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THE SITUATION ROOM
Jackson Doctor's Home Searched; Sotomayor One Step Closer to Supreme Court
Aired July 28, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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 what authorities are describing as a Mumbai-type terror operation. But this is not something hatched overseas, but in North Carolina. Authorities have now seven men in custody and are looking for an eighth.
Let's go to CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's in Raleigh with details.
What do we know about this, Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is a U.S. citizen, the son of a Marine, a convert to Islam. He fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets. And now he is accused of conspiring to commit violent jihad by recruiting, among others, two of his own sons.
MESERVE (voice-over): Willow Spring, North Carolina, seems an unlikely place to find terrorists. But, on Monday, a SWAT team swept down on this house to arrest Daniel Boyd. Two of his sons and four other suspects were also picked up.
STEVE EMERSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE INVESTIGATIVE PROJECT ON TERRORISM: They had all sworn to be martyrs. They had all sworn to carry out jihad operations, and they had all sworn their hatred of the United States.
MESERVE: In the early 1990s, Daniel Boyd fought against the Soviet in Afghanistan. More recently, the government alleges, he used his street cred and experience to recruit young men in the Raleigh area to wage jihad overseas. According to court documents, they amassed a cache of weapons and trained with them in rural North Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would compare this potential in this case that they could have conducted another Mumbai type attack. They could have traveled to a more populated area in the United States and in using that tremendous arsenal could have killed hundreds of people before being stopped by the police. MESERVE: But they did not target the U.S. The government alleges members of the group traveled to Gaza, Jordan, Israel, Kosovo, and Pakistan to wage violent jihad, without success.
A friend of Boyd's wife, Sabrina, read a statement on her behalf.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Charges have not been substantiated. We are an ordinary family. We have the right to justice and we believe that justice will prevail."
MESERVE: The authorities say they are looking for an eighth man in connection with this investigation. He may still be in Pakistan, where he went to wage holy war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Any indication, Jeanne, why the authorities decided to bust these guys this week?
MESERVE: Well, a neighbor told me that the boys had had a yard sale at their home this past weekend, and a law enforcement source said to me there were indications that some of this group may have intended to change their location.
Of course, they had a lot of weaponry, they had training. Those may be some clues as to why they moved in yesterday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve working the story in North Carolina.
Terrorists thirsty for innocent lives are part of the reason the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan apparently wants more help and more aid. General Stanley McChrystal is President Obama's point man for the new Afghanistan war strategy. And now the general is expected to make a major request.
Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what are you learning right now?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, General McChrystal is just days away from reporting to Defense Secretary Gates and the White House about his assessment on how the war is going.
We are now being told by a senior U.S. military official, McChrystal is very much expected to ask for more help, more troops and more equipment for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and of course to counter those roadside bombs, those IEDs, which are now the number-one killer of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Still to be decided, how many additional combat forces to ask for. Wolf, the month is not over and already this month has been the deadliest month of the war. General McChrystal looking to turn all of that around -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We will see how many more troops he wants. Thank you. We also have updates on two stories you care a great deal about. One impacts your health. The other could change U.S. history.
Regarding the push for health care reform, President Obama is trying to convince a tough crowd, the nation's seniors. He went to the headquarters of the AARP for a town hall type event and directly addressed many of their fears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, "I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare."
And, you know -- you know, I wanted to say, well, you know, I mean, this -- that's what Medicare is, is it's a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with. But -- but I think that we've been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can't sort out the myth from the reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Regarding a different kind of reality, America is now one step closer to seeing historic change. Sonia Sotomayor is on track to becoming the first Hispanic ever on the United States Supreme Court. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended she be seated. The vote, 13 yes, six no. All the Democrats on the committee voted for Sotomayor. All the Republicans voted against her, except one. That would be the South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who explained his vote this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would not have chosen her but I understand why President Obama did.
I gladly give her my vote, because I think she meets the qualification test that was used in Scalia and Ginsburg. And if she, by being on the court, will inspire young women, particularly Latino women, to seek a career in the law, that would be a good thing. And I believe she will. I wish her well. America has changed for the better with her selection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The full Senate could vote to confirm Sotomayor next week.
The Michael Jackson death investigation took another stunning twist today. Federal agents and police searched the Las Vegas home and office of the pop star's personal physician. He allegedly gave Jackson a powerful anesthetic in the hours before he died.
Let's go to Las Vegas. CNN's Ted Rowlands is looking into all of this for us.
What is the latest, Ted?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two search warrants, one served at the home of Conrad Murray while Conrad Murray was in the home, that took about three hours. And they took from Conrad Murray's home some computer hard drives and some cell phones.
The other search warrant has been going on for six-plus hours, and that is the one going on behind me here at Conrad Murray's Nevada medical clinic. He has a practice in Houston, Texas, one here in Nevada. And then he is also licensed in California.
That's the big headline here today, two more search warrants to go to that other one in Houston last week. Conrad Murray is not a suspect in this case, but clearly he is the center of a great deal of the attention during this ongoing investigation. We are still waiting for the coroner's report. We expect that possibly as early as the end of this week.
BLITZER: Ted, I understand you are also learning more about that search in Houston last week and the involvement of another woman.
ROWLANDS: Yes, one of the things that caught a lot of people's eyes were a few e-mails between Conrad Murray and a woman who is identified in that search warrant. We have been able to find out through a source close to the investigation that that woman rented a storage locker in Houston in her name but was using it for Conrad Murray.
And what they were looking for, according to this source, was correspondence between Murray and this woman in the days after Michael Jackson's death. And they did take a couple of e-mails during that search warrant.
BLITZER: Ted Rowlands on the scene in Vegas for us, thank you.
Let's go to Jack. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the cash for clunkers program is a win-win situation for everyone. That's according to the government, which says the $1 billion plan will help the environment, automakers and drivers who want to trade up out of their old cars.
Under this program, taxpayer money will be used to give people a credit of up to $4,500 to replace their gas guzzlers. The idea is they use that money to buy certain new vehicles that are more fuel- efficient. They trade-in cars have to be less than 25 years old and the titles have to be clean, no liens.
The program already has about 16,000 registered auto dealers signed on. And some say that showroom traffic has been picking up since the program's official start on July the 1st. About 250,000 cars are expected to be junked through this program before it ends November the 1st. Hopefully, it will jump-start auto sales, which have been down about 35 percent across the industry. But not everybody is so sure that this cash for clunkers thing is a good idea. Under the plan, the gas guzzlers must be destroyed. And some auto recyclers say they will lose a lot of money in sales from old engines and other car parts.
And they also say the program will hurt lower-income buyers who can't afford a new car, even with the government credit. And they say that destroying the cars will drive up the prices for spare parts.
So, here is the question: Is cash for clunkers a good idea?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
You had the secretary of transportation on this program yesterday. And he was -- he couldn't have been any more excited about this. He says, it's a great idea.
BLITZER: Yes. And some people are going to get those thousands of dollars. They're going to think it is a good idea, too, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, we will see how it works.
BLITZER: Yes, I agree. All right, Jack, thank you.
Police say an 8-year-old girl was raped. Four young boys are charged. But, in a shocking twist, the girl's own mother and sister are siding with the alleged attackers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing has happened to my daughter. And nobody not touched my daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She always bring trouble. She always bring trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Could a family's doubt about a girl's rape help set free an alleged attacker?
And broken government. A soldier suffers through multiple bombings in war, but he was sent back to war repeatedly. The tragedy that happened to him is a warning to all other troops serving right now.
BLITZER: Only on CNN, a rape case so unusual it's pitting a mother against her own daughter. Taking the victim's side, police in Phoenix Arizona. Doubting the victim's case, the 8-year-old's mother, sister, and the accused perpetrators.
Before you question the motives for this familial divide, there is a cultural explanation. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is in Phoenix -- Thelma.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, many of the residents who live in this apartment complex are Liberian refugees. And because of the sensitive nature of this case, Phoenix police had to bring in a specially trained unit to try to help out with the investigation.
(voice-over): Detective Jerry Oliver has investigated crimes in Phoenix for 20 years. As a father, he told us, this one really moved him.
DETECTIVE JERRY OLIVER, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: This was a tough case.
GUTIERREZ: So, you get the call that an 8-year-old girl has been gang-raped. You are called in to assist.
OLIVER: Yes, we had two issues we had to deal with. One was the 8-year-old victim of a sexual assault, and the other was the victim and the suspect actually being from the same refugee community, which was a Liberian community.
GUTIERREZ (voice-over): A small tight-knit community of refugees from West Africa thrust into the spotlight maybe the alleged rape of a girl by four young boys, children now in police custody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see my son. I want to see my son.
GUTIERREZ: The mother cries for 14-year-old Steven Tuopeh. Police say Tuopeh and three other boys, 13, 10, and 9, lured the 8- year-old girl across the complex with chewing gum to a vacant storage shed behind a wall, where police alleged the 8-year-old was restrained while the boys took turns assaulting her.
Witnesses say she screamed hysterically as she ran from the storage shed partially clothed. All four boys were arrested. Three are charged with sexual assault and kidnapping. Steven Tuopeh is being charged with the same crimes, but as an adult. CNN reached out to the public defender's office for comment but they have not yet returned our calls.
Police say what was most perplexing about this case was the response by the girl's family. Police say, despite physical and medical evidence, her mother wasn't convinced a crime even happened. And because she's close to the boy's family, she said she wants the boys to be released.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing has happened to my daughter. And nobody not touched my daughter.
GUTIERREZ: The alleged victim's older sister blames the 8-year- old. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came to her and said, it's not good for you to be following guys, because you are still little. She always brings trouble. She always brings trouble.
GUTIERREZ: And police say the father doesn't want his daughter back because of the shame it would bring the family. He denies it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want her back.
GUTIERREZ: Is this a case of culture vs. crime? Detective Oliver and his partner, Dotty Conroy (ph) from the community response unit, who work with diverse communities, were called in to help.
OLIVER: You got to become a quick study in this case.
GUTIERREZ: Police departments across the country have started their own units to deal with sensitive cultural issues like this.
OLIVER: The impression from the family that was given was that shame was brought onto this particular family for what had occurred to their daughter, for the rape of their daughter.
GUTIERREZ (on camera): And, yet, that's so hard for us to understand, because you would think there would be outrage, there might be empathy, but certainly not blaming the victim.
OLIVER: Yes. I mean, that is what you would normally think.
GUTIERREZ: Lasana Kamara agrees. He is Liberian and works with a refugee organization. He says, while rape was outlawed in that country only three years ago, there is no cultural excuse for rape.
LASANA KAMARA, ARIZONA MANDINGO ASSOCIATION: If it is true, it is against the rules. It is against the rules here. It is against the rules in Liberia.
GUTIERREZ: While the community, the family and lawyers argue about exactly what happened in this shed, the little girl is in foster care, removed from her home, her parents and all she knows by child protective services, because trauma experts say the girl needs all the moral support she can get and they are not sure they she will get it at home.
(on camera): The father says he does want his daughter back. And he went with an elder from the Liberian community to meet with child protective services yesterday to try to begin that process -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thelma, thank you.
This case certainly and understandably sparking concern from here to Liberia. Indeed, the president of Liberia recently spoke to CNN.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf spoke to our own Kyra Phillips about the case and said Liberia will be working to ensure the young rape victim is attended to and that she can continue her education and that she can get some help in getting past this episode.
A soldier with traumatic brain injury returns to the battlefield again and again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADRIAN ATIZADO, DISABLED VETERANS OF AMERICA: If a soldier falls through the cracks and doesn't get the care they need, they are not diagnosed, they are not treated for traumatic brain injury, their outlook on life is going to be -- it's going to be terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Why one case led to the worst of consequences and why other service members need to watch out. Barbara Starr has our look at broken government.
Plus, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell tells all of us what he really thinks about fellow Republican Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: He survived a series of bomb attacks and was sent back repeatedly to the combat zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't choose to get blown up before I made had sure and had 20 years of active duty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Only later did it become clear what a terrible, terrible price he had paid. Barbara Starr has our look at broken government.
Plus, is the Republican Party being taken over by southerners. And is there anything wrong with that? One Northern senator's complaint.
And there may be light at the end of the long recession tunnel, key word, may. What that might mean for President Obama. Carol Costello is standing by.
BLITZER: In our look at broken government, he served his country, but did his country serve him? Why would an American soldier be sent back to the battlefield with an injured brain? It happened not once, not twice, but several times. We are bringing you the story because he may not be the only one who received this kind of treatment. And, for him, it had the worst of consequences. Once again, here is CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
STARR (voice-over): Heartbroken family and friends gather for the funeral of Lieutenant Colonel Ray Rivas, a soldier whose invisible wounds finally became too much for him to bear.
The 53-year-old soldier had dedicated his career to rebuilding war-torn countries, but war tore his own life apart. Earlier this year, Ray made a difficult journey to Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't choose to get blown up.
STARR: Remember those words. Ray had served several tours of duty mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan and had been in repeated bomb attacks, the blast waves of each incident causing injury to his brain. Yet, he kept getting sent back to war, over and over.
Doctors finally realized his brain was being slowly destroyed. The final blast, Iraq, October, 2006. Ray was medevaced to Germany, but then convinced doctors he was OK. Once again, he was sent back to the combat zone. A week later, ill and confused, he was finally diagnosed with an initial traumatic brain injury and shipped home for good.
He was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where the full extent of his injuries still seemed to elude doctors. Some thought he was just experiencing combat stress, one of his colleagues tells CNN. But it finally became clear Ray was a soldier with a serious traumatic brain injury.
ADRIAN ATIZADO, DISABLED VETERANS OF AMERICA: This happens when a soldier has multiple -- is exposed to multiple blasts. And their brain physically changes.
STARR: At that Senate hearing, his wife, Colleen, did most of the talking, explaining the devastation of Ray's brain injury.
COLLEEN RIVAS, WIFE OF RAY RIVAS: He couldn't do simple things and just -- just getting dressed, just feeding himself. And he stuttered terribly.
STARR: In his written testimony to Congress, Ray said even when he was finally sent to Brook Army Medical Center in Texas, "I was pretty much on my own for two, three months."
Ray said the only help he got with his personal needs was from other soldiers.
ATIZABO: When he first arrived at BAMC, he just sat there in a room.
STARR: Finally, the military assigned a case worker and Ray got massive amounts of therapy. He seemed to improve. But on July 15th, he lost his battle. He died alone in his car here at Brook -- an apparent suicide. There were prescription pills and notes he wrote to his family, according to colleagues.
(on camera): Ray's family declined an interview request.
The military would not discuss Rivas' medical condition due to privacy issues. But CNN was given an internal military message written by those directly familiar with his case. It says at the time, of his death, "Ray was severely debilitated from his repetitive brain injuries. He showed signs of a patient with rapidly progressing Alzheimer's."
(voice-over): According to the Army, perhaps as many as a third of wounded troops experience some level of traumatic brain injury from being in bomb attacks.
ATIZABO: If a soldier falls through the cracks and doesn't get the care they need -- they're not diagnosed, they're not treated for traumatic brain injury, their outlook on life is -- is going to -- it's going to be terrible.
STARR: Ray was also upset that after everything he'd been through, three decades of military service in the both the active duty and reserve, he still didn't qualify for a full military MCA pension.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't choose to get -- to get blown up before -- before I'd made sure and had 20 years of active duty.
STARR: Friends say Ray knew his condition would only worsen over time.
(on camera): It's not certain what happened in his final hours or how Ray Rivas got so many prescription pills. But Rivas' war ended here -- steps from the front door of the hospital where he had been treated. A colleague says his friends believed Ray simply was in pain and tired of fighting those wounds that so many thought were invisible.
Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Rivas and his family certainly are not alone. As of May, the Defense Department says more than 48,000 military men and women have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
If you're a veteran or you have a loved one dealing with traumatic brain injury, here's one place you can turn to, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. You can call the center or find it on the Web at www.DVBIC.org.
Tomorrow at this time in our Broken Government series, millions of Americans look forward to receiving tax refund checks every year. But in some states, people are still waiting for their money months after tax day.
Why the holdup?
And is there anything people can do about it?
That's tomorrow at this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The recession is over -- or is it?
One magazine -- major magazine says it is. So if it is, what happens to President Obama?
And a world champion swimmer's suit splits at a critical moment. He bared it all, but still won the race. Now the show is making rounds on the Internet.
BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television and Carol Costello with what could be a dream come true for President Obama.
Could it -- Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, maybe it will. Dare I say it, there's a glimmer are of light at end of the economic tunnel. The Dow has finally inched back up over 9000, housing prices are up and existing home sales increased by double digits last month. It's causing one magazine to declare the recession is over. But not so fast. A study of consumer confidence, the number measuring how we feel about the economy, shows America's confident is actually down -- again, lower than expected.
So what does this all mean for President Obama?
Remember previous presidents that have gotten credit for bringing the U.S. back from an economic black hole?
Think FDR or President Reagan. Others have been blamed for downturns in our economy, like Presidents Carter and George W. Bush. President Obama himself told NBC back in February, that if he doesn't fix this, he might not be back for a second term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A year from now, I think people are going to see that we're starting to make some progress, but there's still going to be some pain out there. If I don't have this done in three years, then this is going to be a one-term proposition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
But what if the opposite happens and the economy turns around?
What then for President Obama?
BLITZER: All right, Carol, stand by, because let's discuss with Gloria Borger; David Frum, the former speechwriter for President Bush; and Candy Crowley.
If he does turn this economy around or late -- let's say, within the next year or two, things are really getting back to normal, that would be good for him politically.
DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: If it does turn around and he happens to be in the White House at the time it happens. And let's not be -- let's overstate the causation.
Yes, that would be good, although a number of economists, like some of my colleagues at AEI, are worried about a slip back into recession in 2010 because of the weakness of the position of the consumer.
American consumers are still carrying a lot of debt. At the beginning of the recession, the household debt factor had as much debt as it last had in 1929. It's paying back some of that debt. The households are still carrying a lot.
BLITZER: If it does turn around and this recession is over, what happens?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, to state the obvious, it's very good news for this president, who has risked a lot, as he...
BLITZER: Does he get health care reform?
BORGER: ...as he said. Well, he may get health care reform anyway, Wolf.
But when you talk to folks at the White House, in the short-term, they're looking at the numbers that are going to come out later this week on Friday, the gross domestic product, which is the amount of goods and services produced in the United States.
If that number gets better and shows that the graph to be going in a different direction, they might be able to say we are turning the corner.
What do you think -- Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there are a couple of things they're probably looking at. Consumer confidence -- you don't have that, they're not going out and buying it. If they're not buying, the economy doesn't get back on track.
The other thing is unemployment. This cannot be a jobless recovery, because a jobless recovery doesn't feel good out there. And I think they're acutely aware of that and still expect, at the White House, that this unemployment rate is going to go up.
So I -- I think -- and, again, that is a figure people understand...
BLITZER: There are mid-term...
CROWLEY: -- (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: There are mid-term elections next year and then re- election, potentially, in 2012.
If he turns -- if the economy turns around within the next year, what happens in the mid-term elections?
FRUM: Well, you have to remember this -- as I've been saying on the show, this stimulus package is a 2010 Democratic election package. I mean it is -- it did not deliver much in 2009, but there will be a steady stream of ribbon cutting events all through 2010.
So if there is economic progress, if we don't have a double dip, if we don't -- if unemployment does come down despite the households out there paying back debt, then they'll have something of a case.
BORGER: On the other hand, if -- if unemployment is in the -- in the double digits, then they're going to lose Congressional seats. And -- and they know that.
And so they're worried about that. They're not very sanguine, saying oh, it's over, it's over, it's over. They're very worried about what's going to happen in 2010. As I said, they put a big risk...
BLITZER: And there's a big worry down the road -- not now -- of inflation. That could be a huge problem.
CROWLEY: That's always -- that's another thing that's really easily understandable when you go to buy things at the grocery store and the cost of everything is up. So those are two things.
Honestly, people out there don't get GNP or GDP or whatever we're calling it now. I mean they sort of have a vague impression that if it goes up however many quarters then there's a recovery. They care about inflation and that's a huge worry...
BLITZER: So at this point...
CROWLEY: -- and they care about (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: ...right now, David, where is President Obama?
Is he at FDR level or is he at Bill Clinton level?
Is he at Jimmy Carter?
Is he at George W. Bush?
FRUM: Well, first he -- I'm sure he has the feeling he's... BLITZER: On the economy.
FRUM: ...of not being really in control. But he is dealing with a very different kind of economic situation, because this crisis, so severe, is really a generation changing crisis. If the economy -- when the economy does recover, people are not going to be buying the way they were. They're going to be repaying debt, which means that this will not -- the recovery will not be explosive the way the recovery was in '83/'84.
BORGER: You know, this is something that's changed all of our behavior. And I think it's changed the way that politicians look at the economy. And at the White House, they know that they took a stand on the stimulus package. If it doesn't work, they're going to be on the wrong end of it.
BLITZER: And I think David makes a good point. So much of this is out of his control.
CROWLEY: It is out of...
BLITZER: This economic situation.
CROWLEY: -- any number of economists will say you can help it around the margins, you can hurt it around the margins, but the economy is on a cycle. And that's why you want to be a president elected when the cycle is going up.
And the same proved true for Bill Clinton, because when you look back at it, you see that under George H.W. Bush, a recovery had actually started. But as far as voters were concerned, the economy was bad...
CROWLEY: -- so when it really -- everybody began to see that the economy was getting better was when Bill Clinton was there.
FRUM: But you do want to avoid unnecessary mistakes. And the massive borrowing in the stimulus plan for recovery -- for stimulus measures that arrived too late, that was a mistake. And the country is going to be paying that debt for a long time.
BORGER: Let's wait for the second stimulus.
BLITZER: Yes, wait for some more.
All right, guys.
One senator says certain Southerners are hurting the Republican Party.
Who's he talking about?
Naming names -- that's coming up next. Our panel is still here. A big embarrassment for an American at a world championship meet -- the split that had nothing to do with the swimmer's time and everything to do with his behind.
BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television and Carol Costello with sort of a little war going on, Carol, in the Republican Party.
What's going on?
COSTELLO: Well, the big question out there, Wolf, what's the biggest problem the Republican Party faces?
It's being taking over by Southerners -- that's what Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio thinks. He says: "We've got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns. They get on TV and go arghhh."
I think that's a growl.
"People hear them and say the party is being taken over by Southerners."
Voinovich is referring to Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who himself said he's out swinging on health care. You'll remember DeMint recently pressed Republicans to break the president on the issue, saying it could be the president's Waterloo.
Senator DeMint had some kind of fighting words for Voinovich. Still, he defended his brethren earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, he's apparently very frustrated and he has decided not -- not to run again. And I don't mind him taking out his frustrations on me. The point I've been trying to make is Maine doesn't have to be like South Carolina or like California.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: So you can see, he's not exactly disagreeing with Senator Voinovich.
So, are Southerners taking over the Republican Party and is that such a bad thing?
BLITZER: Let's ask David Frum.
What do you think?
FRUM: Well, look, a shrinking party can -- needs every supporter it can get and the South has been a great readout for the Republican Party. So, yes, Republicans should be grateful for the support of the American South and as many Senators as you can have. But there aren't enough senators or members of Congress to be had from the South.
And the great question overhanging the Republican Party is what happened to California?
This is a party that used to be a Southern and Western coalition and the Western part has dropped away. That is the thing we need to examine. Don't criticize the South, question California.
BLITZER: Because McCain could really count on the South, but he couldn't count around -- count on much of the other parts of the country.
CROWLEY: Right. If the Republican Party is being taken over by Southerners, it's because that's the only area of the country where -- that Republicans can count on presidentially and sometimes senatorially. So they -- you're absolutely right, you can't say, OK, well, we don't want the Southerners in there anymore.
But in many ways, this is -- there are also Southerners, by the way, who are very mad at the Republican Party. Jim Bunning comes to mind.
But in many ways, this is playing out the -- the larger problem for the Republican Party. There are moderates who say the face of our party is conservatives and the conservatives are ruining it for me in Ohio. That's -- I mean that's really what this argument is about. It's not about North and South and (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: That's what Voinovich basically was saying.
BORGER: Well, right. First of all, Voinovich does sound like a man who is not running for re-election.
BLITZER: He's not.
CROWLEY: He's not.
BORGER: Right. I know.
BORGER: He sounds like it. He's criticizing his colleagues -- by name, I might add.
You know, I think the Republican Party has to decide whether it wants to be a regional party in the South or whether it wants to expand. And consolidating in the South was a really good idea when Republicans were also winning in the Midwest, right, or New England and they've all been...
BORGER: And California.
FRUM: That's the...
BORGER: OK. But they've all but disappeared. And so this is a...
BLITZER: The Democrats...
BORGER: ...(INAUDIBLE) party.
BLITZER: When Rahm Emanuel was running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee...
BLITZER: ...he went out and found very conservative Democrats who oppose abortion, support guns and he brought them in.
Should the Republicans -- if you're Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party right now, go out there and find Democratic candidates who are in favor of abortion, who support gun control?
FRUM: You should -- you should find people who are electable in their districts and you should focus, above all, on the crisis of Cali -- California should be a great opportunity for Republicans.
I mean here's a state that is -- where the Democrats have run both sections of the assembly since I can't remember when. They have run it into the ground. There are -- there's a Republican governor who has not been very effective at stopping them, but he's done his best.
This should be a place to make the case, this is what Democratic governments look like.
BLITZER: Do you see the Republicans doing this?
BLITZER: No, running out there and finding these new candidates.
CROWLEY: I think that will take a while. I do. And what they have to get around is what the Democrats did really easily. The Democrats always had so many coalitions. And it's pretty easy to find some place within the Democratic Party to fit in, because there's so many interest groups.
The Republican Party has like one interest group that's really vocal and that's the social conservatives.
BORGER: Well, but, you know, Senator Cornyn of Texas, who runs the Campaign Committee in the Senate, has actually come -- been criticized because he's trying to get -- recruit some more moderate candidates to run in the Senate.
CROWLEY: He's being criticized by social conservatives...
BORGER: And he's being criticized by social conservatives... CROWLEY: -- and that's his problem.
BORGER: But the party...
BLITZER: Hold that thought, because we're out of time.
But you know what, we'll leave them hanging and we'll get some more.
BLITZER: OK. Let's continue the conversation during the commercial.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now.
He's got "The Cafferty File."
CAFFERTY: All right, Wolf.
The question this hour is: Is Cash for Clunkers a good idea -- vouchers of up to $4,500 available to owners of certain kinds of old cars that get lousy mileage and spew a lot of junk into the air?
Keith writes: "Cash for old, inefficient cars that do nothing but spew noxious fumes into the air is a great idea. Maybe the stimulus package can be expanded to include old and inefficient politicians who also spew nothing but noxious fumes into the air."
Mike writes: "Disappointed as I am that my '97 Wrangler isn't on the list even though a '98 is, I think it's an excellent program that goes right to the need. For once, the people most likely to benefit are the working poor and lower middle class, while the economic stimulus generated by this will help to preserve the jobs of those very same people."
Jeff writes: "No, it's not a good idea. Win-win for everyone? It's not helping me any. Who pays for this? The government. Where does the government get its money? You and me. So, if you don't have a clunker, then you're paying for others to get rid of theirs."
Mitchell in Connecticut: "Yes, but it would be better if more vehicles qualified for the trade-in. My 1994 Toyota Corolla wagon has 166,000 miles on it but because it gets more than 18 miles a gallon, it doesn't qualify. A neighbor's Hummer, though, does. Great."
Charles writes: "I'm 63. I didn't think I could ever justify buying a new car. This program convinced me otherwise. I got rid of the gas guzzler. Now I have a new vehicle, which is much safer and more efficient."
Greg says: "Cash for Clunkers, great idea. How much do I have to pay to get rid of you, Jack?"
And Buster in New York writes: "Settle down, Jack. That sleek, sexy horse and buggy you drive does not count as an old clunker." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for additional insults there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Funny guys. These are a lot of funny people.
CAFFERTY: Yes, they are. I like them.
BLITZER: All right, Jack.
BLITZER: The day would not be complete without some stunning parting images.
Here's one of them -- Tibetans in rapt attention.
But on what?
More of lour Hot Shots coming up.
And an American swimmer suffers world class embarrassment when his suit splits during a race. CNN's Jeanne Moos is showing the picture around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that poor guy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's got a nice butt, I'll give him that.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this guy's butt is going to make his face famous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots."
In Poland, Tibetans have a laser-like focus on the Dalai Lama as he speaks at Warsaw University.
In Athens, a firefighter tries to put out flames on burning tires near a recycling plant.
In China, the People's Liberation Army maneuvers around a building as it performs military exercises.
And in England, check it out -- a 278 pound, 6 day old elephant is looked after by a zookeeper.
"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words. In Italy, an American swimmer suffered a "Moost Unusual" embarrassment. His swimsuit split and he had to complete his race with his -- something showing the whole world to see.
CNN's Jeanne Moos follows up.
MOOS (voice-over): Remember Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction?
Well, consider this is a swimsuit malfunction. Bottom's up.
(on camera): Have you heard about this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
MOOS (voice-over): U.S. Olympic swimmer Ricky Berens bent over and split his skintight swimsuit. But the race must go on, especially at the world championships in Rome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that poor guy. He's got a nice butt, though.
MOOS: The U.S. team did qualify for the finals. And on Web sites across America, Berens' bottom was tops.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's got a nice butt, I'll give him that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I take that copy?
MOOS: Unlike Miss Universe 2004...
MOOS: ...at least Berens had the water to partially block the view. Still, some Web sites showed such close-ups, they had to labeled "not suitable for work."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel the draw (INAUDIBLE).
MOOS: Most women disagreed. "God bless America, that's a perfect bottom."
At the Beijing Olympics, Berens won a Gold Medal in the relay.
RICKY BERENS, USA SWIMMER: It's something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid.
MOOS: But he probably didn't want to do this. We spoke with his 17-year-old brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad said the whole like stadium was pointing at him and laughing at him.
MOOS: A couple of weeks ago, the exact same brand of swimsuit split on a female Italian swimmer, who ended up in tears disqualified. Note how this blog strategically place Italy's flag.
(on camera): It split, but she got disqualified.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's unacceptable.
MOOS (voice-over): Who among us hasn't split their pants?
It's happened to this woman a few times, but her tattoos helped disguise her nakedness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, everyone thought I was wearing tights.
MOOS: And this woman was exposed by a friend joking around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She took her dog leash and clipped it to my belt loop and said ha-ha, you're a dog.
MOOS: Fortunately, she outran the leash.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the pants ripped right down the seam and I had to run back to her house in my underwear past her two older brothers and her father.
MOOS: At least Ricky Berens attracted whistles on "Live with Regis and Kelly.
MOOS (on camera): You know, this guy's butt is going to make his face famous.
(voice-over): After Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, someone made cupcakes of her bejeweled bosom.
But who needs cupcakes when you have buns?
Jeanne Moos, CNN...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not sexy.
MOOS: ...New York.
BLITZER: What a story.
Jeanne Moos, thanks very much.
We'll see you tomorrow. Among our guests in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow, John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.