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Report: Plane Broke Apart in Flight; President Obama Should Say "Enough"; Egypt's Poor Rights Record; Extraordinary Crackdown in China; President Obama vs. Osama bin Laden

Aired June 3, 2009 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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

Happening now, an oil slick spreading for miles and pieces of debris. As searchers look for clues in the Atlantic Ocean, families of those lost on the Air France flight hold their first painful memorial.

The president is in the Middle East right now, reaching out to the Muslim world, as Osama bin Laden lashes out at America's leader.

Where do the world's Muslims stand?

And two minority women who both made it into ivy-colored -- covered halls of Princeton. Michelle Obama says it wasn't easy for her or for the Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. What today's high school grads can learn from their example.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

New details are emerging right now of the final moments of Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. A Brazilian newspaper citing unnamed Air France sources is now reporting that data sent from the doomed plane suggests it broke apart tens of thousands of feet over the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, more debris from the crash has been found, as relatives of the victims mourn.

CNN's Paula Newton is working the story for us from Paris -- Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this ceremony here at Notre Dame Cathedral was meant to give a measure of comfort to friends and families.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON (voice-over): Scattered around an ever wider swath of the Atlantic, the Brazilian Air Force spots more debris, including an oil slick stretching for miles. As recovery ships continue to steam toward the area, looking for wreckage and those crucial voice and data recorders, thousands of miles away, the first painful memorial marked the tragedy. French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with relatives in the solemn shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Inside, there were words that tried to comfort mourners. But outside, there was quiet grief. Air France employees say they are moved by the loss and all it means to their carrier and their country.

EMMANUEL MOMMERVILLO, AIR FRANCE STEWARD (through translator): This is a very sad moment for us. We lost 12 colleagues and that really hurts. So we will see, with inquiry, what happened. But for the moment, it's very difficult and hurts. The staff is very shocked.

NEWTON: Even some tourists were overwhelmed, this woman thinking about how tough it is for families who wonder if their loved ones suffered through pain and panic.

MARIE MERCIER, TOURIST: For the families, it's, you know, just imagining what can happen in their last minutes. Anyway, it's just very, very sad.

NEWTON (on camera): And just as friends and family are beginning to come to terms with the fact that their loved ones will never come home, they are learning what a challenge the investigation is going to be.

(voice-over): French investigators offered their blunt assessment of whether they would find the voice and data recorders in the depths of the Atlantic.

PAUL-LOUIS ARSLANIAN, FRENCH ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BUREAU: I'm not so optimistic. It's not only deep, it's also very mountainous.

NEWTON: And so if the final moments of Flight 447 are not definitively on the record, crash investigators say a precise cause for the cash may never be found.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Wolf, they won't even have a preliminary investigation report for at least a month -- one many will be watching very closely -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula Newton.

Thanks very much.

Let's bring back Peter Goelz, the former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board here in Washington.

Slowly but surely, we're -- we're beginning to understand what may have happened.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: Yes. We're starting to see the pieces fall into place. And I think the key data right now are these automatic signals that were sent back to the Air France headquarters that indicated something terrible was going on with that plane over a very short period of time. BLITZER: Because they're look -- they're better able now to understand what those signals were sending. This was like only minutes before the plane disappeared.

GOELZ: That's exactly right. You know, there was a pressurization problem, apparently, which could indicate that the fuselage was -- was coming apart. There was an electrical problem. There -- my guess is there were quite a number of these signals sent back. And as the investigators interpret them, they're starting to get a picture.

BLITZER: So you're still convinced that this plane burst -- or whatever happened -- at altitude of 38,000 or 39,000 feet?

GOELZ: I think it started to come apart at altitude, yes.

BLITZER: For whatever reason, we have no idea at this point.

GOELZ: And that's -- that's...

BLITZER: Finding these -- these so-called black boxes, the voice data recorder and the flight data, all that stuff -- it sounds to me it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.

GOELZ: A needle in a haystack would be an easy assignment compared to this one, because, you know, this -- the -- we don't know precisely where they came down. We know we have wreckage. The wreckage has floated. They've got oceanographers trying to study the ocean patterns and the wind patterns to see how far it could have traveled.

They're going to bring out -- my guess is the French will dispatch the most sophisticated naval and research vessels to put down listening devices.

But as the ahead of the BEA, the French investigative agency, said, it's going to be very challenging.

BLITZER: Two technical questions.

Brian Todd reported earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM that there is the technology out there and some military aircraft already have these floatable black boxes that don't necessarily sink to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, but stay...

GOELZ: Right.

BLITZER: ...stay atop the water, making it easier to find.

Why -- why can't they use these in commercial airliners?

GOELZ: Well, there's -- there's two technologies. There's the deployable black box, in which, if it gets in -- if the plane has a -- hits the water, hits the ground, it deploys. It gets away from the wreckage.

BLITZER: It shoots out?

GOELZ: It shoots out, floats, emits a signal. You can identify it and pick it up.

And then there's real time downloading of the black box...

BLITZER: Instead of just going to the black box, they send it out someplace...

GOELZ: That's right.

BLITZER: ...where you can constantly have that. The technology is there for that, as well.

GOELZ: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Why don't they use that?

GOELZ: Well, it would -- it would mean retrofitting planes. It means setting up procedures and how you have access to it. The black boxes have worked pretty well over the past 40 years. But I think an accident like this, if we don't recover both of the boxes, if we don't get a probable cause, we're going to look very seriously at the next level of technology.

BLITZER: It sounds to me like a no-brainer, given the fact that priority number one is to learn from these accidents and make sure they don't happen again.

GOELZ: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Peter, thanks very much for coming in.

GOELZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is joining us once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, our education system -- -- this isn't breaking news -- our education system is in serious trouble in this country and it's unclear how or even if American students can continue to compete globally.

Consider this -- out of 30 industrialized countries in a 2006 study, American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in mathematics. Many of our big city high schools have a graduation rate below 50 percent. This may be why most states now seem to agree that national education standards are needed, instead of the patchwork system of states deciding on standards that we have now.

Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to develop a set of standards for what students should learn every year from kindergarten through high school. The group is expected to come up with standards by July. Then each state will have to decide whether or not to sign on.

The coalition says the benchmarks could be internationally -- or would be internationally competitive -- and they'd better be.

Critics of the current system, where each state sets its own standards, point to places where students score well on state tests, but not on national exams. For example, in Mississippi, 90 percent of fourth graders passed the state reading exam in 2007, but only 51 percent -- roughly half -- had basic or partial mastery on a national exam.

Many Republicans oppose these national standards, saying Washington shouldn't control the schools. But there seems to be growing support this time around, since the schools and the states are leading the charge for this change and the results of the old way of doing things are nothing short of pretty dismal.

Here's the question: Is it too late for American public schools to become competitive?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

President Obama is getting the royal treatment right now in Saudi Arabia, ahead of his big speech to the Muslim world tomorrow in Egypt. We're going to talk about that and much more with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He's standing by live.

Also, China uses men with umbrellas to prevent CNN's John Vause from reporting near Tiananmen Square. We're going to show you what happened.

Also, the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, making a rare foray into politics, weighing in on her husband's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. We're going to hear fight the first lady in her own words. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama is in the Middle East, about to make good on a pledge to address the Muslim world. During his initial stop in Saudi Arabia, he's been finalizing his big speech, which he'll deliver tomorrow in Cairo. By choosing Egypt as the venue, the president may be drawing attention to Egypt's human rights record.

Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.

She's over at the State Department with more on this part of the story -- Jill, some say this was a controversial decision.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It is for some, Wolf, certainly. And, you know, when President Obama delivers that speech in Cairo, one man here in the United States will be listening very carefully. He has made democracy in Egypt his personal mission. And because of that, he can't go back to Egypt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM, EGYPTIAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We were deprived of our freedom, of our democracy and many of our human rights were violated.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): He's the political Einstein of Egypt -- Saeed Eddin Ibrahim, one of the inventors of democracy in modern Egypt. Yes, he walks with a limp -- the legacy, he says, of being thrown into prison and tortured -- accused of tarnishing Egypt's image by criticizing the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Ibrahim says Mubarak's rule is un-democratic, that he's clung to power for almost three decades without free elections.

IBRAHIM: People in the Middle East have been clamoring for change for the last 30 years.

DOUGHERTY: He thinks President Obama should have delivered his speech in a democratic majority Muslim country, like Indonesia or Turkey. Nevertheless, his speech, Ibrahim says, can send a message to President Mubarak about true democracy.

IBRAHIM: The rule of law, independent judiciary, independent and free media.

DOUGHERTY: Egypt's democracy movement, he says, calls itself Kifaya, an Arabic word that means enough. President Obama, he says, should use that word in his Cairo speech.

IBRAHIM: He would endear himself if he says Kifaya -- Kifaya to injustice, Kifaya to continuing protracted conflicts like that of the Israeli conflict, Kifaya to dictatorship, Kifaya to violation of human rights.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: And Ibrahim really does seem torn about the president's decision to give his speech in Cairo. But he says he knows that Egypt's support for Mideast peace is crucial and as an Egyptian, he's proud that the U.S. president decided to do it in his country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jill.

Let's talk about this and more with Lindsey Graham.

He's a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He's joining us from Capitol Hill.

Was it wise to pick Egypt, Senator Graham, for the location for this historic speech tomorrow?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't know. I really enjoyed listening to that speech. It's made me wonder. Turkey is a more of a democracy -- Indonesia. But Egypt has its problems. Maybe something good can come from it. The only problem I've got is the way the administration has basically highlighted the differences with Israel about the settlements. I don't think that's been very helpful, quite frankly.

BLITZER: I want to talk to that -- to you about that in a moment. But the decision to go to Saudi Arabia and meet with the Saudi king, Abdullah first -- that's what he's been doing all day today.

Do you have a problem with that?

GRAHAM: No, because they're players. I mean, if we're ever going to solve this problem, we've got to get Arab -- moderate Arab Sunni states to stand up against Iran. That's a problem. And if we're ever going to have a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, you're going to need all the players working together.

So it makes perfect sense that he would stop there.

BLITZER: All right. Let's -- let's talk a little bit about what you raised. Some are suggesting he's squeezing the Israelis -- the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview with Tom Freedman in the "New York Times," the president said this -- he said, "Stop saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else publicly."

What's wrong, if anything, in your opinion, with the president of the United States urging the Israelis to freeze settlement activity and accept a two-state solution -- Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine?

GRAHAM: Well, there's a -- if you're going to look at the problems that exist. Let's talk about rockets coming into Israel. Let's talk about Hamas activities. Let's talk about Iran's influence in the Palestinian territories.

I mean, the point is that he has created, publicly -- sometimes things need to be said behind closed doors, because it fuels the fire that there is a moral equivalency between what is happening against Israel, and what Israel is doing.

I don't think there's a moral equivalency. The settlement issue is not nearly the same as 10,000 rockets landing on kids.

BLITZER: So what do -- what would you -- what would you prefer the president do?

GRAHAM: To pursue a two-state solution and find ways, behind closed doors and publicly, to restart negotiations. Challenge the Palestinian people to make up their minds as to which way they want to go. You've got one part of Palestine under Prime Minister Abbas. You've got another part controlled by Hamas.

Challenge the Israelis to stop expanding settlements, but do it even-handedly and get other actors involved, like the Chinese and the Russians and Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Try to put together a new coalition, start over and go back to the road map. The road map was a pretty good document. Let's get back on track.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about Sonia Sotomayor.

You had a chance to meet with the Supreme Court justice nominee today. When you were out on TV on Sunday, you said she should apologize for those comments about being a Latina woman and having -- being able -- better able to make a decision on judicial matters than a white man.

GRAHAM: Correct.

BLITZER: Did she apologize to you?

GRAHAM: Well, I'm going to let her speak to that. We had a very good meeting. She traditionally doesn't comment. Nominees do not comment before their hearing. I don't want to put words in her mouth. I'm sure she'll talk about that.

It was a good meeting. She's a nice person -- good character, very sincere. There are some questions about her temperament from lawyers that appeared before her. I've got some questions about some of her judicial decisions and her philosophy.

I told her this very directly -- that if I apply the standard that President Obama used as Senator Obama in the Alito/Roberts confirmation, I could not vote for her. If I applied a Ginsburg/Scalia standard, where both of them got 96, 98 votes, and she did well at the hearings, I could.

I've got to decide what is the Senate going to do now and in the future?

And President Obama is basically asking me to do something he wasn't able to do. And I've got to decide what's best for my party, what's best for the country, what's best for the Senate.

BLITZER: Are you happy Newt Gingrich changed his mind...

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: ...about calling her a racist?

GRAHAM: yes, because she's clearly not. She's lived a very rich, full life. The people who've worked with her throughout different jobs have nothing but nice things to say about her. And, yes, that's inappropriate.

But the comment that you mentioned before, she should have, in my opinion, apologized, because her experiences are real and will potentially make the court better, but it doesn't help to say that it makes her superior to someone else. That's going too far.

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham is on the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

We'll be hearing from you a lot in the coming weeks.

Thanks very much for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Twenty years since the massacre in Tiananmen Square and China takes extraordinary measures to make sure no one commemorates it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Vause near Tiananmen Square.

This is about as close as we can get to the square because these plainclothes officers are using their umbrellas to try and stop our view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And that's just the beginning of some extreme measures going on.

We're going to Beijing for the latest.

And Osama bin Laden lashing out at President Obama on the eve of the speech to the Muslim world. We're going to talk about that and more with Donna Brazile and Alex Castellanos.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In China, dissidents are confined to their homes, Internet sites are blocked and foreign journalists are barred from Beijing's Tiananmen Square, as authorities try to prevent 20th anniversary commemorations of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

The rallies began in April, 1989, after the death of China's reformist leader. The massive protests went on for weeks, with students erecting their own version of the Statue of Liberty.

Finally, martial law was declared and troops moved into Tiananmen Square. On the night of June 3rd, they cleared the square and opened fire, killing hundreds. The lasting image -- one young man standing in front of a row of tanks occupying the square. He became a symbol of the struggle for freedom. To this day, his fate is unknown.

In Beijing, CNN's John Vause and Emily Chang report on the extraordinary steps China is taking to block commemorations of the 1989 event.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: I'm John Vause near Tiananmen Square. This is about as close as we can get to the square because these plainclothes officers are using their umbrellas to try and stop our view so that we cannot actually do any videotaping here.

There is an incredible security presence here on the eve of the 20th anniversary. There are so many police and soldiers. These plainclothes -- are you rolling?

These plainclothes officials are using these umbrellas here to block our view whenever we try and do any videotaping anywhere near the square. They also are carrying these walkie-talkies -- right there. That gentleman has a walkie-talkie. So does this other gentleman here.

Authorities are also rounding up dissidents. Many, they say, according to some reports, in fact, have been sent out of town. Others have been detained. University students, too, have also been warned to watch what they say. And there is also heavy security around many of the schools and some of the bigger campuses here in Beijing.

And right now, as you can see, these officials continually blocking our view to try and stop us from filing any kind of report from Tiananmen Square.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Information controls are also being stepped up.

I'm Emily Chang at an Internet cafe in Beijing, where people are suddenly having trouble logging on to different Web sites. Twitter, the popular micro blogging Web site, has apparently been blocked.

If you try to pull it up, you get this error message saying the page cannot be reached. Hot Mail and Flicker, a photo sharing Web site, are also not working. And YouTube has been blocked since March.

The Chinese government doesn't comment on specific Internet issues, but has said it manages the Internet according to law. Now, international TV channels are also being censored. CNN reports on the Tiananmen crackdown have been repeatedly blacked out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square...

CHANG: Chinese officials have declined to comment on these latest service interruptions. Last year, CNN coverage of protests in Tibet was also blacked out. But it hasn't happened again until now, as China reaches this sensitive anniversary.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Emily Chang and John Vause reporting for us from Beijing. Good reports.

Bankrupt automakers -- are they now off the hook when it comes to lawsuits from accident victims?

Accident victims want Washington to step in and keep that from happening.

Also, a robber asks a would-be victim for mercy and gets it -- and the bizarre episode is all caught on videotape. We'll show it to you.

The first lady, Michelle Obama, speaks out about the first Latina nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. You're going to want to hear what Michelle Obama has to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a dramatic reversal on Cuba. The Organization of American States decides to revoke a 47-year-old measure that expelled the communist country from membership. We'll have a full report.

And he was convicted of lying to investigators about sexually harassing two of his employees. Now, a federal judge is heading to prison and facing possible impeachment.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As President Obama prepares to reach out to Muslims with an historic speech in the Middle East, Al Qaeda's leader is lashing out -- an apparent voice recording accusing the president of sowing new seeds of hatred and hostility.

Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

He's taking a closer look at this story for us.

What does the president need to do in his big speech tomorrow -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He needs to change the tone of the dialogue between the United States and the Islamic world -- on both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Obama said in Turkey in April...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So let me say this as clearly as I can -- the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.

SCHNEIDER: Does the American public agree?

Just over a third of Americans believe the United States is at war with the Muslim world. But there's a bigger problem. Sixty-two percent believe the Muslim world considers itself at war with the U.S.

That's why Muslim countries have a negative image in the U.S. Seven years ago, 41 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Muslim countries. Now, 46 percent do. President Obama is trying to repair the relationship.

OBAMA: I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek his majesty's counsel.

SCHNEIDER: The president believes he has special standing to do that.

OBAMA: Many other Americans have Muslims in their family or have lived in a Muslim majority country, I know because I am one of them.

SCHNEIDER: He also has competition. A newly released voice recording being attributed to Osama Bin Laden accuses President Obama of walking the same road as his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims.

Do Muslims agree? Gallup recently asked citizens of 11 Arab countries to assess the job performance of U.S. leaders. In eight of those countries, opinion was more positive than last year, when George W. Bush was president. Egypt was one of them. Last year, only 6 percent of Egyptians have a positive assessment of the U.S. Now it's up to 25 percent. Improvement, yes, but far from a majority.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Opinion has turned more negative towards U.S. leaders among residents of the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon, both countries that border Israel. Now Lebanon is holding an election just three days after President Obama speaks in Cairo. If Hezbollah does well in that election and polls suggest it might, it likely will be seen as a rebuke to President Obama -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, the stakes really are enormous. Thank you very much.

Let's talk about this and more with our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

What do you think, Alex, I'll start with you, about the president's going out there to the Middle East right now giving this speech and on the eve of this speech, we hear from Bin Laden, this can't be some sort of coincidence.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It actually helpful politically to the president because there is a concern, is he being tough enough on the Islamic extremists I think who are out to get us and when you're attacked by Bin Laden, that says you must be doing something right. I think the president here is exploiting a skizism (ph) in the Muslim world, you know the extremists that want to say they can't coexist with us and must destroy us and I think the majority of the Muslim world says hey, yes we can. The Republicans are making a mistake, I think, by denying him the opportunity to get out there and see if this works. He's putting himself in a position where he's got to produce results. We're going to see if he comes back and the Arab world is going to say, yes, we're going to stand up against the extremism within ourselves, we're going to try to starve Iran's economy, we're going to work with you in words and deeds, we're going to recognize Israel's right to exist. If he comes back with results, he should be lauded. But it's bold of him and we ought to give him a chance to do that.

BLITZER: Does the Bin Laden tape, and we assume it's authentic, although the CIA is still confirming apparently the voice on that recording. When he does this, it sort of makes it clear that the president is going to be speaking to the Muslim world, but Bin Laden is speaking to the Muslim world as well.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Bin Laden is clearly concerned that the president will become someone that's trusted in the Muslim world and I think this is a very important opportunity for the president to lay out a clear picture of what's at stake in fighting al Qaeda and the radical elements of Islam as heard from Bin Laden and his other compatriots.

Yesterday Mr. Ayman al Zawahri. I want to call him something else. But the president has to go out tomorrow and tell the Muslim world that we do seek a new beginning. That's what he said in his inaugural address. I think that's the message the president will seek tomorrow. But we also seek our allies in helping us in this ongoing campaign to ensure that al Qaeda is defeated, destroyed and disrupted.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get back to another high priority for the president, health care reform. He's being criticized right now pretty severely from Republicans and a lot of other critics, the editorial page of the "Wall Street Journal." But on one issue, whether or not to tax health care benefits, the president seems to have revised his stance going back to the campaign, because this was a commercial that was done on October 30th, 2008, only days before the election in going after McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants $4 billion in new tax breaks for big oil and would tax your health care benefits for the first time ever. Look behind you, we can't afford more of the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Those were powerful commercials, and now, there's some indication, not only from Democratic members of the Senate and the House think it's a good idea to start taxing benefits, health care benefits, insurance benefits, along the lines of regular income, but the White House is leaving that door open as well. CASTELLANOS: It turns out that a lot of Democrats should have been in that rear view mirror and possibly even President Obama too. What's changed? Well, the election's over, and what's changed? They're spending record amounts of money in Washington, frightening amounts and healthcare is going to be hugely expensive so they're going to start breaking every piggy bank in town so those old campaign promises may just not mean as much.

But you know we're seeing two very different healthcare alternatives evolve here. The old top down Democratic establishment is putting on a Washington knows best proposals. Republicans are coming up bottom up open proposals where doctors and patients get together. This is not set in stone by any means.

BLITZER: Do you see the president flip-flopping on this issue of taxing health insurance benefits that your employers give you?

BRAZILE: I think the president as well as the Democrats and others are struggling to come one with the right way to finance this important initiative that he is now urging the Congress to pass. I don't know if the president will in fact reverse a campaign promise. But what I do know, Wolf, is that 46 million Americans without insurance, 14,000 people losing their insurance, the Congress should act and they should act quickly.

BLITZER: We got to leave it there, guys, because this conversation is only just beginning.

What do you think President Obama should say to the Muslim world in his speech in Cairo tomorrow? Submit your video comments to ireport.com/situationroom. We'll try to get some of them on the air right here.

Lives changed forever, allegedly by a faulty auto design, but now the victims find they can no longer sue automakers in bankruptcy.

Plus, a robbery perhaps like something you have never seen before, a victim showing remarkable mercy, a thief bursting into tears, all followed by a religious conversion. We have the surveillance tape.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Can people still sue Chrysler and GM now that they have filed for bankruptcy? What can Washington do if anything about that? Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

This was a subject up on the hill today, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure was, Wolf, and as you know, bankruptcy is designed to protect a company from its creditors. And that may also include the legal claims of people with very tragic stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBERT DOSS, SON PARALYZED IN ACCIDENT: He's a normal 6-year-old minus not being able to walk. Huge sports fan, just finished up baseball. He's now going to be moving up to basketball, after we get his custom wheel chair made for him.

KEILAR: What color is your new wheelchair going to be, Shaun?

SHAUN DOSS, ACCIDENT VICTIM: Orange.

KEILAR: Two years ago, Shaun Doss was in a car accident, another driver ran a red light and t-boned his family's SUV.

DOSS: Shaun was in the third row of our Dodge Durango. Seat belted in. The seat belt gave too much slack which then caused Shaun to be paralyzed from his T4 down, chest level down.

KEILAR: Shaun also suffered a brain injury that affected his speech. Facing $1.8 million in medical costs, his father, Robert sued Chrysler last summer, alleging a defect in Shaun's seat belt. When Chrysler went bankruptcy in April, Robert was shocked to learn that Shaun's lawsuit was put on hold, perhaps indefinitely. That's because Chrysler was shielded from many creditors and claims against the car company.

DOSS: We went from thinking Shaun was going to have a trust fund set up for him so that all his schooling and everything would be taken care of for the rest of his life, all his medical bills and needs and equipment will be taken care of to a financial responsibility on me now.

KEILAR: Chrysler would not comment on Shaun's particular case but issued a statement to CNN saying, "Bankruptcy is a complex and difficult process but it became the only option available to produce a viable company. Chrysler will take into account all creditors including those with legal claims against the company."

Feeling his family's plight has been ignored, Robert brought Shaun to Washington. He's hoping lawmakers won't be able to ignore sight of his injured son next to some of the 300 other families who are suing Chrysler and GM for injuries and deaths when the manufacturers went bankrupt.

DOSS: I believe they need to hear our voice, they need to be heard, the little people and let them know that our needs need to be met.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now these families, these families want for Congress to establish a special fund, Wolf, that will pay out the legal funds they say they are due.

BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much.

The government is now told a sensitive nuclear document marked highly confidential that was posted publicly to a government agency website. Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, what was in this document?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this was a long list of U.S. nuclear facilities, locations, different data from around the country along with a helpful sentence about what each of them was doing, uranium storage in Oakridge, Tennessee for example. 260-plus pages stamped highly confidential, sensitive though unclassified.

This government document was intended ultimately for the International Atomic Energy Agency but it was accidentally posted online somewhere along the way by the Government Printing Office. It remained there for a couple of weeks until reporters pointed it out earlier this week. The GPO then pulled it. A spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration says, "While we would have preferred it not be released, the Departments of Energy, Defense and Commerce and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission all thoroughly reviewed it to ensure that none of the information was a direct national security significance would be compromised."

BLITZER: It sounds embarrassing for the government, but is it really as damaging to the U.S. government?

TATTON: Well, the security experts that found that was Stephen Aftergood with the Federation of American Scientists and he really stressed that there was no national security threat here, saying these were not secret facilities that were listed and in the document there were no specific security measures in them, however this was a sensitive document, it wasn't supposed to be released. It was and that's the problem.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

A robbery in New York takes a very strange twist. The robber asked for understanding and gets it from his victim and says he wants to convert to Islam.

And what do Michelle Obama and Judge Sonia Sotomayor have in common? The first lady is sharing her thoughts about her husband's Supreme Court nominee. Stick around and you'll hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is an extraordinary robbery. The victim actually shows mercy and the thief ends up converting to Islam and it's all caught on videotape.

Let's go to New York. CNN's Mary Snow has the details.

All right, Mary, what happened?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well this one, Wolf, taking a lot of unexpected turns. Within moments a would-be robber was on his knees inside a convenience store on New York's Long Island telling his potential victim about the bad economy. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOHAMMED SOHAIL, ROBBERY VICTIM: He said, give me your money.

SNOW: Mohammad Sohail had to think quickly when a masked man with a baseball bat burst into a store one recent night demanding money. He's gotten pretty close to you.

SOHAIL: Yes, he come right over to me.

SNOW: Did you think that bat was going to hit you in the head?

SOHAIL: I had the gun and I taking it right there.

SNOW: So he grabbed his rifle and ordered the man to get down. With his unloaded gun in hand, he didn't expect what came next.

SOHAIL: It was like a little kid crying. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. He said I'm unemployed, I have no money and I can't feed my family.

SNOW: Sohail said he gave the man $40, some bread and asked him to promise not to rob anyone else. And then another surprise.

SOHAIL: He said you are a very nice guy. You are a very gentle person. He said I want to be Muslim just like you. I said you want to be Muslim? I said OK. Put your hand up.

SNOW: Sohail had him recite an Islamic oath making up a name for the robber by combining Pakistani presidents because he had just been watching the news. He said he then went to get some milk to go with the bread and when he returned, the man had fled. Now his phone rings nonstop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just calling from Denver, Colorado and I just wanted to say thank you, I think that was great what you did.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Wolf, that phone was ringing the entire time we were there. Sometimes two phones ringing at the same time. Police say they're investigating the foiled robbery, but Sohail says even if the man is found, he does not intend to press charges -- Wolf?

BLITZER: He is quite a guy, Mohammed Sohail, let's hail him, indeed. Thanks very much for that.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now, he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Um, the question -- you know, you point an automatic weapon at somebody, you can convert them to just about anything.

BLITZER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is it too late for American public schools to become competitive? Sandra in Arkansas: "No, not if we realize that we have stopped prioritizing education. We prioritize sports programs, computer games, television, movies, etc. and not education. Just as GM sold Hummer to China, we are selling our future to the countries and parents who are educating their children. It's not too late. But we have to have a readjustment of priorities."

Richard writes: "Is it too late? It was too late 20 years ago when we first saw evidence of our failing schools. But if you remember, we had this new social rule: political correctness. As bad as it was, heaven forbid you make someone feel bad about themselves. Well, here we are. Dumb and dumber are now the parents of today's students and these kids are more confused than ever. Good luck with that one."

Don writes: "We can have all the standards we want, if we continue with social promotions we'll still have functioning third graders reaching for the diplomas."

Dave in Pennsylvania writes: "The dismal statistics you reported are far more troubling to me than the Dow Jones average, quarterly reports or employment statistics. They're signs of bad things to come for the next several generations, not just the immediate economic future. Even though we can't measure our returns in hard numbers, education of future generations is where we need to invest our resources today."

And Ken in North Carolina writes: "It's not too late if you can make parents and teachers take an active part in the education of their children. Parents want a babysitter in the schools and teachers want tenure for longevity and retirement. Nobody is concerned about anything else as long as we can import Chinese and Japanese and Indians to do the work that places such a heavy burden on the brains of our children and take so much time away from their texting."

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 -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thank you.

They are certainly key pieces to the puzzle, but now there's growing concern the voice and data recorders from Air France Flight 447 may never be found. We're following new developments in the investigation.

Plus, CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, at his other job. That would being a neurosurgeon. He gives us extraordinary access into the E.R., as he performs life-and-death surgery.

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BLITZER: She usually steers clear of politics, which makes Michelle Obama's remarks today a little bit more unusual. Here's the first lady, in her own words, praising her husband's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, at a commencement ceremony earlier in the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I read the story of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I don't know if you know about this phenomenal woman, but the president -- she's the president's nominee for the Supreme Court. And she's the first Hispanic woman to be considered for the position, the first. And she went to Princeton, and in this story she said that when she arrived at Princeton as a freshman -- and this was nine years before I would even think about going -- she said when she stepped on that campus, she said -- and this is a quote -- she said she felt like a visitor landing in an alien country. She said she never raised her hand, her first year, because -- and this is a quote -- she was too embarrassed and too intimidated to ask questions. So, to despite all her success at Princeton and then she went on to Yale Law School, where she was at the top of her class in both schools, and despite all of her professional accomplishments, Judge Sotomayor says she still looks over her shoulder and wonders if she measures up. And when I read her story, I understood exactly how she feels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The first lady, praising Sonia Sotomayor in her commencement speech, by the way, that occurred earlier today at the Washington Math, Science, Technology Public Charter High School right here in the District of Columbia.

You know him as CNN's chief medical correspondent, helping all of us better understand important health news, but Dr. Sanjay Gupta is also a practicing neurosurgeon, and we're about to get an extraordinary up-close look at his work. CNN cameras followed him into the operating room as he performed some life-or-death surgery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Pretty early morning, two big cases today. Two of the biggest cases we do in neurosurgery for the most part, ruptured aneurysm and a sad story of a high school student who dove into a pool and broke his neck. He was supposed to graduate this weekend. So, we're going to see what we can do for him.

I just got to find out where everybody is. Are you still on three or where are you guys? OK. See you in a few minutes. Dr. Chabra, my resident, he's going to be doing the cases with me today.

VINNI CHABRA, GRADY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: She's got some old stroke there, OK? Show you that.

GUPTA: This is probably the biggest trauma center in the southeast. We see more trauma here any given day than just about anywhere else. It's 6:00 a.m. now, we're getting started with new cases. We'll be operating until -- until late into the evening tonight. Six-inch scrub roughly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you scrub in now? GUPTA: Can I have some irrigation, please? Everything now is three-dimensional at the base of the skull. And you're dealing with a sort of time bomb here, because the aneurysm itself could rupture. Come on, come on, come on, come on. I would have blood ready. He lost a fair amount there. Hang on. Let's just take a second, OK? Look around, see what we got. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it. 99 percent of the operation goes exactly as you expect, and 1 percent can be a bit of an extravaganza, and so -- but, you know, the patient's going to be great. All the blood's out of her brain. The aneurysm is clipped. She'll never have that problem again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Happening now, fading hopes. Rough seas and winds hamper searchers in the mysterious crash of an Air France flight.

What are Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich thinking now? Their change of tone after labeling the president's Supreme Court nominee as a racist. What's going on that front?

And he came this close to regaining custody of his son. Now an American father is sharing his heartbreak and has vowed to keep fighting the Brazilian courts.

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