said is this woman spotted him in the hotel in which he was staying. He was meeting with someone in the restaurant/bar area. And she had verified with someone who John worked with that it was John. And then John had gone to dinner - didn't speak to her then, but he had gone to dinner at a nearby restaurant. And then he had walked back to the hotel.

And when he walked back, she was standing in front of the hotel and said to him: "You are so hot." I can't deliver it, because I don't know how to deliver such a line as that. But, you know, "You are so hot" are the words she said to him.

And so that...

WINFREY: I think she probably said it a little differently than that.

EDWARDS: You think so?

WINFREY: ...that you are so hot. Yes. Yes.

EDWARDS: Yes. You want to try?


EDWARDS: Yes. I'm not going there in any way.

WINFREY: You're not going there in any way.



CHO: Edwards was also asked about the speculation that her husband is the father of Hunter's baby.


WINFREY: The other woman has a baby.

EDWARDS: That's what I understand.

WINFREY: And there is great speculation that your husband, John Edwards is the father of that baby.

EDWARDS: Right. That's what I understand. I've seen a picture of the baby. I have no idea. Doesn't look like my children, but I don't have any idea.

WINFREY: You must have thought - you must have thought is it or is it not?


CHO: Edwards added, when she and her husband married 31 years ago, she asked for one gift. "I wanted him to be faithful to me."

Her interview with Oprah is likely to be the first of many. It's timed for the release of her new book. It's called "Resilience." That book will be out on May 12th - Wolf.

BLITZER: She's one resilient woman indeed. All right. Thanks for that. Alina Cho reporting.

Let's talk about this and more with our CNN political contributor, the democratic strategist James Carville, and republican strategist Terry Holt, a former Bush/Cheney campaign spokesman.

James, what do you make of this decision now by Elizabeth Edwards to go on Oprah, to write this book and to tell all?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, this woman feels like this is something that she needs to do, I think the book will sell very well. I think particularly a lot of women identify with her.

She was remarkable during the Iowa caucuses, like 2004 to 2008. She worked so hard for her husband and feels the need to tell her story. More power to her. I great deal of respect for Mrs. Edwards.

BLITZER: Terry, listen to this exchange that Mrs. Edwards had with Oprah. Listen to this.


WINFREY: Did you believe that this was the only time?

EDWARDS: I did. I did. You know, I believe...

WINFREY: Only time with her.

EDWARDS: Only time with her.

WINFREY: Did you believe it was the only time ever?

EDWARDS: I believe that. I want to believe that.

WINFREY: Do you still believe that?


BLITZER: Terry, politically speaking for John Edwards, does he have a political career ahead of him? Can he come back after what has happened?

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Bill Clinton did. But Bill Clinton was a totally different kind of political figure. He'd already become president by the time we found out about Monica Lewinsky.

I'm really stunned by this. The courage of this woman. We always suspected she was the brain in the Edwards camp. I think that the fact that she's tough enough to take on cancer and deal with this awful human being she's married, too - I'm just happy, in this case, the democratic primary voters saw fit to choose someone else besides John Edwards to be their candidate.

BLITZER: And listen to this really emotional exchange, James. I'll play one more clip from Oprah's interview.


WINFREY: You asked your husband for just one gift when you got married. What was that?

EDWARDS: I wanted him to be faithful to me. It was enormously important to me.

WINFREY: You said no rings, no flowers.

EDWARDS: This is a necklace of my mother's, but I'm not much of a jewelry person. I actually jammed my finger so I can't even wear my wedding ring right now. But I don't care about those things. It was really important to me.


BLITZER: Your heart has to go out to that woman, James. It's painful to even listen to that.

CARVILLE: It is. It's a tragedy. These things happen. We faced it here in Louisiana with our Senator Vitter.

You know, I think voters may forgive him. They may not. We'll wait and see how this election turns out. But I think this is a circumstance that I think that Senator Edwards' political career has probably come to an end.

And she is a remarkable woman. She's out telling the story and more power to her.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about the United States Supreme Court for a moment. Terry, I'll start with you.

Hendrik Hertzberg of the "New Yorker Magazine," he suggests this in the new issue. He says, "The biggest objection to putting Al Gore on the Supreme Court, I assume, would be that he's not a lawyer. But is this really a bug rather than a feature? Gore spent 16 years in Congress where he helped make the laws and eight as vice president where he took care that the laws were faithfully executed. His perspective would fill some giant blind spots on the present court."

He's 61-years-old, Al Gore. Would he be someone the president should consider?

HOLT: If the president were trying to avoid a harsh partisan fight he might choose someone else. Obviously, Al Gore would bring out the best of the worst in both political factions in this country. My suspicion is that they want to show some sort of respect for Al Gore. The great mentioner loves Al Gore.

But at the end of the day, I think Barack Obama has to find someone who knows the definition of controlling legal authority. Al Gore not being a lawyer hurts him. And he's too partisan, really, to get the job, I think.

BLITZER: What do you think about that intriguing suggestion from Rick Hertzberg, James?

CARVILLE: It's a nonstarter. It's something that a columnist writes. It's not going anywhere.

But the point is I think that the president would do well to look at someone who is not a career jurist, had been on their bench all their life. I think some of the great Supreme Court justices have been someone that's come out of the walks of life in politics. I think it's important the person be at least a lawyer. It's not a constitutional requirement but it seems like a good idea they have some training in the law.

But we'll wait and see. But I don't think it's going to be Al Gore. I'm pretty confident of that.

BLITZER: I assume he'll try to go for someone much younger, someone in their 40s, early 50s, given this is a life-long position.


BLITZER: That would just be my guess. But what do I know?

James you said this in an interview at on Monday. "Arlen Specter was the least reliable republican so he'll just switch to become the least reliable democrat." Explain.

CARVILLE: Well, at least Senator Specter, I give him credit. He didn't become a democrat because he wanted to be a democrat. He became a democrat because he wanted to win an election. So that pretty much says what needs to be said.

I saw a report today, and I even verified it, that he said Norm Coleman should be seated, who obviously lost the election. Every judge that has looked at this, every panel has unanimously concluded that Norm Coleman lost the election. I suspect that the Minnesota Supreme Court is going to say that, too.

I am glad if he wants to be a democrat, that's fine. But I wish there was more of a reason that he wanted to be a democrat other than the fact he just wanted to win an election.

BLITZER: Terry, are you one of those republicans happy to see Senator Specter leave the GOP or sad to see him leave the GOP?

HOLT: I am agnostic about this. I think it's going to be in the hands of the voters in Pennsylvania. I think there would be better folks. Pat Toomey is an excellent candidate. We hear Tom Ridge is thinking about taking the race up.

Ultimately, Arlen Specter is the democrat's problem now. It raises the bar, expectations-wise for the party if they do have 60 votes. They'll be expected to slam dunk every piece of legislation that Barack Obama wants.

And I'm not sure. I think James is wise to try and lower expectations about how Arlen Specter will behave as a democrat. It may be more trouble than they are prepared to take on.

BLITZER: All right guys. We'll leave it there but we'll continue this conversation. James has a new book coming out, too. We'll talk about that later in the week.

James Carville, Terry Holt, guys, thank you.

Tomorrow, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, will be my guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM. What would you like to ask the democratic leader? Submit your video questions to Tell us what you think. We'll try to use some of your thoughts, your questions on the air tomorrow.

She underwent one of the most difficult and rare surgeries possible, a full face transplant. Now, that patient is facing the news media and our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's standing by with a special report.

They call it highway robbery. Dozens of drivers say they were held up by police on a Texas highway. Now they are taking action.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The Obama administration recently eased restrictions on Cuban-Americans that want to visit the homeland. CNN's Jim Acosta is just back from Havana. He's got a very personal story that I want you to share, Jim, with our viewers.


You know, it's not in my reporter's DNA to write a story about myself. But my dad is a Cuban immigrant and I've always wanted to know more about my island roots. So while we were on assignment, we grabbed a camera and went in search of my family tree on Cuban soil.


ACOSTA: As the sun came up over Cuba's capital, we set out on the Malaccan, the city's dramatic sea wall to leave Havana's hustle and bustle. In just a half an hour, my Cuban guide Ernesto and I made our way to the village where my father grew up. My dad left in 1962, just a couple of weeks before the Cuban missile crisis. He was only 12 years old. His childhood memories were all I'd ever known about the island. But all of that was about to change.

The church where my father was baptized, I met Yolanda. She told me for five pesos I could have a certificate of my dad's baptism. We then went to see her husband who has known the Cuban side of my family all his life. He led me to my father's cousin had no idea I existed. I tell him we're on the island to report on U.S.-Cuban relations. He tells me they should get along. We swap stories, share a few family photos and then with a hug, I'm off.

It's always been a mystery to me, who my family is. And all I had was stories from my father. And now I'm starting to put some faces with the stories. So it's - this is a great day.

Now that the U.S. is making it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit their homeland, family reunions are cropping up across the island. My dad, who works at a northern Virginia supermarket has never been back to Cuba. So I brought Cuba back to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm holding back tears right now.

ACOSTA: I showed him the baptismal certificate.


ACOSTA: Pictures of his hometown and a cousin he hasn't seen in almost 50 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks like my dad.

ACOSTA: For Cuban Americans who do return, there are glimpses of the land they left behind. Children playing in the rain on the steps of Cuba's capital building. Classic American cars roaming the streets, all on an island waiting to see what's next. (END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: And there are countless other Cuban Americans on this same personal journey right now. One way to sum up the feeling for many of these families is the sound we heard when our plane first landed in Havana. It was the sound of Cuban-Americans cheering.

BLITZER: Pretty emotional. Talk a little about your dad. He was getting pretty misty there watching your report.

ACOSTA: He was. Absolutely, Wolf.

You know, he hasn't been back in 47 years. He left right before the Cuban missile crisis. And all these years later, you know, he has had a lot of pride in Cuba. He flies the Cuban flag in his house. He went to go see the Orioles play the Cuban national team when they came here ten years ago. So he doesn't have a whole lot of animosity and anger directed at the Castro government.

But he was very happy that I went down there. He was so glad that I was able to connect with all of these relatives we have down there. And it's really sort of enriched our lives because it's given me a sense of who I am and it's given him a sense of the person he once was.

BLITZER: And your report just enriched our lives and our viewers' lives as well. You're writing about this on your blog.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Excellent work. Thank you. Glad you're back - Jim Acosta.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: There are claims of highway robbery in east Texas. Here's the twist: Victims say the robbers are, of all people, the police.

Let's go to our national correspondent Gary Tuchman. He's been checking out this story.

Gary, what exactly did you find out?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we uncovered some very disturbing allegations. This involves around forfeiture laws. Forfeiture laws are common in states, including Texas. Police can pull you over and if they suspect you are a criminal, they can take away the money and valuables in your car if they think those money and valuables have been used to perpetrate a crime.

If you do it legally, it's a good law because you stop criminals from making a profit. If someone is not charged with a crime or found not guilty, you are supposed to give it all back. What our story is about a little town in eastern Texas that allegedly systematically has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars away from innocent drivers.


TUCHMAN: We've heard the same story over and over. Drivers telling us they've been ambushed on a small stretch of Texas highway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They took everything out of the car. They took all of us out of the car.

TUCHMAN: Over the last two years, scores of drivers say they couldn't report these crimes to the police because the men who forced them to pull over, the men who took so much from them are the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is disproportionately going after racial minorities. And my take on the matter is that the police in Tenaha, Texas were picking on and preying upon people that were least likely to fight back.

TUCHMAN: This attorney has filed a class action lawsuit against law enforcement people in Tenaha, Texas. Including this police officer we found on the job.

It seems you pull a lot of people over and take their money and belongings.

And this district attorney who we found who was singing songs at a district fund-raiser.

They are accused of operating a plot in which innocent drivers are pulled over and told they'll be charged with a felony if they don't leave behind their money. In legal filings, all the people being sued say they're complying with forfeiture laws which allows money to be taken from certain individuals in certain instances. But the class action says...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it's a shakedown, a piracy operation.


TUCHMAN: We did get a statement from the lawyer for the district attorney who says that the district attorney is in compliance with all laws of the constitution in the state of Texas and the constitution of the United States of America.

But because of these allegations, and there are an awful lot of allegations, we felt it necessary to confront the district attorney to confront the cop who writes most of the tickets because they wouldn't return our phone calls. We did. What they did tell us, where we found them, are all very interesting parts of the story. I can tell you they were very surprised to see us.

BLITZER: I'm sure they were. Gary's full report will air later tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Good work. His investigation tonight. You can see it all 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

A new effort by the white house to keep a public relations fiasco under wraps. The surprising follow up to the photo shoot that gave many New Yorkers flashbacks to 9/11.

And doctors ready to reveal the face of a patient who underwent a face transplant. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by. You'll want to see this. It's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File."


CAFFERTY: So, Wolf, the question is in light of the increasing threat from the Taliban, should the United States triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan?

Dave in New York writes, "Yes, yes and yes. This is the modern way you fight an insurgency like the Taliban. Think of it as a free market solution to terrorism: win people's hearts and make the Taliban unpopular."

Linda in South Carolina, "No it should triple aid to American people. You know Jack the jobless society that is allowing children to go hungry and live in tents in the U.S. The society that allows a single mother to suffer because the father won't pay child support. The society where horses, dogs, and cats are dying because the owners can't feed them. Give me a break. To hell with Pakistan. We can't take care of our own people."

S. writes, "Why should all the money or even the majority of it come from the U.S.? The Taliban is not a U.S. problem, it is a global problem. The UN, EU, NATO and Arab allocate should all be doing their equal share of financing non-military aid to Pakistan. If the U.S. keeps financing the majority of these projects, then the international community eventually will view the Taliban as a U.S. problem."

Sam writes, "Yes, in the long run we need the Pakistani people on our side. Right now, all they see are U.S. predator drones raining down missiles on their country. We need to change that image and helping them build schools, hospitals, et cetera is the way to go."

And Gary writes, "Jack, have we not wasted enough money the last several years? This is a joke. Are our elected officials really that foolish, naive and/or stupid? And where's the EU, invisible and inept as usual? Where is NATO, invisible and inept as usual? Why must it always be us? Jack, we're in debt up to our boy balls and there's no relief in sight."

If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there among hundreds of others.

I'd like to know what back for the buck we got for the $12.5 billion we gave to Pervez Musharraf. It looks like they are getting along well over there were the Taliban.

BLITZER: It's a tough one, too, but the stakes are enormous. You got the nukes and the fear of the Taliban and what are you going to do about it? You don't want to let the nukes get into the bad guys' hands.

CAFFERTY: No, absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.

He's in a desperate battle with the Taliban and the al Qaeda- linked extremists. My exclusive interview with the president of Pakistan, that's coming up. I'll ask him if he's worried about a military coup in his country right now that would remove him from office. In

And Michelle Obama speaking at the United Nations right now.


BLITZER: First lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, is continuing her so-called listening tour over at various U.S. facilities. She spoke this hour with the United States mission to the United Nations. Listen to this.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: As the president has said, the United States is pursuing a new era of engagement when it comes to advancing America's interests around the world.

This new policy recognizes the fact that America's future is intricately linked to the rest of the world. That the threats facing the global community know no borders and no single country can tackle them alone. And we've learned this again with the recent outbreak of the H1N1 virus. We know now that we cannot wall ourselves off from issues that are challenging our neighbors. It is moments like this when having relationships based on mutual trust and respect will be most beneficial.

And as the world becomes even smaller, and our future more interconnected and the stakes ever higher, your work is more important. It is never been more important. Your work links the world to America, and American ideals that are beacons of hope for millions of people.

As I told the young women at the Elizabeth Garret Anderson School in London during our recent trip, I told them there was nothing in my life that would suggest that I would become first lady. Rather, it is the premise of America and the promise kept that brings me here today.

There are millions of girls and boys in countries near and far who are looking for a way to make the most of their lives. There are parents struggling to raise those kids. There are teachers working hard to teach them. Community leaders struggling to give them safe, nurturing communities, where they can grow and thrive, and they're doing this against some pretty incredible odds, especially in developing countries.

And that's why the work that you do here, to advance America's interests and to make the U.N. a more effective and efficient organization, is so important.


BLITZER: The first lady of the United States, speaking over at the U.S. mission to the United Nations. There you see the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice welcoming the first lady.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, panic in Pakistan. Thousands right now running from the fighting with the extremists. There's a crisis threatening to explode right now. I'll ask Pakistan's president if he fears being ousted from office or worse. In our exclusive interview. Stand by.

And the swine flu outbreak health officials reverse themselves in the advice to schools across the country, and the virus claims another life right here in the United States.

And a surgery that was once unthinkable. Stand by for doctors to show us for the first time what a woman who underwent a face transplant looks like now.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.