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THE SITUATION ROOM
Spying For Cuba?; President Obama Visits Holocaust Camp
Aired June 5, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Obama recommits to stop the spread of evil. And he's changing his tone somewhat in the push for Middle East peace -- this hour, the horrors of war and the Holocaust.
Plus, the crucial device that could have gone haywire aboard a Air France doomed jet. There's new information from the plane's maker in the mysterious crash.
And an alleged pipeline of U.S. secrets to the Castro regime -- a former State Department insider and his wife now accused of spying for almost three decades.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We have all seen the historic and horrific images, the Nazi concentration camps, where six million Jews were slaughtered.
Today, President Obama stood on the same blood-stained ground and experienced the Buchenwald camp for himself. And he promised to never forget.
Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is traveling with the president.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Buchenwald concentration camp, President Obama places a white rose on a memorial to all the victims, pauses, then walks through a painful moment in history.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These sites have not lost their horror with the passage of time. We saw the ovens of the crematorium, the guard towers, the barbed-wire fences.
LOTHIAN: More than 50,000 died at Buchenwald during World War II. Each step on this somber tour is guided by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Holocaust survivors, including Mr. Obama's friend and author, Elie Wiesel. This is where he was held as a boy and where his father died.
ELIE WIESEL, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: The day he died was one of the darkest in my life. I was there when he suffered. I was there when he asked for help, for water. I was there to receive his last words.
LOTHIAN: Mr. Obama is also linked to this labor camp by his family tree. Eighty-four-year-old great uncle Charles Payne helped to liberate one of Buchenwald's satellite camps while serving with the 89th Infantry.
OBAMA: The shock for this very young man -- he couldn't have been more than 19 or 20, 21 at the time -- was such that he ended up when he returned having a very difficult time readjusting to civilian life.
LOTHIAN: That gripping account has been part of the president's political narrative as a candidate, at a recent Holocaust remembrance ceremony, and now here in Germany.
OBAMA: It's understandable that someone who witnessed what had taken place here would be in a state of shock.
LOTHIAN: Chancellor Merkel apologized for her country's past and vowed to fight against intolerance, extremism and hatred.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It is therefore incumbent upon us Germans to show an unshakable resolve to do everything we can so that something like this never happens again.
LOTHIAN: The president said this camp is a powerful reminder that the world should never turn its back.
OBAMA: And this place teaches us that we must be ever-vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time.
LOTHIAN (on camera): While the president's great uncle was not able to join him at Buchenwald, he will be at the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy, where the liberation of Europe began -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian in Germany traveling with the president for us.
And, later this hour, we're going to be hearing an extensive excerpt from the president speaking out on the Holocaust at Buchenwald earlier in the day.
President Obama's also sending a special envoy for Middle East peace to the region next week. The administration has been pressuring Israel to end settlements in the West Bank. Just yesterday, Mr. Obama said the U.S. does not accept the legitimacy of those settlements. Today, he softened his tone a little bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Keep in mind that all I have done there is reaffirm commitments that the Israelis themselves had already made in the road map. And I recognize the very difficult politics within Israel of getting that done, and I'm very sympathetic to how hard it will be.
But as Israel's friend, the United States I think has an obligation to just be honest with that friend about how important it is to achieve a two-state solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Here's another way that the president's comments in Germany today were different than his remarks in Egypt the day before. Mr. Obama never used the word terrorist in his speech to the Muslim world, opting instead for the term violent extremists. But he did come back to using the word terrorist today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As all of you know, we have great challenges in Afghanistan and increasingly in Pakistan, but our collective commitment to making sure that we are not seeing the kinds of terrorist bases that could pose harm to all of our people, that we maintain that commitment.
But I'm very appreciative of the openness, not only of Chancellor Merkel but other European countries to work with us, because I think they recognize that we have a shared interest in battling extremists and terrorists at the same time as we have a shared interest in upholding broader principles of international justice; and that those things are compatible, but it's going to take some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now to the shocking allegations of spying for the Cuban government, a former State Department official and his wife under arrest, conspiring to pass secrets to the Castro regime for almost 30 years. That's the allegation.
Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty. She's over at the State Department.
Pretty shocking news today, Jill.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's quite amazing, Wolf.
You know, I have read that indictment now, and it really does read like a Hollywood movie. And, essentially, the charges are that this -- the State Department analyst, whose name is Kendall Myers, he's 72 years old, top-secret security clearance, and his wife, who worked in a bank -- her name is Gwendolyn -- for 30 years served as illegal agents, as they call it, for Cuba, passing information on.
The government says it still doesn't know the full extent of what they passed to Cuba. There will be a damage assessment. And they don't know -- there's no real indications that they were paid directly by the Cubans for what they did.
In fact, one senior law enforcement source says that they were probably true believers. Now, they did get one thing, however. And that in this indictment says that they were given a meeting in 1995, a secret meeting, with Fidel Castro.
And here's how it's described in the indictment: "While staying in a small house in Cuba, Kendall Myers and Gwendolyn Myers were visited by Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro spent the evening with Kendall Myers and Gwendolyn Myers and talked with them through an interpreter."
Later in -- also in this indictment, Wolf, they say that in a diary entry back in 1987, Kendall Myers described Fidel Castro as a brilliant and charismatic leader.
All of this came together just this week and they were arrested only yesterday.
BLITZER: What a shocking story, indeed. All right, we will stay on top of this one.
Jill Dougherty is over at the State Department.
In financial news, Wall Street ended its week mixed. Stocks bobbed up and down today, with the Dow Jones industrials adding 38 points with just 20 minutes left in the session. The S&P and Nasdaq changed little.
All three indices have gained in five of the last six sessions. Investors welcomed a report suggesting job losses dramatically slowing down. In May, the government reports 345,000 lost jobs. That's about 175,000 fewer jobs lost than forecast, and almost 400,000 jobs less than we saw lost in January.
The vice president, Joe Biden, spoke about this job loss news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an encouraging sign. But I want to make it clear that and caution everyone there's certainly going to be more setbacks on the road before we get finally to recovery. As much progress as we have already made, we still have a long, long way to go on the road to recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There's a new focus on the speed of that doomed Air France jet liner. We are going to tell you about a message from the plane's maker about a system that may have failed disastrously.
It's one thing for another -- it's one thing after another for the British prime minister -- why Gordon Brown is now up to his neck and fighting to keep his job.
And the Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor answers to the Senate. We have uncovered new information about her controversial "wise Latina" quote. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: It's the never center for every single plane, the cockpit, and right now concerns over some systems on Airbus planes are prompting a crucial message to pilots.
This comes after that Air France plane crashed into the Atlantic.
Let's bring back CNN's Brian Todd. He's been investigating what's going on.
And it's pretty disturbing.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. New questions about the air speed of Flight 447 and what the pilots knew about it as they flew into that storm have prompted Airbus to take some very important action.
TODD (voice-over): An extraordinary directive from the manufacturer of the downed plane to the pilots who fly that model. Airbus tells CNN it sent a Telex to pilots of the A-330 reminding them what to do when air speed indicators give conflicting readouts. Airbus sent the message after the crash and on the recommendation of French investigators.
The manufacturer says in Its final moments, Air France Flight 447 sent signals showing "inconsistency in measured air speeds." Experts tell us that could mean the pilot's and co-pilot's sensors were showing different speeds. They say that's likely a symptom, not a cause of this crash.
PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: If they're malfunctioning, it can give a false read into the cockpit that can be misinterpreted and a disaster can follow.
TODD: Meaning the plane's computer systems could make a sudden adjustment to a false air speed, triggering a nosedive or some other drastic maneuver. The plane flew into a storm before it went down, and French investigators say it may have been flying at the wrong speed for those weather conditions.
Recovering any data that will giver better clues is becoming more difficult. Recovery officials now say much of the debris in the water they thought was from Flight 447 was not.
VICE ADMIRAL EDSON LAWRENCE, BRAZILIAN NAVY (through translator): There's a lot of trash in the ocean. Sometimes trash that is spotted can be confused for something else, but in reality, it is only trash.
TODD: Recovery officials do say a seat and some wiring seen in the water could be from the plane, but the voice and data recorders are still missing and one veteran investigator says the clock is ticking.
TODD: That's a reminder that the batteries on the locater devices attached to those recorders last just 30 days. And each day that goes by, ocean currents are taking debris further away from the crash site.
Wolf, they are up against it, as far as a race against the clock to collect the debris.
BLITZER: And, Brian, we're being cautioned about other information coming in involving this crash?
TODD: That's right.
The pilot of a Spanish carrier reported seeing a -- an intense flash in the air at about the same time at about the same place where this plane went down.
Now, Peter Goelz, the former NTSB investigator, who we have had on the show several times, says, traditionally, he's had bad luck with those eyewitness accounts. He says they're not so reliable. And he says, look, this was a plane that -- the Spanish carrier could have flying in that same storm. He could have seen lightening or something else. Just be very careful with some of these initial reports we're getting.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that.
As Brian mentioned, it's now a race against time to find the so- called black boxes of that Flight 447. In hopes of finding a sign of the plane, the French are now about to deploy a mini-submarine to the search area.
Let' bring in CNN's Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, it's a pretty amazing little submarine.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: It really is.
And this is something the rescue teams are now pinning their hopes on. This is a 26-foot mini-submarine. It's probably known best for the dives it made in the '90s to the wreck of the Titanic, where it recovered hundreds of artifacts. Now this and a French research vessel are on their way to this area of interest in the Atlantic, where they're hoping that microphones will pick up a signal from the black boxes.
BLITZER: This little submarine, what exactly can it do?
TATTON: Well, we're talking about depths here of easily 10,000, 12,000 feet. This can go down much deeper, to about 19,000 or 20,000 feet.
Plus, it's manned. A three-man crew can get on this squeezed tightly into a 10-foot capsule in there looking out of three portholes, trying to identify any debris or black boxes that they might see out there. They have even got a remote-controlled robot that they can deploy to try and pick up anything they might find.
But, of course, Wolf, this is subject to the rescue teams finding an area for this to search, first of all.
BLITZER: Yes, Victor 6000, that's the remote-controlled robot.
TATTON: That's right.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.
The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, is fighting to hold on to his job after a series of resignations from his Cabinet and a growing mutiny within his own Labor Party. The latest setback? Disastrous results for Labor in local elections. And Gordon Brown is calling it a painful defeat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Since the global economic crisis first hit Britain, I never doubted how difficult it would be, not just for our party, but, more important, for our country. It's indeed a testing time, an economic crisis and now a parliamentary crisis for M.P.s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And let's go to London.
Joining us now, Richard Quest, who has been covering this story for us.
How much trouble, Richard, is the prime minister in?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Wolf, to say he's in trouble is a vast understatement. This man is in it up to his neck.
You don't lose more than half-a-dozen members of your government, including some very senior people, and don't walk away as if you're not badly wounded.
What is really happening now is a race for time. Unlike the U.S., where you have fixed terms between elections, here, Gordon Brown can choose the date of the election. So, his only task is to stay in power as long as possible and put as much distance between this crisis and the date when he has to face the electorate.
The longer he can last, really, it's just damage limitation, or, as one put it, survival of the fittest.
BLITZER: And if the economy -- if he doesn't fix the economy, or if there's not a perception that things are getting better, I assume he fails, he cannot survive?
QUEST: It is -- first of all, at what point is he going to either fall on his sword or be shot out of room?
If he manages to survive and go to the electorate, he faces two really nasty problems. The first is the economy, as in the United States, but the second is this expenses scandal. Britain's parliament is in the doldrums. Respect has never been less. You're talking about a constitutional crisis facing the country.
And, yes, the man at the top, Gordon Brown, he may not be responsible, but he is going to carry the camp.
Wolf, in all the years that I have been watching politics, I can honestly say I have never seen a government in as much of a shambolic state in Britain. The opposition said it was a government that was collapsing.
BLITZER: President Obama released a statement saying he spoke last night with Gordon Brown on the phone, looking forward to seeing him in Normandy for the 65th anniversary of the D-Day event.
Does any of this, potentially, what President Obama is doing, potentially, could it help him?
QUEST: You can't help a drowning man who can't swim, where the lifeboats hold beneath the water line, and it's taking on water faster than he can bail it out.
I mean, that's the reality of this particular government at the moment. President Obama can do and say nice things about it, but I suspect there will come a point when the president wants to distance himself from Gordon Brown, because, frankly, this is a government that is in deep trouble. It's not going to get better any time soon.
And if our last local elections are anything to go by, it's a government that won't be in office probably this time next year.
BLITZER: Richard Quest in London for us -- Richard, thanks.
It's become her trademark quote, but was it wise for Sonia Sotomayor to keep repeating that line about being a wise Latina woman? We're digging into the Supreme Court nominee's huge questionnaire.
And President Obama talks about his very emotional visit to a Nazi concentration camp more than half-a-century after a relative helped liberate part of the complex.
Plus, the president will help France mark the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. But a D-Day memorial in this country faces financial ruin.
BLITZER: It's a new and very lengthy edition to Judge Sonia Sotomayor's paper trail, the Supreme Court nominee's answers to a Senate questionnaire packed with lots of information.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is here. She's been digging through all that paper.
What are you finding, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when Sonia Sotomayor has been going around on Capitol Hill and talking to senators, what she's been saying is that controversial quote from 2001, that "wise Latina" quote, that that was a poor choice of words.
But what we're finding is, if you look through the documents she sent to the hill, she said it, at least versions of that, multiple times.
And we're going to show you. Check out the all here. First, 1999, "I hope that a wise woman, with the richness of her experience, would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion."
Now, 2002 to the Princeton Club: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experience, would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion" -- 2004, to Seton Hall Law School: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion."
You get the point. Those are just three that we pulled from several versions over a span of -- of many, many years.
Now, what the White House says is, look, this proves our point. This is part of her stump speech, and that this is language that they sent up to Capitol Hill before she was approved as a circuit court judge. No Republican complained.
But, as you can imagine, Republicans are saying, wait a minute. This contradicts what Sotomayor is telling senators, what President Obama is saying, that this was just a poor choice of words. In fact, Wolf, Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, he said today, if it was a bad choice of words, it was a bad choice of words repeatedly. He said, it leads to him to believe it's a core belief.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, we're going to have a lot of time to discuss this during the hearings.
BASH: Whenever those happen.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Later this summer, they will happen.
President Obama spoke at length today about his personal connection to Buchenwald and the liberation of concentration camp survivors. Stand by to hear him in his own words.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: President Obama visits a Nazi concentration camp and says the world must never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. We are going to bring you some of the president's remarks, the president in his own words.
General Motors is selling one of its brand models. Penske is taking over Saturn in a deal that could save the jobs of thousands of Saturn workers.
And as President Obama prepares to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, the organization that oversees the D-Day Memorial here in the United States is finding itself in serious trouble -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama today came face to face with the horrors of the Holocaust when he visited the Nazis' Buchenwald concentration camp.
Listen as he talks about his personal connection and the powerful message that grim place holds for everyone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished. I will not forget what I have seen here today.
I have known about this place since I was a boy hearing stories about my great uncle who was a very young man serving in World War II. He was part of the 89th Infantry Division, the first Americans to reach a concentration camp. They had liberated Ohrdruf, one of Buchenwald's sub-camps.
And, I have told this story: He returned from his service in a state of shock, saying little and isolating himself for months on end from family and friends, along with the painful memories that would not leave his head.
And as we see -- as we saw some of the images here, it's understandable that someone who witnessed what had taken place here would be in a state of shock.
My great uncle's commander, General Eisenhower, understood this impulse to silence. He had seen the piles of bodies and starving survivors and deplorable conditions that the American soldiers found when they arrived, and he knew that those who witnessed these things might be too stunned to speak about them or be able -- be unable to find the words to describe them, that they might be rendered mute in the way my great uncle had.
And he knew that what had happened here was so unthinkable that after the bodies had been taken away, that perhaps no one would believe it. And that's why he ordered American troops and Germans from the nearby town to tour the camp. And he invited congressmen and journalists to bear witness and ordered photographs and films to be made. And he insisted on viewing every corner of these camps so that -- and I quote -- he could "be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever in the future there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda."
We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished. To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened -- a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts -- a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.
Also to this day, there are those who perpetuate every form of intolerance -- racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and more -- hatred that degrades its victims and diminishes us all.
In this century, we've seen genocide. We've seen mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground; of children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war.
This places teaches us that we must be ever vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others' suffering is not our problem and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests.
But as we reflect today on the human capacity for evil and our shared obligation to defy it, we're also reminded of the human capacity for good. For amidst the countless acts of cruelty that took place here, we know that there were many acts of courage and kindness, as well -- the Jews who insisted on fasting on Yom Kippur; the camp cook who hid potatoes in the lining of his prison uniform and distributed them to his fellow inmates, risking his own life to help save theirs; the prisoners who organized a special effort to protect the children here, sheltering them from work and giving them extra food.
When the American G.I.s arrived there were -- they were surprised to find more than 900 children still alive. And the youngest was just three years old. And I'm told that a couple of the prisoners even wrote a Buchenwald song that many here sang.
Among the lyrics were these: .".whatever our fate, we will say yes to life, for the day will come when we are free...in our blood we carry the will to live and in our hearts, in our hearts -- faith."
These individuals never could have known the world would one day speak of this place. And they could not have known that some of them would live to have children and grandchildren who would grow up hearing their stories and would return here so many years later to find a museum and Memorials and the clock tower set permanently to 3:15, the moment of liberation.
They could not have known how the nation of Israel would rise out of the destruction of the Holocaust and the strong, enduring bonds between that great nation and my own. And they could not have known that one day an American President would visit this place and speak of them and that he would do so standing side by side with the German chancellor in a Germany that is now a vibrant democracy and a valued American ally.
They could not have known these things. But still, surrounded by death, they willed themselves to hold fast to life. In their hearts, they still had faith that evil would not triumph in the end, that while history is unknowable it arches towards progress, and that the world would one day remember them. And it is now up to us, the living, in our work, wherever we are, to resist injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take and ensure that those who were lost here did not go in vain. It is up to us to redeem that faith. It is up to us to bear witness, to ensure that the continues -- the world continues to note what happened here, to remember all those who survived and all those who perished and to remember them not just as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed just like us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama speaking at Buchenwald earlier today.
And he also changed his tone a little bit at a news conference in Germany when it came to terrorism and Israeli settlement settlements.
What, if anything, does that mean?
We'll speak about that and more with the best political team on television.
Plus, just days after unveiling her husband's statue in the Capitol, the former first lady, Nancy Reagan, marks a poignant anniversary.
BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; and our senior political analyst, David Gergen -- David, yesterday in his carefully crafted speech in Cairo, he spoke of violent extremists. He never used the word terrorist, although today in Germany in his news conference, he spoke about extremists and terrorists.
What, if anything, does that say to you?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, I'm not sure there's much of a difference, Wolf. But to the degree he has opened up some space between what he said yesterday and what he said today, I don't think it's helpful to the White House.
After all, the speech he gave yesterday was one of the most important of his presidency. He spent a long time preparing for it. There was great care that went into every word. It was a powerful, persuasive speech that had been extremely well reviewed around the world. But part of its appeal was that he seemed to be changing the focus and sort of moving away from the rhetoric of a war on terrorism to, you know, struggles with extremists and to something that was seeking moderate ground.
I think they create now some possible confusion that only waters down the effect of the speech. That's why I think the White House needs to stay very closely, snugly aligned with what he said yesterday and stick to it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But he did...
BLITZER: I also noticed -- Gloria, I want you to pick up this point -- a difference on Israeli settlements. Yesterday in Cairo, he was very firm. He said the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. He said the Israelis must stop all settlement activity.
And today he said, you know, what I said really wasn't very new. This has been going on for a long time. He seemed to have a different tone on settlements.
BORGER: Well, again, he's reacting to the criticism that he received at home. I think whether it's from conservatives on the fact he didn't use the word terrorist or from some Jewish supporters who said, you know, the deal was really that you would allow Israelis to keep some close in settlements.
And I think, again, this is the president trying to be pragmatic.
What he tried to do yesterday was turn the page. And he was using a different vocabulary, as David said. And I do believe he's got to kind of stick to one route or take another. But you can't please everyone all the time.
BLITZER: Although sometimes his critics say he likes to do that -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and, certainly, this is as cautious a man as I have known that has gone into the White House. He's an extraordinarily cautious candidate, made very few mistakes in terms of language.
You should never doubt that he picked extremists over terrorists for some reason. And I think that reason simply is that the word terrorist tends to be a flash word for many in the Muslim world. And if you say extremists, that doesn't tend to come across. And so if your entire message is going to get mucked up because you said a word that causes people to back off, you change the word. And I think Gloria is right. This is vocabulary. And he moved today to some slightly different vocabulary. But look where he is. He's in Germany. He is about to celebrate the 65th anniversary of D-Day. He went to a concentration camp today. And once you come out of there, it is very hard, regardless of the subject, to kind of couch your terms.
BLITZER: Good point, Candy.
Good point, indeed.
All right, let's talk about the unemployment numbers, David, that came out today. The worst numbers -- 9.4 percent unemployment -- in 26 years, although the 345,000 jobs that were lost a lot less than could have been, as they say, than what the forecasters were suggesting.
Listen to Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's also some signs of hope today in the report and a few signs that our actions to get this economy back on track are beginning to make some difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think, is it smart to -- to be hopeful like that in terms of what could be a short-lived recovery?
GERGEN: Wolf, very White House does it, you know?
We've all been there when you seize on those monthly numbers and make the best you can of it. And these are, in fact, very encouraging numbers. They do suggest the bottoming out.
But it's also true that in a -- you know, five years ago, if you heard 350,000 people lost their jobs in one month, you'd be horrified.
So I think it's -- you know, I say it's a good news/bad news. The good news is it seems to be slowing down. The bad news is we're still one heck of a long way from anything that would drive the economy forward.
And it's important to remember these stress tests they ran on the banks. You know, these numbers, with the 9.4, is worse than the assumptions in the bad cases on the stress tests for the banks.
So 9.4 is a very, very unhappy number. And it's going to go higher.
BORGER: Wolf, you know, and that's why the administration has to be really careful here, because these are bad numbers. They are going to go higher. And I think what we may be seeing is the end of the panic that we saw last September before the election when Lehman Brothers fell.. And that may well be what these numbers reflect.
But the administration also understands that these unemployment numbers are going to rise. And they're going to have to talk about those higher numbers when the time comes. CROWLEY: Also, Wolf, I think, you know, you had to look at the fact that President Obama put together his economic stimulus package on the assumption that unemployment would be this high at the end of the year. And it's June.
CROWLEY: So there may be some actual mechanical and policy things that are going to have to be changed. And I think what the administration has to watch out for rhetorically is as the economy improves, there are still people being thrown out of work. So you have to kind of balance that rhetoric, because, in fact, we're told, at least by the economists, that employment is a lagging indicator and that it will go on -- high unemployment will go on sometime after the recovery has started. But it does no good to someone who is unemployed to tell them the economy is better.
So they have to watch that balance.
BLITZER: And let's not lose sight of the fact that six million jobs have been lost in this current economic downturn. And that's a horrible, horrible number.
Quickly, David, Newt Gingrich said -- pointing out on Sonia Sotomayor -- and you heard Dana Bash's report -- that it's not just once or twice, but several times she spoke of "a wise Latina woman."
Newt Gingrich saying this: "Doesn't the fact that she made virtually the same statement in two speeches seven years apart prove she wasn't simply exercising poor word choice in 2001? Doesn't it prove that the president was wrong when he said he was sure she would have restated it if given the chance?"
What does it prove?
GERGEN: Well, after -- you know, after that sort of very extremist statement that Newt Gingrich made early on about calling her a racist and then backtracked from, I think he actually has a point today. It does seem that the Dana Bash story was a troubling story, because there's been a pattern of saying the same thing.
So it's not -- he's right, it's not a one time you made a poor choice of words. It really suggests -- and I think the White House has now got to deal with and confront the fact -- this is a pretty important belief on her part. I think there's a strong argument on the White House's behalf.
But don't -- don't dismiss it as a one time bad choice of words.
BORGER: Well, and they put the president out there saying that it was a one time bad choice of words. And, you know, their argument is -- the White House spin on this is that Republicans are being inconsistent, because if they think that she's so awful, why didn't they criticize it back in the '90s?
So that's -- that's their spin on it. But I also think if you look at her -- if you look at her speeches, she said in one of these speeches in 2000 that it's important that when you judge, you recognize that you have to stay impartial. So that's going to be part of their response to Newt Gingrich and the Republicans.
BLITZER: But barring some major disclosure, Candy, she's going to get confirmed, right?
CROWLEY: Yes. That was going to be my sort of button it up thing.
CROWLEY: I mean, I think this will make for interesting conversation, but I still don't see anything there right this moment that would be anything other than interesting conversation during those hearings (INAUDIBLE) go back.
BLITZER: I think you're right.
Guys, thanks very much.
Have a great weekend.
GERGEN: Thank you.
BORGER: You, too.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.
Tonight, much more on the president's blunt new challenge to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, even as he tries to open a dialogue with Iran. We'll examine tonight the president's efforts to match rhetoric and reality.
Also, the unemployment rate in this nation has soared to a 26- year high. But there is good news on the economy. The rate of job cuts is slowing. There is life in the housing market. We'll have all of that and more.
And Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, facing new charges that she put race and gender at the center of her judicial philosophy years before her public statements were understood. We'll have a special report.
And in our face-off debate tonight, what some say is Judge Sotomayor's threat to our Second Amendment rights.
Join us for all of that, all the day's news and much more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Lou, thank you very much. The former first lady, Nancy Reagan, here in Washington. And we capture a rather emotional moment.
BLITZER: Fredericka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Wolf, and everyone.
An eighth person in New York City has died with swine flu. A city health spokesman says the patient was over 65 and had another known risk factor for complications from the flu. Thousand of New Yorkers are believed to have contracted the virus, but city health officials say most experienced only mild symptoms.
And a man convicted of setting a Southern California wildfire that killed five federal firefighters back in 2006 has been sentenced to death. A judge imposed the death penalty on Raymond Lee Oyler after the victims' relatives made emotional statements in court. The blaze occurred in Riverside County, about 90 miles East of Los Angeles. The victims were San Bernardino National Forest firefighters.
And today is the fifth anniversary of former President Ronald Reagan's death. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan marked the occasion by placing flowers on the late president's resting site at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi, California. This week, Mrs. Reagan was in Washington for the unveiling of his statue in the U.S. Capitol. And that was a very emotional moment, as she admitted on that day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly was.
Thanks very much, Fred, for that.
Tomorrow marks 65 years since D-Day, when Allied troops hit the beaches of Normandy in World War II. President Obama is in France right now for the commemoration. But back here in the United States, the foundation that runs the D-Day Memorial apparently is on the brink of financial ruin.
CNN's Kate Bolduan has been investigating the story.
What's going on?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it sure is, Wolf.
It's the small town of Bedford, Virginia. It's about four hours from here. It suffered, per capita, among the country's greatest losses on D-Day. Now, the National D-Day Memorial there is facing a serious threat of its own. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Out of a population of just 3,200, this town in Central Virginia lost 19 soldiers in the D-Day invasion. That's why the National D-Day Memorial was opened here in 2001.
MILLS HOBBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): This is black. This is Zolophis (ph).
BOLDUAN: Eighty-seven-year-old Mills Hobbs is one of the few surviving members of the 115th Infantry. He remembers the invasion in vivid detail.
HOBBS: You didn't know where any bullet was coming from, where any shell was coming from, what direction, aimed at who or nothing.
BOLDUAN: But now, the very Memorial honoring Hobbs and the thousands of other soldiers who fought that day could itself be lost -- a victim of the struggling economy.
ROBIN HALSEY, MEMORIAL VISITOR: I know things are tight because of the recession, but everybody should throw in a little bit to keep this monument open. It is absolutely fabulous.
BOLDUAN: The Memorial is privately funded and donations, which make up more than half of its funding, are way down. The foundation's president says the situation is dire.
WILLIAM MCINTOSH, PRESIDENT, D-DAY MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: Obviously, this is something that nobody wants. And it's something that nobody wants to contemplate on the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
BOLDUAN: So he's begging for help -- approaching universities about taking it over. But no luck.
Congressman Tom Perriello, who represents Bedford, introduced a bill this week to transfer the site to the National Park Service, but that could take years and time is something the Memorial and its biggest base of support, World War II veterans, don't have.
HOBBS: I hope they learn that freedom ain't free and that they will never forget it. Never forget it.
BOLDUAN: And the D-Day Memorial Foundation says they simply don't know how long they'll go -- they're going to be able to keep the Memorial open. However, the president says he does know that they cannot continue the way things are now. And, Wolf, several thousand people are expected to visit this site tomorrow for the anniversary. At this point, the president of the foundation says they're simply kind of hoping for a miracle.
BLITZER: Yes. I covered the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the 60th anniversary. It's an amazing, an amazing site and I hope they get things in place (INAUDIBLE). BOLDUAN: And so do I.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.
A good report, Kate.
North Korean leader Kim Jung Il has displayed some odd tendencies. We all know that. And that certainly makes him a good punch line for last night comedians. Our Friday Funnies just ahead.
BLITZER: Here's a look at today's "Hot Shots."
In India, workers make some chariot wheels for an annual religious procession.
In Mississippi, eager fans rush into a stadium to see a college baseball game.
In Croatia, garbage collectors get competitive as they race their tricycles in a street festival.
And in Germany, a young lion jumps out of a box and plays with its mother.
"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.
President Obama's trip to the Middle East this week may have some serious business, but that didn't stop the last night comics from finding something to poke fun at.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON," COURTESY NBC)
JIMMY FALLON, HOST: President Obama is in Germany right now, but he was in the Middle East before that. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia met with Obama and gave him a large, shiny medallion on a thick gold chain.
FALLON: Obama said, thank you, but I think you have me confused with Flavor Flav. That's not what I...
FALLON: That's not what I normally wear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In his first week as the new host of "The Tonight Show," Conan O'Brien took a swipe at the North Korean leader, Kim Jung Il, and his wardrobe accessories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY NBC) CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": It's been reported -- this is a big story, folks. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is in the process of deciding who's going to be his successor. And the most likely person is his youngest son, Kim Jong Oon (ph).
O'BRIEN: Yes. Kim Jong Oon says he's excited, but realizes he's got some awfully big women's sunglasses to fill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And not finding Osama bin Laden was the butt of a David Letterman joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I think this is good news. The CIA announced that they have a new lead on Osama bin Laden. They think they know where he is. They think that know where Osama bin Laden is. They think that he's been hiding out in the $2,500 seats at Yankee Stadium. They think that's where he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Be sure to watch THE SITUATION ROOM Saturday edition, tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Among our guests, the parents of a CIA spy killed while undercover in Ethiopia. For years, they kept quiet while questioning the circumstances surrounding his death. You'll hear the interview tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.