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President Obama Clarifies Remarks on Harvard Arrest; America's Secret Weapon

Aired July 24, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Another story breaking this hour, a walk of defiance. The ousted president of Honduras returns home on foot, vowing he's not afraid of what may happen next. We have our own reporter on the scene right now. 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.

Breaking news this hour. The president steps back from his fighting words with police in a red-hot dispute over race. He now admits he made matters worse when he said an officer, in his words, acted stupidly by arresting a renowned African-American scholar. Mr. Obama unexpectedly appeared in the White House briefing room just a few hours ago. He stopped short of an apology, but it was a stark reversal and a classic example of damage control. Listen to what he told reporters after a phone conversation he had with the arresting officer, Sergeant Jim Crowley.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because this has been ratcheting up and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately, I think, gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge police department or Sergeant Crowley specifically. And I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.

I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.


BLITZER: The president spoke just a couple of hours after the Cambridge police officers urged the president to formally apologize. Here is an snippet of what went on during that officials' news conference and behind the scenes.


SGT. DENNIS O'CONNOR, CAMBRIDGE POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: We hope that they will reflect upon their past comments and apologize to the men and women of the Cambridge Police Department.

KELLY KING, CAMBRIDGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: I was appalled. I know Jimmy. I have known him for more than the 11 years with the Cambridge Police. I knew when he worked for Harvard. I know him to be a good police officer, a good man with character, and I knew these charges were bogus.


BLITZER: CNN's Don Lemon was at that news conference in Cambridge and was the only reporter allowed in with the officers behind closed doors.

Don Lemon is joining us now.

You followed up with these officers, Don. Are they satisfied with what the president said this afternoon?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I got to tell you, Wolf, it was a very different mood from what happened inside the press conference and then inside the room where it was so emotional and people were crying and hugging Sergeant Crowley.

And then afterwards, I wanted to know the reaction after the president called, and I spoke with one of the people that you saw there, the sergeant, the black sergeant, who was on the scene that day.


SGT. LEON LASHLEY, CAMBRIDGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: That's what he needed to do. And I'm glad he did it. And, like I said before, I will always support him, because that's the president I chose, I voted for.

And there were other people who said, well, I'm not going to vote for him now. But everybody says things -- or some people do things. Nobody is perfect. And that's what we -- we live in a world where nobody is actually perfect. We all make mistakes, and if you confront them and honestly, we can overcome them.


BLITZER: So, it looks, Don, like the president's damage control is clearly working.


You know, everyone I spoke to, people who had dealt with this sort of thing, people who teach diversity said, you know what, the president probably will realize very soon that he made a mistake and that he went -- possibly went a little too far without knowing all of the information.

And, as he said, he may have ratcheted this up without even realizing that he was going to do that. So, I think the president realized very early on what he did, came out, tried to correct it. And I think the officers here are happy so far. And they're all looking forward, Wolf, they tell me, to going to the White House and meeting the president and hanging out on his lawn.

BLITZER: Who wouldn't?

All right. Thanks very much, Don, for that.

Just a short while ago, the White House revealed that the president also called the professor whose arrest triggered this entire uproar. That would be professor Henry Louis Gates. The White House says they had a -- and there was a positive discussion, and that he also invited professor Gates to join him and Sergeant Crowley at the White House for a beer, the president of the United States, the professor, and the police officer all getting together presumably in the next few days for a beer.

We're going to have a lot more on this breaking story, including the president's remarks at length and unfiltered. Plus, the best political team on television standing by to consider whether the president wants to talk about race or not.

And in what we call our chalk talk segment, when should police officers make an arrest and when should they simply walk away? All that still to come.

Now to another breaking story this hour, an astounding power play right on the border of Honduras. Check out this live picture. That's the ousted president of Honduras. He is sitting in that car. We're talking about Jose Manuel Zelaya. He could be arrested at any minute. Here's why.

He walked across the border today and returned to his homeland. It was a brazen act of defiance against the military leaders who overthrew him in a coup almost a month ago. We're standing by to find out what happens next.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is on the scene for us. He is joining us on the phone.

Update us. What's the latest, Karl?

I think we just lost our connection with Karl Penhaul. He is there, but Zelaya is still there.

Karl, are you there?

Unfortunately, he is not there, but we will try to connect with Karl Penhaul and see if we can get an update. We're watching this story, what happens to the ousted Honduran president.

Meantime, let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There's a lot of other people there, though. It's crowded, busy place.


BLITZER: Very crowded.

CAFFERTY: All right.

As Alaska Governor Sarah Palin gets ready to quit Sunday and become the former Alaska governor, a new poll might put a damper on her future political plans. "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows 53 percent of Americans view Palin negatively.

Only 40 percent see her in positive terms. That's the lowest level in this poll since she was tapped to be the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Palin, of course, one of the most polarizing figures in modern politics. She is still quite popular among members of her own party. Seventy percent of Republicans view her in a positive light. But that number is down from preelection levels.

More importantly, she's also lost ground among white evangelicals, which is, of course, the base of the Republican Party. Here's some more -- 57 percent of those surveyed say that Sarah Palin does not understand complex issues. What's wrong with the other 43 percent? I guess maybe they didn't see the Katie Couric interviews -- 47 percent say Sarah Palin understands problems of people like them. And only 40 percent say she is a strong leader.

Sarah Palin, who is leaving office about 18 months early, says she plans to campaign for Republican candidates. A lot of people think she's got her eye on a White House run in 2012, but this poll shows Palin running third behind Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.

Sarah Palin has also been in the spotlight since last fall's election for some other not-so-great reasons, including ongoing ethics charges, as well as public family feuds.

Here's the question. Is Sarah Palin still relevant?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.

First time in the history of "The Cafferty File," Wolf, that Sarah Palin did not get the most e-mail. The Gates issue beat her probably 5-1.

BLITZER: We still have an hour.

CAFFERTY: Well, we do. That's true.

BLITZER: Let's see what Sarah Palin critics and fans...

CAFFERTY: It's too early to call this race?

BLITZER: Too early.


CAFFERTY: OK. BLITZER: We will wait until at least 6:55. I will see you then.

CAFFERTY: Until the outlying precincts report.

BLITZER: Right near the end of the hour.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

Only on CNN, insurgents hunted by one of the U.S. military's most crucial weapons. It closes in for the kill without putting any U.S. troops at risk. CNN's Nic Robertson takes us inside an air because where unmanned technology is changing the way America fights wars.

Also this hour, a SITUATION ROOM investigation, homeland security put to the test. Is the federal government living up to the standards set by the 9/11 Commission? CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports on five years of progress and failure.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our story, the arrest of professor Henry Louis Gates. And President Obama's comments, they're stirring up very strong emotions on an important subject.

We want to step back and take a closer look at the law. When should police actually arrest someone they think is being unruly, and when should they simply walk away?

Two guests are joining us now as part of our chalk talk. Angela Davis is a professor of law at the American University here in Washington, D.C., and Lou Cannon is with Washington's Fraternal Order of Police.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here as well.

Tom, set this segment up, what we're trying to do.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If we're looking at just the law here, let's just take a citizen at his house. And here is a police officer who has been called there, as they were in this case, to talk about a crime probably in progress.

Lou, when this officer arrives, what does he need to by procedure do or be aware of? What are his key points?

LOUIS CANNON, PRESIDENT, D.C. FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: His key thing is, he wants to assess the situation. He wants to also be aware of the safety for himself and for everybody else in the area.

FOREMAN: OK. So, we have assessing, and, two, safety. So, he is figuring out if there's a crime and whether or not everybody is safe.

Angela, what about this citizen? What should that person reasonably expect under the law in this circumstance?

ANGELA DAVIS, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW: Well, a police officer has been called to someone's home, and the question is, what has he been called there for?

If a person is in their own home, the police officer doesn't have the right to come into a person's home to arrest them without a warrant, except under certain circumstances.

FOREMAN: So, they should expect...

DAVIS: So, it depends on where the person is.

FOREMAN: So, they should expect personal security and the security of their home...

DAVIS: Exactly.

FOREMAN: and to some degree information?

DAVIS: Not really information. The police officers don't really have to explain why they're there, unfortunately. But the police officers, unless there's an exception to the warrant requirement, usually, usually, have to have a warrant, unless the person gives them permission to come in.

BLITZER: Does it make any difference, Lou, if the person who is being questioned by the police officer has an attitude or is being cooperative? Should that play a role in any of this?

CANNON: Should it play a role? It should not play a role, but we know that it does.

Everybody that we're talking about here is a human person. So that's going to cause an impact. If somebody comes at the officer with an attitude, obviously, he is going to weigh that into his assessment of the situation. If I'm there and this is this person's home...


BLITZER: Hold on one second, because, Angela, I think you disagree.


DAVIS: I do.

FOREMAN: And I want to turn this so Angela can look at the actual law here. This is what the statute says up in Massachusetts, because I know that's what you want to talk about.

This is what constitutes disorderly conduct. This is sort of shorthand, but basically fighting or threatening to fight, violent or tumultuous behavior, reasonably likely to affect the public, whatever you are doing, and intended to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.

That's what the officers are looking for. What's wrong with that, Angela?

DAVIS: And that's the key here. There's no law that says you can't have an attitude. That's not against the law to have an attitude. It's not.

But disorderly conduct is one of those vague, broad statutes that leave the officer a lot of discretion, and that's what we're talking about here. Police officers have tremendous discretion. They don't have to arrest even if they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. And that's the question, when they use that discretion to arrest some people and not others and whether it's based on race, unconsciously, or not.

The problem here is that there's a big question about whether there was even probable cause to believe that there was a disorderly conduct charge. If you look at those words that you just turned away there, it talks about tumultuous behavior, alarming behavior, et cetera, in the public.

And the fact that this police officer called professor Gates out of his house -- and why did he call him out of his house? If you look at the very words of his police report...


FOREMAN: The police report says professor Gates followed him out of the house, and there were eight members of the public standing on the street watching.

DAVIS: The police report says that the police officer said, if you want to talk to me, come out of the house.

FOREMAN: That's true.


DAVIS: And the officer then makes a point of explaining why he called him out, saying that the acoustics in his kitchen were not good?

I have looked at a lot of police reports in my life. I find that incredible, that a police officer would say you need to come outside because your acoustics in your kitchen are so bad that I need to call you out.

He has to be in public in order to be arrested. And it certainly sounds like he was calling him out because he was angry with him for being called a racist to give him a reason to arrest him, and that's an abuse of discretion.

BLITZER: Well, Lou, we have spoken very -- many times over the years. Knowing what you know about this case -- we know the charges of disorderly conduct were dropped against professor Gates, but was there probable cause that he should have been arrested by this police officer?

CANNON: First of all, I wasn't on the scene, so I have to go by what I have been told. Based on everything I have been told, based on the action, I would have to say, yes, the officer had probable cause.

Now, what the courts decide to do after that is something that's up to the courts. But, based on what was presented and what I think everybody has heard, I do believe that the officer was fully in his rights to have -- make the arrest.

FOREMAN: What made it probable to you, though? Let's say they're here at the house. They have had this confrontation. Neither one of them is happy about it. And you wouldn't be happy if somebody came to your home and said, show me I.D. They're standing out here now. The officer has stepped away some. He's here.

There are other officers on the scene by this point. Why wouldn't he just say, the guy is upset, let's get out of here?

CANNON: Because, at this point, Mr. Gates apparently has followed him out, or he has come out of the house.

Mr. Gates has elevated the situation. He has been warned to quiet down. As a matter of fact, he was warned twice. He was warned once, and then he said, look, the officer believed -- pulled his cuffs out and said, I'm going to have to arrest you if you don't calm down, or words to that effect.

Mr. Gates continued. At that point, it's a discretionary call, I agree. But I think that the officer used his discretion and made the right call there. But I think one of the other key things here, also...


BLITZER: That's your opinion. You disagree.

DAVIS: And the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts disagrees, because that court has held that it's a violation of the First Amendment to use a disorderly conduct statute to arrest someone for loud expressive behavior, even if it's abusive.

BLITZER: And we know that...


DAVIS: That's not disorderly conduct.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there. We know the charges were dropped, but the controversy continues. It's a good thing that all of us are having this conversation, because you know what? We're all learning something about a very sensitive and important issue that clearly is out there from the police perspective and from the judicial perspective, from all of our perspectives.

(CROSSTALK) CANNON: And I think the healing process went a long way to start today by the president initiating the telephone call to the parties.

BLITZER: That's -- you are absolutely right, guys. Thanks very much for both of you coming in.

Tom, thank you.

Congressional Democrats are in disarray over health care reform right now, but their boss is upbeat. All right, we apologize for that audio problem. We will fix it. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is telling our John, though, what she thinks about the health care debate right now.

And insurgents hunted from above by missile-firing drones piloted by operators thousands of miles away -- a closer look at the behind the scenes. What's going on involving one of America's top-secret weapons?

And shocking images after a deadly plane mishap -- what happened when an Iranian airliner skidded off the runway?



BLITZER: President Obama isn't entirely backing down in the dispute over the arrest of a black police officer.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some who say that as president I shouldn't have stepped into this at all, because it's a local issue.

I have to tell you that that thing -- that part of it, I disagree with.


BLITZER: Meant to say the arrest of a black professor by a white police officer. Stand by to hear the president in his own words, his surprise remarks on the racial dispute that has been boiling for days.

Also ahead, Sarah Palin is about to step down this weekend as the governor of Alaska -- new evidence that it may be a really bad career move. Maybe not, though.

And we're keeping our live camera trained on a possible showdown in Honduras right now. The ousted president is back weeks after the military toppled him, and anything could happen.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news this hour. President Obama caught everyone by surprise. One minute, he was in the middle of a boiling controversy over the arrest of a black scholar. The next, he was inviting the scholar and the arresting officer to the White House for a beer.

Listen to the president in his own words during his unexpected remarks over at the White House Briefing Room earlier today.


OBAMA: I wanted to address you guys directly, because over the last day and a half, obviously, there's been all sorts of controversy around the incident that happened in Cambridge with Professor Gates and the police department there.

I actually just had a conversation with Sergeant Jim Crowley, the officer involved. And I have to tell you that, as I said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was a outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in the phone conversation. And I told him that.

And I -- because this has been ratcheting up and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately, I think, gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge police department or Sergeant Crowley specifically. And I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.

I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.

My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.

The fact that it has garnered so much attention, I think, is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America. And, you know, so to the extent that my choice of words didn't illuminate, but rather contributed to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate.

What I would like to do then is make sure that everybody steps back for a moment, recognizes that these are two decent people, not extrapolate too much from the facts, but, as I said at the press conference, be mindful of the fact that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African-Americans are sensitive to these issues.

And even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the African-American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding.

My hope is that, as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a teachable moment, where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities. And that, instead of pointing accusations, we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.

Lord knows, we need it right now, because over the last two days, as we've discussed this issue, I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody has been paying much attention to health care.

I will not use this time to spend more words on health care, although I can't guarantee that that will be true next week.

But I just wanted to emphasize that -- one last point I guess I would make. There are some who say that as president, I shouldn't have stepped into this at all, because it's a local issue. I have to tell you that, that thing -- that part of it I disagree with.

The fact that this has become such a big issue, I think, is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society. And whether I were black or while, I think that me commenting on this -- and hopefully contributing to constructive as opposed to negative understandings about the issue -- is part of my portfolio.

So at the end of the conversation, there was discussion about -- my conversation with Sergeant Crowley -- there was discussion about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House. We don't know if that's scheduled yet, but...


OBAMA: But we may put that together.

He also did say -- he wanted to find out if there was a way of getting the press off his lawn.


OBAMA: I -- I informed him that I can't get the press off my lawn.


OBAMA: He pointed out that my lawn is bigger than his lawn.


OBAMA: But if anybody has any connections to the Boston press as well as the national press, Sergeant Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass.

All right?

Thank you, guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: This drama involving the president, the professor and the police officer certainly driving home the challenge of being the first African-American president.

When should Mr. Obama talk about race?

When should he simply back away?

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

All good questions, very sensitive, the issue of race.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. But, you know, President Obama has been asked about race at press conferences before and until this week, has avoided addressing it, in, again, in that unscripted context of a presidential press conference.

The first time was in March, when he was asked if race has influenced any of his discussions or decisions since he got into the White House.

Let's listen.


OBAMA: The last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we're going to fix the economy. And that affects black, brown and white.


YELLIN: So you see he didn't address it head-on there. And then several months later, he was asked whether his administration is going to do anything to target the particular problem of rapidly rising unemployment among African-Americans in particular.

He avoided addressing race directly again.


OBAMA: The best thing that I can do for the African-American community or the Latino community or the Asian community, whatever community, is to get the economy as a whole moving.


YELLIN: And then again, you know what happened this week. And today, as we just heard, he said that addressing race and these tricky issues is part of his job description.


OBAMA: And I think that me commenting on this -- and hopefully contributing to constructive, as opposed to negative, understandings about the issue -- is part of my portfolio.


YELLIN: So, clearly, he has stayed away from tackling this issue head-on in these press conferences until now.

The question is, what's changed?

BLITZER: Good question.

Let's talk about it with Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst; David Frum, the former speechwriter for President Bush; and Nia-Malika Henderson of

What's changed?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you had a specific situation that occurred right before a presidential press conference. And talking to people in the White House, I knew they were expecting this question. I think the president botched it. But I think he thought that he had a bully pulpit and an opportunity to talk about this situation in kind of a teachable moment way.

It didn't quite happen that way, but -- but I applaud him for at least trying to answer the question.

BLITZER: And as he himself acknowledged, the professor happens to be a personal friend of his.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Right. That's when he made it an even bigger mistake than it already was.

The president had this problem -- race is probably the second most interesting subject in American life, after sex. And health care ranks there somewhere with electrical utility reform.

And so if you allow people and the media to move you from health care to race, that's where everyone is going to be. And if you want the country to be focused on a technical and demanding subject, don't give them this kind of water cooler excitement.

BORGER: You think he got off message just a little bit?



BLITZER: You know, because when he speaks before the NAACP, for example, as he did the other night, obviously, he has to address the issue of race.

But when he speaks generally, he tries to avoid it, doesn't he, Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he does. I mean, you mentioned the NAACP. He was very forceful in talking about discrimination and some of the racial disparities. And, in some ways, what he said at this press conference was a continuation of that speech -- acknowledging racial profiling.

So I mean it will be interesting going forward -- I mean he talked about this being a teachable moment.

The question is, what has he learned?

Does he revert back to this kind of nuanced discussion of race or does he speak about it more openly and (INAUDIBLE)?

BORGER: You know, one question I have -- remember Bill Clinton always said that he made the most mistakes when he was tired?

And I thought President Obama looked a little tired at that press conference. And we're seeing a lot of President Obama. Maybe we need to kind of -- he needs to cool it a little bit, because maybe this was a mistake he wouldn't have made if he's not out there 24-7.

BLITZER: That's an excellent point. It sounds like something my mother would say, as well.


BLITZER: But it's an excellent point, Gloria. And I'm sure -- let's go back to Jessica right now. Her mother tells her the same thing, I'm sure, all the time, as well -- all right, Jessica, let's talk about Sarah...


BLITZER: ...Sarah Palin a little bit right now. She's getting ready to step down this weekend as governor of Alaska.

YELLIN: That's right. Much better than talking about my mother.

This is Sarah Palin's last work day on the job. And as you can see, oh, the moving van has already pulled up. That's the governor's mansion.

Here is the latest window, Wolf, into just how bright her future will be.

There's a new ABC News "Washington Post" poll out. And it shows Sarah Palin is still enormously popular among Republicans. Her favorability rating there is 70 percent.

But here's the news for her. That is down 18 percent among Republicans since her high right after the Republican Convention. So she's lost 18 percent approval among those Republicans.

Now, when pollsters asked what I consider an unusual question, they asked, does Sarah Palin understand complex issues, 40 percent of Republicans say she does not.

Now you know who agrees with that? Seventy percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Independents.

Important to pause and note that some of Palin's likely or possible opponents, like Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal or Tim Pawlenty -- no one has asked whether they understand complex questions in a poll.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a good point, Jessica.

Let's talk about Sarah Palin.

It sounds like a double standard.

BORGER: No one's heard of any of...


BLITZER: Is there a double standard out there?

BORGER: Yes, I think there is. But nobody's heard of -- of those three.

BLITZER: Tim Pawlenty is the governor of Minnesota.

BORGER: Yes...

BLITZER: Bobby Jindal...

BORGER: Yes. They're not...

BLITZER: ...the governor of Louisiana.

BORGER: They're really not as well-known as Sarah Palin. But...

BLITZER: Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas.

BORGER: That's right. But, you know, the big number in that poll that stuck with me was that 51 percent of Independent voters have an unfavorable view of her.

So if you're going to run nationally, you have to get those Independent voters to like you and to think you're smart.

BLITZER: Look ahead.

What's in store for Sarah Palin, politically, in the next year, two years, five years?

FRUM: She's going to make a boatload of money over the next year. And as -- as she does that, it's going to, I think, trigger a lot of the questions more intensely than ever. Because as she makes the money, it will answer the question of why -- or seem to answer why did she resign?

She didn't give a very good answer. I think a lot of these ethics issues are going to go away. But I mean the idea that you're so bogged down by these, what you yourself correctly call trivial issues, meanwhile you're pursuing money. Now we know why you left.

And I don't know that that's a good reason to leave a governorship. It's not like she's taken some higher or more demanding or new public responsibility. She's left for personal reasons.

BLITZER: The definition of boatload of money is millions and millions of dollars, which she'll make on her book, her speeches, television appearances...


BLITZER: ...whatever she's going to do.

HENDERSON: Yes. I'm sure she's going to...

BLITZER: She's going to become pretty wealthy pretty quickly.

HENDERSON: Yes. And I'm sure she'll be on "Oprah" and all over the place.

I think that question is, in 2010, who calls on Sarah Palin to campaign for them?

Is this she going to be called down to Florida to campaign in that race, or New Jersey or some of these purple states?

So I think that will be a real, you know, a kind of indication of her viability.

BLITZER: She's a fascinating, intriguing political character. And she's going to be very, very obvious to all of us what she's doing (INAUDIBLE).

Thanks very much.

Only on CNN, hunting insurgents with one of the military's top secret weapons.

Our own Nic Robertson takes us behind-the-scenes.


BLITZER: Hunted down by high tech weapons controlled from half a world away -- how America is fighting the next war right now.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, with a behind-the-scenes look that you'll see only here on CNN.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Watch these two men in Iraq. They have no idea they're being hunted by a deadly UAV. It is following their every move -- even recording them fire their weapons. They have no idea their insurgent activities have been spotted and no idea the UAV operator, thousands of miles away, is about to fire a missile at them. It's what makes UAVs, or drones, a must-have for the U.S. military.

GEN. DAVID DEPTULA, U.S. AIR FORCE: The real advantage of unmanned aerial systems is they allow you to project power without projecting vulnerability.

ROBERTSON: This is Creech Air Force base, where drone pilots remotely fly missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. These pilots saw a surge in mission requests from frontline commanders after weapons were first installed on drones.

COL. CHRIS CHAMBLISS, U.S. AIR FORCE: When we put Hellfire missiles on the Predator, now you've got these airplanes that are capable not only of providing the pictures -- the full motion video that you need, but now they're also capable of taking out targets where there may not be any other assets available.

ROBERTSON: An estimated 40 or more countries -- including China, Russia and Pakistan -- are also developing drones. Even Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based political party and paramilitary group, has used them against Israel.

No one feels the urgency of staying ahead of the competition more than the personnel at Creech Air Force Base.

CHAMBLISS: Right now, we're hanging onto everybody in the system. We've mobilized the international guard, mobilized the reservists. If you are assigned to Creech right now, we don't allow you to move out.

ROBERTSON: Already, commanders are considering ways to cut out pilots altogether.

DEPTULA: We're looking at a future where we can program unmanned aerial vehicles to operate autonomously and within groups among themselves.

ROBERTSON: (on camera): With weapons?

DEPTULA: With weapons or without weapons.

ROBERTSON: (voice-over): Unimaginable a few years ago, new weapons appeared destined to work with less and less human input.

PETER SINGER, AUTHOR, "WIRED FOR WAR": There's nothing that's a technologic barrier to using armed autonomous systems. And there's -- we think about it as a never, ever, ever thing and yet, it's not the technology that's holding us back. It's trying to figure out the applications of it.

ROBERTSON: (on camera): Unmanned technology is here to stay. Wars will never be the same again. If ever there's a moment to borrow a line from a science fiction movie, now is it. Mankind is boldly and irreversibly going where man has never been before -- toward an uncharted era in warfare.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. (END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: A SITUATION ROOM investigation -- how safe is America today?


JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: What do you think is the biggest gap right now in homeland security?


BLITZER: Surprising findings in a report card on just how many of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations have been met.

And you're looking at a live picture out of Honduras right now, as the ousted Honduran leader returns to his country despite a vow by the new government to arrest him.


BLITZER: Now, a CNN Broken Government investigation. Five years on, the 9/11 Commission revisits its recommendations to prevent another -- another terror attack on U.S. soil.

How many of the recommendations, though, have been met?

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is here.

She has the answer.

So what's the bottom line -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a new bipartisan group comprised of 9/11 Commission members and other security experts says the U.S. Has not done all it needs to do to protect the nation from terrorists.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not think you could exceed...

MESERVE: (voice-over): It was five years ago this week that the 9/11 Commission issued its landmark report making specific recommendations on how to best prevent another terrorist attack.

Commission Co-Chair Governor Thomas Kean says only about 80 percent of them have been implemented.

THOMAS KEAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: Well, I'm worried that 20 percent haven't been addressed. Also, we're -- among the 80 percent, the things are not fully done.

MESERVE: Kean and his 9/11 co-chair, Representative Lee Hamilton, are among the experts on the new bipartisan National Security Preparedness Group, which is trying to close the remaining security gaps. One of the most glaring right here in Washington -- the group says it is absurd that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has scores of Congressional committees sapping her time and attention.

KEAN: She reports to over 80 different committees. And that's not oversight at all.

MESERVE: The political reality is this -- no member of Congress wants to give up power.

Politics has also hurt efforts to create more secure identity documents. The nation's governors, including then Governor Napolitano, rose in revolt over a law called real I.D. Which implemented 9/11 recommendations to tighten the issuance of driver's licenses. Now, Congress is considering something called Pass I.D. Which is less expensive and, in the eyes of Commission members, less secure.

(on camera): Is it as good as the country needs?

KEAN: No. I would like to see the full -- but if you can't get it done, you know, this is a democracy. If you can't get something done, you just can't get it done. And then you go as far as you can ago.

MESERVE: (voice-over): Other shortcomings cited by the group -- the failure to implement a system to track whether visitors leave the country; it says information sharing among agencies has improved, but isn't good enough; and the ability of emergency responders to talk to one another and work together in an emergency is still a work in progress.

New threats have emerged since the 9/11 Commission report, notably cyber attacks. And the Homeland Security secretary agrees that protective measures must continue to evolve.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is not a static thing, that we have to constantly, every day, be thinking about what are the threats confronting our country, how do we minimize them, how do we protect the people of the United States?


MESERVE: The 9/11 Commission was mandated by Congress. And its report, so close to the attacks on New York and Washington, had a tremendous impact. This follow-up group is trying to use its prestige to counteract the complacency that's set in since then and push forward the unfinished business of securing the nation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they finish that, because this is real important.

Jeanne, thanks very much.

Now, we're getting reaction from Professor Henry Lewis Gates to President Obama's phone call to him and to Sergeant Crowley earlier in the day.

This is what Professor Gates has now e-mailed our own Don Lemon just moments ago: "Yes, I was very pleased with -- that the president called me today and I was pleased that he propose that I meet with Sergeant Crowley at the White House, since I had offered to meet with him since last Monday. I am eager for this to be used as a teaching moment to improve racial relations in America. This is certainly not about me."

A positive response from Professor Gates.

Earlier, a positive response from Sergeant Crowley.

We're waiting for them to come together for a beer over at the White House.

Soon Sarah Palin will no longer be governor of Alaska -- is she looking for bigger political fish to fry?

And a little blue robot gives the pink Energizer bunny some competition -- it's one of our Friday Hot Shots.


BLITZER: Here's a look at our Hot Shots.

In Switzerland, tomatoes are mixed with shattered glass after a greenhouse is damaged by a hail storm.

In India, Bill Gates meets with the country's health minister to talk about malaria and HIV.

In Japan, Panasonic unveils new batteries powering a robot on a race course.

And in Cincinnati, check it out -- a baby mallard duck swims around its mother.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty once again.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Quack. Quack. I like those Hot Shots.

BLITZER: I do, too.

CAFFERTY: And the baby ducks are adorable. They're covered with fuzz as opposed to feathers.

The question this hour as we wind up on a Friday, is Sarah Palin still relevant?

She's finishing up in the middle of her first term. She's going to resign, I think, on Sunday. Joan writes from Florida: "Sarah Palin is the American political joke of the 2008 election. The sad thing is she was created by a candidate and party who thought they might be pulling the wool over the eyes of the American electorate. It was a shabby, tacky tactic that failed, as it should have."

Chris in Atlanta: "Your question assumes she was relevant in the first place. All she's ever been is a joke and a distraction. I mean, what a brilliant move, to quit halfway through your first term as governor and then tell people how you're not a quitter. Is Tina Fey writing this stuff for her or is she writing it for "Saturday Night Live?" Sarah, go away so the media can focus on more important things, like who Britney Spears is dating."

G. writes: "Unless Palin's looks take a nosedive, she'll be just fine. That's what's propelled her through life so far.

Terrance writes: "While I don't believe Mrs. Palin would make a good leader, I do think it would be unwise for us Democrats to underestimate her relevance to the Republican base."

Curt says: "I'm not sure if Palin's still relevant. But it seems to me she's her own worst enemy. She needs to take a step back, learn to think before she speaks -- "pals around with terrorists," "the real America," etc. That might be good fodder for the most radical portion of her party. But as for myself, who's a person who doesn't see politics as a blood sport, but rather a catalyst that determines the direction our nation will take, I have a hard time viewing Sarah Palin as little more than a circus sideshow."

And Brad finally says: "Relevant to people looking for leaders? No. Relevant for "Saturday Night Live?" maybe. Relevant as a role model for quitters? Yes."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look there -- 7,000 e-mails or something. I quit now. I'll be back Monday.

BLITZER: Did the polls close already?

Who got more e-mail?

CAFFERTY: Oh, not even close. Sarah Palin didn't get it done this time. And she has been the runaway number one e-mail generator anytime we use her in this segment.

But today, it was all about Gates and Obama and the -- and the police department at Cambridge.

BLITZER: Have a great weekend, Jack.

See you Monday.

CAFFERTY: You, too.

All right, Wolf. BLITZER: We'll be back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's go to Lou.

He's in New York -- Lou.