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THE SITUATION ROOM
Massive Display of Mourning; Senator John Kerry Responds to Criticism of President on Iran; U.S. Tracks North Korean Ship; U.S. Guns Flowing into Mexico
Aired June 18, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: Happening now, the breaking news we're following: Hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets of Tehran in direct defiance of the government. The man they believe is the rightful winner of the disputed presidential election addresses the throng. And now the Iranian government is reacting.
And more breaking news. Right now, the U.S. is tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying nuclear material, possibly even a nuclear weapon.
What action is the Pentagon prepared to take?
Plus, the pilot of a jumbo jet with hundreds of people on board dies at the controls over the Atlantic. We're getting new details of the horrifying in-flight emergency.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following the breaking news this hour -- a massive display of mourning and opposition in the Iranian capital. A crowd hundreds of thousands strong venting their grief for those killed in six days of violence that have followed disputed presidential election results.
Their candidate, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, addressed the throng. And in a major new development, the government agreed to meet with Moussavi to discuss his complaints about the vote.
Lindsey Hilsum of Britain's ITN Channel 4, is in Tehran.
We want to note that most of the video in her report is from the Internet and cannot be verified.
LINDSEY HILSUM, ITN CORRESPONDENT: It's not dying down. It's not fizzling out. It's not going away.
Many wore black today, the color of mourning, for the eight people killed when the Basij militia shot into the crowd on Monday night.
They walked from Imam Hussein Square up through Ghosk Street (ph), one of Tehran's main arteries -- quietly, but in great numbers. Green ribbons and banners were on display -- the colors of the opposition presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Moussavi.
The government clearly hopes the people will grow tired, but there's no sign of that yet. The police were around, but didn't stop the march.
The people shouted, "Allah Akbar!" rather than political slogans. Every night since the election, people have been coming out onto their roofs and balconies with the same cry -- an act of subtle defiance.
Mir-Hossein Moussavi addressed the crowd. He called for another rally on Saturday, led by a group of reformist mullahs.
The Guardian Council has said it will meet the losing candidates on Saturday to discuss the 646 official complaints about the election. But that's not going to satisfy these people.
More information is emerging about the attack on the dormitory of Tehran University on Monday night. This video placed on the Internet apparently shows the aftermath. We can't verify it.
Some reports suggest that one or more students may have been killed when thugs, believed to be Basij militia, attacked with clubs. But, again, we can't confirm that.
The elderly leader of the Freedom Movement, Ibrahim Yazdi, whom we interviewed on polling day, was arrested from his sick bed yesterday, but taken back to hospital today. No one wants a high profile death in custody.
Several hundred reformist leaders have been detained over past few days in Tehran and beyond. The human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi has called for a new poll monitored by U.N. observers.
Tomorrow, the supreme leader will address Friday prayers. The government will make sure there's a huge turnout. But who knows if those on the streets today will accept his verdict.
Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News, Tehran.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Throughout a week of crisis in Iran, the Internet has certainly played a leading role in helping protesters organize and get their message out to the rest of the world. According to the Open Net Initiative, Iran has 23 million Internet users, with about 35 percent of the country online. And over the past eight years, the number of Web users has been growing by 48 percent each year. That's the highest rate in the Middle East.
But as we've seen this week, Internet use in Iran is certainly subject to heavy government censorship.
Critics of President Obama are calling on him to speak out more forcefully about the upheaval in Iran. But some say that would be a grave mistake. And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks for coming in.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Glad to be with you.
BLITZER: All right.
KERRY: Thank you.
KERRY: Sorry (ph).
BLITZER: You wrote a strong article in "The New York Times" making your point.
I want to play for you what Senator John McCain said here on CNN this week, criticizing the president's response to what's happening in Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: On this issue, I do not believe that the president is taking the leadership that is incumbent upon an American president, which we have throughout modern history, and that is to advocate for human rights and freedom. And free elections are one of those fundamentals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what do you think about what Senator McCain is recommending?
KERRY: Well, I don't know where he was when the president went to Cairo and gave a speech and stood up in Cairo and talked about democracy and the rights of women and people to be able to express their views.
I think the president has been more than powerfully heard across the world about his -- his support for those kind of movements.
But to be -- you know, specifically, for the president of the United States to get in the middle of what is happening in Iran right now, I believe -- and I think many people believe -- would be an enormous mistake, because it just gives the Iranian clerics, who are already, in some cases, oppressive and restrictive with respect to what people in Iran can do -- more excuse to make America the target and America an excuse for their actions. And we...
BLITZER: Which ....
KERRY: We don't need that. BLITZER: ...which is a fair point, although this paragraph jumped out at me in "The New York Times" when I read it today. Let me -- let me read it to you: "Even while supporting the president's approach, senior member of the administration, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would like to strike a stronger tone in support of the protesters, administration officials said."
Would you like the president to be more forceful, to strike a stronger tone in expressing his support for the opposition?
KERRY: Is there any question in anybody's mind about where the president or anybody in America is with respect to what's happening in Iran?
I -- I mean, we have been as clear as I think you can be about the need for democracy and the need for people to be able to express their views.
And the president has articulated it in any number of fora.
At the same time, we need to deal with Iran and the government of Iran with respect to nuclear weapons in the near term. And I think the president has already engaged in an outreach effort which is of vital importance, not only to the United States, but to the whole world, and particularly to the Middle East.
I think his -- his first obligation, frankly, is to do what's necessary to protect the United States of America and our citizens. And the first effort with respect to that is the nuclear program of Iran.
BLITZER: And that...
KERRY: I think he's on track to try to deal with that.
And -- and -- and what is happening in Iran -- nobody in the world has any difficulty interpreting an election result of paper ballots being cast and two hours later, before they could even...
BLITZER: So this...
KERRY: ...physically be counted.
BLITZER: ...this election, in your opinion, was a total sham?
KERRY: I think there are serious questions about the election. But I don't -- I think the Iranians are carrying that message to their own leadership. There is no need for the United States of America to step into the middle of it and make this about America when it is an Iranian moment spurred on by Iranians, thoroughly supported by Iranians -- to the degree that the supreme ayatollah has now backed off of his own support for the elections, called for an investigation. The Guardian Council is going to meet, hear from all three candidates. This is a really extraordinary event that is playing out before our eyes. And it is playing out because Iranians are demanding that it play out. Iranians are being killed. Iranians have taken risks.
I think, you know, the president has, obviously, already expressed his concerns about the election. He has expressed, you know, in the middle of the region, his hopes for democracy. I think he's been very clear.
BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note.
Senator Kerry, thanks for joining us.
KERRY: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: On a totally different note, thanks to the economy, millions of people are being forced to redefine what retirement will mean for them.
"USA Today" reports how many of the 77 million baby boomers are coming to terms with a new reality of working longer, saving more and spending less. They've seen the Wall Street crisis affect their retirement savings more than any other group. A lot of them have lost jobs at a time they expected would be their peak earning years and now they're having difficulty finding work.
Baby boomers are typically out of work longer than younger Americans who find themselves unemployed -- sometimes finding it harder to get a new job because they've had higher salaries, but also because they might be rusty when it coming to applying for jobs and their skills could be out of date.
To make matters worse, their health care costs rise as they get older, their home values have been decreasing.
Things are especially difficult for a group that's known as "the sandwich generation." These are people who foot the bills for their children's college, their elderly parents' long-term care -- all while trying to save for their own retirement. According to AARP, 35 percent of people ages 45 to 54 have stopped putting money into their 401(k), IRA or other retirement accounts. Twenty-five percent have withdrawn funds early from these accounts. Fifty-six percent have postponed a major purchase. And 24 percent -- one in four -- have postponed plans to retire.
As one boomer put it: "Today, I see myself working until I drop."
Here's the question -- in light of the economy, how has your definition of retirement changed?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog. You know, yesterday, we were reading an e-mail from somebody when we were talking about when the economy might recover, Wolf. And he suggested that it might not recover at all -- that it might be what we call a correction and that we might be just simply seeing a new economic reality in this country. And this whole question about what's going to happen to people who expect to retire, in the traditional sense of that word, I think, fits right into that -- to that idea that perhaps things are never going to be like they once were.
BLITZER: Yes. I've got one financial guy who thinks exactly along those lines. It's pretty depressing.
CAFFERTY: Yes, it is.
All right, Jack.
We're following more breaking news right now. Sources are telling CNN the U.S. military is tracking a North Korean ship that may -- repeat, may be carrying a nuclear material, possibly even a nuclear weapon.
We're going to go to the Pentagon for the latest.
And the flood of American guns and ammunition is fueling Mexico's drug war -- that's the allegation. And now there's word that sniping between U.S. government agencies may be making the situation even worse.
And former President George W. Bush -- he's speaking out right now about Guantanamo and big U.S. government.
Is he taking a veiled swipe at President Obama?
BLITZER: All right, the president of the United States -- President Obama is going to get the $106 billion to continue the war funding in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate has just voted overwhelmingly to pass the legislation, 91-5. The House of Representatives approved the bill earlier in the week, a much closer vote, 226-202. But it's going to go to the White House. He will sign it into law. That's what he wanted.
Meanwhile, a tense situation on the high sees right now. The U.S. is tracking a North Korean ship believed to be carrying illicit weapons.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is following these developments -- Chris, what have you learned, because this could ominous?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Potentially, Wolf. Potentially.
Yes, right now, a senior Defense official tells us that right now, this ship is sailing through the Pacific Ocean and all eyes are on it.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): Defense officials tell CNN the U.S. military is tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying weapons or nuclear technology in violation of the United Nations resolution.
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We intend to vigorously enforce the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874.
LAWRENCE: For now, that means monitoring. But senior Defense officials left no doubt they will ask the North Koreans to come aboard and search their ship. The North Koreas would probably say no.
MULLEN: The United Nations Security Council resolution does not include an option for an opposed boarding or a non-compliant boarding.
LAWRENCE: And North Korea has said any attempt to board will be considered an act of war.
But, eventually, the Kang Nam will need to refuel. Wherever it stops, the U.S. will pressure that country to refuse refueling until inspectors are allowed on board.
U.S. military officials are also monitoring continuing activity inside North Korea near a missile launch base. Japanese media report the North Koreans could launch another missile test within a month -- this one toward Hawaii.
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I've directed the deployment, again, of THAAD missiles to Hawaii and the SBX radar has deployed away from Hawaii to provide support.
LAWRENCE: The last missile North Korea test-fired traveled nearly 2,400 miles from the launch site and landed in the Pacific Ocean. But even if a new missile shows greater range, Hawaii is still another 2,000 miles from that splashdown.
GATES: We are in good position, should it become necessary to protect American -- American territory.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LAWRENCE: So they're keeping an eye out, of course, for the potential new missile launch and, of course, that ship.
Now, a senior Defense official tells us that they don't know exactly what's on the ship, but that the Kang Nam is a repeat offender -- meaning it's known to have carried proliferation materials in the past -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence watching this ominous situation -- potentially ominous situation -- unfold.
Turf wars here in the United States may be putting more guns on the streets in Mexico.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve has been following the story for us.
What are you -- what are you finding out -- Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two developments today.
With great fanfare, two U.S. agencies announced new cooperation on fighting drug trafficking from Mexico.
But on the same day, a new report says interagency turf wars are hampering efforts to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.
MESERVE (voice-over): Almost 2,000 rounds of ammunition concealed in boxes of detergent seized early this week in Texas. They were headed for Mexico -- small pieces of a big problem.
A new Government Accountability report says only a quarter of the guns seized in Mexico are crates, in part, because the computerized system is only in English, not Spanish. But of the firearms that were traced over the past three years, more than 90 percent came from the U.S. -- and they are increasingly powerful.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: We're the ones consuming the drugs and we're the ones providing the cartels with guns. It's just simply unacceptable.
MESERVE: According to the GAO, turf wars between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms and Immigration & Customs Enforcement are hurting efforts to stop gun drug trafficking.
JESS FORD, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: We found a number of instances where they didn't always share information related to cases that they were involved in, cases where they didn't share intelligence.
MESERVE: Another interagency conflict which has hampered the fight against drug traffickers was at least partially resolved Thursday, when ICE and the Drug Enforcement Administration agreed to increase coordination and manpower.
MICHELE LEONHART, DEA ACTING ADMINISTRATOR: Today is a great day for DEA. It's a great day for ICE and for narcotics law enforcement. But it's a bad day for the drug traffickers.
MESERVE: But the drug traffickers are persistent. This week, the Mexican Navy found a ton of cocaine hidden inside frozen sharks. One Congressional critic isn't convinced enough is being done. He says infighting among agencies dealing with border issues has hurt investigations and compromised officers' safety.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: It's just common sense. It's obvious that every agency ought to be cooperating with other law enforcement agencies to get the job done.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE: President Obama recently announced a new strategy for the Southwest border that will address both drugs and guns. But the specifics of how it will be implemented and how it will address these issues of coordination and cooperation have not been spelled out completely -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve watching the turf war. A significant story.
Israel is keeping a very close eye on the upheaval in Iran. And now a high-ranking Israeli official is speaking out.
Our own Bill Schneider is standing by.
He's got details of what's being said.
Plus, a royal sibling rivalry -- who's smarter?
Would it be Prince William or Prince Harry?
They're giving their opinions. And we're going to hear the princes in their own words.
BLITZER: There's a story that generated a lot of interest that we're just getting some new details on.
Let's go back to Alina Cho.
She's following the story for us.
All right, explain what's going on -- Alina.
CHO: Yes, just incredible, Wolf. We have this just in to CNN. It's a follow-up to a story we first told you about yesterday.
The FBI says that DNA testing confirms that a 54-year-old Michigan man is not -- not the missing toddler who was kidnapped on New York's Long Island back in the 1950s. John Barnes says he has long suspected the couple who raised him are not his biological parents. Barnes' father has called the speculation "foolishness."
Any minute now, NASA will do something it hasn't done in a decade -- launch an unmanned rocket to the moon. Now, unless there's another weather delay -- there's already been one today -- we're expecting to see that Atlas rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida at any minute now -- at 5:32 Eastern time. The rocket will carry two robotic moon probes that will hunt for hidden ice.
Now, if the launch is delayed, NASA says there are three possible launch times tomorrow night.
And a rare opportunity today for the world to catch a glimpse of Britain's princes together. William and Harry are currently training to fly search and rescue helicopters in Western England. William has hinted he would like to follow in his younger brother Harry's footsteps and fight on the front lines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE WILLIAM: As far as I'm concerned, in my eyes, if Harry can do it, then I can do it. I don't really separate into that much difference. And I think as the future head of the armed forces (INAUDIBLE) I was -- you at least get the opportunity to be credible and to do the job that I signed up for and to do the best I can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: The two princes shared a light-hearted moment about their differences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HARRY: I think both of us -- he's definitely got more brains than me. I think we've -- we've established that from school. But when it comes to all (INAUDIBLE), I'm much better hands-on...
PRINCE WILLIAM: You're better (INAUDIBLE).
PRINCE HARRY: Yes. And boldness.
PRINCE HARRY: Sorry?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: A training in one of the British Army helicopters lasts anywhere from four months to a year.
You can tell those two brothers are very close -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we wish them a lot of success. They're nice guys.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. We're going to have the latest news, the very latest pictures and video, all coming in from Iran right now. We'll get an update from CNN's International Desk.
Also, a pilot flying a jumbo jet suddenly dies -- how the in- flight drama unfolded and what the passengers actually knew.
Plus, the former president, George W. Bush, speaking out about the new president -- what Mr. Bush is saying about Barack Obama's economic and health care policy.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, you've seen the massive rallies, the strength in numbers. But the outcome of this historic movement in Iran may be decided by just a few people and their behind-the-scenes power.
Plus, the secretary of State and her hard fall -- Hillary Clinton's broken elbow is only part of the story. Why the injury potentially could impact her job over the next few days.
And what happened in the moments just after shots rang out inside that U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum?
You're going to hear from two guards who confronted the gunman and what was going through their minds.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following the breaking news this hour -- hundreds of thousands of Iranians marching through the streets of the capital in mourning for those killed in nearly a week of post-election mayhem.
Ivan Watson is monitoring developments for us from the Iran Desk over at the CNN Center -- Ivan, what are you picking up, because we're getting a lot of information coming in?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
And what we've just gotten is from Iranian state television. Now, this is an interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president and the apparent winner of Friday's contested elections.
Now, he had a very interesting message. He was basically calling for unity, Wolf. He's saying that we're all brothers. It doesn't matter how many millions of people voted for this candidate or the other candidate, that we are all brothers, we should all be united, this election was a victory for all Iranians.
And then he apologized, in a way. He said, I'm sorry that I was misinterpreted and that this has led to some of these political activities. He didn't directly address these really historic demonstrations that we've seen in the streets of Tehran, Wolf, that we're not allowed to really cover. According to the Iranian regime, we're only allowed to do one report a day.
Our correspondent on the ground in Tehran -- that's where I'm coming to you here from CNN headquarters.
And, of course, we've seen footage of the lead opposition candidate in those elections, Mir Hossein Moussavi, appearing at a demonstration in the streets of Tehran, attended by at least tens of thousands of protesters, marching in silence, wearing black, in honor of at least eight people who were killed at a pro-Moussavi rally against the outcome of the elections, which they're claiming were cheap -- that they were fraud conducted last Friday, and Mousavi appeared at that rally earlier node Tehran. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What is the government's position on the Israelis? What are they saying?
WATSON: These were illegal. And there were clashes between cg pro-government militia, clashing with the protesters. The protests have gone on despite that. A very brave move by these demonstrators to go up Bence the wrath of the government, the potential wrath of the government. In addition to that we've seen responses coming from state TV trying to deal with the media spin on that. We've seen the Iranian's state TV talking about alleged bomb plots hatched to try to hurt the elections last Friday. Also talk of the Iran's government, people injured in the clashes with the protest and security forces.
BLITZER: Staying on top of this. He's got a lot of material coming in. Ivan Watson joining us from the CNN center.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
Bill, you had a chance to meet way high-ranking Israeli official. I know the Israelis are watching this situation in Iran about as closely as anyone. What are you hearing?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm hearing a mood ominous from the Israeli officials. They compare the situation in the world today with the period before World War II when they said there was a lack of political will in the world to confront a very dangerous threat. The Israeli government believes that the right priority right now for the United States has to be Iran, not the Israeli/Palestinian issue, and they're worried that we're dealing with irrational players in Iran. So that the kind of nuclear deterrence policy that used to work with the Soviet Union may not be effective with Iran.
BLITZER: How much depends, actually, on the final outcome, whatever happens in Iran?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Iranians and Israelis are divided on a number of things. We see that on the division on the streets of Tehran. The Iranians that are united, they say they have evidence they are completely united on two issues. One, they want to destroy Israel. Two, they want nuclear weapons. Both sides in this conflict. No matter who comes out on top after this election, those things are unlikely to change the Israeli beliefs.
BLITZER: Depressing assessment they have. Now doubt about that. Make a turn to the president of the United States now, Bill, and his poll numbers. You're tracking new numbers that are coming in. How is the president's numbers? How are they holding up?
SCHNEIDER: Well, his polls are good. His policies not quite as good.
SCHNEIDER: Three new polls out. Let's see how President Obama is doing. The "New York Times"/CBS News poll, 63 percent job approval. Still high but five points down since April. The Pew Research Center poll, 61 percent. Down two since April. The "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll, 56 percent. Down five since April.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We're seeing initial return on a few of these investments.
SCHNEIDER: President Obama is more popular than his policies. Three quarters of Americans like President Obama, but just over half approve of his policies. People think the economic recovery may be slowing down. From February to May, growing numbers of Americans believed the economy was getting better. Now that number has fallen back a bit.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the American people are rightly anxious and concerned about the economy. Just as the president.
SCHNEIDER: How big a concern is the deficit? Most Americans say the president and congress should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down than about boosting the economy. But it's not Obama's -- 46 percent say the Bush administration is most responsible for the deficit. Only 6 percent blame the Obama administration.
OBAMA: This is hard, and the reason it's hard is because we've accumulated a structural deficit that's going to take a long time.
SCHNEIDER: One thing President Obama has going for him, very little confidence in the opposition. In the Times/CBS poll, 57 percent of the public have a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, more than twice at many as Republicans. In the journal NBC poll a 20-point gap between the parties.
SCHNEIDER: And both of those last polls show opinion that the opinion party right now at an all-time low. Wolf?
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you.
Let's talk about this and moor with our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. The Democratic strategist and former Clinton white house communications director Don Baer and Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos.
Alex, how much time does the president have? Popularity high or popularity of some of his programs, his idea, not so high?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Seems the clock is ticking. Doesn't it, Wolf? His personal popularity, right, is holding up, but those policies are increasingly less popular. He's clearly cashing in political capital for his agenda. You know, Barack Obama may be in a unique situation where his popularity remains high, but the lack of popularity of his policies, concern about spending and the deficit becomes a political liability for Democrats running in 2010. We're going to see the blue dog Democrats start to wonder, do I need to be on Obama's side when voters are so concerned or be the courageous guy who says, enough is enough?
BLITZER: Blue dog Democrats, conservative. We've seen that begin to develop.
DON BAER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah. They've begun to flake away and they'll be worried about 2010. I think the thing is remember, I've said this before. President Obama has become the great explainer. He has an ability to elevate above what the fights are and explain one side to the other and deal with complexity. Complex issues. He said in an interview a month ago he thought the American people were ready for complexity in understanding and is using that to get out there and help people understand these are tough issues but we have to deliver on them.
BLITZER: You can clearly feel the clock ticking.
CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look. His approval ratings stay that high until the American people begin to feel pinched or otherwise hurt by one of his policies that they lay directly on him or when they begin to see or feel that all of this money that's being spent to help improve things isn't working. That's when you see the approval rating go down.
CASTELLANOS: Interesting things in this survey, independents are beginning to look a little more like Republicans than Democrats and there are concerns about the deficit and spending, swing voters. Very important.
BLITZER: You saw the number of Republicans, really rock bottom in terms how the American public feels.
CASTELLANOS: Setting up for the comeback. Keeping expectations low.
BLITZER: Can't get any worse? Got to get better?
BAER: Here's what the president and new administration have to do. We've had big, big, broad programs in the past so far. People have health the positive effects yet, and, really what keeps approval ratings up and parties in power is performance. Actually getting out there and showing they can deliver. And now it's about really delivering concrete results in health care and other areas and it's going to be a tough time to be able to show they can do that, but this is really where it happens.
CROWLEY: The problem, of course, is that when we look inside those polls, that less than half approve of what he's done on health care reform. And so many people worry about the deficit. The two of those things colliding really point to a huge problem.
BLITZER: Let me make the turn to the former George W. Bush has been silent. He said he would not but the "Washington Times" got this information from a private speech the former president gave in Erie, Pennsylvania in which he said this, "I told you I'm not going to criticize my successor. I'll just tell you there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of the hat, and I don't believe that persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their minds." Is that, Alex, implied criticism his successor?
CASTELLANOS: I think that's respectful disagreement from a former president on policy. And considering, really, that it's President Obama who has -- has brought former president Bush quite a few times. President Obama inherited -- what Obama's doing now he's blaming it on George Bush. I think President Bush has been remarkably restrain and that. We're almost beginning a re-evaluation of George Bush now. It's fascinating to see in Iran, so many Democrats say isn't it great democracy's there when they laughed at George Bush?
CROWLEY: I want to take a different view, which is I don't think President Obama has any problem with saying, some of these people want to kill Americans. I don't think that's a problem at all. The problem is what do you do with them? I don't look at that as a criticism rather than a statement of the obvious.
BLITZER: It was in that big speech he did say there's a small group that are killers but they can't try for whatever reason, doesn't know what to do with them. He acknowledged that. Tell me if this is implied criticism. "Government does not create wealth. The major role for the government, create an environment where people take risks to expand the job rates in the United States." Is that pushing implied criticism?
BAER: Everyone in the media world would love there to be a little fight going on here. Right? I don't think that's what President Bush is doing or trying to do. He's not saying anything different there than he hasn't said his entire career. He's been very quiet. Now more public space and is saying --
BLITZER: He's got a very different tact than the vice president. No doubt about it. Thanks very much, guys, for coming in.
The pilot of a jumbo jet with hundreds onboard dies at the controls thousands of feet above the Atlantic. We're learning new details right now of an in-flight horror.
And a tornado chaser finds her way to close to the center of the storm. We have the amazing video. He risked his life.
BLITZER: Pretty scary story. The pilot of a jumbo jet dice. The co-pilot takes over. Passengers were completely unaware what was going on. Let's go to Newark Airport. CNN's Mary Snow is there.
It was a scare for a lot of folks. We were watching it unfold, the final moments before it landed. Tell our viewers what happened.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, before we do, we do want to give you some new information. We're learning more about the pilot of flight 61, and I believe we have a new photograph of the pilot pictured with his daughter. Our affiliate KHOU in Houston has identified the pilot of Craig Linel, a father of six and grandfather. Continental Airlines has not released details saying it was not doing so out of respect for the family. And, Wolf, for the passengers who landed here they were absolutely stunned to learn that two co-pilots had landed this plane safely.
SNOW: Emergency crews stood by at Newark airport for Continental flight 61 coming from Brussels. The FAA and airline had confirmed the captain died mid-flight. Passengers only learn about it once they got off the plane.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They never said the pilot died.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were just sitting on the plane. They called over the intercom saying, are there any doctors onboard? Please come to the cabin immediately.
SNOW: Dr. Jullian Struyzen was among the doctors who went to the cockpit. He says he tried using a defibrillator.
DR. JULLIAN STRUYZEN, CARDIOLOGIST ON BOARD: I was the first M.D. coming to some duty. The duty, pilot illness. And illness -- impending death.
SNOW: CNN affiliate KHOU identified the pilot as Craig Lenil. Continental Airlines says the pilot apparently died of natural causes. They would only say he was 60 years old with 32 years of service. There was a relief pilot onboard as part of the crew, something that's done on flights and he took over for the captain. One former pilot says crews are prepared for medical emergencies.
CAPT. JOHN COX, FORMER USAIR FLIGHT CAPTAIN (RETIRED): The crew is completely qualified to fly the airplane, and then routine landing will be made. So advising the passengers really doesn't contribute anything positive to the situation.
SNOW: And it's only been since December 2007 that commercial pilots are permitted to fly past their 60th birthday. Former FAA official Scott Brenner. SCOTT BRENNER, FORMER SR. FAA OFFICIAL: Under the new rules, pilots are now allowed to fly up until they reach their 65th birthday, with some -- a little adjustments where rather than having annual physical, now they have to have physicals twice a year.
SNOW: Brennan says the new age requirements match what's been done in other parts of the world already.
SNOW: And, Wolf, the pilot's wife, Linda, tells KHOU her husband was in her words perfect health, no known heart condition and that he did undergo physical exams every six months. As for the passengers, many here describe sorrow to hear of the tragic news. They also said, though, they were relieved they did not learn about this onboard the flight, because they feared that would cause panic. Wolf?
BLITZER: Probably would have. Thanks very much, Mary Snow over at Newark airport.
An emotional interview coming up. The two surviving Holocaust Museum security guards speaking to CNN's Ed Henry about the tragedy that claimed the life of a colleague.
Also, up close with a huge tornado. Even for a storm chaser, this one was a frightening encounter.
BLITZER: A monster twister and a storm chaser who got dangerously close. This incredible scene unfolded in Nebraska yesterday when the man drove to within yards of a massive tornado. Take a listen as he describes what is happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
A.J. FABLE, TORNADO WITNESS: It is now a half-mile wide. It is huge. Oh, we got debris coming up. We have structural damage. We have damage off this building, tearing this building apart. Debris in the air. It's tearing this building apart, literally, in front of my eyes. It is tearing this building apart. I am literally 400 yards away from it. It just ripped a roof off this building. It is truly incredible. It is June 17th, 2009. Debris is everywhere. It is huge. Debris is in the air. You can see it twirling around. In the building. Way too close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He is a little bit nutty too. The storm chaser, though, is okay. The National Weather Service says that tornado leveled at least one home near the town of au Aurora, Nebraska.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's terrible. That man was in danger of losing your life and you're giggling.
BLITZER: Yes. CAFFERTY: Was it my imagination or did the car appear to be continuing tort the tornado while he was having this breakdown?
Wouldn't you turn the car around and drove away?
CAFFERTY: The question, in light of the economy, how has your definition of retirement changed?
Markel in Houston, "Some of these were very touching. We resolved long ago that we can't depend on Social Security to be there. We have stashed everything we could into IRAs, 401(k)s and an annuity. We have been planning to work less by going into semi-retirement when the opportunity presents itself. Our biggest concern though, health insurance."
Karen writes, "Traveling, spending time at the beach in Baja has turned into living with my oldest daughter and her family and taking care of my grandchildren. The hotel money is spent at the grocery store."
Ed in Montana, "A particularly painful question you asked today after almost 40 years in the information technology business and being a consistent top performer, they are offshoring my job. I am closing in on 60. So I won't get another I.T. job. The key word they use for applicants in my field is energetic, which means under 40. I was within a few years of retirement. Now, I am trying to learn a trade so I can become self-employed in something so I can keep my wife and myself from becoming a burden on society."
Esther in Ohio says, "Simply, retirement means poverty."
Steve writes, "The new definition of retirement means collecting rent from the kids that move back home after college and working part time in a second career at half the salary."
Fran in Los Angeles, "Retirement is an outdated term. I like the concept of the second half of life being considered the encore years, where valuable experiences are rechanneling into mentoring, consulting, working for want, rather than need. Retirement is an advertising slogan. It's not the reality today. Just my two cent, which used to be worth more before the financial crash."
Steve, "I have adopted what I call a working retirement. I get up at 5:30 and have coffee and go to, would. My retirement happens at night in my dreams."
If you didn't see your e-mail, go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for yours there among hundreds of others.
All right. Jack, thanks very much.
We are following breaking news from Iran. Stand by.
BLITZER: The two security officers who shot the suspect in the Holocaust Museum shooting are now talking about the experience. They sat down today with CNN's Ed Henry.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When shots ran out at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, security officers Harry Weeks and Jason McCuiston were stunned.
HARRY WEEKS, SECURITY OFFICER: Both of us couldn't believe this was happening. Myself, I just heard pop, pop and it was surreal.
JASON MCCUISTON, SECURITY OFFICER: You knew, you felt that something terribly was going wrong.
HENRY: Both men kept their composure, drawing their weapons and shooting at the suspect James Von Brunn. While Weeks had fired his gun in the line of duty 25 years earlier as a D.C. police officer, nothing compared to this bloody confrontation.
WEEKS: This was terrible, this was worse.
WEEKS: We lost Officer Johns.
HENRY: Officer Stephen Johns was allegedly shot in the chest by Von Brunn. He died shortly there after leaving behind a young son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was my hero.
HENRY: The emotions are especially raw for Officer McCuiston.
MCCUISTON: The first thing I thought about, I have an 11-year- old.
HENRY: These two men probably saved many other lives since there were more than 2000 people in the museum. There is little comfort in that.
MCCUISTON: A lot of people are going to say what they have been seeing. You are a hero. You are this, you are that. We tell everybody, we chose this job. It is a job.
HENRY: The only solace they feel right now is thinking of Officer Johns in happier times.
MCCUISTON: Just a big teddy bear, an awesome guy, grinning from ear to ear. You would know that man probably ever had a bad day in his life.
WEEKS: I am going to miss him, the Holocaust Museum, Wackenhut, it will never be the same again. Our lives have changed. I hope they are okay, his son, his wife, his mother, his stepfather, they can go on knowing that he is a good man.
HENRY: Now, these two men cannot talk about the suspect because they don't want to jeopardize the criminal investigation. Right before that interview, they had come from a grief counseling session. They are still struggling with this a week later.
BLITZER: The funeral will be tomorrow. We will be watching that very sad story. Ed Henry thanks very much for bringing that story to us.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, breaking news; the streets of Tehran turn into a sea of black. Huge throngs of marchers mourning Iran's election outcome and those who died protesting it. We're on the scene in Iran.
The U.S. military tracks a North Korean ship believed to be carrying illicit weapons or nuclear technology. At the same time, fresh concerns about activity near a North Korean missile base.
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, faces surgery after breaking her elbow. Will she have to change her schedule?