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President Obama Sets Limit on Iran Nukes; Speaker's Apology Demanded; 'Historic' Chance for Peace

Aired May 18, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Obama reveals his patience with Iran's nuclear program. It won't last forever. This hour, his talks with the new Israeli prime minister and the prospects for restarting Middle East peace negotiations.

Also, a new death linked to swine flu, the sixth in the United States. New warnings: Don't let your guard down. The virus still is spreading, and spreading fast.

And huge protests and deadly allegations made from the grave. Guatemala's president is accused of ordering a lawyer killed. The victim pointing a finger of blame in a video made before he died.

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


President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly agree on this much: They both want to seize this historic moment for the Middle East peace process. In their first face-to-face talks since each took power, Mr. Obama gave some new ground on an issue the United States and Israel haven't always completely agreed on, the best approach toward Iran and its nuclear threat.

Let's begin our coverage with our Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry.

You watched it unfold all day today, this historic meeting, Ed. How did it go?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there was certainly a lot of optimistic talk, but no real new action in terms of Israel-Palestinian peace talks. But the president did take a big step forward in terms of negotiations with Iran, essentially setting up a deadline for the first time and making it clear that he's not going to talk to Tehran forever.


HENRY (voice-over): For the first time, President Obama put a timetable on talks with Iran, saying he expects results on stopping its nuclear program by the end of the year.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The important thing is to make sure that there is a clear timetable of -- at which point we say these talks don't seem to be making any serious progress.

As I said, by the end of the year, I think we should have some sense as to whether or not these discussions are starting to yield significant benefits.

HENRY: New Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been skeptical of open-ended U.S. talks with Iran, so this could bide time to prevent Israel from launching a preemptive attack, a clear olive branch from Mr. Obama after two hours of talks on Mideast peace.

OBAMA: I assured the prime minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions, in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious.

HENRY: The body language seemed warm.

OBAMA: He has both youth and wisdom.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I dispute youth, but that's good.

HENRY: Mr. Obama pledged to be actively engaged in the peace process and pressed the prime minister to stop the expansion of Jewish settlements.

OBAMA: All the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they previously agreed to. I think that we can -- that there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment.

HENRY: The Israeli leader showed a glimmer of flexibility on recognizing a Palestinian state, conditioned, of course, on the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.

NETANYAHU: And I think we can come at a substantive solution that allows the two peoples to live side by side in security and peace. And I add prosperity, because I'm a great believer in this. So I think the terminology will take care of itself if we have the substantive understanding, and I think we can move forward.


HENRY: Now, the president also pressed the Palestinians for concessions, saying that none of this can move forward unless the attacks on Israel stop. He'll get a chance do that directly with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, next week when he visits the White House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And then the Egyptian president is coming as well, Hosni Mubarak.

All right. It's going to be a lot of activity, Ed. Stand by.

Coming up, by the way, I'll be speaking with Israel's ambassador- designate to the United States, Michael Oren, about President Obama's limited patience with Iran, whether Israel will embrace a two-state solution, Israel living alongside the Palestinians. My interview with the new Israeli ambassador to the United States, that's coming up.

Meanwhile, in California this hour, the CIA director, Leon Panetta, is giving his first public speech since taking the top job. We're monitoring his remarks to see if he has anything new to say about the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and her bombshell charge that the CIA misled her back in 2002. Now top Republicans are demanding that Pelosi prove her claims about a briefing she got on harsh interrogation tactics and formally apologize. Democrats are desperate to move on this issue as well.

Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, with the latest -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've talked to Democratic congressmen, liberals and moderates, today, and they have told us that they do support the speaker, still, but they certainly do say that they are ready to move beyond what some call a distracting controversy. But Republicans are determined their strategy is not to let that happen.


BASH (voice-over): Inside the Capitol office, aides to House Republican Leader John Boehner are working to keep the heat on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, churning out press releases touting coverage of Boehner's challenge to Pelosi on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime. And if the speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then she should come forward with evidence.

BASH: But Republicans know the only way for Pelosi to prove her claim that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding is if highly- classified notes taken at her September 2002 briefing back her story.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I would be very happy if they would release the briefings.

BASH: Pelosi wants those notes declassified, but sources with knowledge about deliberations on the issue tell CNN it's unlikely the CIA and the White House will allow it.

Meanwhile, a lingering question is whether the controversy and specifically this performance...

PELOSI: I'm sorry, the page is out of order.

BASH: ... has cost Pelosi support among fellow Democrats.

John Larson, one of her most loyal deputies, says no, but does admit...

REP. JOHN LARSON (D), CONNECTICUT: I think, you know, it perhaps wasn't one of her best press conferences, but certainly everybody in this caucus understands and stands behind her moral certitude and her ability to lead in our caucus.

PELOSI: The CIA was misleading the Congress.

BASH: Still, several Democratic sources tell CNN that privately, some congressional Democrats are baffled by Pelosi's decision to escalate the controversy last week by going after the CIA.


BASH: Now, Pelosi allies insist the more Republicans try to keep this story alive, the more Pelosi's fellow Democrats will rally around her. And CNN has obtained these talking points distributed by Pelosi's office, and it goes through the timeline of her story, what she knew and when she knew it, which, of course, is what this whole controversy is about with regard to harsh interrogation tactics. And the point of these, of course, is to not only to inform rank and file Democrats, Wolf, but to keep them on message.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thanks very much.

And we're tracking, we're monitoring what Leon Panetta, the CIA director, is saying right now. We'll get to that, assuming he says something new and important on this whole Nancy Pelosi/CIA rift. We'll bring that to you as well. Stand by.

Meanwhile, in the heat of all of this, there's new evidence that Pelosi isn't necessarily all that popular across the nation right now. Take a look at our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll just released this hour.

It shows almost half of Americans, 48 percent, disapprove on how Nancy Pelosi is handling her job as the speaker.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's here in New York and he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty-nine percent approval rating.

BLITZER: Yes, which is good compared to Bush, not so good compared to Obama, whose approval is at 62 percent.

CAFFERTY: That was my question.


CAFFERTY: It's been almost four months since former President Bush left office, and many would like to simply leave the administration in the past. That might not be possible since there seems to be a constant drip, drip, drip of information about what actually went on during those eight years.

The latest comes from "GQ" magazine, which has released a series of cover sheets for highly-classified daily intelligence reports that were written for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon brass during the earlier days of the Iraq War. They feature triumphant color images like soldiers praying or in action, or this one of a tank at sunset, along with passages from the bible. For example, "Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. And after you have done everything, to stand."

Besides the obvious question of appropriateness, what if these covers had leaked out at the time? The Muslim world could have interpreted this as a religious war driven by hatred of Islam.

You think they got upset about Abu Ghraib? What if they saw these?

The general who thought up these covers told anyone who complained about them that his "seniors," including Rumsfeld and President Bush, appreciated them. In fact, "GQ" says Rumsfeld hand delivered many of these reports to President Bush himself.

The magazine suggests the mixing of crusade-like messages with war imagery might not have been Rumsfeld's style -- it certainly wasn't -- but he likely saw it as a way to connect with the deeply religious President Bush. It's just another in a growing list of questions, and just like torture and the reasons for the war in Iraq to begin with, they don't seem to be going away, do they?

Here's the question: Is a complete investigation of the Bush administration and the Iraq War becoming inevitable?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Because as you remember, most of the Arab world, at least a big chunk of the Arab world, complaining this was yet another crusade, this whole against Saddam Hussein. And that would have provided, if it had leaked at the time, it certainly would.

All right, Jack. Thanks. It's a pretty amazing article in "GQ."

CAFFERTY: It's a tremendous article.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Thanks very much.

A new drive to protect U.S. Marines from the number one threat in Afghanistan. Bomb-resistant vehicles are getting a powerful and expensive makeover.

Plus, a day after President Obama called for common ground on abortion, we have new polling on the public's view on some of the hottest social issues in the country and in the courts.

And then later, the actress Brooke Shields accuses "The National Enquirer" of a despicable act involving her mother, who suffers from dementia. The details and the Enquirer's surprising response.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. President Obama bluntly told the Israeli prime minister today it's time to get back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. But how much is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu willing to give to restart the Middle East peace process?

Let's assess this with Israel's ambassador-designate to the United States, Professor Michael Oren.

Professor, thanks very much for coming in.

I know you have been named as the next Israeli ambassador to Washington. You've got to go through some technical stuff in between. But let's talk a little bit about what happened today.

We didn't flatly hear the prime minister say what earlier Israeli prime ministers and what the president, presumably, would have liked to have heard, that Israel accepts what's called a two-state solution, a new state of Palestine living alongside Israel.

Why doesn't the prime minister simply say that?

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR-DESIGNATE TO U.S.: What the prime minister did say, Wolf, is that he is deeply committed to peace, that he is eager to enter into peace agreements -- peace negotiations immediately with the Palestinians, that he seeks a peace arrangement that will provide for dignity, prosperity, security and, above all, peace with the Palestinians. He further said that Israel has no desire to rule over the Palestinians, that Israel is willing to give the Palestinians all powers that are consummate with people seeking to rule over itself, except for those powers that might threaten the state of Israel.

BLITZER: So why not simply say that at the end of the road, assuming that the Palestinians are ready to make the commitment and live in peace with Israel, Israel is ready to see an independent Palestinian state emerge?

OREN: The prime minister, I think, Wolf, wants to focus on substance. The substance is, will the Palestinians provide security for the state of Israel, will they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, as a Jewish state? And if those substantive issues are addressed, and addressed successfully, then the semantics, I think, would be much more easily resolved.

BLITZER: So if the Palestinians say they accept, obviously, a desire to live in peace, alongside Israel, and make those commitments you want to hear, then in the end, Israel will accept an independent Palestinian state?

OREN: Israel is committed to this peace process. Again, if the substantive issues are resolved -- and those substantive issues are security for the people of Israel, recognition of Israel's status as a Jewish state -- then the semantic issues I think can be easily resolved.

BLITZER: Well, I think you're still dodging a little bit, but let's move on to Iran for a moment.

The president of the United States said basically there's not an unlimited amount of time for the Iranians to move towards easing international concerns about its nuclear program. He says by the end of this year, the U.S. will know whether or not the Iranians are sincere or they are not.

Is that timeline acceptable to Israel? In other words, between now and the end of this year, is Israel going to give the United States and its allies an opportunity to resolve this peacefully, diplomatically?

OREN: Israel supports President Obama's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel also appreciates President Obama's statements, reiterated this week, that he keeps all options on the table.

Today, in his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president said, again, that Iran poses a profound security threat not just to Israel, but to the United States and to the world. And that a nuclear Iran will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Israel supports the president's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: So let me just be precise. Between now and the end of this year, you're going to give the U.S. an opportunity to resolve this peacefully, diplomatically, and that no one should anticipate any unilateral Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities between now and the end of the year?

OREN: Again, Israel does support President Obama's efforts to address the Iranian initiative to prevent Iran from acquiring that nuclear weapon. And Israel, again, appreciates President Obama's commitment to keep all of those options on the table. I think that, Wolf, we are on the same page about the nature of the Iranian threat, not just to Israel, but to the entire Middle East, to many, many Arab countries, and to the entire world.

BLITZER: Because when I spoke to the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, the other day, he said that the estimate ranges from a year to maybe two years before there's a point of no return when the Iranians have enriched enough uranium to have a bomb.

Is that your assessment?

OREN: I think that it's very important that President Obama today talked about reviewing the situation again by the end of the year. And Israel will support the president's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring those nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: We'll leave it there.

Welcome to Washington, Professor Oren. Good luck in your new diplomatic assignment.

OREN: Thank you very much, Wolf. BLITZER: How many miles per gallon does your car get? If you're unhappy with the fuel economy, wait until you hear what President Obama plans to do about it.

And if you believe California's governor, what happens just hours from now could launch California into financial disaster. Arnold Schwarzenegger warning of economic doomsday. I'll ask a candidate for governor, Republican Meg Whitman, how she'd run the state's business. She's the former CEO of eBay and a former adviser to John McCain.



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

Happening now, a killer strikes again. A school assistant principal is dead. His death linked to swine flu. It's the sixth death in the United States linked to the virus. Should the nation brace itself for more?

Amid fears that extremists could get their hands on Pakistan's nuclear weapons, the U.S. worries Pakistan is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal.

And a long and bloody civil war is over in Sri Lanka. Celebrations after officials declare victory in a fight against what the U.S. calls terrorists. What will happen to a key minority group now?

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

Could you be looking at the next person to sit on the United States Supreme Court? The Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm, she's going to the White House tomorrow, reportedly to discuss fuel efficiency standards. But many people believe she's one of President Obama's potential picks for the U.S. Supreme Court.

For whoever is chosen, how much praise and criticism might that person get?

Let's bring in our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider. He's joining us.

Bill, what are Americans looking for in a Supreme Court nominee?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, we know what they're not looking for -- drama.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): As President Obama prepares to name his first Supreme Court nominee, he's under pressure from all directions. Name a woman, name a Latino, name an African-American. Does the public care?

Thirty-nine percent say it's important that the president pick a woman. Most Americans, including most women, say it's not.

The first Hispanic justice? Only about one in four say that's important. The second black justice? Just 22 percent.

But it is important that the president pick someone with experience as a judge. President Obama has said he wants a judge who can empathize with people.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Somebody who understands the rule of law, and somebody who understands how being a judge affects Americans' everyday lives.

SCHNEIDER: That may be why it's important to nearly half the public that Mr. Obama name someone with elected experience.

President Obama believes the court's 1973 ruling that gave constitutional protection to abortion rights is settled law.

GIBBS: He believes that the right to privacy in the case of Roe v. Wade, I think he said during one of the presidential debates with John McCain, was settled and was, in his mind, settled correctly.

SCHNEIDER: The public agrees. Two-thirds do not want to see Roe overturned.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to keep and bear arms. The public agrees. It's settled law.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The public agrees -- settled law.

Here's a hot-button issue the Supreme Court has not ruled on -- whether same-sex couples have the right to marry. The public is divided. Forty-five percent say yes, 54 percent say no. That's unsettled law and unsettled public opinion, too.


SCHNEIDER: Some Catholics protested when Notre Dame University honored President Obama because of his support for abortion rights. But there's no evidence the incident did the president any harm with Catholic voters.

Among all Americans, 63 percent gave President Obama a positive job rating. His rating among Catholics? Sixty-five. Sixty-one percent of Catholics say the president's views on abortion don't affect their view of him at all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting numbers. Thanks very much for that, Bill.

One of the largest states in the nation sits on the brink of financial disaster. That's what California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is saying. Literally hours from now, Californians vote on a host of measures intended to take the state off a road to ruin.

Opponents are urging defeat, but Schwarzenegger warning of doomsday consequences for California if these measures don't pass, at stake, possibly ballooning California's $15 billion deficit. The states's already saddled with an 11 percent unemployment rate and it had the third highest foreclosure rate last month.

My next guest would be dealing with all of this if she becomes governor of California.

Meg Whitman is the former CEO of eBay. Meg, thanks very much for joining us.

You sure you want to be governor of California?


Yes, I do, because I think California is on a terrible path. And I think someone needs to step in and -- and try to right it.

BLITZER: What is the governor, the current governor, doing wrong right now?

WHITMAN: Well, I -- first of all, I have a lot of respect for Governor Schwarzenegger. He's done a number of good things, workman's compensation, the redistricting initiatives.

But, in the end, he has not stepped forward to cut government the way it needs to be cut. We have a bureaucracy that has 345,000 people who work in it, 2,000 more than just a year ago. And think about it. Two million Californians are unemployed, 176,000 have lost their jobs in the last two months, and, yet, the bureaucracy is untouched.

And I think, you know, what has to sit at the feet of the governor is the financial situation in the state.

BLITZER: He says -- you know, last week, he said he would like to lay off 5,000 of those state employees. How many would you like to see laid off?

WHITMAN: Well, I know, from my experience, that almost any organization, you can lay off 10 percent of the bureaucracy, and actually -- maybe it's easier, actually, with fewer people, and it will not be a hardship on the state. And, so, that would say that you want to lay off between 30,000 and 40,000 people.

And while I feel terrible for those individuals who would lose their job, it is in the long-term health of the state of California to get the government to a place where the people of California can actually afford the government that they -- that they -- that they deserve.

BLITZER: There's a limit to what he can do. There's a limit to what he can do, given the role of the state legislature in all of this. How would you be able to deal differently with a state legislature that wouldn't necessarily want to lay off 30,000 or 40,000 state employees?

WHITMAN: Well, you know, at some point, you have to take the hard medicine and do what is right for the state.

And I think the governor has a number of different levels. First is the appointments that you make. The governor can make 4,000 appointments. And those -- and 400 of those are incredibly important, because they're your agency heads and your department heads.

And there's at least $15 million of cost savings that can be done by streamlining purchasing, by employing technology to pull this government into the 21st century. And that can actually be done without the state legislature. It -- it takes leadership. It takes courage.

But a number of -- a large amount of savings can actually be done without the legislature. And then...

BLITZER: Are you one -- are you one of those -- well, let -- I interrupted you. Go ahead. Finish your thought.

WHITMAN: No, that's OK.

I was just going to say, you know, you have got to go to Sacramento with, I think, a very focused agenda. And the agenda right now has to be job creation and job retention. We have to get the economic engine going again, because the only way to sustainably grow revenues is to grow the people who are working in good jobs.

The second priority has to be getting government spending under control. On a per capita basis, we're among the highest in the nation in terms of government spending. And then my last piece of the agenda would be public education, K-12. In addition to all of California's fiscal problems, as you know, we were just rated 48th out of 50 states in our K-12 public education system.

BLITZER: Well, are you one of those Republicans who would make a no-new-taxes pledge to the people of California?

WHITMAN: I would make a no-new-taxes pledge.

You know, when you actually look at the documents that you're asked to sign, there's a lot more in those documents than just no new taxes. But we should not be raising taxes on average Californians.

Here's a really interesting statistic. Barack Obama is about to give $800 back to the average Californian make $45,000 with two children. And that same family is going to get $800 from the Obama administration and is going send $732 of it to Sacramento.

I mean, we just might as well have just done a wire transfer from Washington to Sacramento. I mean, to the extent that there is a benefit from the Obama stimulus plan for hardworking Californians, we're not going to see it, because it's not going to land in people's pockets. BLITZER: He supported -- the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, he supported the governor's economic stimulus package, even though a lot of other Republican governors did not.

Where would you have stood if you had been governor of California when the president was making his announcement?

WHITMAN: Well, it was an extraordinary stimulus package. And I agree. Given the economic situation, something was absolutely required.

I probably would have done it a little differently, and I would have focused all my economic stimulus on one metric, which is, can we increase the number of people who have jobs or decrease the unemployment rate?

Because, as you know, Wolf, we're in now a consumer-led recession. And unless we put people back to work, and they are put in productive jobs, I think a lot of the other elements in the stimulus plan are actually not going to help the fundamental problem, which is that employment is too high in the United States and in California.

BLITZER: One final question -- among the various Democratic names out there that may be running, Jerry Brown, the attorney general, the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, the San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, who -- who do you see as your biggest threat?

WHITMAN: Well, I think, you know, the Democratic field is very powerful. They -- they're -- you know, have been in politics a long time.

But I think, you know, by June -- by November of this year, this will still be all about the economy. And the question Californians will have to answer is, who do they think is best-equipped to create jobs, to balance the budget, to put California back on a sure financial footing?

And, actually, my 30 years in business and the outsiders' perspective of having created jobs, balanced budgets, will actually stand me in good steady vs. any of those three.

BLITZER: Creating jobs, but you -- but I just want to reiterate, you are saying you would eliminate 30,000 or 40,000 state jobs?


But, as you know, Wolf, actually, the private sector pays for the public sector. So, what you want is, you want the public sector jobs to grow, and you want to run an energetic and efficient and streamlined government.

I'm not for no government, but I am for energetic and efficient government. So, if you could actually take 30,000 employees out of the bureaucracy, get the cost structure of the state of California into a good place, so that we could stand up and compete -- you know where we are losing jobs the most? We are not losing them to India or China.

We're losing them to Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Texas. It's inexcusable. We have to stand up and compete. And we have got to be a much more competitive state, because those states are -- are -- are stealing our jobs. And if we're going to have California's economy be strong, we cannot lose another job to a neighboring state.

BLITZER: Meg Whitman wants to be the governor of California.

Good luck. Thanks for coming in.

WHITMAN: Thanks a lot, Wolf. Good to see you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

U.S. armored vehicles are getting an upgrade that could save troops' lives in Afghanistan. The danger is great. So is the cost.

And, in our "Strategy Session": the president's graduation speech at Notre Dame. Was he right to address the abortion controversy head on?

And might fellow Democrats stage a coup against the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi? What is going on?

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


BLITZER: They're two vehicles with one mission, protecting the lives of American troops. Some armored vehicles used in Iraq are being retrofitted to make them more useful in Afghanistan.

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

This is literally a life-and-death issue for so many American military men and women.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, especially for the 10,000 Marines that will be fighting in the very rough terrain of southern Afghanistan. Getting off the roads and confronting the Taliban is now the top priority.


STARR (voice-over): In Southern Afghanistan's rough terrain, improvised explosive devices, IEDs, are the number-one threat facing the Marines. Marine Commandant General James Conway has a plan to make sure his troops can fight across this rugged region.

GENERAL JAMES CONWAY, U.S. MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: We're upgrading our armored defensive capability in the country. We have recently, I think, had a break through that -- that I feel pretty good about.

STARR: Conway is taking bomb-resistant vehicles called MRAPs, which worked on Iraq's paved roads, and overhauling them so Marines here can go off-road.

CONWAY: We have a couple of thousand MRAPs that were used in Iraq. Those vehicles weren't very able to go off-road. But we have since put our engineers to work.

STARR: Here at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Marines are testing a new suspension system. The key? Coil springs allow the 50,000-pound vehicle to better absorb shock and bounce, rather than hit rocks and break down.

(on camera): But the MRAPs with the independent suspension aren't the final word. The Pentagon is also developing a new generation of smaller, lighter armored vehicles to maneuver in Afghanistan's rugged terrain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unlike the weight of the MRAP in Afghanistan, it's a lighter version of it, and it's more maneuverable, more protective, can go over the IEDs.

STARR (voice-over): Four manufacturers are vying for $2 billion in contracts to build this next generation of armored vehicles, just one indicator that U.S. troops may be in that rough terrain for years to come.


STARR: And, General Conway, Wolf, says the bottom line really is, they have got to find a way in Afghanistan to get off roads into the rough terrain, where the Taliban consider it to be their home turf, and challenge them right there. These MRAPs, he says, are the way to do that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's hope. Thanks very much, Barbara.

President Obama walk into the middle of a furious debate. Abortion opponents hoped he didn't get the chance to speak at Notre Dame University, but the president did. Our political strategists will assess how it went.

And President Obama could be playing political chess. He wants to give a Republican a new job, the Utah governor, Jon Huntsman. Could this be a shrewd political move?


BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen, and Republican strategist John Feehery.

John, you wrote a column on Among other things, you said these intriguing words: "Should Pelosi continue to mishandle this current crisis and should she continue to make wild statements about the veracity of the CIA, don't be surprised if somebody in the House says, enough is enough. The conditions are ripe for a coup."

I supposed that implies a Democratic coup. Someone within her own party rising against her, is that what you're suggesting?


I do think that this has been a very bad crisis for Nancy Pelosi. I think the press conference was bad, very bad for her. I think there are conditions out there.

Now, I do think what she's going to do as a reaction to this is move sharply -- more sharply to shore up her left-wing base. And I don't think there is going to be a coup, because I don't think that Steny Hoyer necessarily wants to do that, because I think he knows that, if you do lead a coup against this leader, you tend not to get the job. That's what happened to Tom DeLay. And that's what happened to Don Nickles in the Senate, which I didn't mention in my article, but should have.

So, I do -- I don't think that Steny Hoyer wants to do a coup against Nancy Pelosi, but I do think that has been a very bad couple of days for her.

BLITZER: Steny Hoyer is the majority leader, the number-two Democrat in the House of Representatives.

What do you make of her problems among Democrats in the House as a result of her war that she's now undergoing against the CIA?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, she doesn't have a war with the CIA, and she doesn't have a war with Democrats in the House.

This is all just sort of four days of Republican talking points to try and make this be a worse issue.


BLITZER: Hilary, Hilary, Hilary, she accused the CIA of lying to her back in 2002. What is that?

ROSEN: She accused the CIA of misleading Congress by originally briefing Congress on the legality of interrogation techniques, and not saying that they had actually employed those interrogation techniques until several months later. So...


BLITZER: Isn't that potentially a crime, if the CIA misleads or lies to Congress?

ROSEN: You know, the CIA has -- you know, lied to President Bush about the existence of weapons of mass destruction -- destruction. I mean, the CIA uses whatever they can to justify the position.

Now, Leon Panetta, I think, is getting the CIA and the intelligence units under control. But, when other people who were briefed in those times said that there was ambiguous information, so this whole thing about Speaker Pelosi is just really a distraction for Republicans now.

BLITZER: All right.

ROSEN: And it's worth kind of pointing out what else is going on right now.

They're -- the Republicans have 450 amendments in the Energy and Commerce Committee today to try and stop a climate change bill. To try and stop a consumer bill of rights bill in the Senate, they have passed an amendment to say that you can bring loaded gun into the national parks.

BLITZER: All right.

Let -- let me let John weigh in.


ROSEN: And this is now what they want to talk to Nancy -- about, Nancy Pelosi?

BLITZER: John, you worked for a former speaker of the House. The notion of the CIA misleading the House of Representatives or lying to the House of Representatives, that's a serious charge.

FEEHERY: And I think it's very important that, if she makes those charges, that she backs it up. We have not seen any proof that she's backed it up.

So, this is serious. And I think John Boehner was absolutely right to say, listen, show us what you got. If you got something, let's hear about it, because she's making wild accusations right now.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on to the president's address at Notre Dame University. He gave the commencement address, received an honorary degree.

And he took on the issue of abortion rights head on. Listen to this.


OBAMA: And I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away.

Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But, surely, we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.


BLITZER: All right, Hilary, he appealed for calm on this most divisive issue. How did he do?

ROSEN: You know, I thought that the president actually struck just the right tone. I think he was absolutely right when he said the decision to have an abortion is painful, and both a spiritual and moral decision that women have to make with their families and their doctors.

I -- I think when he tried to find common ground by encouraging both more adoption support, as well as trying to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, you know, he did as much as he could do, I think, to bring both sides together in this. And then he was honest about acknowledging that there might just not be a way to bridge this divide.

BLITZER: How did he do, do you think, John?

FEEHERY: Well, listen, I think the president gave a pretty good speech.

I think it was good for him to go to Notre Dame. I know that a lot of my colleagues didn't think it was such a good idea. I think it was important for him to address this topic.

And, for, politically, looking at this, you know, the fact of the matter is that more people now are pro-life than they ever have been. And I think that it's important for the president politically to confront this and understand that, if he continues with a radical pro- abortion ideology that he had in the Illinois state legislature, that's not going to be good for him politically.

Now, I -- I know it's a very emotional and very tough issue. I'm pro-life myself. I'm sure Hilary has a different view of this. I do think that there needs -- does need to be some conversation to reduce the number of abortions, because that -- ultimately, that is where we need to get to.


BLITZER: And he certainly got that conversation going yesterday.

Hilary, we have got to leave it there.

John, thanks very much.

FEEHERY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks to Hilary Rosen as well.

Just when you may have felt safe from the swine flu, a new death in the United States is now reported, and new warnings that the virus is spreading like wildfire.

Plus, new concern that the -- U.S. dollars may be going to build nuclear weapons in Pakistan. Stand by for the Pentagon's response.

And grab and go -- a bizarre robbery all caught on tape. Now police want to catch the criminals.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Some threatened it would be like a Google-killer. A new search engine is being tested by millions of Web users after its debut on Friday.

Let's bring in Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, how is it doing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, first of all, the Web site Wolfram Alpha is not like Google, in that it searches its own databases for information, rather than searching the Web. And some of the data is really extensive.

If you ask it about a chord, it's going to play the notes for you, offer to do that, spell out the music online. And if you ask it for historical data, for example, what was the weather like in London 10 years ago today, it's going to give you the details, if not perhaps surprising information, that it was raining for about 13 hours.

But there are limitations to these databases here. Pop culture, current events, you might come up short. For example, if you ask Obama's Supreme Court, you're going to get this, which is the distance between the town of Obama, Japan, to Supreme, Louisiana, about 7,000 miles.

The creators of the site say that, so far, this weekend, there's been 23 million searches. They think that about three-quarters of them have given satisfactory results. But they are saying that this is a first step -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It needs -- It needs a little bit of Wolf.


BLITZER: Wolfram Alpha.

All right, thanks, Abbi, for that.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How many searches does Google get in a comparable amount of time?



CAFFERTY: Right, billions, probably.

BLITZER: Yes, whatever.

CAFFERTY: They have got a ways to go.

The question this hour, is a complete investigation of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq becoming now inevitable? Larry writes from Cincinnati: "First, the war in Iraq was justified by Hussein's development of WMDs, which were never found. Now it is coming to light that prisoners were tortured to try to find the link between Iraq and al Qaeda after -- after -- Iraq was invaded. You had better believe the war needs to be investigated. And Obama needs to get off this kick that it's all in the past. War crimes are crimes, and they have no statute of limitations."

Judy in Illinois writes: "What will an investigation achieve, other than deflecting attention from other issues, such as health care and the economy? The entire world is aware that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be incarcerated. That will never happen. Therefore, an investigation is meaningless."

Kari in Wisconsin writes: "Since the religious right believed that Bush had a mission in the Middle East, it doesn't surprise me that we are finding such a trail. But it does sicken me. Maybe the only way around it is through it."

Brian writes: "Moving forward is certainly a good thing, but how can you ever move forward without accountability? If we don't hold the previous administration accountable for what they did or did not do, then we will never restore trust in the government. I used the word trust, rather than faith, because faith is unquestioning belief. And that is a word you should never in conjunction with the government."

Robert writes: "There will be an investigation, whether it is historians or congressional investigators. Sending American troops into harm's way based on manufactured evidence and cherry-picked intelligence is in fact a war crime. Bush and Cheney will never be tried for this, but the facts will speak for themselves forever."

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

I feel there is a drumbeat now, that there -- there's going to be a full-blown look at a lot of this stuff...


BLITZER: You may be right.

CAFFERTY: ... before too long.

BLITZER: Yes. They're moving -- they're moving quickly.


BLITZER: Jack...

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys, I don't mean to interrupt here, but, Wolf, nowhere in the show have you mentioned why you're in New York today.

And because you're not going to toot your own horn, I'm going to do it for you.

Jack, you can weigh in as well.

Today, Wolf and those who head up the best political team on television won a Peabody Award for CNN's primary campaign and debate coverage. Brian Williams handed out the award, which is one of journalism's highest honors.

And I understand, Wolf, that you had a bit of an advantage in this category. Take a look.


BLITZER: I want to leave you, though, with one final thought.


BLITZER: And "The Onion" will appreciate this.

Think about this, George Foster Peabody -- watch this -- and Wolf Blitzer.




BLITZER: Yes, Betty, it was -- it was very exciting. There are some pictures.

And, by the way, this is the Peabody Award. I have it right here.

Let's lose the video. Let's go live right here.

Here it is, right here.

Jack Cafferty, the University of Georgia, the George Foster Peabody Award, coverage of the 2008 presidential primary and -- primary and primary debates, CNN.

You saw David Bohrman, our Washington bureau, Sam Feist, our political director, Jane Maxwell, all of them, plus all of the team.

CAFFERTY: You know, having been in this business for more than an hour-and-a-half...


CAFFERTY: ... that's the award you want, right there.

BLITZER: This is -- this is for broadcast journalism...


BLITZER: ... what the Pulitzer is for...

CAFFERTY: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... for print journalism.


BLITZER: So, this is...

CAFFERTY: That was good stuff.

BLITZER: And when we say, Jack, as we do very often, we have the best political team on television...


BLITZER: ... they affirm it.

NGUYEN: Absolutely.

CAFFERTY: Now, do we get a raise because of this?


BLITZER: Get nothing.

CAFFERTY: Get nothing.

BLITZER: You get this little thing. I got lunch at the Waldorf.


NGUYEN: We get to look at Wolf on the award.


CAFFERTY: What's that?


NGUYEN: I said, you get to look at Wolf on the ward. It's almost a spitting image.



There he is. George Foster Peabody and Wolf Blitzer, who knew?

NGUYEN: Like in a mirror.

CAFFERTY: Who knew?


BLITZER: Yes. CAFFERTY: Separated at birth.

BLITZER: Thanks.