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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Causes Uproar; President Names Health Crusader; Soldier Oldest Killed in Iraq; President Obama on the Defense
Aired May 15, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the man behind some of the most contentious health policies is tapped to lead the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
Will the controversy follow him from the old job to the new one?
Also, new developments in the sex scandal threatening to bring down the mayor of Portland, Oregon. While state officials investigate, citizens take matters into their own hands, launching a recall effort.
Plus, a rock star injured in a bold daylight robbery -- all of it captured by our surveillance camera. And we'll have that video for you.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The furor is building ahead of what's shaping up to be President Obama's most controversial public appearance since taking office. Sunday, he'll deliver the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, where his pro-choice abortion stance is causing some students to boycott their own graduation.
CNN's Jill Dougherty has the very latest.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): It's a moral and political debate. Notre Dame University invites President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address and plans to award him an honorary degree. The idea infuriates some Catholics. They call it scandal to honor a public figure whose support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research contradict Catholic teaching.
Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry was arrested for trespassing on campus and is rallying supporters to stop the president's speech Sunday.
Dueling Web sites urge supporters to disinvite the president or support dialogue and open debate.
But most students want to hear the president, according to the editor of the student newspaper.
JENN METZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE NOTRE DAME "OBSERVER": Roughly 70 percent of student responses we've received are in favor of Obama's coming to the university and receiving an honorary degree.
DOUGHERTY: During the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama courted Catholic voters and he won 54 percent of their vote -- even with his stand on abortion rights.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing that we can do to tamp down some of the -- the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on.
DOUGHERTY: What do Catholics as a whole think about the invitation?
A Pugh Research Center Poll shows half of all Catholics approve. Twenty-eight percent disapprove. But when it comes to practicing Catholics, 45 percent think it's wrong to invite the president.
David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network agrees most Catholics aren't troubled by the Notre Dame controversy.
DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: It's really just these weekly church Catholic goers, especially white Catholic weekly church-goers, that have the problem with it. They're a vocal minority, though.
DOUGHERTY: President Obama has a task force here at the White House working both with groups that support abortion rights and those that oppose them. He wants them to find common ground. And he also wants them, by the end of the summer, to come up with specific proposals on how to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, as well as the number of abortions.
Jill Dougherty, CNN, the White House.
MALVEAUX: More for the Notre Dame controversy, we're joined by student body president, Grant Smith.
Grant, first of all, I understand you're a junior, so you've got one more year. But, obviously, advanced congratulations to those who will be graduating on Sunday.
We've heard a lot of poll numbers, but give us a sense -- what is your feeling about how people are -- are feeling about Obama's appearance on Sunday?
MALVEAUX: Well, we've -- we're standing by here. We've lost audio for Grant. We're going to get back to him as soon as possible so he can give us a sense of what's going on there at the campus -- that Notre Dame controversy.
I think we're now learning he's got the audio back.
Grant, can you hear me?
GRANT SCHMIDT, NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT: Yes, ma'am.
Tell us again, for our viewers -- we didn't hear you the first time around -- what's the sense, what's the mood on the campus there?
What are you learning from students about Obama's appearance?
SCHMIDT: Well, like I said, it's really been developed since the beginning. We have a very unique residence life here -- a unique dining hall system. So everyone's been talking about it in the dining halls and the residence lifes (ph).
It's really brought the issue of the sanctity of life and abortion to the surface. People have been, in a way, forced to develop their own opinion and their own argument. And we're a very intelligent campus, so people have learned more and more as this discussion has progressed.
MALVEAUX: And in talking to fellow students, what's your sense -- are most people excited about Obama coming or are people kind of lukewarm or just downright angry about it?
SCHMIDT: Well, I think you have different opinions. You have some students that are apathetic and a lot of students that are very, very excited. I think, from looking at the senior class, most students are very excited about this opportunity that they'll have on Sunday.
We do have a minority -- I think it's a minority at this point, but we have a group on campus, indeed, a response, that's had very constructive, peaceful protests, contrasted to a lot of the outside forces which have been protesting.
We had a plane over campus that had a sign that said "10 Month Abortion." We had some very graphic images right outside of the main gates of Notre Dame.
So it's been definitely different from the protests that have been productive on campus.
MALVEAUX: Is there a sense of resentment that there are other protesters who are coming in with that -- that have these more graphic displays?
Are students resentful of that? SCHMIDT: Well, I think it was -- I think it was frustrating for some students who maybe had finals week and there was the plane overhead. I think it's important to emphasize that the groups on campus have been productive and have wanted to help students develop their own opinions and their own stance on this issue.
So when you drive by the main gates and you see some of these graphics, it is a little bit frustrating. But the point of this is that it is the focus is on the class of 2009. The point of commencement is to give a charge to the class and to honor them for their four years of achievements and success.
MALVEAUX: What do you want to hear from the president on Sunday?
SCHMIDT: Well, obviously, I have no idea what he's going to discuss.
MALVEAUX: What would you like to hear?
SCHMIDT: I don't know if the issue of abortion...
MALVEAUX: What would you like to know?
What would you like to hear from him?
SCHMIDT: I would like to hear a very bold charge to the senior class. I think we're in a very interesting time right now in our status as a country and as a group of youth. And we're reaching adulthood. So I know that as President Obama, through his grassroots campaign, inspired a lot of college students, I think it's important that we, of the three college campuses that were chosen, use that as a pivotal point to encourage these college -- college students to take the real world by storm, get in that job market and -- and lead by example.
MALVEAUX: And, Grant, I want you to respond here. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as you know, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, he said: "It's clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation to President Obama."
Do you -- do you agree with that?
SCHMIDT: Well, I think, you know, students have different opinions. I think that this issue of the sanctity of life and abortion will go above and beyond May 17th.
Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, that topic is going to be debated past Sunday. I think the focus on Obama and the focus on President Obama and the focus on commencement will most likely come to a halt after Sunday, as the focus will be on the class of 2009.
But in regards to that statement, I think we will always be a Catholic institution. We will always be one of the top Catholic universities in the country. And I think we will stand by that reputation. MALVEAUX: OK.
Grant Schmidt, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I'll see you on Sunday, because I will be there covering the Obama commencement.
SCHMIDT: It sounds good.
MALVEAUX: The Notre Dame controversy playing out this Sunday. Watch the president's address live on CNN. That is Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
And Jack Cafferty in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack, what are you following?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The number of countries will nuclear weapons could more than double in the next few years unless the major powers take steps toward disarmament. This is according to the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency.
Mohammad ElBaradei says the British -- told the British newspaper, "The Guardian": "The Current international regime that limits the spread of nuclear weapons is now in danger of collapsing. The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was supposed to restrict membership in the so-called nuclear club to the United States, Russia, China, Britain and force.
But it has been less than successful. For the last 40 years, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea have all been developing nuclear weapons on their own, outside this framework.
ElBaradei predicts the next wave of proliferation will included the so-called virtual nuclear weapons states -- countries potentially like Iran, that can produce plutonium or highly enriched uranium and know how to make the weapons, but haven't quite gotten there yet. He says soon, there could be nine nuclear weapons states and another 10 to 20 virtual weapons states.
ElBaradei suggests the only solution is for established nuclear powers to live up to non-proliferation guidelines, disarm as quickly as possible. Only then, he says, will the major powers have the moral authorities to go to these wannabe nuclear weapons countries and ask them to stop.
So here's the question -- You figure it out. The rest of us haven't been able to for 65, 70 years: What has to be done to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne. MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Jack.
Well, he's behind some of New York City's most controversial health policies. Now he is named to the head of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and how will he impact the nation's health?
Also, one former vice president takes a verbal swipe at another -- Al Gore versus Dick Cheney -- what the Democrat is saying about the Republicans' criticisms of President Obama.
And high above Earth, a hitch in the effort to repair the Hubble space telescope -- details of the surprise shuttle astronauts encounter.
MALVEAUX: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring the stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what are you watching?
FREDRICAK WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello again, Suzanne.
Today's space repair mission didn't quite go as planned. NASA says astronauts spacewalking 350 miles above the Earth had to install refurbished gyroscopes in the Hubble telescope because some of the new ones wouldn't go in. NASA says the gyroscopes are a top priority since they are necessary to point the telescope. This series of spacewalks is especially dangerous because this particular orbit is littered with debris.
Sri Lanka's president is vowing to end a decade-old civil war within 48 hours. A recent surge of violence has trapped thousands of civilians and forced another 200,000 people into refugee camps. The military is trying to surround some Tamil Tiger rebels and take control of the country's coastline. The country's foreign minister says this is probably the final battle with remaining rebels.
A song and dance symbolic of the '80s takes a Virginia college to a whole new level. William & Mary students just won a world record for the most people to dance to the song "Thriller" simultaneously in one place. Guinness world records notified students of the honor today. A long time Michael Jackson fan says it took him most of the school year to organize the 242 person routine.
I'm sure their parents are really happy to know that that was a priority this school year -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Fred, I -- I know that dance, by the way. I'm sure you do, too.
MALVEAUX: But I know that routine.
WHITFIELD: Everyone knows this part, you know?
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Absolutely.
WHITFIELD: That's the best.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right.
MALVEAUX: Three New York City public schools remain closed today and there are plans to shut down three more after another outbreak of the swine flu. The World Health Organization says there are now more than 7,500 cases of the H1N1 virus in 34 countries.
Now, the man leading New York City's fight against swine threw will be taking on that task for the entire nation.
CNN's Mary Snow has the details on President Obama's choice to head the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention -- and, Mary, what do we know about this guy?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we do know this -- that some of the city health commissioner's actions have been so contentious that Mayor Bloomberg jokingly said at a press conference today that he's been given a single finger wave at community parades.
But, in the end, he believes the policies have helped save lives.
SNOW (voice-over): Dr. Tom Frieden has led a public health crusade that has landed him, at times, in the crosshairs of controversy -- from banning smoking in restaurants and bars, to helping distribute millions of free condoms, to eliminating trans fat and listing calories on restaurant menus.
At a press conference about swine flu with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Frieden kept his comments to a minimum about his new job heading up the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: I'm deeply honored and I feel greatly privileged to be given the opportunity to lead the CDC.
SNOW: Could his new role mean the rest of America may be subject to the same policies?
Frieden didn't stop for questions.
QUESTION: Dr. Frieden, what are some of the things you'd like to see done on a national level?
SNOW: While Frieden won't be setting policy himself, former CDC director, Dr. David Satcher, does see Frieden influencing it.
DR. DAVID SATCHER, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: His ability to -- to speak convincingly, whether it's about tobacco or trans fats or about the electronic health records, I think, is going to be very important in this administration, especially during a time of health system reform.
SNOW: Frieden could prove key in electronic health records -- something President Obama has advocated as a central part of health care reform. The system was introduced in New York City last year. And while public health expert Dr. Irwin Redlener says it's too early to know its successes, he sees it as essential to preventive medicine.
DR. IRWIN REDLENER, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: We use the electronic health record to make sure we're properly managing chronic illnesses and preventing the complications that end up being costly and -- and difficult for people to -- to manage.
SNOW: And the city has touted surveillance systems to track infectious diseases. That's a system now being used to track swine flu cases -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: So, Mary, now that he's going to the CDC, has he given any indication about how he's going to deal with the swine flu?
SNOW: You know, a couple of weeks ago, he did say that he thought that a Manhattan Project-type effort is needed to develop a vaccine for swine flu. And he did say that he thought that was the single most important thing the federal government could do right now. So that gives us a hint of what he'll be looking to do, perhaps.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much, Mary.
MALVEAUX: Well, off message and on the defense -- President Obama ends a challenging week for the White House.
Can he turn attention back to his agenda?
Plus, he survived the Vietnam War only to die in Iraq, with the grim distinction of being the only soldier to lose his life in that war. We'll have his unusual story.
MALVEAUX: From the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq, he fought in two of America's most controversial wars. Now, he has become the oldest to die in the latest.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us live -- and, Barbara, what do we know about this soldier, Major Stephen Hutchison?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this is the story of a man who never really left the Army behind.
STARR (voice-over): U.S. Army Major Stephen Hutchison was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra, Iraq. His sacrifice -- courageous. His age of service -- extraordinary. Hutchison was 60 years old -- the oldest member of the military to die in combat in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His brother Richard.
RICHARD HUTCHISON, BROTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: He's been a soldier his whole life. And I knew he wanted to go back in.
STARR: Back in 1968 and 1969, as the Vietnam War raged, Hutchison served two combat tours. Thirty-two years later, after the 9/11 attacks, he wanted to join again, but his wife was against it. After she died of cancer, a part of Hutchison died, says his brother. So Stephen joined the Army for a second time in 2007.
HUTCHISON: He probably spent about eight months trying to get back into the military to get activated again.
STARR: He was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, working to train Iraqi forces to keep their country safe.
His brother says Stephen wanted to be there.
HUTCHISON: I wish he wasn't there, but I think the people that are there deserve all the respect.
STARR: Well, you know, Suzanne, it seems extraordinary that a 60-year-old soldier would be in war zone at all. But the law, in fact, allows them to rejoin and serve if they are physically able to do so. His friends say that Stephen was very fit -- just one more of the more than 4,000 souls lost in these war years -- Suzanne.
Thank you so much, Barbara.
It is home to some of the country's best known criminals, but it could be up for sale -- why California's San Quentin Prison may be on the auction block and thousands of its inmates released.
Portland, Oregon's new mayor stunned by a sex scandal -- now the campaign is underway to kick him out of office.
And the bass guitarist for the rock band Pearl Jam is the victim of a brazen attack -- and it's caught on tape.
MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a murder mystery in Mexico -- four Americans killed in a border town, their bodies dumped that connections which U.S. authorities say may have cost them their lives.
Plus, doctors say chemotherapy could save the life of a 13-year- old boy, so why do his parents have to be forced by a court to accept the treatment?
And a bit of a chill on Wall Street -- the Dow Jones down 63 points. Analysts say the week's losses are an indication that investors, who had gotten used to positive news, are reluctant to buy.
Wolf Blitzer is off.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It is President Obama as we have rarely seen him -- on the defense, not once, but multiple times in what has turned out to be one of the most difficult weeks of his young presidency.
Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has been watching it all play out -- and, Candy, tell us what your impressions are of what's going on.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, what's going on sooner or later happens to every president -- it's when the national conversation does not go the way you want.
OBAMA: ...a misguided invasion of a Muslim country.
CROWLEY: Given that he criticized military tribunals during the campaign and then suspended them for the first month of his administration, the president's embrace of military tribunals was surprising. But don't ask his spokesman whether that's pretty much an embrace of the George Bush position.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Your characterization is just simply wrong.
CROWLEY: The decision on tribunals caps off a week different from the others the president has had so far.
DAN BALZ, "WASHINGTON POST": I think it is, for the first time, that you've really seen them kind of not being able to control what they want the discussion to be about.
CROWLEY: The week included an about-face when he decided to try to block release of pictures showing prison abuse by U.S. military personnel.
OBAMA: Thank you very much, everybody.
QUESTION: Sir, why did you change your mind?
CROWLEY: And even though he got an overwhelming yes to his request for more money to fund the war in Iraq and Afghanistan...
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Get out of Iraq, get out of Afghanistan.
CROWLEY: ...51 House Democrats voted no -- more Democratic opposition than he has seen so far.
Then there's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ...trying to clear the air on torture (INAUDIBLE) I think there's one other question that...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: She is enmeshed in a noisy dispute with the CIA over whether she knew the Bush administration was waterboarding suspected terrorists. Certainly not of the president's making, but possibly to his detriment.
BALZ: The more Washington is embroiled in a conversation about who said what to whom during the Bush administration, the more it gets in the way of the president's future-oriented agenda. There's only so much that people can do and say and think about and talk about at any one time.
CROWLEY: It may be the first -- but it won't be the last -- week the White House plays defense. For one thing, the reality of governance is more complicated than the rhetoric of the campaign trail suggests. All presidents eventually have to back off something and that tends to make supporters angry and reporters ask questions.
CROWLEY: There's also the reality that things only get harder from here on out, as the details of the president's proposal on health care, education and energy come to the forefront. There is the reality and there is -- that the first 100 days are called a honeymoon period for a reason -- Suzanne.
And I want you to stick around for a moment.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is making a surprise statement, saying bluntly that he doesn't enjoy his job.
We want to talk about that and much, much more with the Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee and our CNN political contributor, Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.
First of all, Mo, tell us, what do you make of where Obama is now?
We saw Candy's piece.
Is he -- is he off message?
How does he -- how does he get back on so that people are actually focusing on what he's trying to do?
MO ELLEITHEE, FOUNDING PARTNER, HILLTOP PUBLIC SOLUTIONS: Well, look, you know, I think Candy was right. You know, this is probably not going to be the last time that he's unable to control the media coverage of his administration. And I think that's normal for any White House, that you'll occasionally have other issues dominating the news.
Now, the true measure of his success is going to be how well is he able to stay focused on the key items of his agenda -- health care, energy, education and focusing on the economy. I think one of the things this president is particularly gifted at is taking his message directly to the American people and engaging them directly, oftentimes going around the media. So if he's able to do that and stay focused on his agenda, he should be OK.
MALVEAUX: Mary do you think Mo has a point here, I was at the town hall meeting with Obama in Albuquerque, and the people in the town hall who were selected, they were all talking about what Obama wanted and obviously that was the credit card situation. As he really gotten off message or is he manipulating the people?
MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well they're the only ones in the town hall that are talking about credit cards. Mo is absolutely right. You can't always control your environment in fact you can frequently control your environment. But he had an unfortunate confluence where Nancy Pelosi put him in a punch between the Democratic speaker and the head of the CIA and a lot of forced errors, the flip flop on the detainee photos, the aftermath, the lingering and long aftermath of the EIT legal memos, the flip-flop or the no plan on Gitmo, these are all on his weakest place, in his weakest place on security issues.
So there's an unfortunate confluence and he can talk as loud as he wants, and as eloquently as he is able to, but the press is not talking about credit cards today, they're talking about the Nancy Pelosi fiasco and/or the all of these flip-flops or the acceptance of, no matter how they want to call it, the Bush policies on the war on terror.
MALVEAUX: I want you guys real quick to take a listen here, this is what Secretary Gates told 60 Minutes Katie Couric about what he thinks about his job right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Truth of the matter is being Secretary of war in a time of war is a very painful thing. And it's not a job anybody should like. How can you like a job when you go to Walter Reed or Bethesda and you know you sent those young men and women in harm's way? Every single person in combat today, I sent there. And I never forget that for a second. So, no, I don't enjoy my job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Candy, what do you think of that? You read on this, honest disclosure here? Is that a good thing? Is that a good thing or bad for troop morale or bad or Americans?
CROWLEY: Hooray. This is a man who says I don't like sending people to war because so some of them die and some of them come back injured. If he didn't care about that, it would make for very, very bad policy and I think presidents feel that way as well.
MALVEAUX: Mo, we have heard this before about President Bush feeling that it was his decision to send troops into harm's way. Does this ring any differently to you?
ELLEITHEE: I think he's right, hooray for him. I think the American people would probably be a little surprised if he stood up and said I love my job, I love sending people off to combat every single day. So it was a human moment and a poignant moment. And I think it reflects well on President Obama who's that grounded in the job.
MALVEAUX: Mary, I want you to take a listen to very quickly, along with the rest of them. We're listening to Al Gore speak our John Roberts this morning on "AMERICAN MORNING" and he is going after former Vice President Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think of Vice President Cheney's statement that the Obama administration's policies are leaving this country less safe?
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, obviously I strongly disagree. And, you know, I waited two years after I left office to make statements that were critical and then of the policy, you know, you talk about somebody that shouldn't be talking about making the country less safe, invading a country that did not attack us and posed no serious threat to us at all, you know, he can speak for himself and I have a feeling that members of his own party wish that he would not do that, but I'll let that be an argument between him and them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Mary, obviously you worked for Cheney, you have got a point of view on this argument here. MATALIN: Let me make a political point here, unlike his boss president Clinton who dismissed this press meeting yesterday to get involved in this embrilio (ph), Al Gore took the bait and said something so profoundly stupid in keeping with what a bad politician he is. No one spoke ill of the commander in chief in the years of his first tenure. He called him a moral coward, he associated him with brown shirts, he never spoke on policy and that little tattoo he talked about that Iraq was no threat to us, he was in the administration that signed the Iraq liberation act in 1998, which was replete with what a threat Iraq and specifically Saddam was to this country, so he just insults the listener and any voter and it's a good thing he's not in politics and it explains why he didn't succeed very much while he was in.
MALVEAUX: I'm going to give both of you a last word on this, but Candy is that unusual for former vice presidents to go after each other at this early a time?
CROWLEY: I find this debate interesting because I'm wondering if people sitting out there listening to Al Gore or Dick Cheney, there's no real quantifiable way to say are we safer are we less safe? Obviously the Bush administration says, look, there was no attack on our soil since 9/11 and that means that we're safe and we're not safe now because he's undoing these things. We have no way of knowing unless something happens whether we're safe or not safe. So to me it's a totally political argument.
MALVEAUX: Anybody listening to either one of these men? Do you think they're really paying attention to us?
ELLEITHEE: I got to be honest, as a pure political operative, as a Democratic operative, I actually hope the former vice president keeps talking up there, because every time he goes out there and attacks President Obama, he reminds the country of the failed policy of the last eight years that we have turned the corner on. He reminds people of the lack of a message coming out of the Republican Party. I know a lot of my friends who are Republican operatives sit around and hope that he stops talking.
MATALIN: That was a great operative but he's wrong on the substance here. But the arguments that Cheney is making are way in the majority and surpass the president.
MALVEAUX: Got to leave it there. Mo, Mary, Candy, thanks again.
Some Portland, Oregon residents move to recall their mayor, not over the current sex scandal but over his lies about it.
Plus, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger warning he may be forced to release tens of thousands of prisoners and even possibly sell one notorious penitentiary.
MALVEAUX: Well, it sounds familiar, a popular politician caught in a lie about an affair with an intern. But while President Bill Clinton managed to stay in office, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, he may not be so lucky. CNN's Brian Todd joining us live with the details of a recall effort that's now underway.
Tell us what's happening here. Can they go through with this?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They can Suzanne. The mayor, like so many others before, like Bill Clinton, he seems to have had trouble learning that age old lesson of political scandal. It's often not the initial act that got you in trouble, it's the cover up.
TODD (voice-over): This may look like just another happy hour but most of the people in this Portland, Oregon bar are anything but happy with their mayor. This is first meeting of the committee to recall Sam Adams. Don't call this a kick-off. Organizers dubbed it a kick-out.
JASUN WURSTER, COMMITTEE TO RECALL SAM ADAMS: The citizens of Portland with this recall will hold him accountable for the ethical transgressions that he committed against us.
TODD: The alleged transgressions stem from Adams' affair with young legislative intern Bo Breedlove in 2005 when Adams was a city commissioner. During the mayoral campaign the openly gay Adams vehemently denied the relationship. But weeks after taking office in January, he admitted that there were sexual encounters and he asked Breedlove to lie about them. Adams maintains there was no sex until after Breedlove turned 18. Breedlove concurs but also says the two kissed in the city hall restroom when he was 17. The Oregon attorney general is investigating whether there was anything illegal about their relationship. Recall supporters are less concerned with the relationship than the lying.
WURSTER: Though lying to get elected is unethical, it's not illegal. So the recall is truly the citizen's recourse to hold Sam Adams accountable for his actions.
TODD: Adams isn't commenting citing the investigation. Asked about the recall effort, his office simply says he continues to serve the people of this city and hopes to continue to do so. Supporters believe voters are willing to forgive him.
RANDY LEONARD, PORTLAND, ORE. CITY COMMISSIONER: He does a good job. And because I think he's learned his lesson and I -- and I think larger than that, I think that what's really important isn't whether or not we elect perfect mayors.
TODD: The recall effort will need 32,000 signatures to move forward. By law organizers can't start collecting them until Adams has been in office for six months and that's not going to be until July 1.
MALVEAUX: What's going to happen if he actually is recalled? TODD: He's removed from office but he is free to run for re- election. This recall effort does not have any impact on the state attorney general's investigation into his conduct.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Brian.
With his state swimming in red ink, California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to put one of the nation's most famous prisons up for sale. But the controversial proposal is really raising some questions about safety. Our CNN Ted Rowlands joining us now.
Ted, where does this stand?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And well, Suzanne, the bottom line is that California has got to do something, they have got to make some changes and the governor has come up with a lot of ideas, but one idea specifically letting prisoners out of prison has raised some eyebrows.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Thousands of California prison inmates may be freed and the state may sell San Quentin to help fix an estimated $20 billion budget deficit. San Quentin located on prime San Francisco Bay area water front real estate is the oldest prison in California and home to some of the state's most notorious criminals like Scott Peterson and Richard Ramirez known as the night stalker. The prison is on a list of state owned landmarks that Governor Schwarzenegger says may be up for sale. As for releasing prisoners, the governor says that could safe millions.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We could saves in general funds about $53 million in 2009, 2010. Releasing all the undocumented immigrant to federal custody could save us another $182 million for 2009-2010.
ROWLANDS: The governor's release plan would shed 38,000 prisoners from the government system; about half are illegal immigrants that Schwarzenegger wants to somehow dump on the federal government. The plan for that hasn't been worked out yet. The rest, according to the governor's office, would be nonviolent offenders who would be released or transferred to county jails.
LANCE CORCORAN, PEACE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: Obviously there's a great deal of concern that we are simply dumping individuals back into the communities and those communities are going to be at risk.
ROWLANDS: Political foes of the government believe the prisoner release plan and the San Quentin sale are just threats to scare a series of ballot measures up for vote next week. The measures would use increased tax revenues to balance the budget. Polls show the measures are losing.
ROWLANDS: And Suzanne, Governor Schwarzenegger says he is absolutely not crying wolf with this idea. He says if these ballot measures don't pass next Tuesday, this plan and a number of others are going to go into action to bail out the state of California.
MALVEAUX: Very controversial, thank you Ted.
A sign of better times in Iraq, a train ride that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
And a rock musician turned crime victim. The bass player for Pearl Jam is attacked and robbed as the incident is caught on tape.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: This is a story that's unfolding that we aren't used to seeing from Iraq, something that many people in the United States take for granted but has eluded Iraqis for a long time. It's the simple thrill of a train ride. CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson boarded the Baghdad to Samarra express that more and more Iraqis are eager to take.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Baghdad's central train station and we have come to catch a train, not this old one you see right here, but the Iraqis have started a new train service to the town of Samarra. It's a pilgrimage town for Shias north of Baghdad.
The station looks very deserted outside, there are very, very few trains running from here. This place has been pretty much idle for the last four or five years. There's been very, very little activity but it's been restarted and we're going to go take a pilgrimage train to Samarra.
Inside the atrium evokes a bygone era, a colonial throwback of trains transporting Europeans to countryside picnics. Today, this same magic is connecting Iraqis to better times. Women, children, husbands, all piling aboard for a family day out. Hard to imagine their destination is a town that tipped the country into a spiral of sectarian bloodletting three years ago.
In February, 2006, al Qaeda attacked the holy Shia golden dome shrine in Samarra. What followed was revenge, on a grand and ugly scale. And threatened to escalate into all-out civil war.
We're given a very warm welcome by the train driver. Very nice to meet you. The 27-year veteran of Iraq's railways, he couldn't be happier to be back to work. Back down the station platform, security is not forgotten. Most men get searched, most women don't. It's a routine that's now part of daily life.
There's something about people in stations, there's always this air of excitement and there's no shortage of it this morning. It's almost 8:30 and it's time to get aboard the Baghdad-to-Samarra Express.
On board, waiting with excited anticipation for the 60-mile, 100- kilometer journey is Unsana and her two children. She tells me it's her first train ride ever. "We used to go by car," she says. "But then it got too dangerous. It's changing our lives "she admits, "because it's easier to travel by train and more fun." He says, "It's like being born again. It's like driving the train for the first time ever."
One of the biggest dangers now, avoiding pedestrians at the unmanned road crossings, and he doesn't fool himself. He knows Iraq is not safe, that even an attack on a train is possible. Each journey could be his last. But like everyone on board, he's moving ahead. Reconnecting with his country and better days.
Nic Robertson, CNN, north central Iraq, aboard the Baghdad-to- Samarra Express.
MALVEAUX: Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty.
And, Jack, what are you watching? What are you following?
CAFFERTY: I was just watching Nic Robertson's piece.
MALVEAUX: Nice, very good.
CAFFERTY: Getting back up to speed on several levels over there.
MALVEAUX: It's good to see.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: is what can be done to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Weighty stuff, I'll grant you, for a Friday.
Jeff writes: "After the Soviets detonated their first atomic bombs, Air Force General Curtis LeMay advocated putting B-29s over Moscow and trucking out the nuclear material. The original signatories to the nuclear arms proliferation treaty ought to consider this idea in regards to the rogue countries."
Lance in California: "Nuke one of the would be countries to remind the world why we have a non-proliferation treaty. The problem is that everyone knows a civilized country won't use nukes, so they just thumb their noses when we try to tell them not to develop nukes. The danger is many of the would-be countries like Iran, North Korea, and organizations like Hamas, the Taliban, and al Qaeda have no qualms about using nukes if they can get their hands on them, and they will, sooner or later."
Kerry writes: "First of all, stop relying on the U.N. to control the issue. By the time they react and agree to do something, the offending party already has added nukes to their arsenal. We must be more proactive on our own or with key allies." Jay writes: "Easy. Destroy all the ones that exist and don't make any more. Unfortunately for terrorists, building a nuke is a tad harder than building a car bomb. Thousands of people, billions of dollars, not something you can do in the garage in secret. Want to stop nuclear weapons proliferation? Scrap them all. The bad guys can't build them on their own from scratch without being detected."
And Joe writes: "Dream on. The genie's out of the bottle and good luck putting it back in. Nations and groups looking to gain some level of power will want these things. It's sad that as smart as our species is supposed to be, we act like morons much of the time."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Look for yours there among hundreds of others. Gesundheit.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack, you weren't supposed to notice that. Thanks.
A boy's battle with cancer winds up in court. Well, can a judge force him to undergo chemotherapy against his parents' wishes? It's a case as emotional as it is unusual.
A camera captures a rock star being robbed. We have details of a bold daylight heist.
MALVEAUX: An attack caught on tape, and the victim was the bass player for the rock band Pearl Jam. The host of HLN's "Showbiz Tonight," A.J. Hammer, has the story.
A.J. HAMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne at an Atlanta recording studio, where music stars like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan have all cut albums, one rock star was the victim of a brazen robbery.
HAMMER (voice-over): Pearl Jam videos are supposed to look like this -- not like this -- surveillance video at the Southern Tracks Recording Studio in Atlanta caught this robbery of Pearl Jam's bass player Jeff Ament on tape, he was the passenger in the car and in the video you can see him trying to escape and be knocked to the ground. The robbery occurred on April 27th just before noon. Ament and a Pearl Jam employee was arriving to work on a recording.
MEKKA PARISH, DEKALB CO., GA. POLICE DEPT.: Immediately the persons appeared and approached the vehicle. Armed with knifes and they had masks on and they smashed up the windows of the SUV.
HAMMER: According to police Ament suffered facial lacerations and was treated at the scene and but did not have to go to the hospital. But just as quickly as it happened, the thieves disappeared.
PARISH: After that, the suspects immediately fled back into the tree-lined area and according to witnesses, there was possibly a black Maxima waiting for the individuals.
HAMMER: While police are admitting they don't have any clear leads at this time, they don't think the robbers knew who they were attacking.
PARISH: At this point our detectives don't believe that these two victims were specifically targeted. Rather, they're looking at the possibility that these suspects were familiar with the studio due to its isolated area.
HAMMER: The police are saying that $3,000 in cash was taken as well as a computer and some other personal items. We did reach out to the band, and they're not commenting on what happened. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thank you.
Happening now, just in, the House speaker responds to the CIA director. This after Leon Panetta sent a terse message that his agency does not mislead Congress as Nancy Pelosi claimed.
Plus, new backtracking by President Obama. He's restarting a Bush-era system for trying terror suspects and enraging some allies on the left.
And a 13-year-old boy's life, on the line. His parents don't want to treat his cancer with chemo therapy. But prosecutors say they don't have that right.
Welcome to the viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just moments ago, house speaker, Nancy Pelosi, took another shot at damage control after her bombshell claim that she was misled by the CIA back in 2002. The debate over alleged torture during the Bush administration