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Iran Opposition Rally Postponed; Iran's President Taunts U.S. Again; Iranian Ambassador to Mexico: CIA May have Killed Neda
Aired June 25, 2009 - 16:00 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, Iran's president redirects his anger from protesters at home to the president of the United States.
Stand by for his blistering rant and how it might affect the U.S. response to the unrest in Iran.
And only a few moments ago, Iran's ambassador to Mexico leveled a shocking accusation against the United States.
Plus, the South Carolina governor's fight for survival. Even some Republicans think Mark Sanford may have committed political suicide.
This hour, the fallout from his confessed affair and vanishing act in Argentina.
And Farrah Fawcett remembered as more than a pretty face and a pop culture icon. The actress has lost her long battle with cancer.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Iran's president is back to his old taunting of the United States, even as he faces a potential revolt against his regime. He's now accusing President Obama of meddling and likening him to George W. Bush.
Inside Iran right now, a top opposition leader is proposing dueling rallies between his supporters and the backers of President Ahmadinejad. He says it would show which side has more support among the Iranian people.
We're seeing less online communication today from Iranians, a main source of information given restrictions, almost complete restrictions, on journalists and what they can do. But we are hearing from an Iranian official.
Just a short while ago, I spoke with Tehran's ambassador to Mexico. He denies widespread reports that opposition demonstrators have been beaten and killed. That interview is coming up.
CNN also is continuing to harness its global resources to piece together what's happening in Iran right now. Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is joining us from the Iran desk at CNN global headquarters.
What's the latest, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, I want to bring you the latest amateur video that we have from Tehran. It was uploaded today, dated yesterday.
It is difficult for us to date, but the date it was given was yesterday. Yesterday being the day when we were getting multiple vivid reports from on the ground of people being beaten back, people who wanted to protest.
You can see from this video a cluster of security forces in black around a guy who appears to be on the ground, appears to be being dragged, beaten. He has the green banner. The green being the color of the Mousavi campaign.
This is a long video. It's more than 10 minutes long. It's an aerial shot from Tehran.
And elsewhere in it, you can see multiple security forces, dozens and dozens, mostly here, black-clad, some on motorcycles, sirens. A very chaotic scene shot from high up above the streets of Tehran and uploaded today, dated yesterday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, do we have any good indication of what is happening on the ground today?
TATTON: Wolf, you'll remember earlier this week, it was Monday when there was a protest planned, a mass demonstration. A day of mourning, it was called, posted on the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Mousavi. Yesterday, that was called off. That's not going ahead.
So, we are not getting reports of demonstrations happening today. Obviously, we've been bringing you now for two, three, four days, huge security forces blanketing the streetings of Tehran, obviously playing into that decision-making about that protest not going ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now on the Iranian president's latest verbal attack on President Obama.
We'll go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.
Dan, Ahmadinejad came out swinging today.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, he wins that disputed election, and now he continues to show his defiance, blasting President Obama, even comparing him to former President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LOTHIAN (voice-over): The U.S. has extended its hand to Iran, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered another blow with his clenched fist, calling Mr. Obama inexperienced and accusing him of insulting the Iranian people.
PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): Why do you speak so rudely with a great nation? You have gotten it all wrong.
LOTHIAN: This comes just days after President Obama used tougher language in condemning the violence against peaceful demonstrators in Iran. The president has taken a cautious approach, refusing to meddle in the disputed elections.
BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is not going to be a foil for the Iranian government to try to blame what's happening on the streets of Tehran on the CIA or on the White House.
LOTHIAN: But Ahmadinejad essentially accused the president of interfering in Iran's affairs, then issued what he called friendly advice.
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Correct yourself. We don't want to see the big fiasco of the Bush administration repeated in the new U.S. era.
LOTHIAN: While administration officials say they have not communicated with Iran since the elections, they aren't dialing back the policy of engagement, and brushed off the latest attack.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are people in Iran who want to make this not about a debate among Iranians in Iran, but about the West and the United States.
LOTHIAN: I asked Robert Gibbs if the White House thought that Ahmadinejad was irrelevant. He said no, but they that thought the supreme leader was the most important leader there, and that the real power lies with him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan's at the White House.
Dan Lothian, thank you.
The United States cut off relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the U.S. hostage crisis there. Iran severed ties with Israel after the revolution, as well, fueled by an outpouring of hostility toward the Jewish state.
Relations between Iran and Egypt also collapsed around that time after the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat gave asylum to the ousted shah of Iran. Just last month, by the way, Morocco cut off its diplomatic relations with Iran after concerns that the Iranian government was trying to spread its version of Islam to Morocco. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's not a very popular place, is it?
BLITZER: Not yet.
CAFFERTY: The Federal Reserve, Wolf, yesterday said that our recession is easing. However, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett is not so sure.
In an interview with CNBC, Buffett said the economy remains "in shambles," his words, and has said it will take some time to recover, perhaps years. He might be right.
Gross domestic product saw its second steepest decline in 27 years during the first quarter. The number of people filing new jobless claims jumped unexpectedly last week. And new home sales dropped in May, down almost one-third from last year's levels.
All these numbers are not making most people feel too good, especially young people. In a survey conducted by marketing and advertising agency JWT earlier this year, 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 feel that their generation is being dealt an unfair blow because of the recession. Many of these young people are watching their parents lose jobs, lose homes, struggle to pay the mortgage every month.
It's shaping the way that they will view money probably for the rest of their lives. And while a difficult lesson, it might ultimately be a necessary one.
The reason is the economy might never bounce all the way back, and a lower standard of living could become the new normal. And that's our question.
In light of the economy, will today's young people be forced to live simpler lives?
Go to CNN.com/cafferty file and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A tough question. A very tough question, indeed, Jack. Thank you.
Reporting from inside Iran has been difficult and dangerous for Western journalists. Stand by for a debrief of two reporters just back to the United States from Iran, CNN's own Reza Sayah and Roger Cohen of "The New York Times." .
Also ahead, why some New York City school teachers are actually being paid to do nothing.
And she once was the poster girl for blond beauty. A tribute to Farrah Fawcett.
All that and more coming up.
BLITZER: Just a little while ago, I had a chance to interview exclusively Iran's ambassador to Mexico, Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri, and he made a shocking allegation, publicly making this allegation for the first time. He suggests that the woman who has become an icon of the protests in Iran, the 26-year-old woman, Neda, wasn't killed by government security forces. He contends that Neda probably was killed by the CIA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you seriously accusing the CIA of killing Neda?
MOHAMMAD HASSAN GHADIRI, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO (through translator): We say that. The bullet that we found in his -- in her head was not the bullet that you would find in Iran.
These are the bullets that the CIA and terrorist groups use. Of course, they want that there would be bloodshed in these demonstrations and then they could attribute that to the Islamic Republic. This is part of a common act of CIA in various countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more of this exclusive interview with the Iranian ambassador. That's coming up. Pretty shocking allegation.
Let's talk about it with two reporters who just left Iran and are now back in the United States. CNN's own Reza Sayah, he's joining us from the CNN Center, and Roger Cohen, columnist for "The New York Times," is joining us from New York.
Roger, let me start with you. You've heard all sorts of wild accusations, but now officially a spokesman for the Iranian regime is accusing the CIA effectively of killing Neda.
ROGER COHEN, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. Hi, Wolf.
Well, it doesn't really surprise me. The line right now is that everything we're seeing on the streets, including three million people, remember, just 10 days ago, protesting what they regard as a fraudulent election, everything, all of it, is the work of foreign agents, Western governments, foreign media, Zionist-controlled media.
So, I think what the ambassador to Mexico, the Iranian ambassador to Mexico, is saying is exactly in line with what the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in his sermon a week ago. It doesn't surprise me.
BLITZER: Reza, is that what they were saying to you? Because you were in Tehran for several days before abruptly being forced to leave. REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, that's what they were saying. They are convinced that the international media, including CNN, are part of the conspiracy to incite violence and destabilize the government. And they've had a habit of making audacious claims.
They have one claim that CNN has instructed its viewers how to hack government Web sites. And, of course, you heard the audacious claim, far-fetched claim, when it comes to Neda, the 26-year-old who was killed.
Keep in mind the timeline of Neda. She was shot and killed on Saturday, buried on Sunday under pressure from the government. And they want you to believe that during two or three days, they finished off the investigation and they're convinced that, as you heard, that the CIA is the culprit. Another theory is the MKO, the military organizations committed to toppling the government, that they're possibly the culprit.
BLITZER: We just got a statement, by the way, from George Little, the spokesman for the CIA, telling us this. He says: "Any suggestion that the CIA was responsible for the death of this young woman is wrong, absurd, and offensive."
He actually went further, Roger, and he said the U.S. was spending about $400 million right now to prop up the opposition, those who support Mousavi, in order to get rid of the Iranian regime. He had some detailed specifics. Obviously, you know, trying to make it look like this is all a U.S. government plot.
COHEN: Wolf, I think we've got to be very clear here and very sober. There are matters of great gravity taking place in Iran, and we need to look at it with a sober eye.
What is happening is an election took place in which supposedly two-thirds of the electorate had voted for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If you have two-thirds of the vote, you should be happy. You should relax. Instead of which, we saw what looked to me on the ground like a push.
Everything got closed down. The military Revolutionary Guard, Basiji militia, everybody was out in the street.
A lot of Iranians, millions, probably tens of millions, feel they were defrauded in that vote. What have they done? They have tried to protest. We saw massive protests on the street.
I think this a very spontaneous uprising on the part of people who feel that they lost their votes. I think there was a historic opportunity for the Islamic Republic with this election. You've had a society that's young, that is interested in the world, that was moving in one direction, and a regime moving in another.
In this election, traditionally, there was the possibility for Iranians to nudge things in the direction they wanted things to go. And the government could have accepted that.
They chose not to, and there's been an eruption. And they're now trying to deal with it.
And one of the ways, the central ways they're trying to divert attention from what really happened, is by saying this is the work of foreign agents, foreign governments. I'm sure foreign governments -- the idea that foreign governments could somehow get three million people in the street overnight, it is, I'm afraid to say, simply absurd and unbelievable.
BLITZER: Reza, tell our viewers what happened to you, because you were reporting excellently until all of a sudden, they told you can't leave the office, you can't report anything. And then you were called in, what, Tuesday for a meeting with an Iranian intelligence official?
SAYAH: Yes. That happened on Tuesday. We got the call earlier in the day, at 4:00 p.m.
"You have a meeting." They wouldn't tell me who. We walked into the Ministry of Guidance there. Alone in a room, I met an intelligence official, and he proceeded to tell me that they had evidence that we had violated the ban on reporting since it went into effect on Saturday.
He wouldn't substantiate it, but he said, "We have evidence," and then he proceeded to say that "We're willing to put that behind us as long as you do this." He pushed forward a piece of paper. He said, "I need you to write on this piece of paper that you are no longer going to report anything out of Iran unless it's a positive report. And unless you do this, you have 24 hours to leave, and if you decide to stay, we can't guarantee your safety and we can't guarantee you'll come back here and report again."
And it was a pretty easy decision. There was no way we were going to sign a statement declaring that, especially with a government that has a reputation of suppressing journalists.
So, we made the decision to leave. I'd love to still be there and covering the story at such a crucial juncture, but we made the decision to leave.
BLITZER: Did you ever, Roger, get intimidated like that, threatened like that?
COHEN: I think everybody is being intimidated in Iran, or at least there's an attempt being made to intimidate people. My press pass, along with everybody's, was revoked a week ago, a week before I left.
I simply made the decision that I was going to go on reporting from the streets until somebody told me to stop, because I think what's going on in Iran is hugely important. And we are here to bear witness. At least that's how I regard my job.
And I tried to do that for as long as I could. I did it until my visa expired. But the aim is intimidation. And let's not forget the "Newsweek" local reporter is in jail, a Greek reporter for "The Washington Times" has been accused of spying. He's disappeared. The BBC correspondent has been thrown out.
This is a very concerted, highly organized -- the Intelligence Ministry is pretty efficient in Iran. And a decision has been taken to clamp down not only on the -- what the Iranian population is actually doing, but on any reporting on what's happening. And this is the result that we're seeing.
I left with a very heavy heart. What is going on in Iran is intensely moving. It's heartbreaking. It's uplifting. And it's unresolved.
This story -- although the demonstrators are not only the streets in the same numbers anymore for obvious reasons, Iran is a different place from two weeks ago. A radical faction within the government has made a power push.
There are a lot of people within the religious, political and military establishment who are not entirely happy with that. These tensions are playing out in some ways that are visible, in some ways that are invisible.
But I can assure you that they're going to go on for the coming weeks and months. And it's very important, I think, that we try to follow these developments as closely as possible, even given the restrictions we're operating under.
And for President Obama, there are going to be some very difficult decisions to take about his engagement policy. Clearly, engagement is on hold for now, and as long as the situation remains as fluid as it is today, I think it has to remain on hold. But those dilemmas lie ahead for the administration.
BLITZER: Roger Cohen of "The New York Times," Reza Sayah from CNN, thanks to both of you for joining us and for your excellent reporting out of Iran. We'll continue this conversation. Appreciate it very much.
Two very courageous journalists.
Who will stand by a disgraced governor? Now that South Carolina's governor has admitted to cheating and lying, critics are circling, even more so, if it turns out the governor used state money to pay for his visits to his mistress. Reporters and Sanford's opponents are digging.
And right now many people are in mourning as Farrah Fawcett loses her battle against cancer.
BLITZER: All right. There's been a new development in the case involving the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford.
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here.
And you're just getting the documents and the statements. Tell our viewers what's going on now.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The South Carolina governor had visited Argentina, where his mistress lives, a year ago on a trade mission. And today his office is issuing a statement talking about exactly who paid for that trade mission.
They say through their spokesperson, "As noted by the Department of Commerce" -- this is from Governor Sanford -- "I attended a trade mission with the Department of Commerce last June. As the agenda notes, the mission was spent meeting with government and private business officials in both Brazil and Argentina. This trip was handled very professionally by the Department of Commerce, and I'm proud of their work there."
"However, while the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with. That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip."
As you know, Wolf, there are many questions about whether taxpayers had funded any part of his travels. The fact that he has now acknowledged that he visited with this woman while he was on a taxpayer-funded trip certainly raises the political stakes for him and the pressure on his future in politics.
BLITZER: Because even though he's resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he certainly, at least not yet, has resigned as governor of South Carolina.
YELLIN: That's right. And there have been very limited calls for his resignation, one from a Republican Party person in South Carolina, one from a state newspaper. But no chorus of calls.
The people we've talked to on the streets of South Carolina, they say, listen, he should get a chance to explain himself, but the big "but" is if he used taxpayer money for these trips, then we don't like him staying in office.
BLITZER: Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, is here as well.
If he reimburses the state now for this trip to Argentina, is it over with, then?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't think it is, because what it is an admission that he did something that he should not have done. And I think this gives his political opponents, many of whom, I might add, are in the Republican Party in that state, an opportunity to perhaps say that we ought to impeach him. And while it's early to talk about that, nobody has called for that at this particular point, I think that this does give them an opening.
BLITZER: The word on the street, though -- because you're in touch with folks down there in South Carolina. What are you hearing?
YELLIN: They're impressively, surprisingly defensive of him. They feel like people make mistakes, politicians -- one of the women we interviewed, she said, "Oh, politicians have affairs all the time."
But it's the hypocrisy of spending taxpayer money when he's known as this budget cutter, a guy who doesn't like to spend even stimulus money on schools. If he would spend taxpayer money on something like this, that frustrates the voters in South Carolina.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We're going to continue this conversation. Don't go too far away.
To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a surge in violence just days before U.S. troops are due to withdraw from Iraqi cities. What's going on?
We'll go live to Baghdad. CNN's Michael Ware is standing by.
And new information concerning that young woman whose bloody death on a Tehran street has become a symbol for protesters around the world. We'll bring you the latest from our Iran desk.
And a little aloha spirit over at the White House. President Obama treats lawmakers to a Hawaiian luau.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The images of unrest in Iran in recent days slowing to a trickle online today. We're mining all our sources to get the fullest picture possible of life inside that country right now.
Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi knows a lot about fear and repression inside Iran. She was jailed there on charges of spying for the United States.
She's now free. She's back in the United States. She's in Paris, though, right now, and that's where she spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROXANA SABERI, FREED IRANIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST: What is it like to get the knock on the door? It's -- well, when I got the knock on the door, they told me I had a letter, so I thought it was the postman. And then when I...
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Really? That's how they got in?
SABERI: Yes. They said we have a letter, yes. And I said, OK, come up.
And the man came in, and then three other men came in after him. And they told me that, "We're going to take you for questioning." And yes, it's a shock. I never thought -- I never got any warnings or anything like that. So, I was shocked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Saberi goes on to talk about the spy charges she faced and whether she'll ever go back to Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SABERI: The first day, they first took me to this neutral site outside of prison, and they say, "We'll give you a chance. We're going to interrogate you for some hours, and if you cooperate, we'll free you and you won't have to go to prison, you can go home."
And their definition of cooperation, I found out as this interrogation went on, was that I was supposed to admit to being a spy. And it might sound kind of absurd, but this is apparently what happens to a lot of people who get arrested for so-called security charges. They have to confess to certain crimes, whether they did them or not. And of course I didn't cooperate that first day so, they took me to Evin prison that night.
COOPER: For the record, you're not a spy.
SABERI: No, I'm not a spy. And, as I have said before, I was not a spy, I am not a spy, and I will never be a spy.
I don't think that Iran can ever go back to the way it was before June 12, the date of the presidential elections.
COOPER: You don't think it could ever go back?
COOPER: The changes that...
SABERI: The changes, the mentality of a lot of people who have been upset and angered, and now have an increased distress of not only the president, but, also, the supreme leader, I think, has lost some support.
COOPER: So, you think something fundamental has changed?
SABERI: I think the gap between state and a large part of the society has increased. And, also, we have seen a lot of divisions within the regime itself being exposed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We will have much more of the interview with Roxana Saberi tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." It airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Amid the protests and the chaos in Iran, we have heard mostly from a lot of opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian regime. Now let's hear from someone who actually voted for him.
CNN's Ted Rowlands picks up that part of the story -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, here in Los Angeles, there's a huge population of Iranian-Americans, and, like you said, most of those folks have been out against the regime.
Well, we found one woman who voted for Ahmadinejad, and she's not afraid to talk about it.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): While the majority of American Iranians who have spoken out seem to hate Ahmadinejad, the fact is, some Iranian-Americans voted for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I voted for Ahmadinejad. He has brought the pride back into our nation.
ROWLANDS: This man, who we interviewed two weeks ago, now says he doesn't want to be identified, fearing backlash from other American Iranians.
SORAYA SEPAHPOUR-ULRICH, VOTED FOR IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: Nobody's talking for the people who did vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad. And that's not really fair. There are always two sides to the story.
ROWLANDS: Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich voted for Ahmadinejad, and she's willing to openly talk about it.
SEPAHPOUR-ULRICH: He's very arrogant. He's not a likable man. And he -- he really doesn't know how to come across to people.
ROWLANDS (on camera): but you voted for him?
SEPAHPOUR-ULRICH: I voted because I wanted America and Iran to reach an agreement to conclude that it's best thing to have dialogue.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Sepahpour-Ulrich says, in her mind, after Obama became president, U.S.-Iranian relations seemed to be approving, so she thought electing Ahmadinejad would be the best way to keep that momentum going.
(on camera): Do you think the election was fair? SEPAHPOUR-ULRICH: I have no doubt he had more supporters than Mr. Mousavi. I have no doubt in my mind about that. Could there have been irregularities? Absolutely.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Sepahpour-Ulrich believes that much of what Americans have heard about Ahmadinejad has been distorted. She disagrees with him about a lot of things, like the Holocaust, but she says he's done a lot for Iran and has a lot of supporters.
SEPAHPOUR-ULRICH: He helps the poor. And those people no doubt did vote for him, plus a lot of people who believed that he -- he stood up to the West.
ROWLANDS: As for the post-election protests and violence:
SEPAHPOUR-ULRICH: It is breaking my heart. Iran is divided. And I wonder if there is a going back at this point.
ROWLANDS: And she says she is fearful that there will be some backlash because of the interview that she did with us, Wolf, but she said she wanted to -- she wanted people to know how she voted and she says she wasn't afraid of explaining why.
BLITZER: Interesting stuff, Ted. Thank you.
You heard the breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM only a few moments ago -- South Carolina's government says the governor will repay the state for his trip to Argentina to see his mistress. Can Mark Sanford hold on to his job? Our "Strategy Session" is coming up.
Also ahead: Is it a punishment, or is it an award -- a reward? Why New York City schoolteachers are getting paid to do nothing.
And a highly anticipated Supreme Court ruling in the case of a student strip-searched for having ibuprofen.
BLITZER: What if it happened to your son or daughter? Your child is in school, and officials suspect the child of carrying legal, yet banned drugs. So, what do school officials do? They strip-search the child. That's what one teenager was subjected to.
Now the United States Supreme Court has stepped in.
Let's go to CNN's Kate Bolduan. She has got the details for us. She's over at the Supreme Court.
What did they -- what did they decide, Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.
Well, this is a case that everyone, from parents, teachers, to students, has been watching. The big question is, how far is too far when you -- when it comes to ensuring school safety? Well, the court did not outlaw strip-searches, but says one Arizona school crossed the line.
SAVANA REDDING, FORMER STUDENT: I think this was -- you know, this was a good -- this is a great day. I have gotten a lot of e- mails already today.
BOLDUAN: A sigh of relief for 19-year-old Savana Redding. It was six years ago when Redding, then in middle school, was abruptly pulled from class by school officials acting on a tip she was handing out prescription-strength ibuprofen.
Redding sat down with CNN in April.
REDDING: He told me to follow the secretary, and we went to the nurse's office. And when the nurse came in, you know, they asked me to remove my clothes.
BOLDUAN: School officials, both women, then made Redding pull away her bra and underwear to shake out any hidden pulls.
REDDING: I had a 4.0 final GPA, honor roll. And now -- well, afterwards, I never wanted to go to school again.
BOLDUAN: The Arizona school had a zero-tolerance policy. No drugs were found. Redding later sued. Now the Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, said that strip-search went too far, violating Redding's constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure, the majority saying, there was no indication of danger from these drugs or reason to think Redding had them in her underwear.
Justice Clarence Thomas, the only dissenting opinion on the strip-search, wrote -- quote -- "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments, nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."
And school officials say, this ruling doesn't make their job, keeping kids safe, any easier.
FRANCISCO NEGRON, GENERAL COUNSEL, NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION: How are school districts now going to determine whether or not a drug is dangerous? That question, because of the lack of clarity and specifics from the Supreme Court, is likely to be the source of federal litigation.
BOLDUAN: Now, the justices also ruled that school officials could not be held personally liable in this case.
But one thing the ruling does not address is if the school district and its zero-tolerance policy could be held responsible. The justices are leaving that for another day, another court -- Wolf. BLITZER: Kate, did the school district in this particular instance ever change its policy as a result of all the publicity in this case?
BOLDUAN: This school district remains -- it still has that zero- tolerance policy in place -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, over at the Supreme Court for us watching that, thank you.
In another story regarding your children and schools, literally hundreds of teachers in New York City are going to work, but not in the classroom. Instead, they're being paid to sit around, playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet, or doing yoga. The reason?
Let's find out from CNN's Mary Snow.
What's going on, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, teachers who have run into trouble here in New York are assigned to centers until their fate is determined, and that includes some who may be falsely accused.
Now, because of a backlog in handling cases, some teachers spent years there, including one you're about to meet who was happy she could volunteer to do some clerical work.
SNOW (voice-over): Like many teachers in New York, Mary Karpin starts her day at 8:00 a.m., dismissed at 3:20. But she hasn't been allowed inside a classroom in two years. Instead, she reports to this Manhattan office building, where teachers facing disciplinary charges are sent to sit, and get paid for it.
MARY KARPIN, RETIRING NEW YORK CITY TEACHER: Most people had nothing to do. They would come in, read the paper and then go, "OK, I'm done. Hmm. Hmm." They look around for something to do. And there's...
SNOW (on camera): Nothing.
(voice-over): Our cameras weren't allowed inside what is officially called the Temporary Reassignment Center.
But one teacher posted these photographs on the Teachers for Justice Now Web site, revealing what's been dubbed by insiders as the rubber room, described by one woman as a psychological prison.
More than 650 city teachers facing charges ranging from sexual misconduct to insubordination are currently assigned to these rooms. In Mary's case, she was deemed incompetent, a charge she fought, pointing out she once made the who's-who of teachers.
For Diane Daniels, another teacher fighting insubordination charges, it's demoralizing.
DIANE DANIELS, NEW YORK CITY TEACHER: It is not about getting paid for nothing, OK? Ninety percent of us would rather be back in a classroom doing something, being valid citizens of the city and of the state.
MICHAEL BEST, GENERAL COUNSEL, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: This is certainly not an ideal system.
SNOW: New York Department of Education's Michael Best says the process of firing tenured teachers is cumbersome, with union rules forcing the city's hand.
BEST: What we have to do is put them in a place where we can preserve the safety of the kids in the school, and, also, you know, keep them on payroll. And the only way for us to do that is to put them in a reassignment office.
SNOW: Union president Randi Weingarten says, teachers facing serious allegations should be taken away from children immediately. But, for others:
RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: What the union won't do and what no -- no employer should want is to fire someone at will, just because a principal one day decides he doesn't like somebody.
SNOW: Now, Wolf, one thing that teaches union and the Department of Education have agreed to is hire more arbitrators, so they could speed up these hearings and move these cases out quicker.
BLITZER: Mary, what's this costing taxpayers?
SNOW: You know, the Department of Education estimates that it cost $65 million, because, not only are they paying out these salaries; they're paying for substitutes. They're also paying for these centers to keep running, so it's adding up to, you know, millions and millions of taxpayer dollars.
BLITZER: Yes, what a story. All right, Mary, thank you.
The critics, they are circling. Right now, in South Carolina, one newspaper writes -- and I'm quoting -- "The state needs a leader it can trust." And it's urging the governor, Mark Sanford, to resign. will he be able to hang on?
And considering options to pressure to declare it had a nuclear weapons program -- new revelations about what went on inside the Nixon administration.
BLITZER: It's possible -- it's possible -- possible, at least -- that we all may be one step closer to something a lot of Americans really want, which is health care reform.
Let's get the details from our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
This is going to be a long struggle, but what -- what has now happened, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know health care has been stalled in the Senate really for the past couple of weeks because plans for reforms turned out to be a lot more expensive than anybody anticipated.
Well, today, there was some progress on recovering from that sticker shock.
BASH (voice-over): After slogging through meetings every day all week on health care reform, a group of bipartisan senators made a breakthrough on the central challenge, slashing the cost to $1 trillion and not increasing the deficit.
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: We have options that would enable us to write a $1 trillion bill fully paid for.
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: To get scores back from CBO that show you can do this and have it fully paid for, that's a big deal.
BASH: Senators wouldn't publicly say what options they're privately considering to pay for the trillion-dollar health care bill, but CNN has learned from senior Senate sources involved in negotiations what's being discussed.
About half the money, $500 billion, would come from cutting government spending. Options include cuts in payments to hospitals who treat uninsured payments, since broad insurance coverage would ease the burden on hospitals, cuts in the Medicare Advantage program, Medicare through private insurers, and other changes to the way the government pays hospitals and doctors for Medicare.
The other half, $500 billion, would come from raising revenue. Options for that include financial penalties on individuals without health insurance, penalties on businesses without health insurance, and imposing a tax of some kind on health care benefits.
That idea, taxing benefits, is something President Obama campaigned against as a candidate. But Democratic senators say privately the president is now open to the idea.
It's already causing major controversy.
As senators huddled in the Capitol...
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS (singing): We want, we want health care. BASH: ... outside, union protesters rallying for health care reform made clear they're against their benefits being taxed to pay for it.
BASH: Now, senators involved in these negotiations, especially Republicans, emphasize there are still a lot of details to be hammered out. And there's no deal yet.
And, Wolf, that's not going to happen before Congress goes into recess next week. But one thing is clear in watching this over the past couple of days. The group of about seven senators working virtually round the clock to get a bipartisan bill, if there is a bipartisan bill at the end of the day, those are the ones who are probably going to make it happen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, we will see. There's -- it's going to be a big fight, no doubt about that.
Dana, thanks for the update.
Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us, our CNN political distributor the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Terry Jeffrey, the conservative commentator and editor of CNSNews.com.
Guys, thanks to both of you for coming in.
You think he should resign, Mark Sanford, the governor of California -- South Carolina?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: I don't think Republicans would be sad if he did, Wolf. I don't think they're going to force him or compel him to resign.
But I think the question he has to answer is, given what's come out already, and the answers that -- questions that haven't been answered yet, can he effectively be the governor of South Carolina?
BLITZER: The fact that he's now reimbursing the state of South Carolina for a trip he took, a trade mission trip to Argentina, almost exactly a year ago, during which, he now says, he heard a -- he met with his -- his mistress, he's willing to reimburse them for whatever it cost, is that going to be enough to keep -- let him keep his job?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't -- Wolf, I think this is a very tenuous moment for the governor, because, as more information comes out, as more revelations may unfold, the governor's going to have to decide whether or not he's a distraction to the state, and decide whether or not he has the time to reconcile with his family, something that his wife clearly wants, because she said that in her -- her statement.
This is just hypocrisy at its best. You know, what the governor is doing in his private life is fine, but in -- in -- but, when it impacts the state government and the public, then it's clearly something that he has to reconsider.
BLITZER: People are going back on his record, especially when he was a member of the House of Representatives back in 1998, when he voted to impeach Bill Clinton for that affair he had with Monica Lewinsky. And, later, he condemned Bob Livingston, the Republican congressman, who was going to be the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Listen to what Mark Sanford, then a congressman, said on CNN's "CROSSFIRE."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CROSSFIRE," DECEMBER 17, 1998)
GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line, though, is that he still lied. He lied under a different oath. And that's the oath to his wife. So, it's got to be taken very, very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, that hurt him, when you -- when you find those sound bites from those days? You're -- and you know what it's like within the Republican Party.
JEFFREY: Well, it does.
You know, when you go back to those days, Wolf, Bob Livingston did in fact resign. He was the Republican speaker-elect. He resigned. Bill Clinton did not resign. Bill Clinton was, in fact, impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, not for his personal life.
But, yes, sure it hurts.
BRAZILE: You know, Wolf, when -- when you preach all of these moral values, and then point fingers, without compassion and understanding, that's why it comes back to bite people like Mark Sanford so -- so hard.
Look, I -- it's a difficult personal thing, I'm sure. And I -- I -- my -- clearly, I care about his children and his wife more than I care about his public career.
BLITZER: Got four nice sons. We have seen that loving picture out there.
Two weeks ago, John Ensign, the senator from Nevada, a Republican, also a rising star in the GOP, someone who was thinking about maybe running for president, just like Mark Sanford, who was maybe thinking about running for president, here's the question. Step back.
How much damage do you believe, if any, there's been to the GOP right now?
JEFFREY: Well, it -- it does do damage, Wolf. There's no question that, after the last election, the Republican Party was at a low.
If you talk to conservative activists around the country, one of the questions they're asking right now, who is our leader? Who is the person who can be -- be seen as a potentially viable presidential candidate who can take President Obama on, on these huge public policy questions we have coming down, the cap and trade that could pass the House tomorrow, the health care reform bill?
BLITZER: Do you have a name?
JEFFREY: No, I don't. And that's -- that's the same answer you get all the way. But people would float the name of Mark Sanford, say, maybe this is the guy. Well, clearly, he is not the guy.
And another way it hurts, we're -- I believe the biggest public policy question we may face in 20, 30 years, this health care bill, you're starting to get conservative grassroots momentum to stop this thing. Now we have to turn and talk about Mark Sanford and this thing that happened in South Carolina.
BLITZER: All right.
BLITZER: Terry, thanks for coming in.
JEFFREY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Donna, don't leave. You're coming back in the next hour.
BLITZER: Concerns about nuclear ambitions in the Middle East go back to the Richard Nixon era. We're going to tell you what newly released tapes are revealing.
And memories of Farrah Fawcett, actress, activist, and pop culture icon.
BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": Another batch of memos and tapes from the Nixon administration now are public. And they drive home longstanding U.S. concerns about nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
An unsigned national security memo shows American officials weighed options at that time to pressure Israel to declare that it had a nuclear weapons program. U.S. officials worried the program might make elusive peace with the Arabs even more difficult to achieve.
Senator John Kerry's campaign to become a movie producer is still on hold. The Massachusetts Democrat asked the Federal Elections Commission's permission to use $300,000 of campaign funds to invest in a documentary about injured Iraq war veterans. Today, the FEC failed to reach a decision on his request.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com.
Let's go back to Jack right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Isn't Kerry a -- a rich guy?
BLITZER: Very rich. His wife -- his wife is...
CAFFERTY: Like very rich.
CAFFERTY: Like the ketchup fortune, right?
BLITZER: Correct, Heinz ketchup and all sorts of products.
CAFFERTY: So -- so, why does he need to be taking money out of his political campaign to pro -- $300,000 -- to produce some movie? Why can't he get his private funds to do that?
BLITZER: I don't know the answer to that.
CAFFERTY: Well, it's just a hypothetical, rhetorical question.
The real question this hour is, in light of the economy, will today's young people be forced to live simpler lives?
Karl in San Francisco writes: "It took from the end of World War II until this century to get to the more complicated lifestyle that has now faded now. The next couple of generations will live simpler, but, as humans, we will make our lives as complicated as we can as fast as we can. It's called being human."
Ruth writes: "The generation that went through the Great Depression was changed for life, and this one will be, too. Frugality is a lesson they're learning from their elders' bad example. I think, in the future, young people will save more money and manage credit better than their parents did. We have already seen that happen in our family, and we couldn't be more pleased."
Michael in New Mexico says: "A simpler, nonmaterialistic lifestyle would benefit America now. Our consumerist lifestyle has made us shallow and self-absorbed. We have become cut off from each other by the very items that were designed to help us communicate. Video-gaming is turning our kids into a bunch of shut-ins."
Daven writes: "You make it sound as though living a simpler life is some sort of a doomsday scenario, one in which the middle class will be robbed of their rights to superfluous commercialism. The way you phrase your question is simply a microcosm of the current disconnect between humans and humanity. Go, corporate media." Kevin in Dallas writes: "We will be forced to live the lives every one should have been living. Baby boomers, I know your mommies told you, you were special, and that you could do whatever you want, but that's what is known as a lie. So, thanks for ruining prosperity for everybody."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We do that every single day, Jack.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Glad we do.
To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, striking back, lashing out at President Obama, even lecturing him, while a top Iranian diplomat is now making an outrageous new accusation. He's blaming the United States government for a killing that truly shocked the world.
Also, a wave of suicide bombings kills more than 150 people just since the weekend, all only days before U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of Iraqi cities. We will go live to Baghdad. CNN's Michael Ware is all over the story.
And the death of an icon -- Farrah Fawcett loses her long and very public battle with cancer at the age of 62.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.