Return to Transcripts main page


Democrats Hand President Obama Defeat on Guantanamo; California Facing Massive Cuts

Aired May 20, 2009 - 18:00   ET


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

When President Obama gives a major speech about the war on terror tomorrow, he will have a lot of explaining to do about his plans for the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. His pledge to close the facility and relocate terror suspects was derailed today by the Democratic- controlled Senate.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She watched it all unfold up on Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's both the president's fellow Democrats and the FBI director, Wolf, who are making his promise to close Guantanamo Bay much more difficult.


BASH (voice-over): No terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay may be released, transported, or imprisoned anywhere in the U.S. That directive passed the Senate by a stunningly lopsided margin, 90-6, a blow to the president and a stark indication of how uneasy this explosive issue makes lawmakers, even Democratic leaders like Byron Dorgan.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Because I'm not very interested in -- in transferring detainees from Gitmo to North Dakota. I'm sure many of my colleagues feel the same way. But, first, let's see what kind of a plan this president proposes, and then we will move forward.

BASH: FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared to affirm senators' concerns, telling Congress, bringing detainees to the U.S. does pose risks, even if they're behind bars.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: The concerns we have about individuals who may support terrorism being in the United States run from concerns about providing financing to terrorists, radicalizing others.

BASH: Still, in the raging battle over what to do with Guantanamo prisoners, some lawmakers say they have no problem putting them in federal prisons.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: As a former prosecutor, I am aware of the kind of people that we put behind bars in this country. They would give terrorists a run for their money in terms of being bad, bad, dangerous people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. Senator Nelson's office.

BASH: But in Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson's office, most callers on this issue say:

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Not to bring them to Nebraska. And, so, I think that's -- that may be true almost everywhere.

BASH: Nelson admits there is a "not in my backyard" fear factor at play, but says it's just inappropriate to imprison and try Guantanamo suspects in the federal system.

NELSON: I don't think the American people will stand for bringing a bunch of detainees for -- for prosecution over here. And it's -- it's, in many ways, that simple.


BASH: The fact that all but six of the president's fellow Democrats voted to block those detainees from coming to the United States and Democrats in a widespread way are saying that they are rejecting his request for money to close Guantanamo Bay, that just shows, Wolf, the challenge the president has in meeting his deadline to do that. That deadline is this January, in just about six months.

BLITZER: January 22 of 2010, to be exact. All right, thanks very much for that, Dana.

There are, in fact, many notorious criminals and convicted terrorists already housed within the U.S. prison system. Many of them are over at the supermax facility in Florence, Colorado.

We asked our Abbi Tatton to take a closer look at these kinds of prisons and who is inside.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: The supermax facility, Wolf, 45 miles from Colorado Springs, 465 inmates are currently housed there. And among the list, you will see some of the most notorious household names. Al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui is there. You have got Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. Ted Kaczynski is housed there as well, the Unabomber. Terry Nichols, the conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Those are the most recognizable amongst those names. Prison officials say that 95 percent of the inmates there are transferred from elsewhere, because they are the most violent and escape-prone prisoners in the country.

To keep them in, each prisoner has his own cell, 86 square feet. He's in there for almost 23 hours a day. The only window, just four inches wide, and it doesn't look into the outside world, just to another section of the facility. To keep people out, there are large cables strung over the outdoor areas. This is to prevent attacks, specifically an attack that could be a helicopter-based escape, so a helicopter just couldn't make a landing.

BLITZER: Yes, you don't want to be inside one of those facilities.

All right, thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Let's talk a little bit about the legal and the political complications for the president of the United States as he tries to solve his Guantanamo Bay prison problem.

Joining us now, our chief national correspondent, John King, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," also Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst.

Jeff, let me start with you. Legally speaking, is there any difference for these 240 suspected terrorists who are now at Guantanamo Bay if they were moved to U.S. mainland soil?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, like a lot of things surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detentions, it's not entirely clear.

I mean, the Supreme Court four times rejected the Bush administration's practices at Guantanamo. One of the issues is whether the same rules would apply if they were held in the United States.

The answer is, probably, similar rules would apply, but, if you were to establish a new set of rules, as you would have to if you moved them into the United States, and establish some new system to prosecute them, that would go through the legal system. And we would have many more years of appeals testing the Obama administration's new plan.

BLITZER: Could the U.S. military have these military commissions, or these trials, within the United States if they were moved to the United States?

TOOBIN: Probably yes, but, again, those rules have not been set up.

And the Supreme Court has kept a very close eye on this question. So, the answer is, probably, those commissions would be upheld if they were held in the United States, but it would certainly be years of litigation before even one military commission trial could be held under the new rules inside the United States.

BLITZER: John, was the Obama White House caught off guard by how fellow Democrats would react?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a word, yes, Wolf. And they're giving credit to the Senate Republican leader, Mitchell McConnell, who almost every day for two weeks has gone to the floor of the United States Senate and drummed up this issue.

Republicans have been out on every news show, including yours, talking about this issue. And Democrats going home are getting increasingly nervous about what Dana was just talking about, the not in my backyard.

So, the president's going to try to give a big speech tomorrow, because it's not just this issue, Wolf. He's been criticized by the right for releasing those terror memos, criticized on the left for deciding then not to release some of the more photographs of detainees in U.S. custody -- 51 Democrats voted against the emergency war spending bill because they don't think he has a good plan in Afghanistan.

So, Gitmo, Afghanistan, and some other issues, the president trying to connect the dots now in a big speech tomorrow.

BLITZER: It's true, also, not just the moderate or conservative Democrats stood up against the president. Almost all of the Democrats stood up against the president, John.

KING: They are getting fierce resistance -- on the Gitmo detainee issue, they're going to fierce resistance back home. This is not just something -- sometimes, you have debates that are stirred up by the other side. This is not just the Republicans talking, not just conservative talk radio.

The lawmakers are hearing it when they go home to their districts, Wolf. And, even now, just a few minutes ago, I checked in with a few people in the Democratic leadership. They say they are hoping the president helps them draw a road map for where we go from here in this speech tomorrow.

But they say, as of now, they have not been briefed on any new details the president will disclose tomorrow.

BLITZER: And, Jeff...

TOOBIN: But...


BLITZER: Jeff, I was going to point out, you have actually been to Guantanamo Bay. You have seen the prison facility there.

But go ahead and make your point.

TOOBIN: Well, and one of the ironies is, the two new facilities that were built in Guantanamo are brick for brick identical copies of prisons that were built in Michigan, maximum security prisons. So, they're safe enough to hold them in Guantanamo, they're probably safe enough to hold them in Michigan. But, politically, it's just completely blown up as a problem.

And, I mean, think about how much trouble the Obama administration is on this story, because, on one hand, Obama has said, close Guantanamo, out of Guantanamo. Now the Senate has said, not in the United States. Well, there are only two places in the world, in Guantanamo or outside of Guantanamo, and neither one of them appear to be doable at this point.

BLITZER: Is the president going to address all of this head-on tomorrow in this major speech he's getting ready to deliver, John?

KING: He's supposed to try to connect the dots of all the dust- ups, if you will, about his national security policy.

This is a national security issue that has become a domestic political issue. Again, he's also faced pretty sharp criticism on the left, Wolf, a lot of people concerned about the putting more troops into Afghanistan at a time of great uncertainty in Pakistan. They do not believe the administration has an exit strategy.

And, remember, it was Senator Barack Obama and many other Democrats who said George W. Bush didn't have an exit strategy in Iraq. So, it's not just the Gitmo issue. There's a lot of tension, questions about the administration's national security policy. And the goal of this speech tomorrow, we are told, is to try to connect the dots and to reassure people that the president, in fact, has a long-term strategy.

BLITZER: Yes, the political, the legal, most important, the whole national security ramifications of this debate, enormous. And we will watch it every step of the way. Guys, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is joining us right now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: From the file, Wolf, that's labeled no good deed goes unpunished, Washington is cracking down on the credit card industry, with the Senate and House both voting overwhelmingly to cut down on rate increases and excessive fees.

President Obama expected to sign this bill soon. Here are some of the new rules. Lenders have to post their credit card agreements online and let customers pay their bills on the Internet or by phone without an additional fee.

Customers have to be more than 60 days behind on a payment before seeing a rate increase. And, even then, the company has to go back to the lower interest rate after six months if the customer pays the minimum on time. Consumers get 45 days' notice and an explanation before rates go up.

Before getting a card, customers under 21 have to prove they can repay the money or that a parent or guardian could pay off the debt. Missing from the bill is any kind of cap on interest rates. Score one for the lobbyists there.

Meanwhile, since the credit card companies likely will not be able to make as much money from customers that have bad credit, they may soon turn their attention to people with good credit. Ergo, no good deed goes unpunished. Some suggest that for years consumers who pay their bills on time and in full have been getting a good deal. Why shouldn't they? Frequent flier miles, cash-back rewards, and other perks. They pay their bill in full. But those days may soon be over, as banks are expected to consider bringing back annual fees, cutting back on rewards programs, and charging interest immediately, instead of giving a grace period.

Here's the question: Should the credit card companies target customers who have good credit? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

You know, if they get too aggressive going after their customers who have good credit, they could eventually lead to their own demise.

BLITZER: Yes, we could all just walk around with a lot of cash.

CAFFERTY: Well, or debit cards or checks.


CAFFERTY: You know, there are other ways to pay your bills.

BLITZER: Yes, there are really still paper checks out there, that -- people actually write those checks.

CAFFERTY: I have some at my house.

BLITZER: Really?

CAFFERTY: Yes. And don't ask, because the answer is, no, I won't.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

The Iranian clock is ticking fast and it must be stopped. That's an exact quote from an Israeli, officials responding after Iran reveals it's tested a missile. But could this test-fire actually backfire against Iran?

And Iran's missile could strike a wide, wide area. How wide is the range of worry? It includes many U.S. military bases in the Middle East.

And a war of words escalating into a duel of ideas, President Obama vs. Dick Cheney. They will go at it on the same day. That would be tomorrow, almost the same hour. Will the gloves come off?


BLITZER: Israel's deputy foreign minister says -- and I'm quoting now -- "The Iranian clock is ticking fast, and it must be stopped." There's widespread reaction and deep concern after Iran announced it's test-fired a missile, among the biggest concerns, the missile could strike Israel, parts of Europe, even U.S. military bases throughout the Mideast.

Let's get the latest from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. officials say the test by Iran apparently was successful. But now the question is, what is Iran really up to?

STARR: With Iran's test of this medium-range missile, the Sejil, Tehran moves closer to its goal of fielding an arsenal of hundreds of ballistic missiles.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is running for reelection next month, told the campaign crowd, the missile has advanced technology.

The Obama administration doesn't argue the point.

GARY SAMORE, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER ON ARMS CONTROL: I see it as a significant step forward in terms of Iran's capability to deliver weapons.

STARR: The big concern, the missile could have a 1,200-mile range. That means it could reach Israel and parts of Southern Europe. But, according to the top White House adviser on arms control, all of that could backfire on Iran.

SAMORE: I think it actually helps making the case to countries like Russia, which have been skeptical in the past about whether Iran really poses a threat.

STARR: The missile uses solid fuel. That means, once on the launcher, it's 100 percent ready to fire, there's little warning time and it's easier to move around.

But where is Iran, which is operating under heavy sanctions to keep it out of the weapons business, getting all the help?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE & INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: I would assume they're getting help from North Korea. I know -- I know North Korea is in Syria to help them, so I assume they have also been helping Iran develop solid-fuel technology.

STARR (on camera): For its part, the Obama administration is still committed to opening a dialogue with Iran. But the weapons program that Tehran is pursuing still may push that whole idea further down the road -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.

And, as we said, there's very serious concern about where an Iranian missile could actually strike.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to show us the areas of the deepest concern.


Of course, this is a very important in the world to us right now, Afghanistan over here. Pakistan, we have heard so much about, India, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel right in there, Saudi Arabia, big areas here.

But let's look at -- first of all, let's go in much tighter and take a look at the actual facility that we're talking about here, because we just got in this new image since we were on a couple of hours ago from DigitalGlobe that shows us more details of this place. And this is really worth looking at.

I will try to widen this out enough and bring this over, so you can take a look at it. We mentioned earlier that this is the command center for this rocket place here. Right up here, that little shadow is what they believe is a mosque.

We said we thought we had a picture of it. Sure enough, DigitalGlobe got it right there. They believe that's a mosque that's been put right across from the command center. Down here is one of the launch facilities. And if we move over this way, you can see right on the edge of this image one of the newest launch facilities right over here.

So, this is the area that we're talking about as ground zero in this, Wolf. And you're right. From there, there's quite a range.

BLITZER: And there's a lot of U.S. military facilities in that area around Iran.

FOREMAN: Yes, absolutely. As we talk about this, we're saying that we're -- we're talking about an area that's 1,200 miles in range. Earlier on, I gave you a sense of how far that would be. That's from Dallas to Washington, D.C. If you live out there in the country, it gives you a sense of what we're talking about.

So, if you're launching from in this area here, which is, as you can see over here, to the east of Tehran, look how far that goes. That goes all the way out to the edge of India over here up to Russia this way. It heads over here completely to Turkey. Certainly all of our troops who would be in Afghanistan over here or Iraq are in the range.

And you can see, as we turn it on here, these are all U.S. military people. Some of these are small groups of a few, but others, over here, we have got 140,000, 130,000 people over in this area. Over here in Afghanistan, we will have 60,000. That's all from the center here, 1,200 miles in all directions. If you move this way to the border or this way to the border to launch these, you pick up another 400 miles. It makes a big difference, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly does. All right, very curious why they did this today, only a couple days after the meeting between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel.

FOREMAN: Explosive times.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, we will watch it very closely. Thank you.

Thousands of new layoffs, cuts in education, and more -- California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says he has no choice, now that voters have rejected his proposed fixes for a ballooning budget deficit. So, what's next for California?

Also, is the U.S. paying for Pakistan to expand its nuclear arsenal? The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is now weighing in.

And Rudy Giuliani's son gets his day in court -- why he was suing Duke University and the judge's ruling on his most unusual claims.



BLITZER: Some Christian groups are now furious at the United States military over a stunning act in Afghanistan: Bibles burned.

Plus, it's as close as we may get to a debate between President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney. We will set the stage for their dueling speeches on the war on terror.

And a new move by Colin Powell to try to take back the Republican Party from the likes of Rush Limbaugh. The best political team on television is standing by.


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

Happening now: a down day on Wall Street. The Dow fell 53 points, closing at 8422.

A 13-year-old cancer patient whose family is refusing to get him medical treatment is missing. The boy's father says he thinks his wife has taken the child out of the country. A Minnesota judge has issued a warrant for the mother's arrest.

And seven people are now under indictment in New York for running a prostitution ring on the Web site Craigslist. Authorities say the group ran a round-the-clock ring from Craigslist's erotic services section -- all of this, plus the best political team on television. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama hopes to deliver on his promise of change. Today, that was the focus of key measures. The president signed two laws in -- two pieces of legislation into law. They're designed to persuade home lenders to provide more help for struggling homeowners. And one specifically aims to protect consumers from mortgage fraud.

Meanwhile, from help with your mortgage bills to help for your credit card bills. On Friday, the president will sign a bill that will affect virtually every single American. They are sweeping new rules regarding credit cards designed to protect from what some consider abuse from the card companies.

Could it penalize many of you who pay your credit card bills on time?

We asked that question of our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, who's been looking into it, because there's concern out there.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Opponents of this bill say that could happen, Wolf. They say that good customers will see some of their credit card perks disappear, for instance, low interest rates, free balance transfers, and frequent flier mile programs.


KEILAR (voice-over): Supporters of the credit card holders bill of rights say plastic just became a little less perilous.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Today is a victory for every American who holds a credit card.

KEILAR: But credit card companies and some Republicans insist, if risky customers can't be penalized, others will pay more, including those who pay in full, on time, every month.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: They will be forced to bail out those who don't. They will end up paying annual fees. They will end up paying higher interest rates. They will see such things as -- as member reward programs contract.

KEILAR: Opponents of the credit card changes say qualifying for a credit card will be more difficult, taking away a financial lifeline during a bad economy.

But money expert Clark Howard disagrees, calling the bill a grand slam for consumers.

CLARK HOWARD, HLN MONEY EXPERT: Historically, when financial products are easier to understand, they actually become cheaper, not more expensive. So it's way too early to make an assumption that because we're going to pinch credit cards' abilities to rip people off, that they're going to turn around and rip everybody else off more than they were already.


KEILAR: But keep in mind, this bill won't go into effect until nine months after President Obama signs it. And facing record losses, credit card companies have been hiking interest rates lately. And they now have until February before they have to comply with these changes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And he's going to sign it into law on Friday, as we...

KEILAR: Right.

BLITZER: we mentioned.

All right, thanks, Brianna, very much.

Look for President Obama to be called on the carpet tomorrow by one of his toughest Republican critics, the former vice president, Dick Cheney. The former vice president is scheduled to give a speech on keeping America safe on the same day Mr. Obama gives a big address about the war on terror.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is over at the White House working the story for us -- Jill, the president sort of goes into this speech tomorrow on the defensive a bit.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He does. And, you know, this, Wolf, is a crucial speech for the president. After all, he's been catching heat and under fire on a series of national security issues, from Guantanamo to detainee photos.

And now, his chief critic, former Vice President Dick Cheney, will be making his case on the very same day.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Dick Cheney has been on the attack almost since leaving office. President Barack Obama, he thinks, has made Americans less safe.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do. I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that led us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11.


DOUGHERTY: President Obama has outlawed those Bush-era enhanced interrogation techniques.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM APRIL 29, 2009) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could have gotten this information in other ways -- in ways this were consistent with our values.

DOUGHERTY: Mr. Cheney says closing the Guantanamo detention facility could free terrorists to attack the U.S. again.

The president says Guantanamo Bay has become a rallying cry for terrorists and a black eye for America's image around the world.

The sniping from both sides has turned personal.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal.

DOUGHERTY: But one Cheney biographer says Cheney is scoring points.

BART GELLMAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": What he's managed to do very effectively is frame a public debate and keep that debate focused on the things Cheney wants to talk about.


DOUGHERTY: The president wants to redefine the debate the way he sees it. And he also has to make that case to his very own party, because, after all, that Democratically-controlled Congress refused to give him the money to close Guantanamo. And they are blocking the transfer of detainees to the U.S. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jill, thank you.

And we'll, of course, have live coverage of the speech -- the president's speech -- tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is caught in a raging controversy over bibles that were burned. Some Christian groups are furious that Americans were involved in what they consider to be an unthinkable act right in the midst of a war against religious extremism in Afghanistan.

Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You've been digging on this story because it's pretty shocking.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And it speaks to the very delicate and often dangerous balance that U.S. commanders face in war zones -- books that are holy to the majority of U.S. service members burned in the name of protecting them.


TODD (voice-over): Bibles written in Pashtun and Dari, the two most common Afghan languages -- bibles sent by a church to a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, bibles that were later burned by the U.S. government. These holy books were confiscated about a year ago at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

An independent film aired by the Al Jazeera Network had shown Evangelical soldiers worshipping at Bagram and talking about ways to share their faith.


TODD: But military rules forbid troops of any religion from proselytizing while in Afghanistan. And U.S. officials were concerned that the bibles would be used to try to convert Afghans to Christianity.

A U.S. military spokesman tells CNN, that kind of religious outreach could have provoked a violent backlash against Americans in this devoutly Muslim nation.

But in trying not to offend the Muslim population there, the military seems to have offended some Christians. The president of a Christian group called Open Doors USA is quoted as saying: "It really should shake the core of every Christian to realize that bibles are being burned."

A military analyst, who's also a Pentagon adviser, agrees.

LT. COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS (RET.), MILITARY ANALYST: There's no need to burn the bibles. They could have been shipped back. Just imagine if we were to -- you know, the same United States military were to take a bunch of Korans and burn them. I can imagine the -- the ramifications across the world.


TODD: Could those bibles have been shipped back?

Well, the military says, not really. A military spokesman tells us they worried that the church that had sent them would turn around and send them to another organization in Afghanistan, giving the impression that they'd been distributed by the U.S. government. So the decision was made to throw the bibles away.

And in war zones, U.S. troops are required to burn their trash. A U.S. military spokesman says they understand the sensitivities of Christians here, that this was not an easy decision, but they had to do this force protection -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there any indication that any of these bibles were actually distributed to the local population?

TODD: The military says they have no evidence so far that the bibles made it off of Bagram Air Force Base. The soldier who had gotten them did not know that he was not supposed to distribute them. A military chaplain on base corrected that soldier and confiscated the bibles. As far as they know, they never made it off the base.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that story.

The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is issuing a very serious warning in the wake of Tehran's missile test.

And Colin Powell isn't letting a string of insults slide. He's firing back at Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney. The best political team on television is here to discuss all of that and more.


BLITZER: Colin Powell responding to Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh.

What's going on?

Let's assess with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our senior political analyst, David Gergen; and our political analyst, Roland Martin -- Gloria, Colin Powell saying this: "Rush Limbaugh says get out of the Republican Party. Dick Cheney says he's already out. I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again."

I guess he's trying to take a little bit of the high road here. But he's clearly making it obvious he still considers himself very much a Republican.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I don't think that any Repub -- any leading Republican is in a position these days to disinvite somebody of the stature of Colin Powell to leave the party. I mean Colin Powell is somebody who served this country admirably. He may disagree with Rush Limbaugh on a bunch of issues. He may disagree with Dick Cheney on a bunch of issues.

But, you know, I think this party, right now, has a party that's larger than Rush Limbaugh or Colin Powell. It doesn't have a brand. It doesn't have a leader. And it doesn't have a set of serious plans for the future.

BLITZER: Here's how Rush Limbaugh reacted to all of this, David.

Listen to what he said on his radio show.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Does Powell have the pulse of the Republican Party, folks?

He is for more spending, he's for higher taxes, he's against raising the social issues, he's for affirmative action. Colin Powell represents the stale, the old, the worn out GOP that never won anything.


BLITZER: Well, those are pretty strong words, David.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: He only won the Persian Gulf War I and kept this country at peace for a great many years. If his advice had been followed, either we wouldn't have gone into Iraq the way we got into Iraq at all, or if we did, we would have gone in with overwhelming force and we wouldn't have found ourselves in the mess we were for a number of years before General Petraeus and his new strategy went to work there.

Yes, he hasn't delivered anything for the Republican Party. He's only brought in, you know, tons of people who think he's one of the most respected person -- people in the country, who were enormously pressed when he joined the Republican Party. There was a long period of time when he could have beaten any Democrat in sight. He decided not to run for the presidency.

You can dismiss that if you want. You can -- you know, you can -- and you can also break up the Republican Party and leave it completely unable to -- to rebuild a majority.

BLITZER: And we're not hearing the last of Colin Powell, by any means, Roland, because he's going out this Sunday on one of the Sunday talk shows. So you know this debate is going to continue.

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, this is why I hate ideologues on the left and the right, because they act as if there's no room for anybody else other than their viewpoint in either party.

The reality is, you want a Colin Powell. I would say if Rush Limbaugh would go back and play what he had to say about Senator Zell Miller and his criticism of Democrats when he was called a turncoat because he was a conservative Democrat. Democrats had the same problem in the '80s, when they said if you are a conservative Democrat, you have no place in the party.

You have Republicans who are saying if you're a liberal Republican, you have no place.

You cannot talk about big tent if you only want to have the people with the same views as you do. And so maybe Rush should sit down and listen to Colin Powell and actually get educated on what it means to actually be a Republican in the 21st century.

BORGER: You know, they're not talking big tent anymore. They're just trying to find the tent right now. And -- and if you want to expand the base of the Republican Party -- and I do think that Rush Limbaugh speaks to a certain segment of the base of the Republican Party. He does. You've got to have people like Colin Powell.

BLITZER: And there's no shortage of Republicans who want Colin Powell right in there. We heard earlier from John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House; Lindsey Graham the Republican senator from South Carolina. They don't want to lose Colin Powell from the Republican Party, David, by any means. GERGEN: No, they don't. And I think it's time that, perhaps, George W. Bush could break his silence and come out and create some peace here in his own party. He's got his own vice president who's attacking Powell. He's got Rush Limbaugh attacking.

They must know that the contrast -- and Bush is a smart politician. He understands this. There's a contrast between what you see now -- the fur flying on the Republican side -- versus the Democrats, who, yes, have differences over things like Guantanamo, but they are -- day to day, the Democrats are seen as a party that's working hard on problems -- on real issues, whether it's the economy or health care or global warming. You may not agree with what they're doing...

BLITZER: All right...

GERGEN: But they're working on the problems.


BLITZER: And, Roland, very -- very quickly, how much trouble...


BLITZER: Roland, how much trouble is the president in with his fellow Democrats right now?

Almost all of them voted against him today, saying you know what, we don't like your plans for Guantanamo Bay.

MARTIN: Well, I think, look, he's getting the appropriate push- back from Democrats who are saying this is where we stand. They also recognize that they have constituents back at home who they have to appeal to, as well. And, so, frankly, the president, it's good for him to recognize that, yes, you might get your way most of the time, but they also have their own views on various issues and you must contend with where they stand on the issue, as well. And you might also come to their side from time to time.

BORGER: You know, this is a real problem for the president, Wolf. I think it's one of those issues where he really didn't do a lot of advanced planning. And I think it shows he may have a little too much on his plate right now.

BLITZER: Yes. You just sort of take the fellow Democrats for granted sometimes.


BLITZER: All right, guys. We've got to leave it right there.

Thanks very much.

Some are calling it a duel -- tomorrow, President Obama and former Vice President Cheney will each be giving speeches on national security almost exactly at the same time. Who do you think will win?

Submit your video comments to Watch us tomorrow to see if your video makes it on the air.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

At the top of the hour, we'll have complete coverage of that showdown between Congressional Democrats today and the Obama administration on the future of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the detainees. The Senate today delivering a stinging rebuke to President Obama on what to do with the prison's detainees.

And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich demanding the resignation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an escalating controversy over what the speaker knew, when she knew it, about harsh interrogation techniques. We'll have that special report.

And a nationwide search tonight underway for a mother and her teenage son at the center of a dispute over court-ordered cancer treatment. The mother is refusing to allow her son to have those treatments because of their religious beliefs. We'll have the very latest for you.

All of that and a great deal more, all the day's news, at the top of the hour.

Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

Thank you.

California's fiscal nightmare about to get a whole lot worse -- so why the state now faces cuts that could leave Californians reeling.

And the first lady of France sparking an uproar with her remarks about Pope Benedict -- what she said about the pontiff and condoms and how the world is reacting.


BLITZER: California is now facing massive, massive cuts after voters reject some deficit fixes.

Let's go to Los Angeles.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is watching the story for us.

A huge loss for the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger -- Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And a lot of work ahead. He couldn't convince California voters to back his plan. A lot of people think he'll even have a tougher time convincing lawmakers.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): After a resounding no from the voters to use tax dollars, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says fixing California's $20 billion plus problem requires deep cuts.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We tried to not make those kind of cuts, but now we have to. We have no other choice.

ROWLANDS: Schwarzenegger wants to hit the normally taboo areas of health care, education and public safety. He also wants to shed about 40,000 inmates from the prison system.

But to do it, he'll need help from a state legislature often described as perpetually paralyzed. Many believe special interest influence and partisan bickering make a fix in this state near impossible.

Bob Hertzberg, a former California assembly speaker and co-chair of California Forward, a citizens group pushing for changes in state government, says the budget problems make it clear that the system here needs an overhaul.

ROBERT HERTZBERG, FORMER CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: It's just ungovernable. It's unmanageable. You have to fundamentally change the state. You have to rewrite the constitution. It takes a lot of the power and moves it down to the local level. Sending money to Sacramento for people in Los Angeles is like sending it to the moon.

ROWLANDS: Hertzberg isn't the only one pushing for a change in the state's constitution. There's a growing movement of business leaders pushing for a constitutional convention, which would allow citizens to change government rules.

JIM WUNDERMAN, CEO, BAY AREA COUNCIL: And say, something that can happen every few generations, where the public recognizes that government just isn't making it happen.

ROWLANDS: But changing the constitution won't address the problems at hand. Governor Schwarzenegger is counting on lawmakers to make something happen now to get California out of trouble.


ROWLANDS: And the governor is back in the State of California after spending the last two days in Washington, D.C. Wolf, a lot of work ahead -- a lot of work ahead here in this state to try to right the financial mess.

BLITZER: We'll see how he does -- what they do out there.

Ted, stay in touch with us.

Thank you. California, by the way, is one of 46 states with important money problems. This map shows the top 10 states with the biggest percentage of budget shortfalls. California tops the list. It's followed closely by Nevada.

Thirteen states have deficits larger than 20 percent, but there are some bright spots. According to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota are the only three states without budget shortfalls.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty once again.

He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Should the credit card companies target customers who have good credit?

Mark writes: "It's already begun. I've taken great pride in building a 786 FICO score. Other than the nominal purchases I make every month on my Visa and MasterCard, I have no debts. Both cards are paid in full every month. There has been no delinquency in 20 plus years. Yet since May the 5th, I have received notice the rates on both of these cards are going up."

Cindy writes: "No, they shouldn't. They ought to keep bending over backward to keep their customers happy and spending money. I have already started to aggressively pay off my credit cards. Now I use cash or a debit card, primarily, even for hotel rooms. The almighty greenback again king in my wallet. Good customers usually have options and when they're pushed too hard, they're not afraid to use them."

Paul writes: "I am what the credit card industry terms a deadbeat. I pay off my balance every month, avoid all interest charges and fees, while reaping the benefits from perks such as cash back and frequent flier miles. They ought to be satisfied with getting my business. After all, they're making 2 to 5 percent off of every purchase that I make from merchant fees. If they pull something stupid, like eliminating the grace period, then I'll stop using the card. Remember, us deadbeats have money on hand to pay cash."

Jackson in Rome, Georgia writes: "I want them to leave me alone. My wife and I each receive at least one credit card offer daily. I'm no tree-hugging, dirt worshipping hippie, but even I know that the mind-boggling amount of paper being used to create that much junk mail is environmentally unconscionable."

And Squirt -- what kind of a name is that, Squirt? -- writes: "No, they shouldn't target the good customers, but they will. I'm tired of being taken for granted, too. And you know what this good customer is going to do? I'm going to keep some extra cash around and I'm going to write checks. I'm going to pay cash wherever I can. If they don't come to their senses and show me a little more respect, I'll chuck the credit cards completely -- except for my Gold Card."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

See you tomorrow.


BLITZER: The first lady of France is certainly known for speaking her mind, but jaws are dropping over her rather blunt comments about the pope.


BLITZER: Here a look at some of today's Hot Shots.

In India, a vegetable seller walks to his boat before heading home.

In Pakistan, a cook prepares food for refugees.

In Connecticut, graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy toss their cadet caps in the air at the end of the commencement.

And in Hungary, a baby -- a zoo keeper holds a baby panther.

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

France's first lady is taking the pope to task for his position on AIDS prevention.

From Paris, here's CNN's senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann -- Jim.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the French first lady sat down with five specially selected readers of a popular woman's magazine here to discuss a wide range of issues, including her work in support of an organization which combats AIDS.

And it was her response to a question about Pope Benedict XVI's recent comments about AIDS in Africa that got the most attention in the press.

The pope said the distribution of condoms not only will not help the AIDS epidemic, but could actually worsen the situation.

Carla Bruni Sarkozy was asked as a woman and a mother, how she felt about that. And her response was telling: "I was born Catholic," she was quoted as saying, "but I feel profoundly secular. I find that the controversy that the pope's message sparked off and which was further distorted by the media is very damaging. I think the church should evolve where this issue is concerned."

At one point in the interview, she was joined by her president husband, who also describes himself as a Catholic in a recent book, although he admits to being "periodic in practicing the faith." While newspapers speculated that Madam Sarkozy's comments could get her in trouble with the French public, opinion surveys indicate otherwise. According to a lot of them, 57 percent of the French had a negative opinion of the pope after his comments and 43 percent think he should step down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Bittermann in Paris.

Thank you.

Tomorrow, President Obama and former Vice President Cheney will each be giving speeches on national security.

Who do you think will win?

Submit your video comments to

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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