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Bin Laden vs. Obama; Punishment For Cuba Reversed

Aired June 3, 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.

Well, we begin with our top story, the president of the United States in the Middle East right now. Only hours from now, President Obama will leave Saudi Arabia for Egypt to make his case for better U.S. relations with the Arab and Muslim world.

But another powerful voice in the region is trying to drown him out. That would be none other than Osama bin Laden.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He's traveling with the president.

Very important day for the president of the United States today, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. And the president kicking off the trip just as Osama bin Laden put out this new audiotape.

And this administration did something a little different than the previous one. Rather than ignore the terrorist, they decided to engage him by charging that he is just trying to draw attention away from the president's trip.


HENRY (voice-over): The president's royal welcome from King Abdullah -- a red carpet, a massive gold necklace that is Saudi Arabia's highest honor. Everything, it seemed, but women in the Saudi delegation, a reminder that Mr. Obama's call for change in the Muslim world will not come overnight.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek His Majesty's counsel, and to discuss with him many of the issues that we confront here in the Middle East.

HENRY: Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, who decided to mark the start of the president's trip with a threatening message.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Obama proved that he's walking the same road of his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims and increase the number of fighters against the U.S. while establish more lasting wars.

HENRY: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs charged bin Laden is merely trying to upstage President Obama's long-awaited speech to the Muslim world Thursday.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think it's surprising that al Qaeda would want to shift attention away from the president's historic efforts and continued efforts to reach out and have an open dialogue with the Muslim world.

HENRY: A message reinforced by officials throughout the Obama administration.

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think the timing is pretty self-evident, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the timing on this one.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: There will be a contrast between bin Laden's position of intolerance and perpetual conflict and the president's message tomorrow offering of a vision of a peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and interconnected world.


HENRY: Now, a short time ago, the president wrapped up a long one-on-one with King Abdullah. It went on for several hours behind closed doors. No major breakthroughs on Mideast peace, but what White House officials are saying, it's going to take more than one meeting, more than one speech tomorrow to really turn the situation around in this region, Wolf.

BLITZER: They are going to do some new -- use some new technology to try to get that message he's going to deliver in Cairo tomorrow out to a huge audience.

HENRY: That's right. In fact, they are going to be sending out text messaging, something we saw in the campaign the president used pretty effectively. They are going to do it in four different languages tomorrow during the speech, Persian, Arabic and Urdu, as well as English.

They're also going to be using Facebook. That's a tool a lot of politicians trying to use, but not necessarily on the international stage. The White House estimates there are about 20 million Facebook users in the Arab world, so they want to engage them in live chats.

And finally when the White House puts out a transcript of this speech, normally, they typically put out a transcript just in English. They're going to put it out tomorrow in 13 different languages. The whole point is to try to start a conversation tomorrow, engage the public all around the world, not just in the Muslim world, and keep that conversation going -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry in Riyadh for us, thanks very much.

President Obama's remarks in Egypt tomorrow will be directed at a diverse community of Muslims spanning the globe. This map highlights countries with a significant or majority Muslim population. There are about 1.5 billion Muslims, roughly one-fifth of the world's population.

While many people associate Islam with the Middle East, fewer than 15 percent of Muslims are Arab. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population, with more than 200 million people.

In another story we're reporting right now, Judge Sonia Sotomayor is meeting those who will judge her. But is her whirlwind schedule taking a toll? Today, when asked which senators she had met with, she mixed up one senator's name with another. An embarrassed Sotomayor explained she had -- quote -- "met with 20 senators in the last two days."

Meanwhile, two people who had been rather harsh on the judge are now saying something a little bit differently.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is up on Capitol Hill picking up this part of the story -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, those two people you're talking about have caused some heartburn among Republican senators here.

One of those Republicans today did a 180. The other made some surprisingly positive comments about the president's nominee.


BASH (voice-over): Day two of her Senate courtesy calls, Sonia Sotomayor again keeping mum, even as two of her loudest conservative critics changed their tune.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I can see a possibility of supporting this nomination if I could be convinced that she does have a sensibility toward life in a legal sense.

BASH: Rush Limbaugh now says there may be a -- quote -- "silver lining" in Sotomayor's nomination, because she sided with abortion opponents in the past.

Still, he insists he is not retracting his charge Sotomayor is a racist.

But Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is, saying on his Web site that his reaction was -- quote -- "too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist, and I said so."

The sentiment he's referring to, Sotomayor's suggestion a wise Latina woman could use her experience to reach a better conclusion than a white male. Gingrich now says, "The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."

Gingrich acknowledged he had been criticized, but CNN is told that privately, he was getting pummeled by fellow Republicans for going too far.

GOP senators told us they were surprised by his reversal and relieved.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I'm very glad he backed off. I think that's unusual that commentators do that, and I think it was very good that he did. I think that will help us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gingrich this morning retracted his comment calling you a racist.

BASH: Sotomayor ignored at least three attempts by reporters to ask about Gingrich. One time, White House handlers intervened.

QUESTION: Newt Gingrich has retracted his statement in a sense, calling the judge a racist.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't answer any questions.


BASH: Meanwhile, Sotomayor's Democratic supporters are now circulating this 1994 speech. And, in it, she made similar comments to the ones that are causing such controversy now.

Now, Democrats say that this speech was sent to the Senate when she was nominated as a circuit court judge and approved. And GOP critics, back then, they didn't say a word about it. Now, one thing I should say is that this speech does not include racial or ethnic references, but it does suggest a woman may reach a better conclusion than a man -- Wolf.

BLITZER: She was approved at that time by unanimous consent, meaning no one opposed her nomination.

All right, Dana, thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's check in now with Jack Cafferty once again for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The world according to Rush and Newt. Who cares?

As President Obama gets ready to address the Muslim world in Cairo tomorrow, one Republican is accusing him of being too apologetic about America's past mistakes. Mitt Romney, the failed presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts, refers to it as a tour of apology, and says that, of course the U.S. makes mistakes, but it's appropriate to go around the world apologizing.

The former and perhaps future Republican presidential candidate -- he may try again -- says there's nothing wrong with showing respect for the Muslim world, but he thinks President Obama should spend more time talking about the sacrifices the U.S. has made for other countries, like during World War II, like 70 years ago.

Romney points to an interview the president gave on Arabic TV, where he said the U.S. had dictated to the rest of the world, and he says a British newspaper declared Obama the president who's the most critical of his own country while on foreign soil.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and failed presidential candidate, says this would be a most unfortunate distinction at any time, but especially now, when this should be a time for strength and confidence.

It's worth pointing out Romney's foreign policy experience is negligible, but he has no shortage of opinions when it comes to the Middle East, North Korea, and missile defense, sort of like Rush and Newt when it comes to Sonia Sotomayor.

Romney insists he's not running for 2012 now, but, rather, he's working to get Republicans elected. It might be easier to run for president.

Here's the question. Is Mitt Romney right when he says President Obama's too apologetic about the United States overseas?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog.

We should talk about World War II, Wolf.


BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

A chunk of the plane, a passenger seat, searchers spotting those clues after that Air France plane plunged into the ocean, might they ever find those so-called black boxes?

And you're also going to find out what Cuba will now enjoy after being shut out for decades. It goes against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's wishes. We will tell you what happened.

And a judge who had power to send people to jail is now going to jail. There are shocking claims of sexual misconduct and a push to make sure you won't keep paying his paycheck.


BLITZER: An almost-50-year-old punishment for Cuba has now been reversed.

The Organization of American States revokes the 1962 decision that suspended Cuba from the group. The president of Honduras praising the actions, saying -- and I'm quoting now -- "The Cold War has ended this day."

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first wanted Cuba to make democratic reforms and improve its human rights record.

Let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, who's taking a closer look at this story for us.

Give us the -- the significance of this development today, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, in practical terms, really not a lot changes.

This does not mean that Cuba tomorrow is going to take its seat at the OAS. In fact, Cuba says that it considers the OAS a tool of the United States. So, at this stage, at least, they're not even interested in rejoining.

But what it does mean is that they are setting themselves, let's say, on a path toward, eventually, if Cuba is able to meet the standards that everybody else has on human rights and democracy, they could come back to the OAS.

So, for people who are, you know, interested in improvements in relations, yes, you could say that this is a step on a very long path toward improving relations with the United States.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say that the Obama administration's overtures to the Cubans in recent months opened the door for the OAS to make this historic decision today?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I guess maybe you could, Wolf, but -- but this has been moving along.

In fact, what the other countries really wanted to do was to immediately rescind that old decision from '62, allow the possibility for the Cubans to come back, without too many preconditions, except that they would be -- the U.S. was able to really make it overt, put it in writing that they would have to adhere to the human rights and the democracy part of it.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much for that, important developments over at the State Department.

A federal judge accused of sexual misconduct, he pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. He's going to prison, but he won't be giving up his job or his salary, at least not yet. And now Congress is weighing in on impeachment.

Let's bring in CNN's Elaine Quijano. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right, explain what's going on here, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when this convicted federal judge gets locked up later this month, he will still be collecting his taxpayer-funded paychecks. Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee say that's why they need to fast-track his impeachment.

Now, a warning: Some of what you're about to hear is graphic.


QUIJANO: In disturbing detail, Cathy McBroom described how U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Kent grabbed her in a Texas courthouse and forcibly kissed her.

CATHY MCBROOM, FEDERAL CASE MANAGER: He immediately started trying to remove my clothing by -- you know, he pulled up my blouse. He got his hand underneath my bra and pulled everything up at once, so that my breasts were exposed.

I was begging him to stop, telling him: "Please don't do this to me. Please don't. I really love my job. I don't want to lose my job. Please don't do this."

He wouldn't listen.

QUIJANO: McBroom was a case manager working with Judge Kent. Lawmakers are considering whether he should be impeached.

MCBROOM: I even said: "Judge, the guards are right outside. I know they can hear us."

And he said, "I don't care who hears us."

He wasn't afraid of that at all. And that even made me more frightened. I guess he felt like, you know, he was powerful enough that no one was going to approach him, and no one was going to come and come to my rescue. And he was right.

QUIJANO: Donna Wilkerson, the judge's secretary, says she was a victim, too. The judge, she said, thought he was above the law.

DONNA WILKERSON, KENT'S SECRETARY: He would make statements routinely: "I am the government. I'm the lion king. It's good to be king. I'm the emperor of Galveston."

QUIJANO: But, last month, Kent pled guilty to obstruction of justice for lying. Sexual misconduct charges were dismissed. In his plea deal, the judge admitted to only -- quote -- "non-consensual sexual contact" with the court employees. At first, he refused to give up and give up his salary. Then, Tuesday, in a letter to President Obama, Judge Kent said he would resign in a year.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: You want to resign, you do it before you try to manipulate this body, or, otherwise, we're taking it to the wall.


QUIJANO: Now, the judge, citing health reasons, didn't show up for the hearing. In a written statement, his lawyer said the two men refused to be part of the circus. The attorney called the testimony highly exaggerated, said it was irrelevant to the grounds for impeachment and served no other purpose than to allow a few politicians to posture publicly.

Judge Kent begins serving his 33-month sentence on June 15 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. What a story that is.

Elaine, thanks very much for that.

They could be at the bottom of the ocean. The so-called black boxes which would contain clues to the loss of that Air France flight, those boxes may never be found right now -- how a new technology might provide a real alternative, though, to future crash investigations.

And after a custody battle lasting for years, an American father travels to Brazil to reunite with his child, and tells what happened to dash his hopes.

And the former President of the United States Bill Clinton, he loses a court battle over Web addresses bearing his own name.


BLITZER: It's a story that would be agonizing for any parent. A father travels all the way from the United States to Brazil, hoping to finally reunite with his son, after a brutal years-long custody battle. But literally hours before the father was supposed to pick up his son, his hopes were dashed.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has the dramatic developments for us.

Deb, what happened?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, imagine this dad waiting in his hotel room, thinking he's cleared every hurdle and that his son is going to be turned over to the United States Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, and then a political party steps in, challenging an international abduction law.


FEYERICK (voice-over): For five years, David Goldman has prayed for the day he would to bring his son, Sean, home from Brazil. The day came and went. And, once again, David Goldman returns to America alone.

DAVID GOLDMAN, FATHER: I don't know how many times I have been here now, 10, 11, always under the guise that I'm going to bring my son home, and something happens. So, until the wheels are up, I -- I don't expect it. And it's -- it's -- it's -- it's tragic.

FEYERICK: Goldman's wife took their child on vacation to her native Brazil in 2004, never intending to return to New Jersey.

GOLDMAN: They didn't pack a stitch of this clothing.

FEYERICK (on camera): So, they took nothing. They really took nothing.


FEYERICK (voice-over): She divorced Goldman and remarried. When she died last year during childbirth, Goldman thought he would be reunited with his son. Instead, a Brazilian family court awarded custody to Sean's stepdad.

GOLDMAN: And they're sending this message that anyone can take any child from anywhere, come to Brazil, and if they can hide enough or stall enough or keep the child here long enough, then they're entitled to that child? That's unacceptable.

FEYERICK: After years of legal motions and appeals, Goldman won, or at least he thought he did. Hours before he was to be reunited with his son, the Brazilian Supreme Court agreed to hear a new claim, that Sean, now 9, would be hurt psychologically if abruptly taken from the place where has lived almost five years.

PHILIP CROWLEY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS BUREAU, STATE DEPARTMENT: We are disappointed by the decision, but U.S. Embarrass officials continue to work with the family.

FEYERICK: Goldman says his son, who attends private school and lives in a sprawling home, is likely being brainwashed by his wife's family.

GOLDMAN: He's in an unhealthy environment here. And it's very, very, very sad. And -- and the worst is, he's my son, I'm his dad, and I can't help him. The legal system here right now is preventing me from helping my child. His home is with his father, who is me, in New Jersey.


FEYERICK: Now, a lawyer for the family in Brazil says Sean is -- quote -- "happy where he is," and has said Sean wishes to stay in Brazil -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that report, Deb Feyerick. She's on the case.

The secrets of Flight 447 buried deep within the Atlantic Ocean. Stand by for new developments from the crash site of an Air France jet.

Plus, as searchers race to find the flight recorders from that doomed jet, experts tell us there's a better way to build a so-called black box.

And Newt Gingrich takes it back -- why he's not calling the president's Supreme Court nominee a racist anymore.


BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: President Obama arrives in the Middle East. He met with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah today and is preparing to deliver a major speech to the Muslim world tomorrow.

More debris from doomed Flight 447 is found in the Atlantic Ocean, but the plane's flight data recorders remain elusive, and investigators are concerned they may never be found.

And the former first lady Nancy Reagan at the U.S. Capitol today for a special honor -- a statue of former President Ronald Reagan is unveiled -- all that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

But, first, this just coming in -- we have learned that the French government has now asked U.S. aviation officials for help in their investigation. Military planes and ships found more debris today as they combed through deep and rough waters off Brazil.

CNN's John Zarrella is on the scene for us. He's covering the investigation in Rio de Janeiro.

What's the latest, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Wolf, Brazil's defense minister just a little while ago told a news conference that the search area is about 300 square miles now, and that's because of the Atlantic, the drift, the current drift. The debris is strewn over a large area.

Some of the debris found today was 50 miles away from where the first debris was found yesterday. Now, none of that debris has been brought aboard ships yet because the weather conditions out there are poor today and tonight, heavy swells and rainy conditions out there.

Some of what they found today, though, included what appeared to be a 12-mile slick of jet fuel on the surface of the water. And the defense minister said that that indicated to him that there was no explosion, that the plane hit the water and at that point more than likely broke apart.

They also found what appeared to be a 21-foot piece of debris, cylindrical piece of debris, in the water out there, along with some other smaller objects -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Zarrella is on the scene for us in Rio.

Thank you.

Let's take a look at the track record of search teams in two other major airplane disasters at sea. TWA Flight 800 went down off New York in 1996, most likely because of a fuel tank explosion. Divers found remains of 214 out of the 230 victims, and they were able to recover 95 percent of the jumbo jet. Egypt Air Flight 990 crashed off Massachusetts in 1999. Investigators believe pilot error was to blame. Aviation officials identified the remains of 163 people out of 217 on board. And about 70 percent of the plane's wreckage was recovered.

Crews in the Air France disaster, however, may not have as much success, because the wreckage is in far deeper waters right now. And the wreckage is also scattered far, far off the coast.

Meanwhile, though, so-called black boxes could certainly help determine why this plane plunged into the ocean, but finding them right now poses a huge, huge challenge.

Brian Todd is standing by with more on this part of the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, indeed, those boxes could be very elusive. And the best clues to this tragic mystery may lie in those metal containers not much bigger than shoeboxes, which could well be sitting miles below the Atlantic's surface.


TODD (voice-over): As rescue teams search for more debris from Flight 447, they're also looking for the so-called black boxes, which are really orange. They carry the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, containing information on what was said in the cockpit; data on how the plane pitches from side to side and rolls; even the amount of force a pilot might put on a pedal -- crucial information for investigators.

How could search teams find those recorders?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attached to each of these data recorders is what we call a pinger. It puts out an acoustic pulse once a second for 30 days, as soon as it's submerged in the water.

TODD: But French officials say they may never hear that ping from Flight 447. Mounted in the plane's tail, the boxes sink, along with the aircraft, after water crashes. This search covers hundreds of square miles of ocean at depths which officials say could range from 6,500 feet to about 21,000. Black boxes can send pinging signals from as far down as 20,000 feet.

But one official says this area is not only deep, but mountainous under the surface.

There is an alternative to the sinking black box that's under development called the deployable recorder. The manufacturer explains how it works

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system will deploy off an aircraft. So when there's a sudden de-acceleration or an impact with water, our system will deploy off the aircraft. It will activate to a satellite system. It will provide the search and rescue crews the ability to find this data within hours versus days. Our system floats on water. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, the manufacturer says deployable recorders could not only save critical time in looking for data boxes, but would also save a lot of money -- money now used for planes, submersible vehicles and divers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are these deployed anyplace right now?

TODD: Not on commercial aircraft. But a Congressional source tells us they are deployed on military aircraft used by several countries -- aircraft which include F-18 fighter jets. And we're told the Department of Homeland Security has them in a testing program right now for possible commercial use. So they could be seen on commercial planes relatively soon.

BLITZER: Let's hope.

Thanks very much for that.

Brian Todd reporting.

President Obama gets the royal treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Is this stop on his Middle East trip even more important than his speech to the Muslim world tomorrow?

The best political team on television is here to discuss.

And if you type into your browser, you go to the Web site of -- guess what?

The Republican National Committee.

The former president tried to fight that. The ruling is now in. We're going to tell you how this has turned out.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. The president of the United States right now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Let's talk about what's going on with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our senior political analyst, David Gergen; and our political analyst, Roland Martin.

Guys, thanks very much.

Some have suggested to me, Gloria, that what happened today -- we don't know what happened behind closed doors between the president of the United States and the king of Saudi Arabia -- but potentially could be even more important than what the president says in his big speech in Cairo tomorrow.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the president meeting in Saudi Arabia was very important. It was clear they put Saudi Arabia on this trip because they wanted to make an overture for the importance of that country in terms of everything they're trying to do in the Middle East, not only in terms of oil and OPEC, but also in terms of the negotiations in the Middle East.

Don't forget, Abdullah is close to Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. And that can be very, very helpful to us.

BLITZER: Is it possible, David -- I want you to listen to what the president of the United States said in the inaugural on January 20th.

Is it possible that what he said then, with these words, he might reiterate tomorrow?

Listen to this.


OBAMA: To those who claim to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.


BLITZER: I -- I ask the question because of some of the criticisms that have come in that the venue, Egypt, whose record on human rights leaves something to be desired right now in terms of democracy and other forms of human rights -- the decision to go to see Egypt to deliver this speech.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, Wolf, as we know, this administration has already started to downplay human rights. It's nowhere close to what the Carter administration was, for example, which that was its -- human rights was at the center.

But here, this administration has downplayed human rights with regard to its relationship with Egypt, with regard to Saudi Arabia, and, very importantly, with regards to China.

I think that the president has made it clear he's not going to take people on on that basis, because he has, at the moment, larger fish to fry to try -- to get these negotiations on the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians unstuck.

Right now, things have been at an impasse for a long time. President Bush didn't put a lot of effort on this in -- early in his administration. Obama is coming in, just the opposite. He wants to move quickly, if he can.

But he's having -- he's encountering resistance, both in Israel and amongst some of the Arab states.

So this trip is very, very important to see if he can unstick things. BLITZER: Do you think he'll say tomorrow, Roland, what he said on January 20th, in terms of to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit, you should know that the -- you're on the wrong side of history?

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think it's going to be that strong. I mean, obviously, you say things differently when you're on American land versus in that particular country.

But, also, here's the interesting point here. If he didn't give a speech in Egypt, where else would he give it?

And so, when you talk about any number of Muslim countries, I mean you are dealing with a different kind of dynamic there. So there is no perfect situation to give the speech. There has to be a starting point. And so he recognizes it.

Not only that, when you talk about the relationship between Egypt and Israel, the success that President Jimmy Carter had. He recognizes that if you want to see that take place from the other countries, there to be a starting point.

So it's a smart place...

BORGER: You know, that...

MARTIN: ...for him to give his actual speech.

BORGER: Wolf, this is also really generational. Sixty percent of the population in that region is young. And I think President Obama will be talking to that generation.

I'm also told by a senior adviser in the White House that he's going to directly address what this adviser calls the perceptions and the misperceptions that have emerged on both sides, both about our country and about their country.

So they say he's going to take that head-on.

GERGEN: Yes, Wolf, one other thing about this. I think it would be, for the -- this is going to be an important speech in one -- in the sense that the bar is going to be higher for the president. He's already gone to Turkey and spoken to the Muslim world in sort of broad generalities.

Now, there are a lot of Muslims who are not -- who want to look beyond the broad statements of purpose to say, what are you actually going to do concretely with regard to Israel and the Palestinians?

And he is -- he's not only going to have a Muslim population listening closely, the Israelis are going to be listening very closely to this, because they want to see if it's going to be really, truly even-handed.

And there are a lot of other -- back here -- this has reverberations back in the United States, too. This is a -- I think the centerpiece of the trip, really, is his speech tomorrow.

Saudi Arabia -- the stop there was basically an add-on at the last minute.

BLITZER: All right. I just want to let our viewers know that if they have some thoughts on what the president of the United States should tell the Muslim world, they can do that. They can go to -- they can submit their video comments to We'll try to get some of them on the air tomorrow.

Also, we'll have live coverage, of course, of the president's address from Cairo tomorrow. Our coverage begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

Let's move on and talk a little bit about some change in tone today. Specifically Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, writing this in the -- in the publication, "Human Events": "Some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice. With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word racist should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."

What do you think, Roland, about this change on the part of Newt Gingrich?

MARTIN: It sounds to me like he should have said, man, did I screw up.


MARTIN: Look, when you try to position yourself as a leader...

BORGER: He did.

MARTIN: ...of the Republican Party, people flat out listen to what you have to say. The standard for Newt Gingrich is different from that of Rush Limbaugh. And he got his butt caught. And he was getting nailed by Republicans, privately. They were nailing him in public.

And so he had no choice but to say, wait a minute, I'm making my party look bad because I opened my big mouth and Tweeted something stupid. So, yes, he had to own up to it.

BORGER: You know, I've had some Republicans say to me that this could be a game changer for Newt Gingrich if he has ambitions to run in 2012. There's always been talk that Newt Gingrich, while very, very smart and a man with a lot of ideas, always takes things a step too far. And they were telling him -- including some money people I spoke with -- were saying, look, you know, this is just an example of Newt Gingrich taking something a step too far.

BLITZER: David? GERGEN: Well, I think he realized he made a terrible mistake. As Gloria said a couple of nights ago, in fact, he poisoned the well and disarmed Republicans so that they couldn't go after Sotomayor on more important issues.

I mean he used such extreme language that it sort of -- they, at that point, were, you know, put back 20 yards.

This way, I think he's helped his party. He's helped himself. He still has his reputation of being a loose canon at times. It makes great copy for the journalists. But I think he was smart to correct.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note, guys.

Thanks very much.

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

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.

Tonight, we'll have complete coverage of the president's visit to the Middle East. President Obama trying to overcome decades of hostility toward the United States. It's the topic of our face-off debate tonight.

Also, a new showdown over your Second Amendment rights -- a showdown that's likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Federal appellate courts now deeply divided over whether state and municipal governments can restrict your gun rights.

And tens of thousands of Americans, many with incurable diseases, forced to travel to foreign countries seeking treatments with no proven record of success, but offering hope. We'll have a special report that you don't want to miss.

Please join us for all of that, all the day's news and much more, coming up at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Lou, thank you.

The former first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan, returns to Capitol Hill to Statuary Hall for this first time since her husband's funeral. And this time it's on a much happier occasion, still an emotional one.

Plus, the first family's dog, Bo, takes a bite out of the news media.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a 'Moost Unusual" look.


BLITZER: Another state making gay marriage official.

Let's check in with Fredricka Whitfield. What's going on -- Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, New Hampshire is now the sixth state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The state's governor, John Lynch, signed the measure this afternoon. The governor had threatened to veto the bill if it didn't make clear that churches would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages.

New Hampshire joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing same-sex marriage.

G.M. and Chrysler are defending their decision to shut down about 2,000 car dealerships. The heads of the automakers told Senate panel -- the Senate panel, rather, today that there are too many dealers to accommodate the companies' streamlined operations. GM is cutting at least 1,100 dealerships. Chrysler is shutting down 789.

And a retired military couple is mourning the death of their soldier son. Private William Long was fatally shot Monday outside an army recruitment center in suburban Little Rock, Arkansas. Abdul Hakim Muhammad is charged with the murder in Long's death. Private Long's father says his family moved to Arkansas for peace and quiet after long military careers in the Marines and Navy.

That's a very sad story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A very sad story, indeed.

All right, thanks.

Our deepest condolences to the family of that soldier.

Thank you very much.

Former President Bill Clinton lost the battle to gain control of Web addresses containing his own name.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what's on these sites?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, if you go to you won't find the former president. You're actually going to find yourself redirected here -- to the Web site of the Republican National Committee.

That's because Bill Clinton doesn't own that Web address, nor does the Republican National Committee, for that matter. It's actually owned by a Florida private investigator by the name of Joseph Culligan, who owns many domain names and so he controls what's on them.

Well, representatives for the Clinton Foundation have recently been fighting to try and get that and other domain names back, arguing, amongst other things, that this is misleading, that Web users might be confused into thinking that the former president has switched parties, for instance. But no go. An arbitration panel this week decided against former President Bill Clinton, saying that while Culligan does, indeed, own these sites, he wasn't using them in bad faith.

The Clintons have had domain name disputes in the past. In 2005, Hillary Clinton fought successfully to get her domain name back. As for husband, you can find him at -- Wolf.

BLITZER: or .org?

TATTON: .com.

BLITZER: .com.


BLITZER: Oh, really?

OK. Good. Good to know.

Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

In the Rotunda up on Capitol Hill today, Nancy Reagan unveiled a statue of her late husband, President Ronald Reagan.

House Republican leader John Boehner helped out and paid tribute.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: This is another part of Ronald Reagan's legacy. This is a piece of rock from the Berlin Wall. Those walls came down because of Ronald Reagan's relentless commitment to freedom and his insistence on American victory in the cold war.


BLITZER: And the tributes crossed party lines.

Listen to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Mrs. Reagan, with your presence here today, I hope you know that we honor you, not only for your support of the president, but for turning that support and love into action. Your support for stem cell research has made a significant difference in the lives of many American people.


BLITZER: And, of course it was a very emotional moment for Mrs. Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The statute is a -- is a wonderful likeness of Ronny and he would be so proud. You know, the last time that I was in this room was for Ronny's service. So it's nice to be back under happier circumstances.


BLITZER: Mrs. Reagan capped her day here in Washington with a visit to the White House and meeting with the current first lady, Michelle Obama. Look closely at the table and you'll see that they are using the Reagan White House china -- a red band with a gold eagle.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is Mitt Romney right when he says that President Obama is too apologetic about the United States when he's overseas?

Randy in Ontario writes: "After the disastrous reign of George Bush and his frightening cohorts, a little humility from the president is a refreshing change the rest of the world appreciates. Mr. Romney's remarks only serve to reinforce the sense of relief that the Republicans and their condescending, self-righteous attitude are no longer speaking for America."

Jim writes: "Jack, Mitt Romney never had to please or apologize. His travels through life were made possible by a wealthy family and those connections. By contrast, Obama had to overcome numerous obstacles and gain traction through his own efforts. From his gated life, Romney accuses Obama of apologizing for America. It's Romney who should be apologizing -- for his silver spoon understanding of this country."

Allen writes: "Obama needs to shut his mouth. It's scary to think this inexperienced guy is representing America. Please help us all get through these next four years."

Mark in New Jersey says: "Everybody has this issue wrong. We and Obama should not apologize for the U.S. but for having had Bush and his cabal running the country for eight years. The Iraqis paid a heavy price for having Saddam as their leader. We're paying the price now -- and perhaps forever -- for Bush."

Steve in Pennsylvania: "We screwed up, plain and simple. If Romney wants to call Obama's diplomatic damage control apologetic, that just proves he enjoys watching America's reputation spiral down the drain. Forget about him."

And L. in Detroit writes: "Please tell Mitt "Plastic Man" Romney to talk about what he knows. Modesty and international respect are clearly not his strong points and he should neither dabble in nor babble about such matters. Ask the pirates if President Obama has been apologetic."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there -- Wolf, I'll see you tomorrow.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

Thanks very much.

Something he can sink his teeth into -- at the White House, the first pet, Bo, bonds with the news media. And Jeanne Moos finds it "Moost Unusual."


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

In Spain, a metal worker kicks a gas canister fired by police during a strike.

In Pakistan, displaced people from the Swat Valley play volleyball in a camp.

In Afghanistan, a street vendor slices carrots to sell at a market in Kabul.

And in Switzerland, check it out -- young white storks wait for food over at the zoo.

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

Ever since his debut, the first dog, Bo, has been causing quite -- quite a stir.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look at the attention given to the Obama family pooch.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What makes the first dog pant?

Here's a hint -- a White House staffer, legs up, assuming a protective position.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: He loves to chew on people's feet.

MOOS: But instead of feet, it's the press that got publicly chewed out. Bo sank his choppers into a phone wind screen on a camera-mounted microphone. Despite how we've slobbered over him, Bo treats the press like this...


MOOS: ...even when NBC got exclusive access. When a Web site posed the question, who will the Obamas' dog bite first, a microphone wasn't among the options. By the way, Michelle Obama is ahead in a "Who Will Bo Bite First" poll, if you don't count the 73 percent who said no one.

But others are taking a bite out of Bo. He's been turned into a children's book, a beanie baby.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: And he's available at select stores.


MOOS: A cartoon featuring Bo, Vice President Joe Biden and the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how about fetching my slippers?

No, Bo, I was talking to Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's your slippers, Mr. President.


MOOS: After President Obama demonstrated his ability to shake on NBC.



OBAMA: Oh, there he goes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, see that?

Good dog.


MOOS: Jimmy Kimmel got his paws on the video.


OBAMA: He's a good guy. He's -- he's got a great temperament.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: He's still very much a dog. (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See that's a good dog.


MOOS (on camera): A cute comedy clip. But no one would really try to actually teach a dog to do a fist pump, would they?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The second step is where we take the treat and we put it in our fist.

MOOS (voice-over): Oh, yes, they would. Teach our dog the Bo Obama fist pump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We put it up to the dog, sniff and there you go.

MOOS: But a doggy fist pump is nothing compared to what Bo has inspired a Gooden Doodle by the name of Elton Dog to do.


MOOS: Instead of chewing on microphones, Bo, try tickling the ivories.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN New York.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos, thank you.

What do you think President Obama should say to the Muslim world in his big speech in Cairo tomorrow?

You can submit your video comments to We'll try to get some of them on the air for you tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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