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New Protest Video in from Iran; Future of Gitmo Detainees; Senator's Sex Scandal Fallout

Aired June 17, 2009 - 17:00   ET


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

Happening now, the breaking news we're following -- Iranians defy a violent crackdown, rallying for reform and risking all in an effort to get the word out and the pictures out about the events unfolding in their country. Iran -- the regime there accusing the United States, the Obama administration, of meddling, as President Obama does a diplomatic balancing act.

What's going on?

And a CNN exclusive -- we'll hear from an elderly Holocaust survivor who had to hide under her desk at the U.S. Holocaust Museum as a gunman tried to storm into one of America's most solemn memorials in a deadly clash with security guards. Stand by for that.

And he put on a wig, lipstick and a dress to allegedly pose as his dead mother. Authorities say he profited from that disguise for years.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


But let's get back to the breaking news. The Iranian presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and the ex-president, Mohammad Khatami, today joined together in calling on the Iranian judiciary to release those individuals arrested in the ongoing protests since the election. Pro-reform Iranians, said to number in the tens of thousands, gathered once again in Central Tehran today, demanding a new vote after the government's declaration of a re- election victory for the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Images from Iranian TV show the scale of the protests. But with foreign journalists facing sharp restrictions, ordinary Iranian -- witnesses to the protests -- are defying threats of arrest or worse to get out reports.

CNN right now is combing through the video, the photos, the blogs, the Tweets to bring you the best possible picture of what's happening. A crackdown on dissent continues, with more arrests of opposition figures. The granddaughter of a former deputy prime minister telling CNN that the 76-year-old reformist was actually pulled from his hospital bed and arrested.

As tensions rise, Iran's government is accusing the Obama administration of "provocative conduct."

For President Obama, it's a delicate balancing act.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's got more on this part of the story -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president got a lot of praise early on for striking just the right balance on a number of difficult issues. Now, he's under intense pressure to take a much tougher stance against the Iranian government.


TODD (voice-over): Walking, perhaps, the most unsteady tightrope of his young presidency, Barack Obama finds the Iranian crisis one of the toughest to nuance.


TODD: He's repeatedly said he doesn't want to be seen as meddling. But the Iranian government complains of just that -- telling Swiss diplomats who handled U.S. business in Tehran that America is interfering in the election process.

Others say the United States is not doing enough. A senior Israeli official tells CNN the administration's response is "not strong." The Israelis have long pushed for a tougher line on Iran, but their statements give the current backlash against the president some critical mass following challenges by some Republicans in Congress.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am, in fact, frankly incredulous that anybody should say we should abandon our advocacy for free and fair elections anywhere in the world, much less Iran, which is ruled by Muslim clerics who are obviously extremists.

TODD: The White House also finds itself defending the president's comments that the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, in terms of their actual policies, may not be as great as has been advertised.

Says one long time Middle East observer...

DAVID MAKOVSKY, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: There's clearly differences for the non-reformer. And I think he went a little too far to the edge and he can walk that back.

TODD: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked to pin down what the president meant by that comment.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Regardless of the outcome of what we're seeing, the United States still has two principal national interests as it relates to the Islamic Republic of Iran -- the state sponsorship of terror and their support of terror, as well as their pursuit of a nuclear weapon.


TODD: Now, on the overall criticism of not bringing more pressure to bear on the Iranian regime, another White House official has told us the administration simply cannot be drawn too deeply into this post-election fight right now. He says it could empower the hard-liners in Iran and could even be seen as a justification for a tougher crackdown on the opposition -- Wolf, these days right before that Guardian Council rules, they have to be very careful. That's what White House officials are telling us.

BLITZER: But the White House, as you know, Brian, jumping in has all sorts of ramifications.

TODD: Analysts say if they -- if the Iran leadership feels provoked by this administration right now, they can later make things tougher for the U.S. in Iraq, in Afghanistan. They can ratchet up their own support for Hezbollah and Hamas. The Obama team may feel it has a chance to get Iran to be more moderate on those fronts if it doesn't interfere right here.

Again, a very, very delicate balancing act.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

Let's bring back Abbi Tatton.

She's constantly monitoring what's going on -- the images, the videos, the iReports we're getting in from really courageous people in Iran.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: From just the last few hours on the streets of Tehran, we've got the iReports of day five of people taking to the streets in Tehran. And still, look at all the people out there.

This is from iReporter Faruz (ph). He just wants to go by his first name. He's been out there day after day. And so we asked him to describe just how things are different at this point.

And he said, just listen to the silence in this video. He says that these thousands of people that were marching this afternoon were doing so quietly, silently -- in some cases very calmly, he said, in order not to give the other side any reasons for violence. He says that's something that's really changed over time. We saw a little bit of it yesterday and the day before.

But this video that you can see at, you can really see people are marching, arms outstretched, not saying a word.

Another iReporter just going by his first name, Amir (ph), he was there, also. He shot this photo -- no chaos, no violence is what these Mousavi supporters are holding up. He says, yes, it's cam and quiet during the day. In the evenings, though, he says you still don't want to be a small group of protesters out on the streets. BLITZER: Any sign of any let up?

TATTON: Well, it doesn't look like it. Mousavi has said on his Web site earlier on today that tomorrow there will be another rally planned -- and one that he plans to attend.

BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this story and I know you're going to continue to monitor all these images coming in.

We'll get back to you.

Much more coming up on this story.

But there's another story we're following right now, as well. Before President Obama can make good on his pledge to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the government must figure out what to do with the detainees there. The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, gave lawmakers a progress report today.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

How did that progress come along -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, there's been a tremendous hue and cry over the possibility of bringing detainees from Guantanamo Bay into the U.S.

Today, some new detail on what is going to happen to them.


JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Guantanamo Bay slated to close in only seven months, the Justice Department is doing a case by case review of more than 200 detainees still held there.

On Capitol Hill, the attorney general was asked how many would end up being tried in the U.S.

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're going through about half of the detainees at this point. I -- I don't think we're going to have a very huge number.


Would you say less than 25 percent -- 25 percent or less?

HOLDER: That might be about right.


MESERVE: That would mean 60 or less would be put on trial in the U.S. One has already been transferred to New York.

Four Chinese Muslim Uighurs released to Bermuda last week are among the 50 to 60 detainees approved for transfer or release to other countries. Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Chad have taken five. Italy will take three more. Holder is confident the U.S. will persuade other countries to take the rest.

That leaves the fate of about 100 detainees unknown. It's expected that many will be held indefinitely without trial.

HOLDER: Anybody who poses a danger to the United States or who has committed an act against the United States or American interests will be held, will be tried. And the president has been clear about that. This process is designed to protect the American people.


MESERVE: The big question -- will some deemed to be an ongoing security threat be held here, in the U.S.?

FBI Director Robert Mueller and many members of Congress have expressed grave misgivings. But the attorney general pointed out today that the Bureau of Prisons already has 216 inmates with a history of or a nexus to terrorism -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne.

Thanks for that progress report.

Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent.

Let's get back to Jack.

He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: One of the sharper financial minds out there says we are not out of the woods when it comes to an economic recovery -- not by a long shot.

Despite what many see as some glimmers of hope -- and there are some -- economist Nouriel Roubini told a conference hosted by Reuters that the U.S. economy won't recover until the end of this year. And even then, he said the growth will be weak and possibly short-lived.

Roubini is the guy who predicted the current global credit crisis, so he's probably worth listening to. He doesn't buy the idea that a rebound is imminent and instead says there's a real chance of a so-called double dip recession, where the economy expands slightly, only to begin contracting again.

Quoting him now: "In addition green shoots, there are also yellow weeds." Roubini says the U.S. unemployment rate will reach 11 percent before it starts to improve. He points to the contraction and the contradiction between surveys that show the economy is improving and the reality of industrial production, which is down sharply.

Also, Roubini doesn't see many options for growth, considering that American consumers are already tapped out. Roubini believes the Fed will keep interest rates low for a while, but -- quoting again: "inflation will be a time bomb after that."

He says the central bank missed the seriousness of this crisis at the beginning, but eventually did the right thing to avoid a depression. But he says all these emergency lending programs -- well, they're simply not sustainable.

So here's the question -- how confident are you the U.S. economy will recover by the end of this year?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

Have we got a recovery coming -- Wolf?

What do you think?

BLITZER: I hope so. I'm not all that confident, but I hope it will come.

CAFFERTY: It's almost like the stock market is beginning to have second thoughts, too, isn't it?


Let's hope for the best.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

First the affair, now the fallout -- another surprise announcement from a Republican senator who was a rising GOP star. We have details of what he's saying now and what happens next.

Also, a major airline tells its workers to take unpaid leave -- or better yet, work without pay.

What is British Airways thinking?

CNN's Richard Quest is in London. I'll ask him.

Plus, a man accused of impersonating his dead mother for years to collect her benefits -- the nearly perfect crime, until he made one huge mistake.


BLITZER: Fresh fallout from a shocking confession by Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the fourth highest ranking Republican in the Senate. He's stepping down from his leadership post after admitting to a nine month relationship with a campaign staffer whose husband also worked for Senator Ensign.


SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Last year, I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It's absolutely the worst thing that I've ever done in my life. If there was ever anything that I could take back in my life, this would be it. I take full responsibility for my actions.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- Candy, is there a lot of political downside for Republicans in general as a result of this?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's a distraction. And I think that's why you saw such quick work of Senator Ensign stepping down from his leadership position and Mitch McConnell, head of the Republicans on the Senate side, saying, thank you very much, I've accepted this. I think they wanted to get this off their plate.

They're trying to get one message on Iran, one message on reforming health care and this comes along. It's just a distraction that a party that still has a lot of work to do getting its act together can't really afford at this particular point. And they don't need any more of this sort of scandal.

As you recall, in 2006, some of these things that came up, that were seen as scandals, were one of the reasons that Republicans were thrown out in large numbers. So they'd like to get past this and that's why they moved so quickly.

BLITZER: Only a few weeks ago, he was actually in Iowa and there was speculation, you know, maybe he's thinking about running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

What does his political future look like right now?

CROWLEY: Well, he doesn't run for re-election in Nevada until 2012. These sorts of things have not proven fatal. Let's face it -- the political world is strewn with men who have fessed up to having extra-marital affairs. So 2012 is really hard to gauge. But it doesn't look like he would be in much trouble, barring something else.

But when you're looking at the president -- a presidential bid -- if, indeed, he was even thinking about it -- that tends to be a larger thing when it comes to 2012. But I've got to tell you something, it is a very long way away. And, again, so many people have survived this sort of thing. He's an up and comer. They still have hope for him in the Republican Party. Time tends to put this behind them, so he's going to need some time.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley is in New York.

She's going to be honored tonight, a well-deserved honor.

Congratulations, Candy, for the excellent work you do for all of us here at CNN.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

We're standing by to hear directly from President Obama. He's about to sign a memorandum granting some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees all over the world. We're going to bring you that video as soon as we get it. The president bouncing over to the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, it's a bittersweet anniversary for same-sex marriage proponents in California.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is joining us now with more on what's going on out West.

What is going on -- Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know that opponents of same-sex marriage are well funded and well organized in California. But now, those who support same-sex marriage say Proposition 8 ignited a new grassroots movement and that progressives here in the state are determined to legalize same-sex marriage in California as early as next year.


YELLIN (voice-over): Activists are marking the one year anniversary of the day gays and lesbians were allowed to marry legally in California by vowing to reverse Proposition 8.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Undividing love.

YELLIN: Prop 8, passed seven months ago, made gay marriage illegal in the state once again.

RICK JACOBS, COURAGE CAMPAIGN: It was a real wakeup call. And in a very interesting way, I think it's the best thing that's happened to the LGBT movement in a long time.

YELLIN: Rick Jacobs runs the pro-same-sex marriage Courage Campaign and says members of his group believe Prop 8 passed because progressives took their eyes off the ball and they want the issue back on the ballot next year.


YELLIN: Now, they're taking a page from the Obama playbook. A year before the next election, they've launched a ground campaign -- already sending 1,000 volunteers to knock on doors across California.

JACOBS: Our job is to train people. We have to go out and talk to people and to tell stories and to change minds.

YELLIN: His group isn't alone. Equality California, another same-sex marriage organization, is about to air this ad targeting the African-American community, which CNN polling shows overwhelmingly opposed gay marriage in California.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At its core level, it's just totally unfair to actually take away anyone's right.


MARC SOLOMON, EQUALITY CALIFORNIA: We want to show these images, get people -- help people get to know gay couples and their families and spur conversations.

YELLIN: Leaders of the same-sex marriage movement say winning new supporters will be difficult, but they're hopeful that progressives energized by the Obama victory will make this their next campaign.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, there's also an ongoing court fight over Proposition 8. And now, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is weighing in on the issue. In a court filing, he said he believes it's up to the courts now to decide whether or not game sex marriage is Constitutional -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica Yellin, for that update.

A very -- a very cold case is now heating up -- the mystery of a toddler's disappearance 50 years ago. Now, a man comes forward claiming he may be that missing child.

And decades after surviving the Holocaust, she comes face-to-face with hatred again. Now, she returns to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and tells her story exclusively to CNN


BLITZER: Breaking news out of Iran. Check this out. We're getting new pictures just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. This is from a pro-Mousavi rally today. It was quiet and peaceful. They're getting ready for a much bigger rally tomorrow.

The breaking news that we're following, Mousavi is demanding that the authorities release all -- everyone who has been arrested the past few days. We'll see what happens. We're not going to go very far away from this story.

Let's check in with Fredricka Whitfield right now.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- Fred, what's going on?

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks, Wolf.

Hello to everyone.

Good news from Chrysler today. The company announcing plans to reopen seven of its 11 assembly lines later on this month. It would be the first time since the day after the company filed for bankruptcy in April. But nearly all of Chrysler's plants are due to shut down again for normal summer retooling for two weeks come July.

An incredible story out of Michigan today, a man there said that he might be the 2-year-old boy who vanished more than 50 years ago from a bakery on New York's Long Island. John Robert Barnes tells the Associated Press that some online research led him to believe that he might be the missing boy, Steven Damman. Authorities are awaiting the results of DNA testing. A very bizarre tale there.

And a German Shepherd that helped with search and rescue after the September 11th terrorist attacks has been cloned. Five puppy clones were delivered to a former Canadian police officer and his wife, who now live in Los Angeles. Before the couple's dog died in April at the age of 16, they entered a contest sponsored by a California company that promised to clone a pet dog for free -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Who knew?

WHITFIELD: Yes. I know they're very happy...

BLITZER: Good. Let them be...

WHITFIELD: ...because that was one heck of a dog.

BLITZER: Let them be happy. A great dog, I'm sure.

WHITFIELD: Now they've got a nice litter.

All right.

BLITZER: Fred, thank you.

As Iranian citizens are trying to get word out of Iran in the protests there, the Voice of America is stepping up broadcasts into Iran. And as Iran accuses the U.S. of meddling, Paul Begala and Dan Senor -- they're both standing by. We're going to talk about what's going on.

Also, as the airline industry struggles in a bad economy, British Airways is now asking its employees to do something remarkable -- to help out by working for free.

Plus, he put on a wig, lipstick and a dress to allegedly pose as his dead mother. Authorities say he profited from that disguise for years.



Happening now, millions of Iranians are watching the deadly political upheaval in their native land in horror from right here in the United States.

How are they staying connected with loved ones, despite a growing government blackout?

Also, President Obama about to authorize some benefits for unmarried couples, including same-sex partners of federal workers. We're standing by for the remarks from the president.

And health care reform hitting some major stumbling blocks in the Senate.

What's going on?

One critic is calling it Hillary Care Plus. We'll assess what will it mean for one of the president's top priorities.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


But let's get back to the breaking news right now from Iran. The reform candidate whom Iranian authorities say lost the presidential election is now raising the stakes. Mir-Hossein Mousavi today joined with the former president, Mohammad Khatami, in calling on Iran's courts to free prisoners arrested in the ongoing protests.

Meantime, the granddaughter of a former deputy prime minister is telling CNN he as pulled from his hospital bed and arrested today.

Thousands were in the streets once again today, demanding a new vote. You can see the size of that protest and the images that are actually coming from Iranian TV.

The foreign media are barred from the streets and many of the pictures we're showing you are from regular Iranian citizens, who are risking all to get the reports -- the images out.

Meantime, the United States is sending reports into Iran, as the Voice of America is stepping up its foreign language broadcasts.

We asked CNN's Elaine Quijano to take a look at what the government, through the Voice of America, is doing.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really interesting, Wolf. Right now, Voice of America officials believe their satellite signal is still beaming into Iran. And in the wake of the election crisis, they've expanded their programming.



QUIJANO (voice-over): Some 6,000 miles from Tehran in Washington, D.C. Voice of America's correspondent is broadcasting live for VOA's Persian news network. The target audience, prime time viewers in Iran. Even before the election, VOA bought extra satellite paths into Iran to avoid any government jamming. Since the election, VOA has ramped up its TV broadcast into the country, bringing viewers programming in their native language, Farsi. VAFA MOSTAGHIM, VOA ANCHOR: You need to remind yourself constantly that it is not something personal.

QUIJANO: Iranian-American staffer Vafa Mostaghim says he knows firsthand what it's like not to get the real story inside Iran.

MOSTAGHIM: We don't make a decision for them, we just provide the information, so they are not getting it from their media. That's why they are turning to VOA.

QUIJANO: In the post-election crisis, staffers say traffic to the VOA website has expanded 200%, with an avalanche of videos and pictures.

KEVIN ENOCHS, VOA COORDINATING PRODUCER: Right now, I'm getting about one video submission every minute or two.

QUIJANO: Wow, incredible volume.

ENOCHS: It is incredible volume. Right now, our challenge is to keep up with it making sure we are putting the best stuff on air.

QUIJANO: Voice of America is funded by American taxpayer dollars and its charter calls for presenting U.S. policies clearly and effectively but VOA executive Steve Redisch, a long time journalist and former CNN producer says VOA strives to present all sides.

STEVE REDISCH, VOA EXECUTIVE EDITOR: There is always a danger in any operation in showing any kind of bias. That's something that we are vigilant about all the time.


QUIJANO: Now, as for this notion of interference, VOA staffers reject that idea. They say they don't just present the U.S. perspective they also present opposing views and they say VOA is about the straightforward presentation of information.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Elaine Quijano reporting.

Let's talk about what's happening in Iran right now and how the U.S. government is responding to all the dramatic developments with our Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor Paul Begala and Dan Senor, senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, many remember him from his service during the Bush administration in Iraq.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Dan, you wrote a piece critical of this president in the "Wall Street Journal" today. Quickly in a nutshell what is your biggest complaint?

DAN SENOR, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: My biggest complaint, Wolf, we are at a critical moment here in this reform movement. What is need now for this to transition from a student protest is for the middle class to buy in which is what we never, for instance in Tiananmen Square and the security forces to crack, the security forces inside Iran to lose confidential in their government. I believe that will not happen until the international community really starts to isolate this government and I don't think international community will be galvanized until the most popular leader in the free world who our president, Barack Obama, steps up and is much more vocal in supporting the opposition movement, other than simply saying he has some concerns about the outcome of the election.

BLITZER: We did hear, Paul, from the French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, let me read to you his words, pretty tough. "The extent of the fraud is proportional to the violent reaction. It is a tragedy but it is not negative to have a real opinion movement to try to break its chains. If Ahmadinejad has really made progress since the last election, if he really represents two-thirds of the electorate, why has this violence erupted?" Pretty strong words from Sarkozy, but stronger than President Obama.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, and I disagree with Dan about this I think the president has calibrated this exactly right. You know, you don't want to hit the panic button. You don't want to freak out and say invade the wrong nation which is what Mr. Obama's predecessor did. What you want to do is advance America's interests and Americas interests are, one, move Iran out of the state sponsorship of terrorism. Two, make Iran abandon its nuclear weapons program. That's what America is in this game for. And if the president were to be hurling thunder bolts right now, it could have the exact opposite effect. It could give the mullahs, the Iran Revolutionary Guard Core, which is a terrorist organization, give them an excuse to crackdown and commit a Tiananmen Square. I think the president has to calibrate this carefully and pursue America's interests here. I think that is what he is doing.

SENOR: Wolf, I am afraid that people -- the position Paul's articulating is setting up a straw man. Either do what President Obama is doing or invade the country. What I'm suggesting is there a middle ground. You can start speaking directly to the Iranian people, start raising the stakes, start providing more resources on the technology side and the broadcasting side to the reform movement that isn't imposing Democrat circumstance isn't starting a war but is actually speaking out and being more present in this debate.

The administration, incidentally, Paul, did the right thing in the Lebanon elections. On the eve of the Lebanon elections; they sent the vice president of the United States to Beirut. It was very clear that that purpose of that visit was to galvanize the anti-Hezbollah coalition in Lebanon. You didn't react negatively then. People thought it was a wise move, me included and I think it played a big role in giving the anti-Hezbollah coalition the support they needed.

BLITZER: I'm going to let Paul respond to that but the U.S. and Lebanon, as you know, Dan, don't have the history that the United States and Iran have.

BEGALA: Exactly. Lebanon was not on the new nice edge of mass murder which we could see if the revolutionary guard decides to start slaughtering these protesters. The president has this right. He spoke to the Iranian people very early in his presidency, one of the first thing did he was speak directly to the Iranian people.

SENOR: He spoke to the Iranian government, not the Iranian people. The message was to the Islamic Republic of Iran, not to the Iranian people.

BEGALA: Talked about how the Persian culture is an ancient, honorable one, not an enemy of Iran. The very smart, a speech I wish our former president, Mr. Bush, gave when add chance, instead it was the Bush rhetoric that got us Ahmadinejad. But on this notion of stepping up broadcasting, I enjoyed Elaine's piece, it was interesting, the Voice of America is part of the BBG, the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Only four of the eight governors who run that broadcasting board of governors are even working anymore and none of them have current terms. In other words, their terms expired. The president needs to get on the stick, send his nominees up to the Senate but the Senate has been awfully slow. Principally, I know at least of one case where the Republicans were slow walking the nominee of a Democrat. This is now an international crisis and we have to step up our presence.

BLITZER: Dan, you have studied Iran a long time. Do you believe there is a huge difference between terrorism, Hezbollah, Hamas, the nuclear programs that Iran has right now between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi?

SENOR: No. I actually don't. And President Obama's correct when he said their foreign policies aren't terribly different but we should not think about this as a debate between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad it is a debate between the clerical, totalitarian regime and tens of millions of people who think their votes were stolen and are stepping up. What we are doing now by at worst silent, at best tentative, we are effectively standing for the status quo and the status quo is the regime. So it is not about if -- their positions are the same on terrorism and all these other issues that you cited. At best, they cancel each other out, you know? But the reality is we should be on the side of these people who calling for new government, storming the streets, trying to get their votes counted, want a legitimate government. If the new government is irresponsible, we will deal with the new government. That is not what this is about.

BEGALA: That's what the president was doing when he said that. He got a lot of flack yesterday for saying this Mousavi is not all he advertised. Dan is right. Those with long memories remember the '80s, he called America the great Satan, he called Israel a cancer that has to be removed. He endorsed Khomeini's fatwa, his death threat, on the Russian.

SENOR: Paul, let me ask you a question. If Mousavi had a different foreign policy position would you support our president stepping out and making a stronger speech? You guys have changed the terms. First, you stayed would be unhelpful, now saying we are not intervening because we don't like the policies to of the guys that millions of people voted for.

BEGALA: It is both. I think first off, the president is right to say his job is defend American interests and I am not at all convinced that Mousavi is any great improvements in terms of America interests, stopping their sponsorship of terrorists and stopping their nuclear program.

SENOR: So if Mousavi's position were different you would support?

BEGALA: What I'm for is advancing America's interests, Dan, and I'm worried that some of you and your hawkish friends are trying to give, unwittingly, the terrorist regime in Tehran the excuse to crackdown on that shall --

BLITZER: On that note, we have got to leave it, the hawkish note, we got to leave it right there you know what going to have --

SENOR: Won't be the first time.

BLITZER: We are going to stay all over it guys, thanks very much.

Imagine your boss telling you that you're welcome to work but guess what, you're not going to be paid? That's what one major airline is now telling its workers. CNN's Richard Quest is here to explain.

Plus, President Obama kills a fly and sets the news media abuzz. We are going to show you the video.

Stick around. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Very emotional testimony today from the father of an air crash victim as the Senate panel looks into the safety record of regional airlines. Ron Maurer lost his daughter in the February crash of Continental Connection flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York.


SCOTT MAURER, FATHER OF CRASH VICTIM: My wife, Terry, my son, Christopher, and Lauren's boyfriend, Kevin, miss Lauren every minute of every day. I will not have the opportunity to walk my daughter down the aisle and give her away in marriage. She will not experience the joy of a growing child within and raising a loving family, as we did. Our traditional Christmas Eve visit to New York City for some last-minute shopping and taking in mass at St. Patrick's cathedral will be -- will probably come to an end this year. It will just be too painful to make that trip without Lauren.


BLITZER: Heart goes doubt that father and his family. 50 people died when the Continental Connection flight crashed into a house just outside the airport.

As airlines struggle in an extraordinarily week economy, one company is asking its employees for something extraordinary itself. And joining us now, Richard Quest in London. Richard, British Airways wanting to do something rather unusual. They want people to take an unpaid leave for a month but still volunteer to work. Help me explain what's going on.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the airline already has an existing unpaid leave scheme, where you could take a month off for no pay but what they told me is that many employees said we want to do the scheme but we have to be at work. We can't afford not to be in the office for the full month. So the airline said, fine, take the scheme and turn up for work. What's now happened is it snowballed. They have now invited everybody in the airline to think about either not coming to work for a week or a month or turning up for work and not getting paid.

BLITZER: But I guess if you actually show up for work and don't get paid, you could get brownie points, it looks good on your job record, I guess, that's the pressure on these employees?

QUEST: And that is the problem. Because what, of course, happens is, you know, when it comes to promotions, he didn't do it or she shared the pain, I did my bit, it's all got memories of daddy, what did you do in the war. It's all got memories of who's going to be taking part? Are you on the inside or the outside? And although BA is quite open and said it is a voluntary scheme, voluntary? Well, let's see who takes it and who doesn't.

BLITZER: Good question. All right, Richard, thanks very much.

President Obama about to expand benefits to same-sex couples. We are getting ready to go in the oval office. Our cameras will be inside for the signing ceremony. Some say the president's move, though is a little bit too light.

And a CNN exclusive, we are going to hear from an elderly holocaust survivor who hid under her desk as a gunman tried to storm into one of America's most solemn memorials.

Stick around. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Authorities have taken 30 items, including a picture of Hitler and Jesus from the home of a white supremacist accused of fatally shooting a security guard at the holocaust museum last week. The FBI searched the Annapolis, Maryland apartment where 88-year-old James Von Brunn lived with his son and son's fiancee. An elderly Holocaust survivor tells how she was forced to hide during that deadly attack over at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Barbara Starr has our CNN exclusives. Painful moment for this woman.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes Wolf it was. We are just back from talking to this lady. We met a woman today who simply will not give up.


STARR (voice-over): We joined Nesse Godin on her first day back at the U.S. holocaust memorial museum, since a gunman killed security officer Stephen Tyrone Johns. She is now 81 and survived Nazi concentration camps. Nesse volunteers at the museum to talk not just about the holocaust but also about her message of love and tolerance. 64 years later, she found herself again hiding when hate one more time entered her life.

NESSE GODIN, HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM VOLUNTEER: All of the sudden, we hear, boom, boom, boom, boom. I didn't know if it was a bomb, a gun.

STARR: A museum colleague told her to quickly hide under the desk.

GODIN: I called down. For me, it's easy. I'm an old lady.

STARR: No gunman is stopping Nesse Godin.

GODIN: If I wasn't coming back, I would give the evil people a victim.

STARR: Nesse and her colleagues are back, including fellow survivor Regina Spiegel, who shows us the mark of Auschwitz. These survivors are determined to go on.

GODIN: Everyone that leaves this building, they shouldn't look at color or race on religion. They will see a human being. Promise me, when I'm gone, you will continue my work?


STARR: Nesse and her husband, they live on their social security. Today, they wrote $100 check out of their savings to Officer Johns' family and the officer's funeral will be this Friday. The survivors say they will be there.

BLITZER: What an emotional story. Thank for bringing it to us. We will have more on the story tomorrow. We will hear from the holocaust museum guard who lost a comrade but helped stop a deadly attack. You will see that report right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: How confident are you the U.S. economy will recover by the end of this year?

Maria in Salt Lake City writes: "Jack, I'm confident the economy will begin to recover this year. We are already seeing signs. Houses are selling again in our neighborhood. My husband hasn't had to lay off any more employees. The last time we went out to dinner and a movie, the restaurant and theater were full."

D.A. in Pennsylvania writes: "I'm not very confident. Obama should have given a larger tax cut to the lower and middle classes. They are the ones who would put the extra take-home pay back into the economy helping small businesses grow."

Bill writes: "I think the economy is recovering but the rise in oil prices has me a little edgy. It was over $140 a barrel this time last year. If that won't spike a fuel-driven economy, what will? I think the worst is over. As long as we pursue some of Obama's projects, things will turn around. The regulatory policies have driven the market down but will improve the overall picture."

Steph in Minneapolis says: "You are forgetting about all us recent college grads who can't find jobs and can't get loans because we have too much college loan debt. Recently, I got turned down for a $2000 car loan because I spent so much on that precious college education. That's the real reason the economy won't recover by the end of the year and probably not for a while."

Sherry in Illinois: "I hope and pray it will because I have been unemployed for 11 months now and with nothing in sight, it is awful."

Alex offers this: "Jack, I think everybody is missing something crucial here. What if this isn't a recession at all? What is this is a correction? What if this is life now unless something is done to stabilize the dollar, regulate oil speculators and start investing stimulus money in real infrastructure and bring jobs back to this country and fix health care? This is it. Welcome to our reality."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog, and look for yours there. There are hundreds of them to go through and they're all fascinating, each and every one.

BLITZER: I know they are. I read them a lot. Jack, thank you. And if you didn't see Jack's email, you can go to his blog at

An interview on the big issues interrupted by a little nuisance. President Obama takes matters into his own hands.

Plus, this man raked in tens of thousands of dollars by, get this, dressing as his dead mother. He took it one step too far and got busted.


BLITZER: Get this. A man allegedly poses as his dead mother to collect her benefits. Let's go to our national correspondent Susan Candiotti. She's watching this story in New York. All right Susan. What happened?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Thomas Parken and co-defendant, Milton Ramolo are each indicted on 47 counts of fraud and face 25 years in prison in a case that can be best described as very, very strange. We are not making this up.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Well putting on a wig, lipstick, dress and painted fingernails to allegedly pose as his dead mother, Brooklyn's DA gives Thomas Parken first prize in the scam department. Creativity apparently motivated by greed. Parken is charged with multiple counts of fraud and forgery. He allegedly began dressing in drag following his mother's death six years ago allowing him to live rent free as her in her million dollar town home. Authorities say Parken pocketed more than $100,000 in her social security and housing assistance benefits. He allegedly faked her death certificate by giving a funeral home a phony social security number and used her monthly benefits to buy a fancy tombstone. An inscription reads, everyone is talking about the lady in red. Parken chose a red dress last April to renew his mom's driver's license at the DMV. The man next to him is also charged in the scam posing as the old woman's nephew. In an amazing display of nerve, prosecutors claim Parken went to them last month to file a fraud claim against a man who bought his mom's home at a foreclosure auction.

CHARLES HYNES, KINGS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It went from strange to truly bizarre.

CANDIOTTI: Bizarre because Parken, dressed as his mom, agreed to a meeting with investigators about that fraud claim.

HYNES: A scene even too absurd for Hollywood movies. Investigators met someone dressed as a 77-year-old woman, complete with lipstick, painted nails. The impostor was Thomas Parken.

CANDIOTTI: Investigators say they can't help but compare him to Norman Bates who dressed up like his dead mom in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." Authorities say it was all about money. His attorney had no comment.


CANDIOTTI: In court papers, prosecutors say that Parken held his dying mother in his arms and in his words her spirit went in me. Well, as one investigators said, if that is so, he had an odd way of showing it -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti, what a story. Thanks very much. Very bizarre indeed.

Happening now, breaking news; Iran's stunning claim that suggests the United States is guilty of fanning fires of post-election protests.

Also, who is looking out for you? President Obama says parts of the nation's financial system failed you. He has plans to change it. He says they are the most sweeping changes to the financial system since the great depression.

Some gays are angry at what they say President Obama is not doing. This hour, though, he hands some same-sex couples major benefits. Will it be enough?

All that coming up plus the best political team on television.