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Health Care Reform Push Intensifies; Bailout Cost

Aired July 21, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He has gone before the cameras six days out of the last seven to act as cheerleader in chief. And, yet, we have new evidence that the public and fellow Democrats are more jittery about reform.

Here is what the president had to say today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some will try to delay action until the special interests can kill it while others will simply focus on scoring political points. We've done that before. And we can choose to follow that playbook again, and then we'll never get over the goal line and will face an even greater crisis in the years to come.


BLITZER: I e-mailed a top White House official and asked if health care reform, if it were a football game, how close would the president be toward his goal? The response, the president would be more than halfway to victory, at his opponent's 45 yard line.

Around the same time I got that response, the number-two Democrat in the House was sending a message of his own. The majority leader, Steny Hoyer, is signaling that the House could leave for its month- long August rate without voting on a health care overhaul.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's working the story for us.

Dana, how significant is Steny Hoyer's remark?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is issuing, Wolf, because a big problem the president has here on Capitol Hill is a divide within his own Democratic Party. Many conservative Democrats not happy with their party's plan, because they say it doesn't do enough to control costs.

So, this is a signal. Even suggesting a delay is a signal that it is going to be very hard to bridge that divide, though I can tell you that we are learning that there was some progress in the meeting at the White House with the president and some of those conservative Democrats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there are closed-door meetings going on behind you over here on Capitol Hill. What are you hearing? (CROSSTALK)

BASH: Well, you see behind me these meetings have been going on all day long. In fact, they have really been going on for months, but they have taken on a new significance as we get closer to the time that they leave for the August recess.

And we are actually waiting to hear from the Senate Finance chairman. He's going to come out any minute. But they're holding their cards a little bit close to the vest. However, I can tell you we are learning about some new ideas, specifically on the vexing issue of how do you pay for the near trillion dollar price tag.

What they are talking about is potentially, potentially taxing insurance companies to help pay for that. You remember the president nixed the idea of taxing -- or imposing a new tax on employer-based benefits. Well, this is a concept that would, instead, tax insurance companies. We will see how far that gets.

BLITZER: Dana is on the Hill. Stand by. We are going to check with you to see what else is going on.

One more headache for the president right now. A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows 50 percent of Americans now disapprove of Mr. Obama's handling of health care reform. It's the first survey that shows more people disapprove than improve of his track record on health care, at least right now.

Let's get to allegations now, very disturbing allegations, that one of the most prominent scholars in the United States is a victim of racial profiling. We are talking about the Harvard university professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. And these are his mug shots.

Authorities in Cambridge, Massachusetts, today dropped a disorderly conduct charge against him, calling his arrest on Thursday regrettable and unfortunate. Gates calls the incident outrageous.

Let's walk over to CNN's Tom Foreman, who has been checking this story for us.

This is a man, really one of the most remarkable scholars in America. I remember reading this book "The Future of Race" that he co-wrote with Cornel West years ago.

It's shocking, what happened. Walk us through what happened.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shocking and, yet, if you listen to the police account of it, routine, because they say they were simply responding to a call.

This is the result. He winds up in handcuffs. But let's take a look at how it got that way. We're going to fly in here and look at Massachusetts, the neighborhood he was in. If you know Boston at all, you will have a sense that here is where he was. Boston is across the river over here. You come across the Charles, past MIT, down to Harvard, down in this area, which is where he lives. So, let's move into his particular neighborhood and listen to what the police said. What police say happened is they got a call from a neighbor who said, there is a man trying to break into a house, appeared to be.

The police report says, they showed up. They saw a man inside, just inside the door. They went over and knocked on the door and said, we have a report someone was trying to break in here. Can you show some identification, tell you who they -- who you are?

He said, right from the beginning, according to the police officer, they say that, immediately, professor Gates starting saying that they were racists, that they were only targeting him because he was a black man. He had demanded their own identification. They produced it. They said, why don't you come outside and talk to us? This is all according to the police report.

On and on, the conversation went. Eventually, he did come outside. And police say, finally, they warned him, if you keep following after us, yelling, creating a public disturbance here over this issue, we have established it's your home, we are leaving you alone now, we're going to have to do something about it. They say he persisted. And, in the end, the result was exactly what we are looking at a moment ago, Wolf. And that is he wound up in handcuffs on the porch, Wolf. And it all went from there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom, stand by.

Here is what professor Gates told "The Washington Post" about his arrest. And I'm quoting now: "This is how poor black men across the country are treated every day in the criminal justice system. It is one thing to write about it, but altogether another thing to experience it."

Let's go to the scene to Cambridge, Massachusetts. That's where CNN's Joe Johns is watching the story for us.

What's been the reaction in Cambridge, Joe, to this story?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is one of those situations that's sort of emblematic of a larger discussion about race and the police in this country that really hasn't been resolved yet, that question, that perception, rightly or wrongly, that African-American men are more likely to see themselves going from a confrontation with the police to an arrest, regardless of the circumstances.

And here is what I'm talking about. I had an e-mail conversation today with an African-American writer I have known for years from Boston. And he immediately started questioning the -- the motivations of the police. He said, what is it about a situation where you see a 58-year-old man inside a house with a cane who apparently uses a chauffeur to get around that would make a police officer think that this was a burglary in progress? On the other hand, a lot of whites you speak with, a lot of whites who have spoken to our colleagues, the affiliates here, say, hey, the police are only doing their jobs. They're in a situation where there is a report of a crime in progress. And what do you expect them to do?

So, at the end of the day, Gates says that he is a case study in the situation. And you can understand why there's as lot of debate about it -- Wolf.

MATTHEWS: Joe Johns up in Cambridge.

The poll numbers show this gap between whites and blacks in the United States. African-Americans are less optimistic about the state of race relations right now in the United States than they were when President Obama was first elected.

Look at this -- 55 percent of blacks surveyed in May said racial discrimination is a serious problem. That's up from 58 percent in November in the CNN/"Essence" magazine/Opinion Research Corporation, pretty disturbing, white numbers very, very different in that poll.

Tomorrow, by the way, on CNN, we are going to carry a prime-time White House news conference by President Obama. That will be live at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's followed by the debut of CNN's special report, "Black in America 2."

Let's turn to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: This isn't exactly breaking news, but almost every state in the nation is hurting financially. More unemployed people along with cuts in consumer spending mean states are collecting a lot less in taxes. That means bigger and bigger budget shortfalls.

"The Financial Times" reports one estimate shows tax collections down 12 percent across the board during the first quarter of this year for the states, 45 of 50 states reporting declines, early numbers for April and May even worse, showing declines in tax revenue of at least 20 percent.

Also, some are now questioning how effective the federal stimulus package has been if the states are spending billions of stimulus dollars and still can't close budget shortfalls.

There are only two choices when it comes to all this. You know what they are. You have either got to raise revenue or cut expenses. Revenue would be taxes. Many states have made cuts to school districts, health care programs for the disabled, the prison system, and state employees.

California is even issuing IOUs now for things like welfare checks. The bad news is, this may not be a temporary situation. These cuts to state budgets may be the new reality going forward. Almost two-thirds of states are projecting budget gaps for 2011. And at least 15 states already see gaps as far out as 2012.

And, by then, all the federal stimulus money will have dried up, unless they appropriate more.

Here's the question: What government services are you willing to see reduced or eliminated? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Get ready, some interesting comments, no doubt, coming up.

CAFFERTY: I think so, yes.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

If you have been listening to some of President Obama's critics, you might think he has a Napoleon complex. We're going to go beyond the fighting words over health care to tell you what's really happening in the trenches right here in Washington.

Plus, the tally for all federal rescue efforts now more than $23 trillion. Yes, you heard that right. Why don't we know a lot more about where all that money is going?

And blowing up planes to protect them -- federal scientists are experimenting right now with ways to stop terrorists in their tracks.


BLITZER: Republicans see a hole in President Obama's armor when it comes to health care.

Let's get a time-out from the political rhetoric to find out what is really going on.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here, along with the best political team on television.

Jessica, the Democrats, the president doesn't have enough votes right now, because the Democrats sort of divided, but he is working to get that support.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is working very hard, Wolf. But, still, one Republican senator said that health care could be President Obama's Waterloo, the defeat that cost Napoleon his empire.

Now, those are fighting words. As you know, Wolf, no American politician wants to be compared to a French man. Apologies to our international audience. And, of course, you can see the size comparison between the two, so I won't make the Napoleon is short joke.

But what really matters here is that the president is doing political jujitsu. He is using the opening shot by Senator DeMint to turn it against the Republican Party. Let's listen.


OBAMA: This isn't about me. This isn't about politics.

Time and again, we have heard excuses to delay and defeat reform.


YELLIN: Now, Republican -- now, Democratic groups, I should say, are also seizing on DeMint's words. They have new mailings, as you can see, that have gone out all afternoon using the words against the party, and also a new Web ad quoting the Waterloo comment and other things. They are accusing those who want to slow down reform as being cynics.

Now, Wolf, that argument as you know ignores the fact that there are real policy decisions yet to be resolved, like how to pay for all this reform. So, who is being the cynic here?

BLITZER: All right, stand by for a second, Jessica. We are going to get back to you.

Let's talk about that, the whole image issue that the president has, his role model, if you will.

Gloria Borger is here, David Frum, the former Bush White House speechwriter, and Candy Crowley.

Gloria, who should the president look to as a role model to get this job done?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe LBJ. He needs to do a little arm-twisting.

And when you talk about cynics, it is not just the Republicans, some of whom have come out and said they want to kill the bill. But it's also Democrats. And the president has problems in his own party that he needs to tend to right now, Wolf. So, it is not just Republicans. It is Democrats who are looking at this bill, conservative, moderate Democrats, who are saying, wait a minute, we don't like it either.

BLITZER: Because LBJ on domestic issues and major changes, he got the job done.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: LBJ had an even bigger Democratic majority than this president does and it was a very different time.

The president should look to the architects of 1986 tax reform, a major success that was negotiated by both parties. When President Clinton tried health care reform, Daniel Patrick Moynihan advised him, anything big passes the Senate 70-30, or it doesn't pass at all. The president is turning this into a political war. The Republicans are to blame, too. This is a problem America needs help with. But the parties have to deal in good faith. I am not sure the president is doing that.

BLITZER: A lot of people believe, Candy, that the president, he would like to find some Republican support, but there are a whole bunch of liberals, especially in the House, who say, you know what, the Republicans, who needs them?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that is what the House really is like. It has been -- that was the complaint during the stimulus debate was, well, the Democrats are leaving us out of the conversation.

But let me just disagree here just slightly with Gloria. I don't think the president should crack heads. I go here. When you look at when Reagan, for instance, got the budget deal, that was bringing everyone together. So, did he have people cracking heads? You betcha. But it wasn't him.

He was out there being Mr. Cool.

BORGER: But I do think it's within his own party. It's the liberals he has got to deal with.


CROWLEY: ... his own party, but I don't think he should crack heads.

BORGER: Well, he needs to negotiate. Let's put it that way.


BLITZER: But is that his style, to crack heads? LBJ, he could do that.


BORGER: No, but he needs -- what I think he needs to do is tell people where he stands, finally, on this bill, because he hasn't actually drawn any lines in the sand for us and said, this is what I will accept. This is what I won't accept.

The White House says it is too early. I am not so sure.

FRUM: He is paying the price for his stimulus bill, where he handed the keys to Congress and said, spend money. Give away everything to all these Democratic constituencies, and we will label it as an economic stimulus.

The result is, he now has a terribly tight fiscal environment. He gave away $800 billion for what? He has this terribly tight fiscal environment. And he has a bad mood on Capitol Hill. And he also has potentially driven moderate deal-making Republicans into the arms of the more extremist in the party.

BLITZER: Let's move on to another subject. It involves the inspector general for the bailout is out with a brand-new report. And there is something missing in that report. Banks that take bailout money to the tune of billions and billions of dollars do not necessarily have to account where -- for where exactly that money is being spent.

Let's bring back Jessica.

Jessica, explain what is going on here.

YELLIN: OK, this is about the real world vs. bailout world. And we are going to go over here and take a look at all this.

In the real world, organizations that get federal government money have to declare where it is going. So, for example, if a charity group gets 50,000 federal dollars, it has to report how much money went to, say, medical care or to feed the hungry. The same goes for universities. Even for stimulus money, they have accounted for where it goes down to the dollar.

Now, that's the real world. Here is bailout world. When the U.S. government gives a bank say $10 million, that bank does not report exactly where it is spent. Now, the feds say, well, it would be impossible to trace that money. It's just not how banks do their bookkeeping. That is not how they account for their funds.

Treasury officials point us to a Web site. We took a look at it. It says how much banks are lending. And they say lending is what really matters. But the question here is for a president who promised transparency and who promised higher standards, Wolf, is all this really delivering on those promises?

BLITZER: Is it, Candy?

CROWLEY: No, but it is a small -- it is one of those promises that doesn't make that much difference. It's kind of like, I am going to put up bills five days before I sign them.

He is working on health care reform. It is that kind of promise that he can't afford to not deliver on. This is one of those arcane things that people go, yes, OK. You know, move on.


BLITZER: ... billions and trillions.



FRUM: Well, they are going to be happy or unhappy with the result. If banks don't lend, people suffer. And, meanwhile, there are all of these terrible ideas floating around the Obama administration as it copes with the unpopularity of TARP, like, for example, feeding TARP money through the Small Business Administration to give to small enterprises, one of the most scandal-plagued agencies in Washington, and, unfortunately, also one of the strongest on Capitol Hill. You will never close down TARP if SBA gets its hand on that money.

BORGER: I think what the inspector general did today is hand Republicans talking points, because it is easier to go after Tim Geithner than it is to go after Barack Obama.

And he also said today that TARP is going to cost $23 trillion. I'm not an economic expert, but every single one I spoke to today said, that's just not going to happen. But yet it's going to be used as a talking point for the president's opponents and for Treasury's opponents.

CROWLEY: But, in fairness, it was also a talking point on the campaign trail, when everyone said, well, the Bush administration has no idea where this TARP money went. They don't have any idea.

So, it works both ways. And I am sure it will be seized upon by Republicans. But Barack Obama was one of those who was critical about, where did that money go?


BORGER: ... P.R. problem. Hoist on his own petard on that.

BLITZER: You notice, Gloria, the president did make the point of saying today, Goldman Sachs, for example, that took the TARP money, they returned the TARP money with interest, interest that went to the U.S. Treasury.

BORGER: Right. It remains to be seen whether we're going to get all the TARP money back, but we certainly know that it isn't going to cost us what the inspector general said today.


BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, guys. But we will continue tomorrow. Thanks very much.

The mother of an autistic child says her son was a victim of abuse in his own school.


ROSEMARIE CASTO, MOTHER OF AUTISTIC CHILD: I am going to have to live with this guilt. And I know everybody says it's not -- you should not feel guilty. This is my boy.


BLITZER: It's a CNN investigation into the danger for special- needs children when restraints to control their behavior are misused.

And the hotel that helped bring down a president on the auction block today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-five million dollars. Any advance? Twenty-five million dollars. Any advance? Here it goes.




BLITZER: A mother's anger, a son allegedly abused and a school blamed.


ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: This is when he was injured at school, and this ended up being his very last day of school.


BLITZER: Stand by for a very special CNN investigation, dramatic security video and tough questions about the use of restraints on kids with special needs.

And why would the federal government blow up luggage and planes? It's all in the name of fighting terrorists.

And the question that left embattled Governor Mark Sanford speechless.


BLITZER: While your kids on summer vacation right now, we're learning more about a threat to the lives of some public school students.

Take a look at this. It's a school security camera showing an autistic Florida teenager being physically restrained. His parents say he was abused. Shocking cases like this one have been reported to Congress of special-needs children under restraint getting hurt and even killed.

Here is CNN Special Investigations Correspondent Abbie Boudreau.


ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christopher out for a walk. That spin, a sign of autism. No one argues this teenager has been a very difficult child to manage. But here he is again last October. The abrasions, his parents say, they are signs of abuse.

(on camera): Yes, look at this. This is when he was injured at school, and this ended up being his very last day of school. (voice-over): The school said the injury happened during a BARR procedure, or brief assisted relaxation restraint. And this is how that relaxation technique looks on school security video. What you are seeing is footage from the Princeton House Charter School for children with autism in Orlando, Florida.

Notes sent home in 2008 by Princeton House show a disturbing escalation of Christopher's disruptive behavior.

CASTO: He slowly started to become a loner. He started to become really quiet.

BOUDREAU: And his mother says he was becoming increasingly violent, so destructive his parents even had to call the police for help. As things got worse, they started asking questions, which brings us to this tape.

When they got it, they could barely watch.

CASTO: And, every day, he would say, ma, no class, no school. I said, papa, no, you have to go to school. You have to.

And I am going to have to live with this guilt. And I know everybody says it's not -- you should not feel guilty. This is my boy.

BOUDREAU: The video chronicles two days last October. It was given to Christopher's parents, who showed it to us.

October 2, Christopher flips his desk, not uncommon for children with autism. And then he gets dragged from class repeatedly. At lunch, he is put in a face-down, prone restraint for seven minutes. A short time later, he's restrained another 10 minutes.

Finally, this scene in the library. With a staff member next to him, Christopher upends a table and is once again restrained. Teachers struggle to pin him down.

PROF. WANDA MOHR, UMDNJ: This is what disturbs me. These staff members are not in physical control of him.

BOUDREAU: For Professor Wanda Moore, a top expert on special needs children, these are precisely the kinds of situations where children have been seriously injured, sometimes fatally.

MOORE: It's one of those things where but for the grace of God go I. This is why we stress that these are interventions or procedures of very last resort, because they are deadly.

BOUDREAU: Florida regulations only allow restraints to "prevent injury to self and/or others," for example, in cases of hitting, kicking, head-butting another person." None of that happened prior to the restraints we saw on the tape.

And while common sense dictates there should be consequences for bad behavior, according to experts, that approach doesn't work well with autism. Princeton House's core staff were trained by the Professional Crisis Management Association in Sunrise, Florida. The director of that program says while he's not seen Christopher in person and doesn't know a lot about the teenager's background, the behavior on tape did not seem to merit the staff's reaction.

MERRILL WINSTON, PCMA: Several things, in my opinion, were not done directly. In several of those instances, it didn't like a crisis to me. It looked like a single episode of table flipping.

BOUDREAU: (on camera): So should he have been put in prone restraint?

WINSTON: From what I could see, I would have to say no.

BOUDREAU: (voice-over): We asked Princeton House, Orange County public schools and the state Department of Education to speak with us on camera about the video, but they all declined because the incidents are now under investigation.

Christopher is now at a new school and is doing much better. His parents say they're wiser for what they went through. And so far, Christopher has not need to be restrained even once.


BOUDREAU: But, Wolf, although he's doing much better, Christopher's family is not letting go of what happened. They intend to sue the school for child abuse and federal civil rights violations -- Wolf.

Abbi, thanks very much.

Let's bring back Tom Foreman.


Also joining us, Congressman George Miller of California, the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee.

And Jane Hudson -- she's here, senior staff tone for the National Disability Rights Network.

I want to go to the congressman in a moment.

What's your immediate reaction -- your first impression seeing that report?

JANE HUDSON, NATIONAL DISABILITIES RIGHTS NETWORK: That that student is not the only student in the country that this is happening to. There's hundreds of stuff. And the Government Accountability Office, Congressman Miller, our agency, many other agencies have documented this over the last several years.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you a question about this. If we run this video here and we look for a moment -- and the target area we're going to pay the attention to is right here with this young man.


FOREMAN: This is where it happens. He comes in here and suddenly he flips over the desk and he gets surrounded by people here.

When this happens, at this moment -- Congressman, let me ask you.

What rights should this young student have at that point?

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D-CA), EDUCATION & LABOR CHAIRMAN: Well, the first right he should have is whether or not his parents have been informed that this -- these actions are being taken against him.

Secondly, I think when you see an incident like that happen, the first thing would be for the staff to gather themselves and make a judgment about what's taking place here rather than just pouncing on this student -- essentially almost from behind -- surprising him, or in the cafeteria, humiliating him.

And what you see is this apparently was done over and over and over again without any improvement in the young man's behavior.

I don't know all of the particulars of this case, but what the Government Accountability Office told us is these -- these actions against these students are taken over and over and over again. And -- and nothing changes, because they're not properly trained. They're not assessing whether this is effective or not effective, is this helpful or not helpful?

They're just simply out of control in many states and many school districts.

BLITZER: So, Jane, I just want your -- is it your sense that some of these people -- they probably think they're doing the right thing, protecting the student, protecting others in that room -- are just not well-trained for this kind of autism?

HUDSON: That's right. There's no training. There's often not school policies or state laws or federal laws on setting the standard. So it's ad hoc. They figure out how to do it themselves.

And in this case, as Congressman Miller said, you know, what caused this incident?

If it happened many times, what strategies were used to prevent it in the first place?

FOREMAN: So what rights should these people have -- the teachers and the people in the room are the adults, because, as you know, if he hurt somebody in the room, they'd be the first ones who were nailed for that.

What should they do?

What rights should they have? HUDSON: Actually, they have a right to be trained. And many teachers are not trained and they're put in classrooms with these students. Also, substitute teachers are not trained, often, or school bus drivers or others. They really need the training because there are ways to prevent these incidents from happening and to take control in the classroom.

FOREMAN: So more parental involvement, we're hearing; more training for the staff on...

HUDSON: Right.

FOREMAN: -- on call.

BLITZER: Congressman, is there a role for the federal government in -- in all of this?

MILLER: Well, I think, clearly, there is. These -- many of these children are certainly being financed with -- with Individuals With Disability funding. But there's -- there's obviously an interest in -- in the humane treatment of these -- of these individuals and doing something that is effective.

The Obama administration -- the Department of Education is working with the states, with our committees, with the General Accounting Office, trying to come up with a policy, hopefully, to put the states in the lead. Some states have gone and developed fairly decent policy in terms of parental notification, training, outlawing re -- certain restraints and seclusions that have taken place in the past.

And what we're trying to do is gather that information, come up with a model set of codes and ask the states to -- to put them into place. And if they don't, then the federal government can -- can step in. But remember, for a number of kids, this has been deadly. They have died as a result of this. It's not just a question of whether they're humiliated or they're harmed or -- or frightened and all of the terrible things. They have died.

And the other thing that's happened, this -- these actions are being taken against very young children -- four, five, six, seven years old.

So this is way out of control in terms of how we treat children, whether they have disabilities or they don't have disabilities...

FOREMAN: Congressman...

MILLER: ...and certainly when you do it without first clearing it with their parents.

FOREMAN: You raise a good point here about the children. And that's the last question that I want to raise here.

What about the rest of the people in this room?

What about all these other children over here?

Because many parents have dealt with the issue of having a disruptive or a troubled child in a classroom and they find themselves saying what about all the other kids when we're so worried about taking care of this problem?

Should we have better mechanisms when a child is having problems this severe to get them out of that environment for the good of these kids?

What do you do about that?

MILLER: Well, we have a process that's been in the law now for 30 years. It is called an Individualized Education Plan. You sit down with the child. You sit down with the parents. You sit down with the school district and you work out a plan of action for the most difficult children, for the multiply disabled, for those who can -- can function and not function.

But you work out a conscious plan. You don't just wait for the child to -- to act out in some fashion that they may or may not be in control of and then pounce on them with physical abuse and sit on them until they suffocate to death.

BLITZER: We've got...

MILLER: That's just unacceptable. We have a process in the law and hundreds of thousands of parents and children and school districts and others go through it every year and they seem to manage this. But we have other situations where they're simply out of control.

BLITZER: Congressman George Miller, thanks very much for coming in.

Also, Jane Hudson, senior staff attorney for the National Disability Rights Network. An important subject, Tom.

We're not going to go far away. We're going to continue to pursue this, as well.

Looking for explosives disguised as shoes, candy and cough medicine?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeanne Meserve in Atlantic City, where they're building bombs to make your flight safer.


BLITZER: Wow! Look at that. You might think it's a horrible act of terrorism, but guess what?

It's not. It's actually meant to prevent attackers from bringing bombs on planes.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is over at a special government lab in Atlantic City in New Jersey watching this story for us -- Jeanne, what's going on there?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm in a warehouse full of thousands and thousands of suitcases. Because a bomb can be hidden in a piece of luggage, these are valuable tools in the search for better aviation security.


MESERVE: (voice-over): Airplanes blown to smithereens all in the name of science and security. But wait. This story really begins at the Transportation Security Laboratory in Atlantic City, where Patrick O'Connor builds bombs for the government.

PATRICK O'CONNOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY LAB: This is a real explosive that I have here in my hand.

MESERVE: O'Connor has built hundreds of improvised explosive devices disguised as electronics, footwear, even an innocuous looking stack of DVDs. The designs evolve based on intelligence about the bombs terrorists are building.

O'CONNOR: You usually use a thief to catch a thief and that's what we do here.

MESERVE: some of the bombs are detonated in old planes to test whether a similar device could bring down a flight. Others are put in luggage and run through screening machines. If the bombs are not detected, scientists try to close the security gap to beat the terrorists.

SUSAN HALLOWELL, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY LAB: It's a game of cat and mouse. We understand what they're doing. They understand, to some measure, what we're doing. And we counteract that with better, improved technology.

MESERVE: Machines are not the total answer.

ROBIN KANE, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR, TSA: And, at the end of the day, the technology detects very specific threats. It does not detect a terrorist.

MESERVE: But better machines would be a valuable tool. Scientists do a high resolution cross section scan of a peanut M&M to show us how they might someday be able to ferret out explosive material by examining its density and granularity. Others are trying to crack the problem of detecting liquid explosives by capturing and measuring the vapors emitted from a homemade concoction concealed in a bottle of cold medicine.

HALLOWELL: Well, I can't tell you what's in the micro bottle, but it's something that -- that's really bad that we need to keep off the airplanes.

MESERVE: Not all the work being done here will lead to better bomb detection. But some might and could prevent something like this.


MESERVE: Researchers here practice something they call bagology. They will take a piece of luggage like this, fully loaded, and put it through a scanning machine to try and determine what sort of ordinary objects set off false alarms. That way they can eliminate them, making aviation screening more efficient as well as more effective -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Jeanne, quickly, what's in all those suitcases around you?

MESERVE: They are packed with everything a traveler would have them in them. This is genuine lost luggage. There's dirty laundry, there's shampoo. Once upon a time, they found a severed ram's head in one of these suitcases. They have no idea how it got there, what it was doing there. But it smelled. Trust me, they got rid of that piece of luggage -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm glad they did.

All right. A good report.

Jeanne, thank you.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.


Tonight, much more on the showdown over the president's controversial health care proposals. The president declaring: "The time for talk is through," as he tries to force his proposals through Congress, demanding an August 1st legislative deadline.

Opponents of the president's health care plans refusing to be intimidated. And public opinion polls now show the president losing support. We'll examine the increasingly nasty battle in our face-off debate tonight.

And a rising number of gun owners all across the country say President Obama is threatening their Second Amendment rights. They're rushing to gun shops. They're buying ammunition. We'll have a special report on what is now a nationwide critical shortage of ammunition across the country.

Join us for all of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you, what, in about 14 minutes.

DOBBS: You bet.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

South Carolina's governor tries to hold a news conference today, but it gets pretty awkward and very quickly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WYFF)

QUESTION: Where is your ring?


QUESTION: Where's your wedding ring?


BLITZER: How Mark Sanford responded to questions about his lack of a wedding ring.

And what possible reason could there be for our own Jeanne Moos to combine these two images into one story?

Here's a hint -- it has something to do with their outfits.


BLITZER: Some awkward moments today for the South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, as reporters grilled him about his extramarital affair, including a question about his wedding ring.

Over at a news conference, the Republican governor tried to move past discussions of the affair, but reporters repeatedly returned to the issue.


SANFORD: Life and the choices that we make begin each day anew. And so it's as much of a distraction as you want to make it. I -- I'm going to move on with my life.

The question is will you?

QUESTION: If it becomes apparent that it -- it is always going to be a distraction with you, then are you going to resign?

SANFORD: I'll turn it to you this way.

Have you made a mistake, large or small, in your life?

QUESTION: I'm asking you.

SANFORD: Well, I'm asking you. I think we all do. And I think -- in other words, we've all acknowledged that this has been painful. It's been -- it's been what it is. But it is time to move on. And that's what I intend to do.

QUESTION: Where's your ring?

SANFORD: What's that?

QUESTION: Where's the wedding ring?


QUESTION: Why aren't you wearing it?

QUESTION: You're still married to your wife, correct?

Or are you still (INAUDIBLE) that Argentine (INAUDIBLE) your soul mate?


QUESTION: How much time is going to be taken away from your job to try and fix things with your wife?

SANFORD: If I didn't think it was more than possible to do great at both, I wouldn't be standing here.


BLITZER: It was Governor Sanford's first public appearance since an interview with the Associated Press last month.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got the Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: He is beyond annoying -- beyond annoying.

Wasn't he one of the self-righteous ones that couldn't wait to condemn Bill Clinton over his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky?



The question this hour is, what government services are you willing to see reduced or eliminated in light of the ongoing financial crisis that is confronting all of the states?

Ira writes: "The way to cut spending, cut the budget for every federal department by a minimum of 10 percent. Every cabinet department needs to bear the burden of that cut. Start by cutting the staff at each agency, including Congressional, judicial, executive offices. Cut, cut, cut. The general population has to tighten its belt, so should the federal government."

Remo in Pflugerville, Texas -- that's a real town: "Jack, do we need to light every inch of every street, road and highway? Do we need to cut the grass along the highway, as well? In my little town, do need to collect the trash twice a week? Do they need to mow the grass in the park when we're in extreme drought conditions? Can a little common sense be used instead of service overkill?"

Karen writes: "Social programs for illegal immigrants in the United States don't make sense to me."

Carl in Aurora, Illinois: "I'd like to see the elimination of farm subsidies and corporate welfare before we take services from those existing at the bottom rung of the ladder."

A.C. writes: "How about cutting back on mail delivery from six days a week to three? I could do just fine with mail Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday."

Robert writes: "How about canceling a war or two? There's a service I'd be willing to cut back on. It should free up a few hundred billion to give to the states."

J. writes: "Start with the House and Senate and then work your way out from there."

And Nuria says: "How about the IRS? Can we get rid of that?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

I would vote for that IRS idea.


BLITZER: I'm not surprised, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Everybody would.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: See you tomorrow.

BLITZER: It's an unlikely pairing -- only Jeanne Moos could explain what President Obama and a naked cowboy have in common.

And getting ready for the solar eclipse in Asia -- that and more in our Hot Shots.


BLITZER: Some of today's Hot Shots.

In India, students try out some goggles as they prepare for a solar eclipse. It's the longest solar eclipse this century and will be seen by millions across Asia.

In Rome, synchronized swimmers perform a technical routine during the Swimming World Championships.

In Somalia, a militant carries a weapon on his shoulder as he patrols the streets of Mogadishu.

And in Germany, check it out -- two new -- newborn Asian bear calves sit in a basket over at the Berlin Zoo.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

It's been said that clothes make the man. And if that's true, then to some, President Obama looks more like a soccer mom than the country's chief executive.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a Moost Unusual look at political attire.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Health care -- who cares?

We have President Obama's response to recent attacks on his jeans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And these look frumpy.


MOOS: Got you, Mr. President. In an exclusive interview with NBC, President Obama confessed even his wife makes fun of him.


OBAMA: Up until a few years ago, I only had four suits. She used to tease me, because they'd get really shiny. I hate to shop.


MOOS: That's no excuse for not having someone else go shopping to replace what critics called "mom jeans."

Jimmy Kimmel presented this attack ad.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: Man up, Mr. President, and lose the Barack Omama jeans. We need a president who dresses like this guy.


KIMMEL: Paid for by proud Americans who wear normal pants.


MOOS: Your reply, sir?


OBAMA: Those jeans are comfortable. And for those of you who, you know, want your president to, you know, look great in his tight jeans, I'm sorry. I'm not the guy.


MOOS (on camera): There is one would-be politician who can't get slack for his jeans because he doesn't wear any. He doesn't wear any pants in public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the naked cowboy

MOOS (voice-over): Now, he wants to be the naked mayor of New York City, taking on a fully clothed Michael Bloomberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on the charts of the TV news

MOOS: Who need political ads?

The naked cowboy is a Times Square institution -- a man who worries about his image by checking it in his guitar. A man of many layers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Two pairs of underwear.

MOOS: So what if some complain we already had a cowboy in high office. Every phrase he utters can be a campaign slogan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't forget the pack, honey. Don't touch the squishy parts.

MOOS: His guitar was once adorned with McCain/Palin stickers. His political insight back on election day was keen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a landslide -- McCain.

MOOS: Talk about naked ambitions -- he's just announcing for mayor. But on his guitar pick shaped Web site, you'd think he's running for president.


MOOS: Hail to the briefs.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you gotta do what you gotta do.

MOOS: ...New York.


BLITZER: Good stuff.

That's it.

Tomorrow, David Axelrod, Lindsey Graham, Rudy Giuliani, among others, in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go to Lou.

He's in New York -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.