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What President Obama Hopes to Get Out of G8 Summit; Health Care 'Backroom Deals'; Sarah Palin Blasts Ethics Complaints Against Her
Aired July 8, 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: We'll have more on this story coming up.
Also, President Obama confronts the ruins of an earthquake and of the global economic crisis. This hour, what he hopes to get out of this first G8 Summit while protesters stir the pot.
Plus, revealing new glimpses of Michael Jackson's children. We saw his daughter distraught at his memorial. Now we're learning more about all three kids and how they may be coping right now.
And it sounds like something out of a horror movie, but killer pythons are a very real threat to people in Florida right now. New warnings about the monsters lurking in the Everglades.
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.
We begin with President Obama. He's getting an eyeful and an earful at his first summit with the leaders of the world's most powerful economies. They're meeting in an Italian mountain town that was devastated by a huge earthquake in April. On their agenda, economic and natural disasters threatening the world right now.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's traveling with the president. He's joining us now live from Italy with more.
An important day for the president, though he didn't get everything by any means that he wanted.
ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The financial crisis and climate change, two hot-button issues on the minds of a lot of Americans, of course, dominating the agenda here, as well.
HENRY (voice-over): President Obama may be in Italy for his first G8 Summit, but he's trying to stay focused on a pressing concern back home -- the still ailing U.S. economy. Mr. Obama quickly joined the other leading industrialized nations in reaffirming their commitment to restoring growth in global markets, and he's vowing to help tighten financial regulations. BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We discussed the importance of Europe and the United States raising standards on financial institutions to insure that a crisis like the one that's taken place will never happen again.
HENRY: The president is also trying to move aggressively to deal with another potential crisis -- climate change. He helped lead the group to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions among developed countries, an 80 percent cut by 2050.
MIKE FROMAN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This is a significant step forward in that the G8 -- it is the first time the G8 has published this sort of data on where countries are with regard to their prior commitments.
HENRY: But the declaration has no enforcement mechanisms, though White House officials hope it provides momentum for real change.
The president also wants to use the G8 to gain momentum for his effort to stop Iran and North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons.
OBAMA: ... that it's very important for the world community to speak to countries like Iran and North Korea and encourage them to take a path that does not result in a nuclear arms race in places like the Middle East.
HENRY: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi moved the summit to the city of L'Aquila to highlight devastation from an April earthquake. People still living without homes here are playing off Mr. Obama's campaign slogan, "Yes, we can," by telling the world, yes, we camp.
HENRY: Now, the president toured earthquake damage today, and the U.S. is trying to help victims in several ways. A big one is by trying to give students who were attending the University of L'Aquila, really badly damaged by the quake, one-year scholarships to come over to attend American universities -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And then the rest of the week, he stays in Italy, but he meets with the pontiff. He meets with the pope, what, on Friday?
HENRY: That's right. His first meeting with Pope Benedict on Friday. Then, of course, he goes on later that day for one night in Ghana. Obviously, the first African-American president going to Ghana is going to command a lot of international attention -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.
Ed Henry, he's traveling with the president.
He's certainly, the president, logging a lot of miles on the overseas trip, traveling from Moscow, the Russian capital, to Italy. Friday, as Ed just mentioned, he heads to Ghana. That will be his first visit to a black African nation since becoming president. He visited Egypt in northern Africa in June.
It's likely to be a very personal and historic stop for the president, who will tour the former headquarters of the British slave trade. The White House chose democratically-run Ghana for this landmark visit over the troubled African nation of Kenya, the homeland of the president's father.
By the way, CNN's Anderson Cooper will interview the president in Ghana. You're going to see that interview Monday night on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
The Obama administration is declaring that the United States is a critical step closer today to fixing the nation's health care system. The vice president, Joe Biden, announced a new agreement with the hospital industry to help fund reform. The House Republican leader is accusing the administration of bullying health care groups to cut what he calls "backroom deals."
Let's go to Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is watching this historic debate unfold.
Brianna, what happened?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House certainly cheering this agreement, but on the deal-making that really matters, the closed-door discussions happening right here on Capitol Hill, well, there's nothing to cheer about yet.
KEILAR (voice-over): With President Obama overseas, Vice President Joe Biden stepped in to push the administration's top priority -- health care reform.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, reform is coming. It is on track. It is coming.
We have tried for decades -- for decades -- to fix a broken system. And we have never in my entire tenure in public life been this close.
KEILAR: Biden touted a deal with the hospital industry. Hospitals will give up $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments over the next 10 years, money that would help pay for health care reform. But it's not enough, not nearly enough, and congressional Democrats are struggling to find a way to pay for the rest of the trillion-dollar price tag.
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It's always difficult to raise revenue -- always, always, always. But we've got to pay for the bill.
KEILAR: A key proposal to tax employer-provided health benefits, once seen as a likely way to raise hundreds of billions of dollars, may be dead. Democrats, aware that recent polls show most Americans oppose the idea, are souring on taxing benefits. And so is Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican working on a bipartisan deal.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: You know, I believe that we should just move from there and take it off the table, and move forward and find other alternatives.
KEILAR: Meantime, in the House of Representatives, where Democrats are putting together their own health care plan, they're considering a whole slate of controversial tax proposals, things -- all sorts of things, Wolf, from taxing households that make more than $250,000, to putting a tax on sugary drinks like soda -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Well, they're going to need money from someplace, but this debate is only just beginning. We'll see how the president and his allies on the Hill wind up.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What do we have, an $11 trillion economy in this country?
BLITZER: Something like that.
CAFFERTY: So, if they cut 10 percent, that would be roughly a trillion dollars a year, wouldn't it?
CAFFERTY: Why don't they cut expenses, instead of we're going to tax this and raise this? And we've got to find more revenue, and we've got to find more revenue. Cut 10 percent of the federal government.
An outside adviser to President Obama -- here we go again -- says the U.S. should consider a second stimulus package because the $787 billion package approved in February was "a bit too small." Others have criticized that plan for not distributing the money fast enough in order to create the jobs necessary to halt the downward spiral we seem to remain in.
On Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he would consider a second stimulus, but he emphasized it's too soon to say the first stimulus package has failed. It's only been, what, four and a half months?
A look at a few facts would suggest though that it's been less than a screaming success. The economy is still struggling -- very much so -- mired in a recession that shows few signs of abating.
Last week's jobs report found unemployment still climbing. Experts now say it will pass 10 percent this year, even though the stimulus package was supposed to hold unemployment below 8 percent.
Yesterday, the stock market closed to at a 10-week low, so confidence clearly still lacking among investors. And all that optimism over perceived green shoots of recovery that were touted just a few weeks ago, well, that's all but disappeared, hasn't it? Along with a lot of those shoots.
Advisers in and out of Washington agree on one thing -- the stimulus bill was based in an economy that was not as bad as the one we're in now. That was the first stimulus bill.
So here's the question: Should the government consider a second stimulus package?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog -- or not -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of people will, Jack. Thank you.
Sarah Palin says she's the target of frivolous lawsuits and ethics charges, but watchdogs in Alaska say they're sure there's a smoking gun.
Ahead, the governor is struggling to explain why she is resigning later this month.
And the state of the president's popularity. New evidence that the honeymoon may be over in one of the most important political battlegrounds.
And a battle may be brewing over who foots the bill for Michael Jackson's all-star memorial service.
BLITZER: Sarah Palin says she is the target in a game of "political blood sport." Her words. That's what she told CNN as she explained why she decided to resign as Alaska's governor later this month, citing multiple ethic complaints against her.
But what exactly are these ethics charges all about? Who's filing them?
CNN's Sean Callebs is digging. He's joining us now live from Anchorage with more.
Sean, what are you finding out?
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Wolf, that these charges have been filed by a cross-section of people here in Alaska. And depending on who you speak with, they're either trivial and taking up the governor's time, or provide very key insight into the way she's operated in the two years she has been running this state.
CALLEBS (voice-over): After spending months caught in a net of seemingly endless accusations of ethics violations, Sarah Palin says it was too much, draining on her, draining on her tight-knit family, and especially draining on the state. It cost an estimated $2 million for Alaska to answer the 19 complaints leveled against her and her staff.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: It doesn't cost the critics anything to file frivolous lawsuits or ethics violation charges. It costs our state such a great deal -- thousands of state staff hours, millions of dollars in public resources that aren't going to things it should be going to, like soldiers' benefits and safer roads, and teachers and troopers.
CALLEBS: Andrea McLeod has been an especially sharp thorn in Palin's side. She's filed four complaints against the governor and her staff, and two lawsuits. McLeod, a registered Republican, says they are hardly frivolous.
ANDREE MCLEOD, FILED COMPLAINTS AGAINST PALIN: I'm exercising my right to get those public records in order to discover what Sarah Palin is up to.
CALLEBS: Here are some of the litany of complaints leveled against Palin: a conflict of interest because she wore a jacket that had a logo on it while at a snowmobile race. Another alleged she had the state pay for her children's travel. She has since reimbursed the state.
One of Andree McLeod's allegations said Palin used cronyism to improperly hire a friend for a state job. That complaint was dismissed.
James Muller is a political science professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
JAMES MULLER, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA ANCHORAGE: Well, I think most of the ethical complaints are fairly trivial. Almost all of them have been dismissed by the various levels of review that have taken them up. Some of them are clearly kind of fanciful or farcical.
CALLEBS: In fact, there are a couple of charges pending, but Palin has been cleared in all the others.
Palin's lawyer says the accusations have personally cost the governor more than $500,000 in legal fees. And worse, so time- consuming, it's hamstrung efforts to do state business.
(on camera): Is there any frustration on your part that she's portraying you and the other people who filed the complaints as kind of like these conspiracy theorists, lack of jobs?
MCLEOD: Every one of these complaints have to do with Sarah Palin's personal choices. She always puts her personal interests before the state's interests.
CALLEBS: And Wolf, also, Palin's attorney tells CNN that "These accusations are nothing more than like the boy who cried wolf." And even though she's leaving office on July 26th, the process won't end there. State officials tell us they will work their way through the legal system until they all have been resolved -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Sean is up in Anchorage for us.
Thank you, Sean, for your reporting.
Let's bring in our Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
You know, she's still very popular. We have a new "USA Today"/Gallup poll. Among Republicans, look at the numbers, Candy.
They asked the likelihood of voting for Sarah Palin for president, would it be somewhat or very likely? Seventy-two percent of Republicans said they would likely or very likely -- somewhat or very likely vote for her. Forty-four percent among Independents, only 17 percent among Democrats. I say only -- I'm surprised that it's even 17 percent among Democrats.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I was, too.
But I talked to our pollster, Keating Holland, who you know very well and who is very good at this, and he said, look at the poll this way. About 30 percent, a third of Republicans, wouldn't vote for her. So that he thinks that number, at this particular stage of the game, is interesting. Plus, she's up against no one in these polls. It's not a "Would you prefer her over x?"
BLITZER: Romney, let's say.
CROWLEY: Right. It's just, here's Sarah Palin. How do you feel about her? And it's pretty far out. But it is interesting, I think, for who -- for the number of Republicans, 30 percent, who wouldn't vote for her.
BLITZER: Speaking of polls, there was a Quinnipiac University poll in the key battleground state of Ohio. We always talk about Ohio in presidential elections. And look at this.
Right now, President Obama's approval rating, it's at 49 percent. It was 62 percent in May. Nationally, it's still around 61 percent, but in Ohio it's slipped pretty dramatically, down to 49 percent.
Explain what this means.
CROWLEY: Well, what we need to know is, this canary into the cave? Is this a harbinger of something to come from Ohio?
Ohio, still a deeply distressed, economically distressed state. We have begun to see some slippage, but nothing like that on the national stage. It may portend I think what we already are getting a sense of, and that is health care is going to be awfully difficult. A second stimulus package, if it's needed, going to be pretty tough. That when the president said, gee, this is now -- you know, you're going to hear a lot of opposition now, it's really getting tough, that he's absolutely right, because some of that support appears to be falling off.
It's one state poll. We need to get a little more. But it's interesting.
BLITZER: Because I suspect in Ohio, like in other industrial states, he said when he took office and he got that first stimulus package passed, nearly $800 billion, things are going to get better, but a lot of folks in Ohio aren't feeling that yet. And jobs are still being lost.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. And that's one of the keys, I think, is the jobless rate, because when you talk to people about, oh, the GDP improved a little bit, or the second quarter of this or that, people's eyes glaze over. You say, hey, unemployment is approaching 10 percent, or in some of these states it's over it, that is huge.
People get that immediately. And when they don't see any improvement there, no talk of it's a lagging indicator helps, and I think that's part of why you see this falloff.
BLITZER: Candy, don't go away. You'll be back. Thank you.
The world is finally seeing Michael Jackson's children without masks and with at least one of them talking. What might happen now to those three kids?
I'll speak about it with CNN contributor -- with a CNN contributor who's actually met them and knows them.
And you might want to wait before you drink your next bottled water. Experts say there are things you need to know but probably don't.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, men on a mission sneak bomb components into federal buildings, assembled bombs in bathrooms, and carry the explosives into offices with hundreds of employees and heavy public traffic. These men were federal investigators, not actual terrorists. But a new federal report fears terrorists could do the same thing.
Disturbing details about the condition of Michael Jackson's body when he died. A source tells CNN about mysterious yet suggestive marks on his arms. And scaling Mt. Rushmore. Protesters risk their lives (INAUDIBLE) to send a message to President Obama. Is their message acceptable or offensive to the president?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
You might think the massive memorial for Michael Jackson put an end to the hoopla around his death. Yet, many people are still asking serious questions. Among them, where will Michael Jackson be buried? There's no word on that yet.
There are also persistent questions about Jackson, his two oldest children, and Jackson's long-time dermatologist, who's now breaking his silence.
Let's turn to CNN's Kara Finnstrom. She's in Los Angeles working this story for us.
All right. What happened today, Kara?
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it appears that dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein is now making the media rounds. And later tonight he'll be on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE."
Earlier, he was on "Good Morning America," and he's been tweeting since, urging people to check out that interview, during which he made one couched denial.
FINNSTROM (voice-over): Dr. Arnold Klein is speaking out almost one week after the magazine "US Weekly" reported he fathered Michael Jackson's two oldest children.
DR. ARNOLD KLEIN, JACKSON DERMATOLOGIST: All I can tell you is, to the best of my knowledge, I'm not the father of these children. But I'm telling you, if push comes to shove, I can't say anything about it.
FINNSTROM: Klein failing to completely rule out the possibility of being the biological father. Debbie Rowe, who gave birth to the children and was married to Jackson, worked in Klein's office for 23 years.
Klein did offer a clear denial on another front, telling "Good Morning America" he is not on the list of doctors being questioned by Los Angeles police. Sources tell CNN detectives have interviewed numerous physicians linked to Jackson, as they investigate whether prescription drugs prompted his death.
KLEIN: I'm not one of the five doctors. I have not been examined by anyone. OK?
I've not been contacted by the police in Los Angeles. So I don't know what to tell you, but I'm not one of the doctors. FINNSTROM: Klein says he gave Jackson certain medications when he performed painful skin procedures related to a Lupus diagnosis. But he says he never gave Jackson dangerous drugs. He did worry about Jackson getting medication elsewhere.
FINNSTROM: And Klein also told "Good Morning America" that he saw Jackson just three days before his death in his office, that he was singing and dancing for patients with nothing apparently wrong.
Again, he will be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight on CNN -- Wolf.
BLITZER: 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
Thanks very much, Kara, for that report.
Amid all these questions about the kids, there are other questions regarding what will happen to them and what kind of children they are.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Los Angeles, Bryan Monroe, our CNN contributor, the last journalist to interview Michael Jackson.
Let's talk a little bit, Bryan, about these three kids.
Did you ever have a chance to meet any of these kids?
BRYAN MONROE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, actually, I had the opportunity when we did the interview with Michael back in September of 2007 at the hotel. We were actually -- when I knocked on the door, he opened the door and was greeted by Blanket, the youngest son, Prince Michael Jackson II. And he was very friendly, had a candy dish with some Life Savers in it, offered me one. I said, I'm OK.
And then he reached out to shake my hand. And he reached out with his left hand. And Michael stopped him and said, "Oh, no, no, Blanket, not the left hand. Use the right hand."
And it was just that little moment that showed that father-and- son connection. I have got a son about the same age. And it was genuine. And -- and that was the -- the really special thing about seeing the services yesterday and watching the family come together on stage.
We saw Paris, who just brought tears to our eyes with that sincere, you know, daddy, father, you know, I have known you since I have been alive, and -- and that really sincere daughter-father connection.
But, also, I caught the glimpse of -- of Blanket. It was hard to see. As the family embraced, Blanket snuck in off to the side and was right in the middle of Rebbie, and Janet, and LaToya, in the middle of the family. And I think, ultimately, that's where those kids belong, is in the middle of that family.
BLITZER: And we -- we're going to talk about where they're going and what might be in store for them. Blanket is now 7 years old. Paris is 11 years old.
The oldest child is Prince Michael, who's 12 years old right now. We saw him yesterday, but we really didn't hear from him. Is -- is he just basically shy, this kid?
MONROE: Well, all three of them are very close.
I think Paris and Prince, being the older ones, are a little bit more, I guess, mature, and Blanket is a little bit more precocious. But they all are so tight. And that's other piece, is they -- they're in this family of cousins.
All the brothers, you know, Marlon, Tito, Jackie, Jermaine, Randy, and the sisters, Janet, Rebbie, and LaToya, they all are part of that big family. And -- and many of them have their own kids. And, sometimes, their kids have kids. And they're growing up inside that circle of cousins, and with -- with Katherine as the matriarch of the family.
And then you have got Grace, the -- the nanny and Michael's close aide for years, there taking care of them. They call Grace mum. You know, that is that tight family. Plus, then you -- you bring in Diana Ross and her family and her extended family.
Diana, of course, you know, was asked to step in if anything happened to Katherine. And we heard Diana's letter being read yesterday at the funeral. That family and extended family structure is exactly what's needed to raise those kids.
BLITZER: So, you think -- I mean, right now, these three kids -- and they're all obviously very adorable and precocious -- they don't have a father, and they don't have a mother, really, either. They have a grandmother, who's got at least temporary custody of these three kids.
You know Katherine, the mother of Michael Jackson. She is, what, 79 years old. Is she really qualified to raise these three kids right now?
MONROE: Well, she -- I think, again, she is there with a strong support network, that support network in -- of her family and the extended family.
You know, you have Rebbie, who is Michael's oldest sister. Michael was one of nine children, and, in fact, the third -- third youngest of nine children. And, you know, Rebbie will also help raise the kids. You know, you have got that whole family there, whether they're in town or traveling or -- or out on the road. You know, Janet, of course, is a successful artist in her own right. But you saw that moment with Paris leaning on Janet's shoulder. And Janet just reached out to touch her arm, and then, afterwards, gave her that big embrace. That's real. That's the -- that's the image of Michael Jackson that I think we will be left with, is Michael as a father.
BLITZER: Tell us about these two parents of Michael Jackson, Katherine, the mother, and Joe, the father. They -- they have been estranged from each other for a while.
They live in separate areas, is that right, because I guess the question is, what role will the grandfather have, Joe Jackson, in raising these three kids, if any?
MONROE: Yes. Well, Joseph lives in Las Vegas, and has been there probably for the last decade or so. Katherine, of course, with the rest of the family, is at the home in Encino.
And they come together every once in a while. And I know they have a big -- I think it was their 60th anniversary party in -- in Las Vegas a few months ago.
But part of the family, they -- they have learned a lot from Joseph, as both a father, and as their, you know, de facto manager for those first few years coming out of Gary. He was very strict. He was a taskmaster. Some say he was -- he was overly tough. Michael has even talked about it.
BLITZER: Because Michael -- Michael, in his interviews, said he was abusive. And -- and I guess a lot of folks are worried, will he have a role in raising these three kids, if, in fact, he was abusive to his own son?
MONROE: Well, I think, more importantly, that that network of family members, the brothers -- you saw Marlon there talking about the brother he lost, Brandon.
And I think the brothers and the sisters will have a much stronger role with those kids. The grandparents are, of course, very important. But, you know, you got a family of nine brothers and sisters. They are going to make sure those kids are all right.
BLITZER: Bryan Monroe, thanks very much for joining us.
MONROE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And Jim Moret is going to be joining us in the next hour. We're going to have more.
A big mystery right now: Where will Michael Jackson be buried? We will talk about that and more. That's coming up.
Meanwhile, opponents of don't ask, don't tell, they're trying a new approach to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the United States military.
Plus, after giving up the airline's complaint desk, he took his gripe about a broken guitar to a place where he knew he would be heard.
And, later, what brought North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, out of hiding?
BLITZER: There's a new campaign under way right now to try to change the U.S. military's policy on gays and lesbians serving in the United States military. This time, opponents of don't ask, don't tell have recruited new allies, straight service men and women.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's working this story for us, part of increasing pressure on the president to change that policy, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And, at the same time that the highest-ranking military officer is urging a measured change to the policy, others are going full-speed ahead.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): A congressman and combat veteran is launching a nationwide tour to repeal don't ask, don't tell.
REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: In Iraq, my men did not care what race, color, creed, or sexual orientation their fellow paratroopers were.
LAWRENCE: Representative Patrick Murphy is targeting districts where military families live, trying to drum up enough popular support to get the needed votes in Congress. And the tour is using straight soldiers and veterans the reach other troops and their families.
STAFF SERGEANT GENEVIEVE CHASE, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I can speak to people who may not be open to speaking to -- to gays and listening to them.
LAWRENCE: The original law was, homosexuality is not compatible with military service. The 1993 compromise said, the military won't ask recruits if they're gay before being inducted, and gay troops won't tell.
TOMMY SEARS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MILITARY READINESS: Basic human behavior, in terms of relationships between people who may be sexually attracted to each other, has not appreciably changed in 16 years.
LAWRENCE: The Center for Military Readiness says, there's no reason to repeal don't ask, don't tell. And 1,000 former officers agreed. They signed a letter to President Obama that said, "Forcing soldiers to live so closely with openly gay troops for months at a time does hurt morale and cohesion."
But some straight soldiers disagree.
CHASE: Everybody on the opposition used us as saying -- and said, you know, this is going to disrupt unit cohesion and it -- you know, it's going to offend the who are not gay. Well, you know what? We're here to say, no, it doesn't. It doesn't offend us. And stop talking for us.
LAWRENCE: Of course, there are other soldiers who feel differently who may not be as comfortable speaking out. There have a been few hundred gay troops who have been kicked out since President Obama took office. And some critics say he's passing the buck, that he could use his executive power to temporarily suspend these discharges in a time of war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pressure is certainly mounting on him to do precisely that.
Chris, thank you.
Frustrated with customer service? Try taking it to YouTube. That's what one musician did, after he says United Airlines damaged his guitar. The song became an instant hit and a P.R. nightmare for United.
Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
All right, Abbi, explain what happened.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, if you have ever been frustrated with an airline, you need to see this video.
This is Canadian musician Dave Carroll, who says that, last year, on a flight, he watched in horror as baggage handlers smashed his beloved Taylor guitar, as you can hear him singing about right now. And he said he then spent a year desperately trying -- and failing -- to get compensation from United Airlines.
So, he took his case to YouTube.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE CARROLL, MUSICIAN (singing): United, you broke my Taylor guitar. United, United, some big help you are. You broke it, you should fix it. You are libel. Just admit it. I should have flown with someone else, or gone by car, because United breaks guitars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: Now, Carroll has become somewhat of a poster child for frustrated passengers everywhere. It just got posted on Monday. He's now at about 150,000 views on YouTube.
BLITZER: There will be a lot more after this show, I'm sure, as well.
So, is United responding? What are they saying?
TATTON: Amazingly, after about 50,000 views, last night, they called him. A United Airlines spokeswoman says that they're now in conversations to -- quote -- "make what happened right."
They call this video a unique learning opportunity. And, Wolf, they're saying that they're going to be using it internally to ensure better customer service.
BLITZER: I like the song, too. It's a good song.
TATTON: Pretty catchy, right?
BLITZER: Very catchy.
All right, thanks very much, Abbi, for that.
The pope, he's talking about the economy. Will he influence President Obama's economic thinking when the two of them meet later this week?
And dangerous snakes preying on animals, even people, in your own backyard -- that's the fear for many residents in a python-plagued area, especially after a python squeezed the life out of a baby. Now Congress is being urged to do something about it.
BLITZER: Pope Benedict XVI is now weighing in on the global economic crisis.
Let's talk about this and more with our CNN political contributors.
Joining us now, James Carville, the Democratic strategist, and Alex Castellanos, the Republican strategist.
The pope, in a lengthy statement, on the eve G8 Summit in Italy, told the world, "Without doubt, one of the greatest risks for business is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors, thereby limiting -- limited in their social value."
He wants a whole new business structure out there.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He said that -- it was a papal encyclical. He called for taking the profit motive out of business. And he also called to have a world governing body to deal with these economic issues.
And, of course, this is issued right before the president came there. What I'm kind of -- when I read that this morning, and the conservative Catholics accuse the liberal Catholics of being cafeteria Catholics, that we take the -- that we won't take -- we don't like the teaching on married priests, or we don't like the teaching on gays. And, to my conservative Catholic friends, I have a -- I have a, welcome to the cafeteria, because something tells me that they're not going to be taking...
BLITZER: They're not -- they're not going the like this latest edict, if you will.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, a lot of Catholics aren't. A lot of Republicans aren't. A lot of conservatives aren't, because, of course, if -- what the pope, I think, missed is that, if the greatest social program, if you look at it, is American business.
If you looked at it as a social program and judged it that way, it helps more people come out of poverty, it creates more jobs, pays more mortgages, sends kids to school, and, of course, it -- business does well by doing good.
And, of course, it's not just that. It's -- it's our system here is what has made America contribute to charity per capita 12 times more than France.
BLITZER: President Obama will meet -- will meet with the pope on Friday at the Vatican.
How does he deal with a sensitive issue like this?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think that it would be the same as President Obama, certainly, the right-wing Catholics tell us we have to agree with the pope's policy, as I say, on condoms in Africa, or the -- the -- the church's policy on birth control, which -- which we moderate liberal Catholics vehemently disagree with. I'm sure that President Obama vehemently disagrees with this.
But I think he's going to be -- obviously going to be courteous and respective to the pope. I mean, he is the pope. But it -- it shows the dangers of orthodoxy and the dangers of these conservative Catholics lecturing other Catholics about being in the cafeteria, because we are all in the cafeteria.
BLITZER: All right, I want to move on, but make a final point.
CASTELLANOS: I think -- I think that President Obama has a lot to learn from the pope.
And one of those things is that the basic of Christian charity is the old dictum that what's mine is yours. The Obama philosophy so far as been the opposite of that. It's, what's your yours is mine. It's taking. It's using the power of government to take. That's not Christian charity.
BLITZER: Let's talk about...
CASTELLANOS: So, maybe he could learn a little.
BLITZER: Let's talk about his number-one domestic priority. After trying to stabilize the economy and creating jobs, it would be health care reform.
There seems to be some confusion. Your good friend, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff...
BLITZER: ... he confused some people, telling "The Wall Street Journal": "The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest. The goal is non-negotiable. The path is."
That was seen as perhaps saying this public option for health care, for health insurance companies to compete with the private sector may be negotiable.
CARVILLE: Well, I mean, I think what -- what he was saying is, is that's the goal. There are people talking about doing co-ops. They have people talking about doing different things.
I -- frankly, I don't think that there's a better policy than to have the public option. And I think what Rahm was doing is -- is acknowledging the fact that this thing is in the Senate, and that they're trying to move in a direction.
And, look, this is going to be...
BLITZER: Because it narrowly passed in the House. There's a question whether it could pass in the Senate. The White House got so nervous because the liberals, the more liberals in the -- in the Senate, they got -- they got very upset at the statement from Rahm.
The president issued a statement while he was overseas saying, "I am pleased by the progress we are making on health care reform and still believes -- believe, as I have said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies..."
BLITZER: "... to compete and keep them honest."
CASTELLANOS: Wolf, I think it is exactly right.
I think, right now, the House and the president want the government-run plan, what they call the public option. The Senate is a more tempered body and does not. So, at the end of the day, President Obama is burning up his political capital. We just saw him drop 30 points in this new Quinnipiac poll. He's scaring people. People think he's doing too much too soon too fast. If he runs out of political capital, what's the middle ground? How does he bring House and Senate together? A trigger.
CARVILLE: Rahm Emanuel let the cat out of the bag. The trigger is, hey, we don't have to have the government-run plan now. We will just kick it in, in five years, when we decide...
BLITZER: He says...
BLITZER: He says he wants to sign some -- this...
BLITZER: ... into law at the end of August.
CARVILLE: First of all, what I say is that there's one poll that shows him dropping 13 points. It's now 30 points. But, again, if I ran...
CASTELLANOS: ... 30 to even.
CARVILLE: ... if I ran -- if I ran the kind of deficits that these Republicans ran, I wouldn't know anything math either. But we will let that go for right now.
Again, the -- the -- the right tells us that the government can't do anything. Why would they fear a public option? If private enterprise can compete with the public option, no one would take the public option. I -- I don't understand. If they can't organize a one-car parade, what's the fear?
CASTELLANOS: I can explain it to you.
BLITZER: The president, says repeatedly, if you like your plan, your employer-based plan...
BLITZER: ... you like your doctor, nothing will change. CASTELLANOS: But he's also admitted that, well, we won't -- we won't be able to help it if your employer decides to dump you into a cheaper government-run plan.
Look, if you run a grocery store and the government goes across the store and sets up a government-run grocery store -- and, by the way, they don't have to pay their bills. They can just ask your children to pay for it down the road in debt. How long do you think you would be in business? How long do you think you would have the job?
CASTELLANOS: That's a government-run plan will do.
CARVILLE: No, let me give you a real example.
CASTELLANOS: And that's one reason it scares people.
CARVILLE: We have a -- we have a state liquor store system in Virginia. There's a private liquor -- liquor store thing across -- across that street.
I don't know if anybody says, gee, I'm going to go to the government-run store. I mean, that's a -- that -- all this is, is fear. And it's fear driven by the fact that these insurance companies own the Republicans' party lock, stock and barrel.
CARVILLE: You all had eight years to do something about health care. The number of unemployed exploded. Health care costs exploded.
Now you -- now you're saying, everything that you want to do to make things better is all some kind of conspiracy.
CARVILLE: You had your chance, and you all did nothing.
CASTELLANOS: When the government decides to compete with the private sector, it is like an alligator competing for a chicken. And private health insurance is the chicken here. People are going to lose their health care coverage.
Government can hide its costs when it wants to. That's why the president is asking for trillions more in debt.
CARVILLE: So, people from Maryland go across to use the government liquor stores in Virginia, because they can't...
(CROSSTALK) CASTELLANOS: That's a regulatory function.
CARVILLE: No, it's a government-owned...
CASTELLANOS: Virginia just doesn't like people -- it comes from the old days when the government ran the liquor industry.
CARVILLE: They run the -- the government's ABC Store. They're -- it's -- it is a government-run liquor store. I don't know of anybody from Maryland that comes to Virginia to buy booze.
CASTELLANOS: We should -- we should go have a drink and settle this.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much -- a little preview of this debate that's going to intensify over the next several weeks.
There's new reason to fear that a powerful bomb with explosive power like this could find its way into a U.S. government building, the results of a new undercover investigation for Congress.
And CNN learns disturbing new details about the state of Michael Jackson's body on the day he died. We will have those details for you.
And a challenge to President Obama straight from a -- a monument to some of his most -- some of the most successful -- his most successful predecessors.
BLITZER: There's disturbing story developing out on the West Coast.
Let's check in with Deb Feyerick.
What's going on, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we can tell you right now is that the renowned Getty Center art complex is right now in the process of being evacuated, all staff and visitors in that area, officials calling it a precaution.
That's because firefighters right now are battling a blaze, a fast-moving brushfire, they're calling it, that has so far consumed about 14 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains just west of Los Angeles. The California Highway Police have closed certain roads in the area. They're considering closing down a portion of the 405 freeway. Right now, 150 firefighters battling that blaze, along with four aerial helicopters. You can see, pretty dramatic pictures, and, of course, we will have more as it's happening -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stay on top of it. I have been to that area. That is disturbing.
Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, should the government consider a second stimulus package?
Joy writes: "It would be a bitter pill to add even more to the deficit. I'm so frustrated. People I know are desperate for a job. I never see anything on the news about the jobs people are getting because of the first stimulus package. How can we know if it's doing any good?"
Sheree writes: "Yes, but only if it goes directly into the hands of working people and very small businesses to help subsidize college education, mortgage refinancing, funds for upgrading homes with energy savings, et cetera."
Mohamed writes: "Before doing this for a second or third or nth time, can we prove correlation between stimulus and jobs? Tax breaks for manufacturing, industry, targeted tariff protection, and import restrictions could be a better idea."
John in Virginia writes: "Why? They haven't even spent a tenth of the money allocated in the last one they passed. I smell a rat. Either this administration doesn't know what it is doing, or it knows exactly what it's doing. And that scares the hell out of me."
Lee writes: "Absolutely not. The more the government monetizes debt, the more inflation climbs, the harder it is for the economy to recover. The federal and most state governments are drowning in debt as it is."
And Fed says: "The government should not have passed the first stimulus package. The second one would just be more pork to reelect the same corrupt Congress members."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, among hundreds of others.
Interesting they're starting to talk about another stimulus package. When's that midterm election?
BLITZER: That's a little bit more than a year from now.
CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: Yes. All right.
CAFFERTY: Funny how that works, isn't it?
BLITZER: I know. All right, stand by.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.