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Interview With Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Baby Boom in Congress

Aired May 8, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of Afghanistan has bitter complaints with the United States. Today, he told me the United States should stop bombing in his country immediately. This comes after what could be the single deadliest incident involving Afghan civilians since U.S. troops invaded back in 2001, the recent U.S. airstrike in Northwest Pakistan.

But Karzai insists there are better ways to battle terrorists than airstrikes and says there's no doubt who the real enemy is.


BLITZER: You recently gave an interview to our own Fareed Zakaria back on April 19. And you said this:


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Yes, indeed, al Qaeda is not in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda was driving out of Afghanistan in 2001 by the combined forces of the United States, our other allies, and the Afghan people.


BLITZER: Are you saying there's no al Qaeda in Afghanistan right now?

KARZAI: No al Qaeda based in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: So who are you fighting against?

KARZAI: That's the thing. That's why we say that the war on terrorism is not in the Afghan villages, that it's in the sanctuaries. It's the financial support system to them. It's in the training grounds. And it's beyond Afghan borders.

That has now been established by the U.S. administration. That's why we have this tripartite between us and Pakistan and the United States. That's why the conduct of military operations that caused civilian casualties is not only out of place, but causes a lot of suffering to us as well.

BLITZER: Who is the bigger threat to Afghanistan, the al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, or the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar?

KARZAI: None of them. They can cause damage, they can kill innocent people, they can destroy schools, but they're not a threat to Afghans.

They can hurt. They can slow down our progress towards a better tomorrow. They can slow down the reconstruction. They can attack bridges and destroy them. But they're not a threat to the Afghan state or to the value system that the Afghan people hold deep.

BLITZER: I always ask you this question. I'll ask it to you again. Do you know where bin Laden is?

KARZAI: No, I don't know where he is, really. But I hope we will catch him one day sooner or late.

BLITZER: Do you think he's in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: Definitely not, no. He can't hide in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Where do you think he might be?

KARZAI: Well, there were rumors that he's probably in areas close to the Afghan border in Pakistan, but we don't know.

BLITZER: But you believe he's alive?

KARZAI: Well, from what we hear, he probably is alive. But we don't know.

BLITZER: Do you have a better relationship with the new president of Pakistan, President Zardari, than you had with the former president, Musharraf?

KARZAI: I had a good working relationship with former President Musharraf.

BLITZER: Sometimes, it was strained.

KARZAI: Sometimes, it was strained over issues that concerned Afghanistan. And also now, the same issues concern Pakistan's as well immensely.

I have a very close relationship with President Zardari, a working relationship...

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in him?

KARZAI: ... and a friendly relationship. Of course we see issues the same way. That is a qualitative change.

BLITZER: We have another iReport from a viewer, Billy Dennis Jr. of Mesquite, Texas.


BILLY DENNIS JR., CNN IREPORTER: What are the objectives, both political and military, that must be achieved, in your opinion, in order for American and NATO combat forces to be able to withdraw completely from Afghanistan and return home? (END VIDEO CLIP)

KARZAI: Well, the -- those objectives are not set by Afghanistan alone. Those objectives are set by Afghanistan and the international community together, especially the United States.

The United States and the rest of the world came to Afghanistan after September 11, after the tragedy in New York, for the purpose of defeating terrorism and al Qaeda. And, in the process, the liberation of Afghanistan took place, and a constitution for Afghanistan emerged, and a new life.

BLITZER: I guess the question is, how much longer do you need...

KARZAI: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: ...U.S. and NATO forces?

KARZAI: Now, in that, as we have begun this journey together, the accomplishments will determine the date of withdrawal.

If we defeat terrorism sooner, and if Afghanistan and the rest of the world are safer sooner, of course, there will not be the kind of need that there is today for presence of Afghanistan. The troops can withdraw.

BLITZER: Well, you say there's no al Qaeda there.

KARZAI: But the war is there, you see? America is not in Afghanistan per se for Afghanistan alone. It is there to fight an enemy that is slipping in and out. That is across the border as well. That's international as well. They're there because they used Afghanistan as the central ground.

BLITZER: Are we talking five years, two years, 10 years?

KARZAI: I can't give you a time frame. I can give you a time frame for the building up of the Afghan institutions. I can say that within 10 years from now, Afghanistan will be a lot more capable as a state.

BLITZER: And so for the next 10 years, you think you'll need that kind of U.S./NATO assistance?

KARZAI: Assistance to help Afghanistan build itself. But the war on terror is an entirely different issue.

We may be able to conduct much of this war on our own, much of the struggle -- I don't like to use the term "war" -- but of the struggle on our own as we move forward. But to defeat the al Qaeda and the terrorist networks, it's an evolving thing.

We may not need armies 10 years from now. We may need more intelligence, more, you know, technology to wage...

BLITZER: So, it's going to be a while? KARZAI: It's going to be a while.


KARZAI: It will keep evolving.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more of this interview coming up with the president of Afghanistan, including what he's doing about that law he recently enacted that effectively allows husbands to rape their wives if they refuse sex -- much more of this interview coming up.

Also, I misspoke earlier when I said that that U.S. airstrike that the president of Afghanistan says killed more than 100 civilians occurred in Pakistan. Of course, it didn't occur in Pakistan. It occurred in the Farah Province of Afghanistan. Just want to correct the record on that.


BLITZER: He signed a law that critics say legalizes rape within marriage. And -- but the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, makes some surprising revelations about that law in my one-on-one interview -- more of the interview coming up.

And look at this. U.S. authorities want a blast-proof camera that can record and survive a terror attack on mass transmit -- how it's on the fast track to being placed into service.

And this -- they're not waiting until their kids are grown to serve as lawmakers -- how young mothers are bringing a baby boom to Congress.


BLITZER: You just heard the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, say there's no al Qaeda in Afghanistan and that the al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are not really a threat to his country.

Let's get some more of this interview I had today with the president of Afghanistan. We spoke about an issue that sparked major controversy around the world.


BLITZER: You signed a law that is very controversial in Afghanistan, that's caused a huge uproar around the world, that is being interpreted as saying that, if the husband's wife isn't willing to give him sex, he can then go ahead and rape her.

Now, a woman named Hassina Sherjan, director Aid Afghanistan for Education, writes this in "The New York Times": "It places restrictions on when a woman can leave her house and states the circumstances in which she is obliged to have sex with her husband. I was part of a group of civil society representatives who recently met with President Karzai. He promised to fight for us to have it amended. "


BLITZER: Now, you told Fareed Zakaria a month or so ago that you didn't know what was in this law, even though you signed it into law.

KARZAI: Yes. Yes. The -- more details of this law, I did not know. I was contacted by our human rights commissioner three months before the law came to me on two specific items of the law that I then corrected through the minister of justice and sent back to the parliament.

The other details of the law, we did not know, I did not know especially. And this is something that has to be investigated as to how come all those elements were there without the parliament knowing while they were voting for it? Because I asked some parliamentarian woman. I said -- they had come to see me. I said, well, you voted for the law.

BLITZER: Because the suspicion was, you knew what you were doing, but you were seeking political support to help you get reelected.

KARZAI: No. Yes, that was a lot there in the press about it. No. No.

BLITZER: You didn't know about it?

KARZAI: Not at all.

BLITZER: So, have you changed it?


I -- as soon as I learned of this, I called the minister of justice to explain to me whether this is true or not. First, I didn't believe it. I thought this was propaganda by a segment of the Muslim press.

So, when I went to Kabul -- this was our during our visit to Holland. When I went back to Kabul, I called the administrator to tell me if this was true. He said, yes, as a matter of fact, when he looked into it, that this is true.

Then I called a meeting of our senior-most (INAUDIBLE) discuss with them, and arranged that this law should be amended where can amend it and remove some of the articles where we can remove them.

BLITZER: Has that happened yet?

KARZAI: That has happened.

BLITZER: So this law is null and void now?

KARZAI: The law was null and void even then, because it had not gone to the (INAUDIBLE) process.

When a law is signed by the president -- when a law is passed by the parliament, signed by the president, it then has to go into the official (INAUDIBLE) of Afghanistan.


BLITZER: So this law does not exist now?

KARZAI: Until it goes to the (INAUDIBLE), it does not exist, it is not the law. So it had not become the law.

BLITZER: All right. So this is not the law.

KARZAI: Now -- not at all.

BLITZER: And it will never be the law?


Now I'm coming to the next part. The amendment has happened. The document of the amendment was shown to me some 10 days ago. And the minister of justice is working on it with the clergy to send it back to the parliament.

BLITZER: What did your wife tell you about this law?

KARZAI: Well, she didn't know about it and I didn't know about it. This is (INAUDIBLE) not acceptable. So, it has been corrected.

BLITZER: So, it has been corrected or will be corrected?

KARZAI: It's in the process of correction.

BLITZER: So, you can -- the next time we speak, this law will be toast, as they say?

KARZAI: Sure. Absolutely, parts of the law, the bad parts of the law, the part not acceptable.

BLITZER: There are other parts that you like?

KARZAI: Well, this is a family law. There are too many things in this law that relate family affairs of our Shia people. There are certain items, maybe nearly 40 items, that are controversial and not acceptable. The rest of the law is routine civil code of Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Because there's a lot of concern that maybe Afghanistan is moving back to the dark days...

KARZAI: No, no, no, not at all.

BLITZER: ... when the Taliban had...

(CROSSTALK) KARZAI: Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. Even those who formulated this law from our clergy are significantly wise and knowledgeable people. I sat with them, and we discussed it, so it's not like that. It's a democratic process now.

You go through the parliament. You go through lobby groups. You go through the interest groups. You go through all sorts of other elements of lawmaking society. It's like you have in your countries.

BLITZER: We're out of time.

KARZAI: In other words, the president is not the only person doing things. There's a democratic process of lawmaking.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but I have to ask you about poppies and opium in your country. This is a huge, huge problem, as you know.

In September of 2006, you and I sat down. And in the interview, we spoke about what was going on in Afghanistan then. And I asked you, "What are you doing about it?"

And you said this:


KARZAI: We're embarrassed because of it and we will have to get rid of it. Some of it will be our job, law enforcement, eradication, arrest of drug dealers. Some of it will be the job of the international community, which is the provision of alternative livelihoods and economic instruction.

Yes, it is an Afghan problem, and we should take care of it. It's -- Afghans have to take the blame for it, indeed.


BLITZER: Now, that was almost three years ago.

KARZAI: Right.


BLITZER: Eighty-seven percent of the world's opium, poppies, comes from Afghanistan, according to the State Department and the United Nations.

KARZAI: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: And since then, it seems -- correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. President -- that this problem has only gotten worse in Afghanistan.


In 2005, we had only three provinces free of poppies. In 2009, we have 22 provinces free of poppies out of 34 provinces that we have. BLITZER: But 87 percent of the world's supply still comes from Afghanistan.


KARZAI: I'm coming to that.

So, only one province of the country produces the largest amount of poppy that affects the world. And there, the Afghan government's control is very limited.

When we were in control in that province five years ago, poppies were three and a half times less than what they are today the rest of the country was producing as well. Now the rest of the country is not producing. Twenty-two provinces have been freed completely or partially...


BLITZER: But this is such a source of money for the Taliban.

KARZAI: It is not a -- it is a source of money for the Taliban. It is also a source of money for the drug dealers and for the international mafia.

The money goes elsewhere. It doesn't stay in Afghanistan. That province (INAUDIBLE) province will not go away unless and until it is completely under the control of the...


BLITZER: When is that going to happen?

KARZAI: That is something that we'll have to work together with our international partners and Afghanistan.

We have -- the pressure is there. The American forces are arriving there. And the Afghan public should be boosted there. We have to wrest control away from the Taliban and put it back into the Afghan rule of law in and then expect Afghanistan to deliver.

Where we are in charge, we have delivered in the rest of country.

BLITZER: It's a tough issue, this..

KARZAI: It is a tough issue. It's -- we are realistic about it. But we are working on it. Where we are in charge, the Afghan government, we have delivered.

BLITZER: What did you think of President Obama?

KARZAI: Good man, a capable man. I had a good conversation with him. I was very happy when he expressed regrets and sorrows over the loss of civilian lives. That was nice of him. And that laid a good foundation.

BLITZER: And you think you're going to get reelected?

KARZAI: I hope so.

I hope the Afghan people continue to trust me. I hope they see me worthy of service to them. And if they see me worthy of service to them, I'm sure they will elect me. And if they don't elect me in a democratic process, at least I would have served Afghanistan democratically and moved out democratically. That will be an (INAUDIBLE) itself.

BLITZER: Are you feeling secure personally...


BLITZER: ... given the security threats that you face?

KARZAI: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. No, there has never been a worry. I leave it to God.

BLITZER: That's what you always tell me whenever I ask.

Thanks so much for coming in.

KARZAI: Welcome.


BLITZER: They're creating some very, very strong pressure, and they're not afraid to go public. Gay members of the U.S. military have a special message for President Obama: Live up to your promise.

And the White House flyover terrified a lot of New Yorkers. President Obama called it a huge mistake. See who's paying the price for this photo-op.

And the outspoken Dick Cheney says you have heard enough from him -- why he says the time has now come to hear some others.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: And now there's fallout from the Air Force One photo-op that scared so many New Yorkers.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

Dramatic development today, Ed.


The significance, of course, is the forced resignation under fire involving a White House aide in the early days of this Obama administration, all stemming from that Air Force flyover that cost taxpayers more than $328,000. The president today accepting the resignation of Louis Caldera. He had been running the White House Military Office, essentially taking the fall for all that panic that was caused in New York and New Jersey late last month, people thinking that this photo-op was part of some sort of terror attack late last month.

Interesting, of course, the White House releasing this report late on a Friday afternoon. As you know, oftentimes, White House officials over the years have used that time frame to try and bury bad news when they think people are not going to be paying as much attention.

Of course, this whole mess sparked by a desire to get a new publicity photo of Air Force One. As a part of this internal investigation, the White House released one photo, a beautiful photo, really, of the Air Force jet flying near the Statue of Liberty. But White House officials have said they have no plans to use this publicity photo, of course, because it's become so tainted -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It is a great shot, you got to admit.

All right, Ed, thanks very much for that.

He's about to make good on a promise. President Obama will make a speech next month in what the White House calls the heart of the Arab world.

Plus, he's served in Iraq and wants to serve again. But he's just one of many gay service members forced out of the military. They want the president to do something about it.

And California burning -- a family lost one home to a wildfire. Now their new home is at risk.


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

Happening now: Pakistan's military widens its net in a new offensive against the Taliban. The fighting is displacing tens of thousands of Pakistanis.

Pope Benedict XVI makes his first trip to the Middle East, his first stop, Jordan, which he praises for fostering Christian-Muslim dialogue.

And Lady Liberty's crown is about to reopen for a visit from you after being closed since the 9/11 attacks -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

President Obama has warmly welcomed openly gay staffers, and he's openly welcomed some gays to the White House, even recently for the White House Easter egg roll. But some gays wonder if his administration will make the ultimate step, repealing the ban against gays serving openly in the United States military.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is here. She's following the story for us -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A sensitive issue, Wolf. New high-profile pressure on the White House -- dozens of gay, lesbian and transgender West Point graduates banding together, calling on the president to keep his campaign promise.

We spoke with one of them.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Lieutenant Dan Choi is a West Point graduate, fluent in Arabic.

LT. DAN CHOI, FMR. SERVICE MEMBER: I have been to Iraq. I want to serve again.

BOLDUAN: But just this week, Choi received discharge papers. Why? Because he said he's gay.

CHOI: The Army says, no, go home. Pack your bags. You're fired.

BOLDUAN: The Army cites Choi for moral or professional dereliction, saying, "You admitted publicly that you are a homosexual, and your actions negatively affected the good order and discipline of the New York Army National Guard."

Choi says his unit feels just the opposite.

CHOI: They come up to me and said: "Hey, sir. We know, and we don't care." And some of them said, you know, "We respect you so much because you were honest enough that you trusted us enough, and what you're doing is the right

BOLDUAN: It's estimated more than 12,000 service members have been forced out since "don't ask, don't tell" was started in 1993. Candidate Obama pledged to repeal the law banning gays from serving openly.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have stated repeatedly that "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't make sense.

Why would we want able men and women who are willing to sacrifice on our behalf -- why would we tell them no?

BOLDUAN: But so far, no action from President Obama.

Choi says he'll keep fighting, but now, more than ever, he's looking to the president for help.

CHOI: I would, number one, tell him, don't fire me, I have something to contribute to the Army.


BOLDUAN: Now, the White House has said the president is consulting with top defense advisers, like Secretary Gates, on what the impact of a repeal would be.

Meantime, Wolf, it remains a very risky political issue in Congress, which, of course, would need to overturn the law.

BLITZER: At the same time, the U.S. military needs qualified Arabic speakers. And he clearly was one that they're about to lose.

BOLDUAN: Exactly, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

People in California are watching helplessly as a raging wildfire marches toward their doorsteps. Emergency crews in Santa Barbara County say this fire is tricky. It's not contained and authorities say it's burned more than 3,500 acres. The flames have forced 30,000 people to leave their homes.

But members of one family have a reason for standing their ground.

Let's go to the front lines.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is joining us now live.

What's going on -- Thelma?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you that this fire's absolutely stubborn. It is also nerve-wracking for all the people who live in this area.

All eyes are on that ridge that you see right behind me. The front of this fire is now five miles long in both directions. Folks are concerned about the winds kicking up at night that could possibly drive those flames down into the canyon toward them.


KAYE CAMARILLO, HOMEOWNER: I'm worried that we can still see flames.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): For three days and nights since the Santa Barbara fire began, Lisa and Kay Camarillo have watched the flames on the ridge. All their neighbors have evacuated. The Camarillos told us they're staying behind.

K. CAMARILLO: You know, my family has lived here for many generations. This is our -- this is our land and we have to defend it.

GUTIERREZ: Their nerves are raw. Just seven months ago, flames roared through this canyon, destroying hundreds of homes.

K. CAMARILLO: Sparks flew and we're right here.

GUTIERREZ: Kay Camarillo fled for her life. The home she grew up in -- where she raised her children -- burned to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to imagine what the homeowner feels when they come back and they look at that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The memories, the bench that my father built and that we all sat on when we were little kids. Those are irreplaceable things.

GUTIERREZ: Camarillo didn't have enough insurance to rebuild. So the Community Environment Council in Santa Barbara came to her rescue. Volunteers built a new fire-resistant, green home. Two weeks ago, that home was relocated to her property.

TRACY TROTTER, SANTA BARBARA ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL: You'd be absolutely astounded at how many people put their time and effort into this.

GUTIERREZ: And just when she was ready to settle in, the fire threatens once again.

(on camera): Why would you rebuild here?

Why not move elsewhere and live somewhere else in Santa Barbara?

K. CAMARILLO: No, no. This is our home. This is our land.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Land high above Santa Barbara that has belonged to the Camarillo family for more than 100 years.


GUTIERREZ: Seventy-five homes have either been damaged or completely destroyed in this fire. And it is now 10 percent contained. But, Wolf, the good news is that the winds are down. And, hopefully, that will let firefighters have a chance to at least stand their ground -- back to you.

BLITZER: Thelma, thank you.

Good luck to all the folks out there.

Can President Obama work with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to defeat Taliban militants?

Is he the right man for the job?

I'll talk about my one-on-one interview with President Karzai with the best political team on television.

And the government wants surveillance cameras that can survive a terrorist blast and it's trying to get them in a rather unusual way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's get right to our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our chief national correspondent, the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," John King; and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin -- Hamid Karzai minced no words today, Gloria. He said he wants the United States immediately to stop all airstrikes in his country. And he blames the U.S. directly on killing, he says, more than 100 innocent civilians.


BLITZER: What's going on?

BORGER: Well, Wolf, first of all you have to -- I think we all have to understand that he's facing the voters sometime at the end of August -- August 20th, I believe. And it doesn't hurt domestically for him -- he's not very popular right now -- to criticize the United States.

But, also, I think the feeling is mutual. I'd like to know what -- what you think about this. I mean, it's clear to me that President Obama doesn't think Hamid Karzai is a particularly reliable leader.

And secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has said that Afghanistan is a narco-state, right?

BLITZER: Yes. Well, you're going to speak Sunday, John -- correct me if I'm wrong -- with General Petraeus, the head of the U.S. military's Central Command, which is in charge, among other things, of Afghanistan.


BLITZER: I assume you'll ask him what does he think about Hamid Karzai's request that he says he made to the president to stop all U.S. airstrikes in his country?

KING: Absolutely. We will ask that question, Wolf, when we talk to General Petraeus on Sunday. And, as you know, this has come up in the past, during the Bush administration, when there were airstrikes blamed for civilian deaths, as well. And the United States government position has been to investigate; in this case, acknowledge wrongdoing or acknowledge that the airstrikes were, indeed, responsible for civilians deaths; but then to make the case that the strikes are necessary to go against extreme elements in Afghanistan.

And I thought it was striking in the interview when he said there was no Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan.

BORGER: Right.

KING: That is not a position shared by the United States military, which is one of the reasons General Petraeus is the architect of this strategy. They are dealing not just with President Karzai, who they view as a great man and a historic figure in Afghanistan, but a weak leader who has a very corrupt administration. They're also dealing with their counter-insurgency strategy with some of the tribal leaders. And the regional leaders -- and, if they see an opening, Wolf, even to what they call moderate Taliban.

BLITZER: You know, the president is going to continue reaching out to the Muslim and Arab world -- Roland.

They announced today -- the White House -- in early June, he's going to Cairo. He's going to Egypt to deliver a major speech to the Muslim world -- to the Arab world. It's part of this strategy of trying to improve U.S. relations with them.

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is a smart strategy because, again, we need those Muslim countries to be allies who share the same philosophy that we do when it comes to combating terrorism. We cannot be targeting folks always, tearing folks apart, because we need them. And so it can't always be in a situation where it's an emergency when we need those Muslim countries to step up.

And so it is a smart strategy. But then, the difficult work, frankly, comes after this speech. And that is what kind of assistance you will see in terms of targeting those charities, targeting those particular groups, making sure they're not moving freely back and forth.

BLITZER: Listen to the former vice president, Gloria, Dick Cheney, today, talking about his party.

Listen to this.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the older folks who've been around a long time, like yours truly, need to move on and make room for that young talent that's -- that's coming along. But I -- I think it's basically healthy. I don't spend a lot of time or lose a lot of sleep over it. I just think now is the time for people who are committed to get out there and find candidates they like and go to work for them.


BLITZER: He says it may be time for him to move on, but he shows no desire...

BORGER: He's not moving.

BLITZER: He's not moving. He's...


BLITZER: He's making himself available out there and he's speaking out.

BORGER: I've never seen a more available former vice president in the first 100 days of a -- of a new administration in...

MARTIN: Because he...


MARTIN: ...hiding the whole presidency.

BORGER: Right.

MARTIN: He was always in hiding.

BORGER: Well, he is no longer at an undisclosed location. He's at studio sets everywhere. And that was -- and that was on the radio.

Look, this is legacy building for Dick Cheney. He cannot say that the party needs to change direction, because that would mean that the direction it was going in in his administration was wrong. So he's not going to say that at all.

BLITZER: And, you know, I'll start it, John, with you. That interview you did with him a few weeks ago, it caused a -- pretty much of a stir, when he said that the country's national security has been hurt by the president of the United States.

KING: He very bluntly said that he believes the American people are less safe because of President Obama's decision to announce the closing of Guantanamo Bay -- to reverse the interrogation tactics of the Bush administration. That drew a fiery retort from the Obama White House.

And, Wolf, he's now also weighing in on this whole emerging search for the new -- the rebranded Republican Party. The vice president saying the older guys have to step aside.

As you well know, there is a fascinating soul-searching effort and a sometimes nasty struggle going on within the Republican Party to decide who's on first heading into the 2010 and then the 2012 cycles.

And the vice president is making clear, not only on national security, but in that debate, as well, he wants to add his voice -- even as he says his generation should step aside.

BORGER: And you want to tell Mitt Romney...

MARTIN: Hey, Wolf...

BORGER: step aside?

I don't think so. I think it looks like he's running again.

MARTIN: Hey, Wolf, Dick Cheney in 2009 is sort of like Walter Mondale in 1992 -- absolutely irrelevant. He played a role in the destruction of the GOP as we know it. He was a part of the yoke around the GOP's neck.

And so when he says we don't need to (INAUDIBLE) this moderation, the reality is you do. You are guaranteed to lose if you keep shutting out a wide variety of people in the party.

I will say to anybody who's a Republican, the last person you should be taking advice from right now is Dick Cheney, because he's a part of your problem.

BORGER: But there's clearly a vacuum right now of leadership in the Republican Party. And Dick Cheney is stepping in to fill it. And I think he -- he knows that very well. And what he's saying is -- to some of these other folks -- OK, OK, it's your turn, but until you do, here I am.

MARTIN: He had a shot...


MARTIN: Eight years.

BLITZER: But you know what, I covered the former vice president for a long time -- John, I want you to weigh in.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: He's the type of guy, that if he's criticized, he's not going to just close his ears and forget about it. He wants to defend his record, defend his honor.

KING: He absolutely does. He believes he has something to say. He believes, going back to the Ford White House and his days as chief of staff, his days in Congress, his days in the first Bush cabinet, that his experience gives him a platform on which to make this case.

He will be out again this Sunday on another network giving another big interview.

And, Wolf, you know, Roland is right in the sense that if you call most Republicans, most Republicans will tell you they wish the former vice president would go into retirement and quiet down. But there are some who say we will listen to him on some issues. And there are many Republicans that you have seen just in recent days who think the national security portfolio is one they want to use against the Democrats and potentially against this president down the road.

And on those issues, some -- some Republicans still listen to Dick Cheney.

MARTIN: Hey, Wolf...

BORGER: You know, this isn't...

MARTIN: Hey...

BORGER: This is not about building the Republican Party, though, for Dick Cheney right now. This is about securing what he wants his legacy to be viewed by, by the American public.

MARTIN: Wolf, you love baseball. I'll tell you what, they got routed in 2006, they got routed in 2008. If it was baseball, they would send him to the minors.

This is one that says you know what, your time is up, Dick Cheney. It's time for somebody new to come in because...

BLITZER: All right...

MARTIN: had your shot and you failed.

BLITZER: All right, John, what do you think of the way the White House has handled this uproar over the photo -- the photo shoot over Lower Manhattan with Air Force One flying over?

And today we learned that the White House official who was responsible for it effectively forced to resign.

KING: Yes, I was going to say, Humpty-Dumpty was pushed. He resigned.


KING: But this was not -- this was -- this was no accident.

Look, the secretary of Defense sent a letter to John McCain earlier today saying this cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, that he did not think it was handled very well...


KING: ...that he wants to look at how this is handled in the future. There's no question the director of the Military Affairs office at the White House needed to step down. And the White House is hoping that that turning the page closes this chapter, which they all acknowledge was a huge mistake -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Roland is...

BORGER: You know...

BLITZER: Roland is going to have more on this coming up at 8:00 on "NO BIAS, NO BULL".

But I have to tell you, that White House photo that was released of that plane flying over the Statue of Liberty -- a pretty nice photo.


BLITZER: I don't know if it's worth $300,000...

BORGER: And, Wolf...

BLITZER: But it's still a pretty nice photo.

BORGER: And, Wolf, it was a stunning White House report, if you read it, because it said when the director was asked why he hadn't informed key people in the administration that there was going to be this flyover, the quote was that he had, "no coherent explanation."

BLITZER: All right, guys. BORGER: Ouch.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Wanted -- new technology to fight terrorists -- a surveillance camera that can survive a bomb blast. The government is taking some unusual steps to find one.

Plus, a baby boom on Capitol Hill -- how new mom lawmakers are juggling the demands they face.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll have the very latest for you on those raging wildfires in Santa Barbara, California. Tens of thousands of people have been ordered to leave their homes; firefighters struggling, trying to contain the fire. We'll have a live report for you.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi facing new questions about whether she's fully disclosing what she knew about the CIA's harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding. It turns out that the CIA was briefing her for about seven years.

And President Obama fires a White House aide after a scandal over the Air Force One flyover of Manhattan that panicked some residents of New York City and New Jersey and sparked outrage all across the country. We'll have a special report and we'll produce for you the one photograph produced by the White House, at a cost of approximately $300,000.

And three of the best political analysts in the country join us here, as well.

We hope you will, as well, at the top of the hour, for all of that, all the day's news and more.

THE SITUATION ROOM continues in just a moment.


BLITZER: Capturing a terrorist explosion in pictures as it happens -- U.S. security experts want a camera that can survive a big blast and protect your bottom line at the same time.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

She's got the details of what's going on?

Pretty amazing pictures.


The government thinks it has found a faster and cheaper way to develop and deploy new security solutions. It is trying to get a bigger bang for a buck.


MESERVE (voice-over): A bus splinters apart, destroyed by a bomb. This is a test of a new technology and a new business model.

STEVE DENNIS, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: This one has its electronics -- its optics in the front. And buried inside is a protected memory unit.

MESERVE: The technology -- surveillance cameras that can be mounted inside a bus, train or subway car; that can store a week's worth of recordings and survive a terrorist attack, like those that tore apart trains and buses in Madrid and London.

DENNIS: This plays an integral part in being able to understand what it was that happened in the previous events, so that we can develop better patterns of being able to predict and prevent, you know, such future events. MESERVE: But instead of spending government money to design and deliver the new cameras, the Department of Homeland Security harnessed competition in the private sector.

With mass transit a prime potential terrorist target, DHS asked transit systems all across the country what security products they needed and would actually buy. The department then posted on the Internet specific requirements for the new technology.

TOM CELLUCCI, CHIEF COMMERCIALIZATION OFFICER, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's solution agnostic. You define your problem in a way that many different organizations or people could offer solutions.

MESERVE: And many did. Twenty-six companies responded. Within months, two developed prototypes. DHS is now testing them to make sure the cameras and images can survive a major blast. Transit systems may be able to buy them for about $200 apiece as early as this fall.


MESERVE: Now, DHS is using this same model to develop other technologies, believing it's more efficient than traditional government procurement. The taxpayer invests less, the private sector companies compete for a known market and the country gets more security.

BLITZER: That's the bottom line.

MESERVE: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jeanne, for that.

Amazing pictures.

And juggling family with the demands of a job -- lots of moms can relate. And now more lawmakers can, as well. The baby boom on Capitol Hill -- that's coming up.

And pictures worth a thousand words -- some Guardsmen get a special serenade. Hot Shots -- that's next.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Jordan, a Royal Jordan Air Force jet escorts the plane carrying Pope Benedict XVI as it prepares to land.

In Santa Barbara, California, towering palm trees explode in flames from a wildfire raging along the coast.

In Pakistan, children fleeing the fighting in the Swat Valley area look out from a truck as they enter a refugee camp.

And in New Mexico, kindergarteners serenade the National Guard with patriotic songs.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

As Mother's Day approaches, a baby boom on Capitol Hill.

Let's bring in our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Lots going on up on the Hill.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, since Mother's Day last year, two babies have been born to female lawmakers. And I want to show you on the wall.

One is Kirsten Gillibrand. She is now a senator, but she had her baby when she was in the House of Representatives.

And the other is Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

And get this -- this really might surprise you. Kirsten Gillibrand, she was only the sixth -- the sixth person in the history of the United States to give birth while serving in office and Herseth Sandlin, she was only the seventh. It is a very small, but growing, club of new moms in Congress.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Come on. We'll take your brother to school.

BASH (voice-over): At 8:30 a.m. Kirsten Gillibrand looks like any other working mom in a minivan, dropping off her baby at day care, another at school.

But one hour later, she's gaveling the Senate into session. Senator Gillibrand is part of a different change in Washington -- a baby boom among female lawmakers. Son Henry is 11 months old.

GILLIBRAND: I think it makes me and the other women who've had kids better legislators, because we really understand some of the struggles that other moms and other families face every day.

BASH: Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin had baby Zachary just five months ago.


BASH: She's on the waiting list for Congressional day care, so he's usually with a nanny or family.

Like Gillibrand, she juggles legislating with breast feeding.

HERSETH SANDLIN: We try to carve out that 20 minutes or so that I need. But all of a sudden, we will have had a series of votes. I've got constituents waiting. Sometimes I take my black bag, you know, with my breast pump over to the Capitol. There is a ladies' reading room.

Can you smile, huh?

BASH: It's a relatively new dynamic for women in politics. Most used to take Speaker Nancy Pelosi's path -- have kids, then run for office.

Not anymore.

GILLIBRAND: There's a lot more interest in younger women beginning to look at public service earlier. And when we look at public service earlier, it means we have children while we're serving. It's good for the Congress.

HERSETH SANDLIN: It's our approach to policies that were important to us before that become even more important, whether it's early childhood development and how you fund it, child care -- quality child care.

BASH: Both women admit it's easier for them to balance babies and work than most moms, since they're the boss.

GILLIBRAND: The one difference I might have is I might have to go back for votes or I might have votes, you know, during a drop-off time -- or a pickup time, usually.

BASH: Those are unique challenges. But luckily...

HERSETH SANDLIN: I've got a lot of, you know, support -- a great support network.

BASH: A growing network of new moms serving in Congress.


BASH: In fact, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of California is pregnant and due later this month. She is set to be just the eighth member of Congress in U.S. history to give birth while in office. Her experience has been slightly different than others in that when she first got pregnant, she and her long-term boyfriend were not married. But, Wolf, they are now married. They got married just last month.

BLITZER: Congratulations to them. And congratulations to all the mothers out there. And a happy Mother's Day coming up on Sunday to all the mothers out there.

Say Happy Mother's Day.

BASH: Absolutely. Happy Mother's Day.

BLITZER: That's good. Your mother will be happy.


BASH: She will.

BLITZER: Happy Mother's Day to everyone out there.

Thanks very much.

Tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM, three countries -- three of the biggest cries confronting the Obama administration -- Afghanistan and a troubled and growing war in neighboring Pakistan and a growing Taliban insurgency. I'll speak with the presidents of both those countries, Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari.

Also, Shimon Peres, the president of Israel -- will his country attack Iran to keep it from getting a nuclear weapon?

Tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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