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President Obama Meets With Afghan and Pakistan Leaders; Specter's Seniority Stripped; Senator Harry Reid Discusses His New Position as Majority Leader; President Obama Speaks Live About Afghan, Pakistan Meetings; Schwarzenegger: "Time to Talk About Legalizing Marijuana"

Aired May 6, 2009 - 15:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Obama about to wrap up talks with two allies on the front lines against terror. Did he get commitments he needs to keep America safe?

We're about to carry his remarks with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan live. You'll see it coming up in a few minutes.

Also, the Senate's newest Democrat is stripped of his seniority by the party he just joined. This hour, Arlen Specter smackdown. I'll ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid what he was thinking.

And an internationally known Catholic priest appears to be caught in a compromising position with a woman on a beach -- the photos and the unfolding scandal.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.


The Obama administration says it's getting promising signs of greater cooperation from Pakistan and Afghanistan against what they call a common enemy. The United States increasingly worried right now about the threat to the region from the Taliban, al Qaeda and other extremists.

We're standing by this hour to hear from the president after his talks with the Pakistani and Afghan leaders. They're wrapping up their meetings right now, a three-way meeting.

Let's go to our CNN Foreign Affair Correspondent Jill Dougherty. She's working the story for us over at the White House.

Lots at stake, Jill, right now.


And right now, here at the White House, as you said, President Obama is meeting with both leaders together. It's a joint session, three ways. And earlier, he met with them separately. Then, this morning, over at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did the very same thing. It's really a full- court press.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): A picture of unity: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presidents of two uneasy neighbors, Pakistan and Afghanistan, at her side.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have made this common cause because we face a common threat and we have a common task and a common challenge.

DOUGHERTY: The administration's hope, building a security alliance that recognizes a terrorist threat and can defeat it. At the table, not just military, but top civilian officials from all three countries, part of what the Obama administration now sees as the only way to win, an all-government effort. But in Pakistan, thousands of civilians are fleeing the fighting between government troops and the Taliban, and U.S. officials still question whether President Zardari's government is capable of subduing the militants.

ASIF ALI ZARDARI, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: I'm here to assure you that we shall share this burden with you all. For no matter how long it takes and what it takes, democracies will deliver. My democracy will deliver.

DOUGHERTY: Summing up the morning sessions, Secretary Clinton says there are promising early signs, but it's not just talk.

CLINTON: I told each that coming out of this trilateral meeting, we will basically have work plans. We're going to be very specific. We don't want any misunderstanding, we don't want any mixed signals.


DOUGHERTY: At that morning session, Secretary Clinton expressed regret that scores of civilians were killed in an attack in Afghanistan. Now, a senior administration official says it does appear that U.S. forces might have been involved, but both countries are launching a joint investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Jill.

The commander, by the way, of American forces in Afghanistan says it's not certain that those civilian deaths were the result of a U.S. air strike. General David McKiernan said U.S. forces came to the aid of Afghans who may have been ambushed by the Taliban in a western province. He said the Taliban beheaded three civilians, perhaps to lure police.

Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is working this the story for us and she's going to have a full report. That's coming up.

On Capitol Hill right now, Senator Arlen Specter may be feeling stung by the party he has just joined. The Pennsylvania Republican- turned-Democrat was stripped of his seniority earlier today, and he suggests a promise made to him was actually broken.

Let's bring in our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, you had a chance to catch up with Senator Specter today.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, we staked Senator Specter out at his office this morning when he was huddling with his aides trying to figure out how to respond to the fact that the Democratic Party he said has welcomed him with open arms had made a move to effectively take away the power that he has built up over his 29-year Senate career.


BASH (voice-over): Arlen Specter didn't show up for this Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, but his empty seat at the very end of the dais is a stark illustration of his new junior ranking since Democrats stripped his seniority on all committees.

We caught up with Specter, who insisted that's not what the Democratic leader promised.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Senator Reid said that I would maintain my committee assignments and that my seniority would be established as if I had been elected in 1980 as a Democrat.

BASH: The Senate majority leader disputes that.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Senator Specter and his chief of staff always were told that we couldn't interrupt any of the subcommittee chairs or the chairs until the next Congress. And his seniority will be determined next Congress.

BASH: But losing his clout now and uncertainty about the future is a blow to Specter because it undermines his central argument this week to Pennsylvania voters -- he became a Democrat to stay in the Senate because his seniority helps them.

SPECTER: My senior position on Appropriations has enabled me to bring a lot of jobs, a lot of federal funding to this state.

BASH: Specter told us some Democrats complained he would take their spots on powerful committees.

SPECTER: The caucus has some concerns, some people who would be passed over.

BASH: But another factor may be loyalty. Since becoming a Democrat, Specter voted against the president's budget and suggests that he wants Republican Norm Coleman to win in Minnesota. Democrat Debbie Stabenow told CNN Specter has to prove he's a Democrat before he gets the benefits.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: People are looking for a sign that he really wants to be part of the caucus, be a full member of the caucus.


BASH: Now, Specter told us he is confident that he will regain his seniority, his critical seniority after the next election, but there's no guarantee that will happen. And, of course, no guarantee he will actually win his election. The only thing that we do know is that this awkward beginning, Wolf, is certainly not what Specter planned when he decided to become a Democrat last week.

BLITZER: Yes. My interview with the Senate Majority Leader, that's coming up. We speak extensively about this back and forth, what was promised, what wasn't promised. That's coming up, Dana. Thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It is time now for today's installment of "The Republican Party is in Deep Trouble."

Among their many issues -- and they have a fist full of them -- it turns out the GOP is really hurting when it comes to women. A new Gallup poll shows that among women, Democrats have a solid double- digit advantage in party identification over the Republicans, 41 percent to 27 percent. Compare that to men, who are pretty evenly divided, 30 percent Democrats, 28 percent Republicans.

The news is even worse for the GOP when you take into account Independent women who lean Democratic. In that case, the advantage is 57 percent to 35 percent for the Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Republicans may want to take some advice from Colin Powell, who says they are in big trouble and need to find a way to move back to the center. The former secretary of state says the party's getting smaller and smaller, which isn't good for the country. Not good for the party either.

He said Republicans need to realize the country has changed, that Americans want to pay taxes for services and are looking for more government in their life not less. Also, Powell's criticizing some party leaders for bowing too much to the right, and he says right wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter don't serve their party well. He says he doesn't want Republicans to turn into Democrats, but instead to build a vibrant political party.

So here's the question: What should the Republican Party to do attract more women voters? You can go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty will be back later this hour. In California right now, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have opened the door to legalizing marijuana. We're taking a closer look at what he's saying and whether public sentiment is shifting.

And in our "Strategy Session," the White House changes its tune about releasing those photos taken in a controversial fly-over in New York City.

And stand by for my interview with the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. You're about to find out why he says Senator Arlen Specter forgot what team he's on.


BLITZER: All right. The president of the United States has just wrapped up a meeting with the visiting presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They're all there now.

Let's listen in.

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We meet today as three sovereign nations joined by a common goal -- to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their ability to operate in either country in the future. And to achieve that goal, we must deny them the space to threaten the Pakistani, Afghan or American people. And we must also advance security and opportunity so that Pakistanis and Afghans can pursue the promise of a better life.

And just over a month ago, I announced a new strategy to achieve these objectives after consultation with Pakistan, Afghanistan and our other friends and allies. Our strategy reflects a fundamental truth: The security of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States are linked. In the weeks that have followed, that truth has only been reinforced.

Al Qaeda and its allies have taken more lives in Pakistan and Afghanistan and have continued to challenge the democratically elected governments of the two presidents standing here today. Meanwhile, al Qaeda plots against the American people and people around the world from their safe havens along the border.

I'm pleased that these two men, elected leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, fully appreciate the seriousness of the threat that we face and have reaffirmed their commitment to confronting it. And I am pleased that we have advanced unprecedented cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan on a bilateral basis, and among Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, which will benefit all of our people.

Today's meeting is the second in the trilateral dialogues among our companies. And these meetings will coordinate our efforts in a broad range of areas, across all levels of government.

To give you a sense of the scope of this effort, Secretary Clinton, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Vilsack, Director Panetta, Director Mueller and Deputy Secretary Lew will all hold separate meetings with their Pakistani and Afghan counterparts. And these trilateral meetings build on efforts being made in the region and in the United States, and they will continue on a regular basis.

Now, there is much to be done. Along the border, where insurgents often move freely, we must work together with a renewed sense of partnership to share intelligence and to coordinate our efforts to isolate, target and take out our common enemy. But we must also meet the threat of extremism with a positive program of growth and opportunity, and that's why my administration is working with members of Congress to create opportunity zones to spark development. That's why I'm proud that we have helped advance negotiations towards landmark transit trade agreements to open Afghanistan and Pakistan borders to more commerce.

Within Afghanistan, we must help grow the economy while developing alternatives to the drug trade by tapping the resilience and the ingenuity of the Afghan people. We must support free and open national elections later this fall, while helping to protect the hard- earned rights of all Afghans. And we must support the capacity of local governments and stand up to corruption that blocks progress. I also made it clear that the United States will work with our Afghan and international partners to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties as we help the Afghan government combat our common enemy.

Now, within Pakistan, we must provide lasting support to democratic institutions while helping the government confront the insurgents who are the single greatest threat to the Pakistani state. And we must do more than stand against those who would destroy Pakistan. We must stand with those who want to build Pakistan.

And that is why I have asked Congress for sustained funding to build schools and roads and hospitals. I want the Pakistani people to understand that America is not simply against terrorism, we are on the side of their hopes and their aspirations, because we know that the future of Pakistan must be determined by the talent, innovation and intelligence of its people.

I have long said that we cannot meet these challenges in isolation, nor delay the action, nor deny the resources necessary to get the job done. And that's why we have a comprehensive strategy for the region with civilian and military components led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and General David Petraeus. And for the first time, this strategy will be matched by the resources that it demands.

U.S. troops are serving courageously and capably in a vital mission in Afghanistan, alongside our Afghan and international partners. But to combat an enemy that is on the offensive, we need more troops, training and assistance. And that's why we are deploying 21,000 troops to Afghanistan and increasing our efforts to train Afghan security forces. And I'm also pleased that our NATO allies and partners are providing resources to support our strategy. And that is why we're helping Pakistan combat the insurgency within its borders, including $400 million in immediate assistance that we are seeking from Congress which will help the government as it steps up its efforts against the extremists. And to advance security, opportunity and justice for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we are dramatically increasing our civilian support for both countries. We were pleased that these efforts were recently amplified through the $5.5 billion that was pledged for Pakistan at an international donors conference in Tokyo, resources that will help meet the basic needs of the Pakistani people.

The road ahead will be difficult, there will be more violence, and there will be setbacks, but let me be clear, the United States has made a lasting commitment to defeat al Qaeda, but also to support the democratically elected sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. That commitment will not waver, and that support will be sustained.

Every day we see evidence of the future that al Qaeda and its allies offer. It's a future filled with violence and despair. It's a future without opportunity or hope. And that's not what the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan want, and it's not what they deserve.

The United states has a stake in the future of these two countries. We have learned time and again that our security is shared. It is a lesson that we learned most painfully on 9/11 and it's a lesson we will not forget.

So we are here today in the midst of a great challenge. But no matter what happens, we will not be deterred, and the aspirations of all our people for security, for opportunity and for justice are far more powerful than any enemy. Those are the hopes that we hold in common for all of our children.

So we will sustain our cooperation and we will work for the day when our nations are linked not by a common enemy, but by a shared peace and prosperity, mutual interests and mutual respect. Not only among governments, but among our people.

I want to thank President Zardari and President Karzai for joining me here today. I look forward to continuing this close cooperation between our governments in the months and years ahead.

Thank you very much, everybody.

BLITZER: All right. So there you have it, the president of the United States, the president of Pakistan and the president of Afghanistan. You saw Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari, the respective presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as they walked out. They put their arms around each other, a little symbolic gesture.

In years past, no great love lost between the respective leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially Hamid Karzai, the current president, and the former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. But they walked out arm in arm, behind the president of the United States.

And you heard Barack Obama, the U.S. president, saying it was an extraordinarily productive meeting, putting a very, very upbeat sense on what has happened, the stakes for the U.S., the region, indeed the world, given the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal, right now enormous. But he says he heard what he wanted to hear and he offered them an unflinching commitment of additional U.S. military and economic and political support.

We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up. But you saw the three-way meeting there between these three presidents.

We're standing by. We're going to be hearing from the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. I spoke with him at length today on a whole range of issues, and he had a lot to say about the newest Democrat, Arlen Specter.

Stick around. You're going to hear this interview.

Also, she's only 18 years old. She's an unmarried mother and Governor Sarah Palin's daughter. And now she's on a news media tour with a special message for teenagers about sex and children.

And you hear right -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he's now wading into the issue of legalizing marijuana. Wait until you hear what the governor actually said.



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

Happening now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the ground right now in Afghanistan. He's getting an up-close look at the huge challenges there.

You're going to find out why he thinks the Taliban militants believe they have the momentum right now. His exclusive interview with CNN -- that's just ahead.

A Miami priest with his own radio show that's so popular, he's nicknamed "Father Oprah." Now he's persona non grata with the church after scandalous photos surfaced raising questions about his celibacy.

And a 144-year-old medical mystery -- the death of Abraham Lincoln. An assassin's bullet took his life, but some say the 16th president was already under attack from a rare genetic disease, and they say his DNA can prove it.

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

It's a case of he says/he says unfolding right now in the U.S. Senate. Arlen Specter hopes turning his back on the Republican Party won't ultimately cost him an election, but, more immediately, his party switch is costing him priority ranking.

On that subject, Senator Specter says one thing, but the top Senate Democrat says another.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And joining us now, the senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

REID: My pleasure.

BLITZER: We're going to talk about the -- the book, your book. It's out in paperback right now, "The Good Fight: Hard Lessons Searchlight to Washington." You have a new afterward that you've written for the book about the 2008 election.

I want to get to that shortly, but let's talk a little bit about what's happening in the Senate, a very sensitive issue now, right now. You recruited, you managed to get Arlen Specter, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, to become a Democrat.

He's now a member of your coalition. But there's, I guess, some sort of misunderstanding between you and him over whether or not you promised him that he would be able to retain his seniority on these committees. He's been a member, senior member, for example, of the Judiciary Committee, among other committees, for a long time.

This is what he said last Tuesday when he announced that he was switching parties.


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: In discussing that issue with Senator Reid, the fair approach, which we both agreed to, was to be where I would be had I been a Democrat coming into the Senate with my election in 1980. So, you can take a look at the charts and figure out exactly where I would be.


REID: First of all, we're very happy to have Arlen in the caucus. He has his seniority. He's -- he's now seated on the Senate floor between Senators Leahy and Dodd, which is fairly significant.

Senator Specter and his chief of staff always were told that we couldn't interrupt any of the subcommittee chairs or the chairs until the next Congress and that his seniority will -- will be determined next Congress.

BLITZER: So, going between now and the next election in 2010, and the new Congress in 2011, he's going to be the most junior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee? He will ask the next Supreme Court nominees questions last in line?

REID: Well, I think that we kind of exaggerate where people sit. Arlen is a senior member of the Senate, and that's significant. I think, also, we can try to work something out with individual -- individual chairmen. And I'm certainly doing that.

But I think everyone should just kind of relax and understand that he's a Democrat. We're doing our best to make him happy as a Democrat. I think he is. I have talked to him often. And any -- any other situation, I think, is something that's kind of being made up.

BLITZER: Because, even over the weekend, at a town meeting, when he was in Pennsylvania, he said this.


SPECTER: My senior position on Appropriations has enabled me to bring a lot of jobs, a lot of federal funding to this state.


BLITZER: Did he have the impression, in the conversations you had leading up to his decision to switch, that he would be -- that he would have the seniority on these committees that at least he thought he deserved and he would have?

REID: You would have to ask him what his impression was. In fact...


BLITZER: We have, and he said he believed he would have the seniority.

REID: Well, the -- the -- as I have indicated, the seniority on Congress is determined every -- I'm sorry -- in the Senate is determined every new year with the caucus.

Now, we did pass this resolution. That, I did so I could put him on the Environment Committee. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been on the Environment Committee. But we were able to do that last night.

So, he's on all the committees that he said he would -- wanted to be on. That's Appropriations. That's Appropriations, Judiciary, Environment and Public Works. He's on those committees. And we had to pass a special resolution to get him on Environment.

But, as far as his -- where he sits in the -- when the Senate comes in, I think that's a little exaggerated. He is a person who has been in the Senate since 1980. I think he should be able to handle himself.

BLITZER: Because, even as -- as recently as today, he's told our people up here on the Hill that he thought he had an understanding with you that was different than what has now emerged.

REID: All I can say is, every Congress since I have been here, we have a caucus to organize, and we determine seniority. And that's the way it's always been.

We did the same with Frank Lautenberg. We did the same with Jim Jeffords. We did the same with Joe Lieberman.

BLITZER: Well, Joe Lieberman, even though he supported the Republican presidential nominee and became an independent, he caucuses with the Democrats, but he retained his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, and he retained all of his seniority.

REID: But you're -- but you're making my argument. That was done because the caucus approved it at the beginning of a new Congress.

BLITZER: Was there one standard for Joe Lieberman, a different standard for Arlen Specter?

REID: Exactly the same standard. Every Congress, there is a decision made as to where people are in the caucus seniority-wise.

BLITZER: And -- and, just to wrap this up, because I don't want to spend a lot more time, but this was basically your decision, Harry Reid. You're the majority leader. You could have done something else, but this is the way you wanted it as far, as Arlen Specter is concerned?

REID: Yes, I think that's a fair statement.

BLITZER: OK. So, it's not just the whole caucus, all the Democrats getting together and thinking about it? It's -- it's you.

Now, he -- he has a controversial comment in next Sunday's interview that he gave to "The New York Times" Sunday magazine. There's a Q&A with him. Here's the question that was asked of him, at least as how it appears in the Sunday "New York Times."

"With your departure from the Republican Party, there are no more Jewish Republicans in the Senate. Do you care about that?"

Specter: "I sure do. There's still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner."

It certainly sounds like he wants Norm Coleman to beat Al Franken, the Democratic candidate, when the dust settles.

REID: Arlen has said that -- that is the way that he said that.

I'm not here to put words in his mouth. All I know is, he told -- he's told everyone that that isn't the way that it was meant to be. He -- he wants Franken to win.

BLITZER: That's what he has told you personally?

REID: Who is also Jewish.

BLITZER: Al Franken's Jewish, a Democrat. Norm Coleman is Jewish, a Republican. Arlen Specter's Jewish, as a Republican.

But -- but what I hear you saying is that Arlen Specter personally has said to you he would like Al Franken to win in Minnesota?

REID: He said that... (LAUGHTER)

REID: He said that -- last night, I came to him and I said, "Arlen, what -- what's all this about?"

He said, "I forgot what team I was on."

BLITZER: So, it was just a slip, you think, what he was saying?

REID: That's what he told me, yes.

BLITZER: But he was actually quoted in "The New York Times"?

REID: Well, I don't know about that. All I know is that that was given to me last night. And I said, "Arlen, what -- what's that all about?"


BLITZER: All right, later, in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to have more of this interview with the Senate majority leader, including a passage in the -- the after word of his -- of his book in which he talks about a speech that Barack Obama, then a senator, gave on the Senate floor.

After the speech, Senator Reid complimented then Senator Barack Obama. And Senator Obama, according to Harry Reid, said, "I do have a gift, Harry."

And we're going to talk about what was going on, on the Senate floor that day and a lot more. Stand by for more of this interview.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, says it's time for a debate on legalizing marijuana in California. Just ahead, the governor's message and how it squares with his own views and the views of the public.

And, later, was Abraham Lincoln dying even before an assassin took his life? It's a crime scene investigation of sorts that could change the history books.


BLITZER: The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, he is certainly known for making some provocative statements, but his latest is really raising eyebrows.

Let's go straight to CNN's Brian Todd. He's working the story for us.

All right, what did he say now, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you remember, Governor Schwarzenegger once famously shown smoking pot in the movie "Pumping Iron," has, in recent years, come down on the more conservative side of the issue of legalizing marijuana. So, his recent comments have observers wondering if there may be a change in his thinking.


TODD (voice-over): He makes clear he's still against legalizing marijuana, but, prompted by a reporter's question, California's famous governor leaves an opening.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I think it's time for a debate. And I think that we ought to study very carefully on what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana.

TODD: An aide to Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us, the governor himself spoke with a policeman in his homeland of Austria, who told him legalization didn't work as well as they thought it would.

In California, much of the debate is over money. The state is desperate for revenue. And one assemblyman is pushing a bill to legalize the sale of marijuana to adults for recreational use, heavily taxing retailers. The agency that collects taxes on alcohol and tobacco in California projects how much that would bring in every year.

BETTY YEE, MEMBER, CALIFORNIA BOARD OF EQUALIZATION: The revenue impact of this proposal, we believe, will generate over $1.3 billion.

TODD: But the same agency also found that, if it's legalized, consumption of marijuana would rise dramatically. And that fuels debate over the social costs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother's addicted to it, so I know what it can do that's not great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to get it anyway, regardless if it's legal or not. And why shouldn't the state jump in and get a little money from it?

TODD: Across the U.S., a seemingly political shift on this issue over the past decade. An ABC News/"Washington Post" poll from last month showed 46 percent favor legalization of small amounts for personal use, more than double those who favored it 12 years ago.


TODD: And a recent poll in California showed, more than half favored legalization, but that would not necessarily be an instant cash cow for the state.

Advocates for legalization tell us, even if that legalization bill in California is passed, the state could not tax the sale of pot unless a federal law is passed legalizing it for personal use. And, at this point, President Obama is clearly on record as opposing legalization for personal use.

You have to specify personal use here, Wolf, because 13 states have passed legalization bills for medicinal use, including California.

BLITZER: And what he's saying, though, is going to certainly spark a debate.

TODD: Absolutely will.

BLITZER: And we will cover it here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

The governor of Alaska, Governor Sarah Palin's 18-year-old daughter is now on a news media tour, delivering a message to other unwed teens. But her message is apparently at odds with that from the father of her child.

Let's go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. She's working this story for us.

All right, Deb, what happened?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Bristol Palin says her newborn son, Tripp, is the love of her love, but if she knew then what she knows now, she definitely would have waited until she was older to have this child.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Swarmed by photographers, 18-year-old Bristol Palin walked the receiving line in her new role, the ambassador of abstinence, saying her message to teens is.


FEYERICK: Wait to have sex.

The Alaska governor's daughter, who gave birth to a son in December, is taking part in a national campaign to prevent teen pregnancy.

PALIN: I think girls now, they think that having a baby is like having an accessory on their hip, and they don't realize that it's such a huge responsibility and it's such just hard work.

FEYERICK: Palin's said comments she made earlier that abstinence was unrealistic were taken out of context, and she believes it's the only way to prevent pregnancy. Her ex-fiance, with whom she now has a strained relationship, had a different take, speaking on "The CBS Early Show."


LEVI JOHNSTON, FATHER OF BRISTOL PALIN'S SON: Abstinence is a great idea, but I also think that you need to enforce, you know, condoms and birth control and other things like that to have safe sex. I don't think just telling young kids you can't have sex is just -- it's not going to work. It's not realistic.


FEYERICK: In 2006, a total of 435,000 children were born to mothers 15 to 19 years old, slightly higher than the previous year.

The campaign, sponsored by shoemaker Candie's, debut on what is being billed as National Teen Pregnancy Awareness Day.

ANN SHOKET, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "SEVENTEEN": Bristol gives a very public face to a real private struggle that 750,000 teenage girls go through every year. It is -- it is a tremendous turmoil in young lives.

FEYERICK: Candie's says Palin is not a paid spokesperson, but her expenses are covered.


FEYERICK: Now, while Bristol Palin was the top choice for this, she was not the only choice. The head of the Candie's Foundation says they also reached out to teen star Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger sister of Britney Spears, who appears in Candie's ads.

No answer yet as to whether Jamie Lynn considered it or why she passed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deb Feyerick in New York for us, thank you.

He's one of the most respected Republicans in the country, and Colin Powell reportedly is warning his fellow Republicans, the party is in deep trouble right now, Powell even going after Rush Limbaugh. Stand by.

And the police say it will help stop drug dealers, but teenagers call it snitching. So, one police force has come up with a very creative way to get children like yours to reveal secrets about crimes.


BLITZER: It's a subject stirring up intense debate, the alleged use of torture during the Bush administration. As President Obama leaves open the possibility that Bush administration officials could be held accountable, what do many of you think about all of this?

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us with a simple question, Bill. How does the American public feel about it?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the public agrees with President Obama. They want to move on.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Did the Bush administration torture suspected terrorists? President Obama says they did. OBAMA: Water-boarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture.

SCHNEIDER: Do Americans agree? Yes, 60 percent. So, does the public favor or oppose the Bush administration's decision to use those procedures? They're split.

That means that some people who believe the methods were torture still favor their use against suspected terrorists. Call it Jack Bauer mentality from the TV show "24." Nearly one in five Americans believe it's torture, and it's OK.

Some congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There's a lot more to find out, and, eventually we will. I think, the sooner we do, the better for our country.

SCHNEIDER: President Obama opposes prosecution of the interrogators.

OBAMA: For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted.

SCHNEIDER: Nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose a congressional investigation. What if it were done by an independent panel? Still opposed. The president is open to an investigation of those who authorized the use of torture.

OBAMA: With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general, within the parameters of various laws. And -- and I don't want to prejudge that.

SCHNEIDER: A slightly smaller majority opposes a congressional investigation of officials who authorized the procedures, even by an independent panel. The public seems to agree with President Obama.

OBAMA: I think that we should be looking forward, and not backwards.


SCHNEIDER: Wolf, I should point out those two graphics were reversed. It's nearly two-thirds disapprove of an investigation by either Congress or an independent panel of the people who carried out the interrogations.

Slightly smaller majorities -- or -- sorry -- slightly larger majorities support an investigation of the officials who authorized the interrogations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks for that correction, Bill Schneider reporting. Let's talk a little bit about what's going on in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us now, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Rich, Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a Republican, he's quoted in "The National Journal" as saying this: "The Republican Party is in deep trouble. Americans do want to pay taxes for services. Americans are looking for more government in their life, not less."

And then he goes on to say this about Rush Limbaugh: "I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without."

Those are pretty strong recommendations, strong assessments of his own GOP.


I think -- I think Rush Limbaugh is thrilled when somebody like Colin Powell takes him to task by name. His numbers go up. He's happy. And it gives him something to...


BLITZER: Even someone of great stature like Colin Powell?

REID: Yes, if in fact he is an entertainer. He's not a public official, never been one -- I don't think -- and he's not likely to be one, so that's what he does. I mean, he -- he lives and dies by his ratings. And his ratings...


BLITZER: But in terms of the substance of the criticism of his own party, the GOP, right now...


BLITZER: ... is Colin Powell on the mark?


No, I don't think he is. And I think he's slightly off the mark. I -- I do agree with this, that the Republican Party has to figure out a way to get away from the theory of getting more and more votes from a smaller and smaller segment of the population.

I think, to that degree, he's right, I don't agree with him on taxes or on some of the other things, but I think that what happens in -- in politics is that, as the Democratic majority gets bigger, the edges get farther apart. That's what happened to the Republicans.

Right now, the Republican edges are fairly close together. And I don't think, at this moment in state -- at this time, it's a very good place for the Republicans to be. People like Powell have to have a place in the party.



BLITZER: Before we talk about that, I want to play a little excerpt of a new DNC ad that's running talking about the GOP, and likening it to the show "Survivor." Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feel like being a cast member of "Survivor."


BLITZER: All right, you get the point, pretty...



BLITZER: ... sort of a clever ad.

You used to work over there at the DNC?

SIMMONS: Yes. Yes. My good friends Brad Woodhouse and (INAUDIBLE) are the ones who, I think, had a big part to do with that.

And I think that it makes a pretty clear point. The Republicans are in a place where they are shrinking. And I would say you're getting fewer and fewer people who are willing to identify themselves as Republicans. And I think Colin Powell hit on a very key point. People do want more government service.

After Katrina, they want more help when it comes to disaster. People want more help when it comes to health care. After the economic collapse and the recession, people want more help in unemployment benefits.

So, to be arguing that we should get away from government action right now in the wrong case. And even if you ask someone like Frank Luntz, who recently came out with that report we read something about today, that says don't tell people you're not going to do things; tell them -- give them an alternate vision about how to do the things that they want.

BLITZER: You have one specific piece of advice for your fellow Republicans right now, what they need to -- to get back into the groove, as they say?


GALEN: Before you decide to become a Democrat, look what the Democrats did to Specter. To use that ad, they invited him onto the island, then staked him on the ground and starved him. That's not a good place to go.


SIMMONS: Yes, but if you're going to be Arlen Specter, you have got to prove that you're going to be part of our tribe.


GALEN: Now, what the Republicans have to do is to -- is to agree to disagree, so that we don't have a religiosity -- not religiousness, but religiosity -- about -- about the things that you must believe in if you, you want to be a Republican. And I think we will get there. We have got a long way to go...


BLITZER: You have been there before. The Democrats have been there before. They always have a tendency to come back. All right.

SIMMONS: It's a game of addition. So...


BLITZER: We will see what happens.

Guys, thanks very much.

A very popular priest in Miami now accused of breaking his celibacy vow -- the unfolding scandal over photos that appear to show him embracing a woman on the beach.

Plus, she was the secretary to the convicted swindler Bernard Madoff. Now she's speaking out about the investment scandal that brought him down and whether he's protecting someone.

And an exclusive interview with the defense secretary, Robert Gates -- his blunt and disturbing take on the Taliban's strengths in Afghanistan right now.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, what should the Republican Party do in order to attract more women voters?

Lesley writes: "Respect our right to make our own choices about our bodies. Start to respect and vote for policies that reflect a true respect for civil rights. Quit sending our sons and daughters off to war. Put the environmental welfare of my offspring over their immediate need for greed and wealth. That would be a start."

Kevin in Indiana says: "Rather than trying to attract women, the more pressing problem confronting the Republican Party is how to remove the stranglehold the religious right has on the party. Take care of that; the rest will follow."

Jasmine writes from Germany: "Highlight young, accomplished, vibrant, intelligent, center Republican women. That does not include Sarah Palin. Keep extreme right-wingers like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter out of the media. They are seen as fascists by many. Reassess the party's ideology. And, finally, listen to Colin Powell."

Marge writes: "I think, if the GOP got more interested in giving woman equal rights, and weren't so uptight on abortion, more women would join the party. Republicans don't have to agree on abortion, but, if every time the party gets in trouble, they would stop pushing this subject, they might pick up more converts. They use abortion to pander to the far right, and there are not enough of them to win elections anymore."

James in Texas says: "Republicans could establish a lottery whereby all women who registered Republican would be eligible to go on a date with Rush Limbaugh."


And Dick writes: "Well, most of the women I know like to talk, eat, drink red wine, complain about their husbands, and shop. So, to attract these women, the Republicans should sell T-shirts degrading men in an open town hall meeting while serving wine and cheese."

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

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

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

Happening now: claims that U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan took a heavy toll on civilian lives. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already expressing regret, but a top U.S. general offers a different account.

Police offer teens big rewards to text them with tips about drug dealers, but could they be turning kids into targets?

And was Abraham Lincoln already suffering from a grave illness when he was assassinated? One doctor wants an investigation that he says could change the history books.

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