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THE SITUATION ROOM
Police Officer's Alleged Racial Slur; 911 Caller Speaks Out; Madoff's Wife Sued for $45 Million; John Boehner on Dems' Health Care Deal; On the Road for Health Care Reform; Healthcare Ads Get Sharper for Members of Congress; Capitol Hill Building Evacuated; Homeland Security Secretary Visits New York; Wrongly Convicted Man Now Free after 14 years; New Study Found Tanning Beds to be Cancerous
Aired July 29, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Her call led police to the controversial arrest of the Harvard professor. Now the 911 caller is speaking out and delivering an emotional message, as she tries to set the record straight.
Health care reform, it's confusing enough for most Americans, but now they're bombarded by political ads muddying the waters even more. Who's behind them? And is mudslinging next?
And, if you're thinking of getting some color in a tanning bed, you may want to think again -- why scientists now put those artificial sun machines in the highest cancer-risk category. This is a report you need to see.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But, first, a shocking new development in the case involving a Harvard university professor arrested in his own home -- the ripple effects reached the White House, and now there's new fallout.
Let's go to CNN's Elaine Quijano.
We're just getting some new information -- Elaine, what are we picking up?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
A Boston police spokesperson confirms to CNN that Officer Justin Barrett of the Boston Police Department was placed on administrative leave -- paid administrative leave yesterday. That's happened after the police commissioner in Boston learned about a letter sent by e- mail to "The Boston Globe," as well as some members -- fellow members of the National Guard.
According to a source close to this investigation, this was an anonymous letter giving Officer Barrett's opinion on the Gates' situation and that the term was used -- I'm quoting here -- "jungle monkey" was used in this correspondence. That's according to this source.
Now, the letter generally can be characterized as a rant against media coverage of the Gates case. A termination hearing for Officer Justin Barrett is now pending, we're told -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The whole story is becoming a little bit clearer, obviously, as we go along. But there are these side effects that are really ugly.
QUIJANO: Yes. I mean, absolutely. And one of them is that a lot of the emotion spilled over and was directed at the 911 caller in this case, Lucia Whalen.
Well, today she had a news conference basically trying to clear the air. What she said is that basically she's been through the ringer.
And today, at that news conference, it really showed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WHDH)
LUCIA WHALEN, 911 CALLER: I would hope that people would learn not to judge udder -- sorry -- to judge others and to really base it on facts prior to scrutinizing someone, especially so damaging. I would -- I would hope that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now, in that news conference, Whalen said a number of things. She said Cambridge, Massachusetts is a wonderful place and when she was called a racist by some, it really was something that hurt her immensely, because she never mentioned, in that 911 call, as we now know, the words "two black men." She had to be pressed about what race the two people were and only then she said well, I think one of them might be Hispanic, I'm not really sure.
So this was a chance for her to clear the air.
It was interesting, as well, though, at the end of that -- with this White House meeting set to take place tomorrow, Wendy Murphy, the attorney for Lucia Whalen, was basically pointing out that -- suggesting that her client, perhaps, should have gotten an invitation, as well, because of her clear thinking and her actions on the day of that arrest; that she called it in very calmly; did not make any references to race that were inappropriate in any way.
Wendy Murphy even joked about that, saying, I don't know, maybe it's a guy thing, she doesn't like beer anyway -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Maybe it is, although it's not too late. Maybe she'll still be invited. You never know.
QUIJANO: You never know.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Meanwhile, there are some startling allegations against the wife of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff who's now serving a prison sentence of more than a century. The trustee seeking to collect funds for Madoff's victims is suing Ruth Madoff for millions and millions of dollars.
CNN's Allan Chernoff has covered this Madoff scandal from day one.
He's joining us now with more on these late breaking developments -- Allan, what are we learning?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the trustee is saying here that Ruth Madoff had tens of millions of dollars of funds put into her own personal accounts, Wolf. So it's just absolutely stunning information over here because, as you know, Bernard Madoff, throughout, has maintained that his wife knew absolutely nothing of the fraud.
And keep in mind, here, there is no allegation that Ruth Madoff was actually engaged in the Ponzi scheme itself.
But the allegation now comes from the trustee overseeing money recovered for the Madoff victims -- this trustee, Irving Picard, in the lawsuit against Ruth Madoff, is saying that she had millions and millions of dollars put into various real estate partnerships; $3 million used to pay off her American Express bill; and millions more put into personal bank accounts at the Bank of New York.
So this is very interesting information, Wolf. And it comes only one day after one of the attorneys representing Madoff victims met with Bernard Madoff himself in his prison cell -- in his prison in North Carolina -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And what's the -- what's Madoff telling this attorney?
CHERNOFF: Madoff told the attorney that his wife knew nothing. He went through exactly how he perpetrated the fraud, according to this attorney. And basically he said he thought he was going to be caught. He thought the SEC was onto him; that back in 2001, 2002, he thought that they were going to catch him.
One interesting item, too, he also shared with the attorney, the fact that other prisoners have been asking Mr. Madoff for his autograph. But he's not granting it. The attorney said Mr. Madoff may be afraid it will be auctioned off on eBay -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I've been -- I've read several reports that New York State authorities -- federal authorities -- they're continuing the investigation and more arrests are expected. We don't know when. We're not even sure if that's going to happen.
But I assume you've heard all those same reports -- Allan.
CHERNOFF: And we have reported that ourselves. There is -- there's little doubt that there will be more charges coming. The -- the lieutenants who worked at Bernard Madoff Securities, they were on the front lines. They were involved in the fraudulent account statements sent out every single month. Remember, Bernard Madoff was claiming that he was investing his clients' funds. In fact, Madoff admitted the money was simply put into a bank account and used as part of the Ponzi scheme to pay off other investors who were requesting withdrawals.
So no doubt that we are anticipating there will be additional charges. The only person thus far charged, aside from Mr. Madoff, is his accountant. And he is facing several securities fraud charges -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Allan, you'll stay on top of the story for us.
Allan Chernoff reporting.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: President Obama has taken a hit in the polls. Gallup finds the president's average job approval rating at 56 percent last week. That's down from 59 percent the previous week -- a 3 point drop, the largest week to week decline that Gallup has seen in the president's job approval rating since he took office in January.
And it's not just Gallup. The president has been under 60 percent approval in almost every single poll released so far during the month of July. And he was above 60 percent in most of these polls taken in June.
It's not clear why the president is not as popular these days. But a couple of possible reasons do, in fact, stick out -- headlines in recent weeks, most of them dominated by the debate over health care reform. The president and Democrats are losing steam on the issue -- a centerpiece of his domestic agenda -- now that it looks like that neither house will pass the bill before the August recess.
Mr. Obama continues to pressure Congress to get it done this year. But polls show that most Americans are not in a rush to pass reform that quickly.
And President Obama waded into a firestorm last week by saying the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Gates. That story still hasn't gone away. The president, the professor and the arresting officer in the case, James Crowley, are set to have a meeting at the White House tomorrow.
For a man with shrewd political instincts, it was not President Obama's finest moment.
Anyway, here's the question -- what's behind the steep drop in President Obama's approval rating during the last several weeks?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
Some of the bloom is coming off the rose -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Always does. You know, six months into a new presidency, there's bound to be a little bit of that.
CAFFERTY: Particularly in light of the basket of manure -- for lack of a better phrase -- that he inherited from the guys who had the job for eight years before him. I mean, what a mess this country was in when he was sworn into office.
BLITZER: Saturday in THE SITUATION ROOM, we've got Doug Brinkley, the presidential historian. He's got some unique perspective on earlier presidents -- good ones and bad ones -- and this current president. 6:00 p.m. Eastern Saturday...
CAFFERTY: I'll be there.
BLITZER: You'll be watching.
CAFFERTY: I'll be tuning in for that.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BLITZER: A journalist faces a flogging for wearing what police say were tight trousers and an indecent blouse. The woman works for the United Nations. We have some details.
And the Blue Dogs -- are they ready to deal?
Conservative and moderate Democrats finding some common ground with the Democratic political leadership on health care reform. I'll ask the House minority leader, the top Republican in the House, John Boehner, if his party is ready to jump on board, as well.
And artificial sun machines placed in the highest cancer risk categories -- a report you need to watch before you think about getting into a tanning bed.
BLITZER: With Congress' summer recess looming, key members of the Blue Dogs, those fiscally conservative, moderate House Democrats, say they've reached a deal with the Democratic leadership -- most of them are very liberal -- on a health care reform bill.
If the Blue Dogs are getting on board, will Republicans soon follow?
And joining us now, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, the minority leader, John Boehner.
Mr. Leader, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Wolf, it's good to be with you.
BLITZER: It looks like, at this point, the House and Senate committees are probably going to get something done before -- before the recess. The president is reaching out, though, to everyone, saying spend the recess, read the bills and then we can talk.
Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will have all of August to review the various legislative proposals. When we come back, in September, I will be available to answer any questions that members of the Congress ask. If they want to come over to the White House and go over line by line what's going on, I will be happy to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you still open to coming up with a bipartisan bill with the president?
BOEHNER: Absolutely. I think the American people expect us to work together to deal with the issue of reforming our health care system. But they've got some real big doubts about this big government-run plan that eventually will take over our entire health care system.
BOEHNER: It's going to drive up costs...
BLITZER: Because let me interrupt you far moment there, because the president is flatly, once again, insisting this is not going to happen.
Just listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. I'm tired of hearing that.
OBAMA: I have been as clear as I can be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. He's flatly denying that this is going to be a government takeover.
BOEHNER: Well, listen, the facts just aren't there. It's clear in the legislation that after five years, you can't go out and buy a private health insurance policy. You have to go to one of the government exchanges.
BLITZER: Where does that say that...
BOEHNER: And that government exchange...
BLITZER: Where does it say that?
BOEHNER: It's in the bill. One of the government -- the government exchanges, their products are going to be designed by the government. It also says that after five years, all employer-provided health care, provided under ERISA, would have to have an approval from the Department of Labor and the health care choices czar, to make sure that the employer-provided plan meets appropriate federal standards. You can go through this one after another after another. And if you look at the public option, it's there. It's going to compete with the private sector.
But it's pretty clear to most of us that it will undercut the private sector, not provide more competition, driving the private sector out of the market and leaving people with only one option -- and that's the government plan.
BLITZER: Because Mike Ross, the Democratic Congressman from Arkansas, who's a moderate conservative, what they call a Blue Dog, he now says that is flatly wrong.
Listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE ROSS (D), ARKANSAS: It protects small businesses and it saves our rural hospitals and ensures that if there is a public option, it will be just that -- it will be an option providing consumers more choices. It will not be mandated on anyone. And it now will clearly be on a -- on a level playing field.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right.
What do you want to say to Congressman Ross?
BOEHNER: Listen, Wolf, there's an employer mandate in this bill. And while they raise that -- the exemption level from companies that pay $250,000 a year in payroll to $500,000, small businesses are the engine of economic growth in America. There's a mandate in this bill that requires those that have a payroll of up to -- now over $500,000 -- to provide health insurance and pay at least 72 percent of it. And if you don't, there's an 8 percent tax on that payroll.
What this is going to do is raise the cost of employment. It's going to cause an awful lot of employers to get rid of their company- sponsored plans and leave their employees but no choice but to go with the government option.
BLITZER: Here -- here -- let me ask you this question, because it's -- it's -- it gets to the core of what's called this private or this public option, this government option -- a government run-insurance company, if you will, to compete with the private insurance companies.
Are you afraid that these private insurance companies -- whether Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare or whatever -- can't compete with a government run-insurance company?
BOEHNER: Wolf, nobody in the private sector can compete with the government. And that's because there's no cost of capital. The government sets the rules. The government sets the prices. And so you can't compete. You can't win.
BLITZER: But there...
BOEHNER: And if you step back...
BLITZER: There are...
BOEHNER: ...and look at this, Wolf, it's 1,018 pages. That ought to be enough to tell you that this is a giant government bureaucracy that's going to drive up the cost of health care, drive up the cost of -- of health insurance, deny millions of Americans their choice of doctor and eventually lead to rationing health care in America.
This is not the kind of plan that Americans want.
BLITZER: There -- there are some private companies that compete very well against the government. I'll give you an example -- FedEx. They compete with the U.S. government's post office service.
BOEHNER: Well, there's no surprise there and that's because there's an independent board that oversees the post office and keeps it within the law.
But when you look at the fact in this bill -- a 1,018 page bill -- the word "shall" is referred to 1,082 times. There are 53 new boards, agencies and commissions and agencies set up in this bill.
Why do we need all of this if we're trying to drive down the cost of health care in America and trying to improve...
BOEHNER: ...for more Americans?
BLITZER: Would you be open to a board that oversees the private insurance companies -- excuse me -- that oversees the public option the way the boards oversee the...
BLITZER: ...post office?
BOEHNER: No. No. Absolutely not. What I'm for are things that were going to reduce the cost of health care in America. There's no medical malpractice reform here. There's nothing here that protects doctors. And so they're going to continue to practice defensive medicine, so they're not being sued. There's nothing in here that will streamline the paperwork that we have in our health care system today. Those two things alone will save $150 billion to $200 billion a year in our current system. That money can be used to increase access for those that have pre-existing conditions or those that may be switching jobs or the working poor, who don't qualify for federal programs and who need health care and need an insurance.
BLITZER: So it looks like there's not going to be a bipartisan deal, is that right?
BOEHNER: Listen, I don't know what's going to happen over the next three or four months. But I believe that it's time to hit the reset button. Let's scrap this plan. Let's sit down in a bipartisan way and let's build on the current system, which is the envy of the world.
You know, 93 percent of the American people have access to high quality, affordable health insurance. Let's help them be able to hold onto that, reduce the cost of it and expand access to those Americans who don't have good access.
BLITZER: Mr. Leader, we've got to leave it there.
Thanks very much.
BOEHNER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Terrorists in training or religious pilgrims -- friends and neighbors talk about their shock at the arrest of several North Carolina men on charges of plotting a violent jihad abroad.
And a love story behind bars -- she waited 15 long years to marry the man she loves and for others to believe he really was innocent. And he was.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?
WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.
Well, a Sudanese journalist faces a flogging for wearing what police say were tight trousers and an indecent blouse. The woman, who works for the U.N. in Sudan, was a among a group of women arrested this month in Sudan. Six were released and 10 received 40 lashes. Lubna Al-Hussein is fighting the charges. The U.N. says it's "deeply concerned by the charges," while rights groups say the woman is being retaliated against for criticizing the government.
South Korean police clash with protesting autoworkers. Hundreds of fired workers have been occupying parts of the company's plant outside Seoul for two months now. They're protesting massive job cuts. Talks with union officials broke down. South Korean forces so far have not tried to move into the Ssangyong plant.
And a federal grand jury has indicted a white supremacist accused of fatally shooting a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. A seven count indictment charges James Von Brunn with first degree murder, killing in a federal building and bias motivated crimes. The 89-year-old Von Brunn has been in the hospital since the shooting and has not been well enough to actually appear in court.
And Pope Benedict thinks that he may have had a divine message. He fell and broke his wrist while vacationing in Northern Italy. That you probably remember. Well, today, he says his guardian angel may have been following superior orders. The pontiff said "Perhaps the lord wanted to teach me more patience and humility and give me more time for prayer" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A very good lesson. A lot of people should learn that from -- from the pontiff.
WHITFIELD: That's right.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.
The fact that.
The president hits the road for health care reform. He's been taking questions from clerks over at a Kroger supermarket in Bristol, Virginia. We're going to go there.
And health care reform is certainly confusing enough for most Americans. Now, a barrage of new political ads may be confusing all of us even more. And it hasn't even started to get nasty yet.
And stunning pictures -- very disturbing pictures of the new Iraq, as Iraqi forces are now flexing their newfound muscle in some bloody clashes with radical Iranian refugees in Iraq. We'll show you what's going on right now.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, beat a common hospital infection and save billions of dollars a year -- a creative solution. It's a story you'll see only here on CNN.
And shipping out the homeless -- is New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, really offering one way tickets to the homeless to leave his city?
And what do other mayors think?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. President Obama is hitting the road once again to campaign for health care reform. And this hour, he's been in Bristol, Virginia, turning a supermarket into a town hall.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Nothing burns me up more than hearing some of these scare tactics directed at seniors. You know, because seniors, they're vulnerable and they get worried about some of this stuff. And they get some, you know, crazy flyer in the mail and, you know, they get scared that they might lose their -- their care.
So let me just be absolutely clear. Medicare is in place. And as long as I'm there -- and even long after I'm gone -- Medicare will continue to be in place. We're not going to -- we're not going to mess with Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And while the president is hitting the road for health care reform, a barrage of political ads is hitting the air waves -- for, against and everything in between.
Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
She's watching these ads for us.
Lots of commotion out there -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Really. Lots of noise, lots of chatter.
Remember during the Clinton year health care reform era, Harry and Louise pretty much had the airways to themselves?
But this time, around it's really crowded out there.
CROWLEY: (voice-over): Have microphone, will travel.
OBAMA: If you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan you keep your health care plan.
CROWLEY: Nothing like the bully pulpit to push an issue. But there are other ways. You may have noticed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY AMERICANS UNITED FOR CHANGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could end up with government bureaucrats taking away your choices -- getting between you and your doctor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the Republicans say Congress should slow down?
That's because when something goes slow enough, it's easy to kill it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So far, just about $50 million has been spent on TV ads related to health care reform aired by 50 different groups -- insurance, pharmaceutical associations, unions, nurses, the soft drink industry, Republicans and Democrats, all with two things in common -- a vested interest and deep pockets. About half the buys are aired nationally.
EVAN TRACEY, CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYSIS GROUP: And it's really trying to reach the most engaged sort of party activist, legislative, lawmakers, you know, reporters, bloggers -- you know, the people that are sort of plugged in all the time. Most Americans right now are at the beach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama's massive spending experiment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The ads fall into four basic categories, for and against an Obama-style reform package, pro-health care reform in general.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We may finally get health care reform.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about time.
CROWLEY: And ads from stakeholders -- Autism Speaks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid and tell them health reform that fails to stop autism insurance discrimination is unacceptable.
CROWLEY: To the soft drink industry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is no time for Congress to be adding taxes on the simple pleasures we all enjoy, like juice drinks and soda.
CROWLEY: And in generally, ads are soft edged but as summer moves into fall and the kids go back to school, Congress begins debate on a health care bill, Katy bar the door or turn off the TV.
TRACEY: I think you're going to see some really distinct lines. They're going to get much more emotional in lines of attack and it's going to become much more politicized
CROWLEY: It has already begun. Here's what Republican leader Eric Cantor will see when he hits the remote at home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I find out that Congressman Eric Cantor voted against health care reform that would stop insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions like cancer. He wants me to fight cancer and the insurance companies?
CROWLEY: This union ad is not about getting Congressman Cantor to vote for the House bill. This is a warning shot. Count on health care reform as an issue for 2010, hardball to come.
CROWLEY: 2009 as these ads get sharper and a vote for reform gets closer, look for these sides to square off along stark and simple lines. The need to rein in insurance companies versus the need to prevent government-run health care. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Going to get a little bit uglier every single day probably before this is all over. Thank you, Candy.
Let's talk about this and more with our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and with Republican strategist, John Feehery.
What do you think? How ugly does it going to get?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it will get pretty ugly, Wolf. And the truth is because this is a very important issue and both sides have a great deal at stake.
But, look, the Obama for America, which is a part of the DNC, so I want to say in full disclosure, they'll all be running ads in eight states to target wavering Democrats, so not just Republicans but they will also use this opportunity to educate the American people, but more importantly keep Democrats with the president.
BLITZER: And you're with the DNC.
BRAZILE: That's right.
BLITZER: As we all know. All right. Republican strategist John Feehery. There's no doubt that during this month-long vacation or recess, whatever you want to call it, these ads are going to be bombarded and they're going after not only these Democratic ads I'm talking about specifically Republican but also some of those wavering moderate or conservative Democrats.
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And that's where all the action is because they're the ones who are ultimately going to cut the deal. But if they want to go with Republicans, they can get a much more moderate proposal through. If they're going to swing with the liberals, then they'll have much more government intrusive proposal.
And that's the real debate. You see Mike Ross and the Blue Dogs in the House...
BLITZER: The -- Democratic congressman from Arkansas.
FEEHERY: And Kent Conrad in the Senate being the real key players here. And the big question is, how much is it going to cost and will I lose my health insurance? And that's what people are really worried about. Will they be forced...
BLITZER: If they move towards the so-called Blue Dogs, the moderates or conservative Democrats, forget about the Republicans right now, how angry will the liberal wing of the Democratic Party be, those who are really in control, the Nancy Pelosis, the Henry Waxmans, if they're going to be making concessions to bring these other reluctant Democrats on board?
BRAZILE: Well, I think that the liberal Democrats recognize that the Blue Dogs had some great concerns. And I think as we speak they are working out those concerns, they're going to mark up, they're going to have a bill. It's not going to be 100 percent of what everybody likes but it will be a bill that meets all of the objectives that the president wants.
BLITZER: Do you feel other business that the president has on his agenda is being neglected right now? I'm talking about education, energy, obviously, national security, two words, Iran, North Korea, as so much attention is being focused in on health care reform right now?
FEEHERY: Well, putting my political hat on, I don't like to give too much advice to the Obama administration (INAUDIBLE) they take it. But the number one issue for the Obama administration is jobs. That's thing that's going to hit the Democrats next year and hit the Obama administration in three years.
BLITZER: More important than health care reform.
FEEHERY: More important than health care reform. If the unemployment rate is above 10 percent, it's really, really bad for the Democrats and what Bill Clinton did, remember, it's the economy stupid. He focused on, even though he had health care reform. He focused on the economy, stupid. That's what the reason that made him successful. And I don't see the Obama administration really talking about that with that kind of laser focus.
BRAZILE: It's unfortunate that the press doesn't cover all of the things that people in the Obama administration is doing. Yesterday the vice president was in Pennsylvania announcing a very important initiative to keep cops on the payroll in Pennsylvania and other states across the country.
BLITZER: We covered it.
BRAZILE: I missed it, Wolf. Must have been when I walked to my car.
BRAZILE: All right. But I know CNN brings me my news. But the second thing is that Secretary Greats and Secretary Clinton will be on Capitol Hill tomorrow, given memos or probably briefing on the status of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. And also, Wolf, the House Democrats, along with the Senate Democrats, they are moving the appropriation bills, they're moving the highway trust fund, and of course they're going to focus on unemployment before they leave and go home on their recess.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it at that. You got a quick point to make.
FEEHERY: Quick point is all these things, energy and health care, people think that this actually hurt their job creation and that's why it's playing against the Democrats right now.
BLITZER: Although if you don't have long-term improvement in the health care expenditures the economy's going to suffer a great deal.
FEEHERY: Jobs number one focus.
BRAZILE: Amen, Wolf.
BLITZER: Guys, we got to leave it right there.
Have these last 100 days of the Obama administration been days of change or days of frustration? Let your voice be heard. Beginning Sunday, August 2nd, this coming Sunday, you can cast your vote at CNN.com/reportcard.
Then you'll get the results from CNN's National Report Card, Thursday, August 6th, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We're going to have a special. We'll all be working Thursday night, August 6th.
A warning from the nation's homeland security chief. Janet Napolitano says America needs to watch for what she calls homegrown, radicalized extremism. Our Mary Snow spent some time with the secretary at ground zero today.
And jailed for a crime he did not commit. He lost years and years of his life but not the woman he loved.
Stay with us. This is a remarkable and uplifting story you will see right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar up on Capitol Hill right now. She's outside the Longworth House Office Building.
A little bit of a scare going on right now, Brianna. What do we know?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes, Wolf. What we know is that this entire office building has been evacuated for a little over an hour at this point, and we are watching a police motorcade just about to leave.
I can tell you what I saw just a few moments ago was United States Capitol Police in hazardous materials outfits, and they took some sort of suspicious package, which is why this building has been evacuated, and they put it in the back of -- or they put it on the back of a truck in what's called I believe a total containment container.
This is something that United States Capitol Police have used before for suspected explosive device, although they're only calling this a suspicious package. And they say after some initial tests they did were inconclusive, they decided what is best out of an abundance of caution is just to take this suspicious package down to Quantico, Virginia, and have the FBI check it out, Wolf, to see exactly what it is.
But at this point, the building has been evacuated. Really not a lot of people seem very alarmed, though I have to tell you they're stressing this is out of abundance of caution.
BLITZER: As they usually do. We'll stay in touch with you, Brianna. Let us know the end result. Appreciate it very much.
CNN's Mary Snow has been working on an important story in New York involving the secretary of homeland security.
Mary, I know you had a chance to meet with Janet Napolitano today.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We did, Wolf. She's here in New York visiting and we also got a chance to ask the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security her about the threat from homegrown terrorists. She said it's something the country needs to be prepared for.
One thing also that became very clear as we spent time with her is that she feels it's imperative that the public play a role in counterterrorism efforts.
SNOW (voice-over): Visiting ground zero for the first time, the nation's homeland security chief, Secretary Janet Napolitano, toured the site of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and spoke of a constantly changing threat.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Homegrown, radicalized, violent extremism. That is something we also need to be watchful for. Many of the...
SNOW: Napolitano wouldn't say how worried she is by the North Carolina rest (ph) of suspects accused of planning to commit violent jihad overseas. But an internal document shown to CNN indicates federal anti-terrorism officials are concerned, urging police agencies to be on the alert for homegrown terrorists.
Besides the North Carolina case, there have been recent instances of Americans going to Somalia to help militants and a New York man going to Pakistan to join al Qaeda.
(On camera): Is this a new wave, would you say, of American-bred terrorism?
NAPOLITANO: It's too soon to say whether it's a new wave. But I think it's certainly correct to say we've had a number of -- and since I become secretary and it is something that we are -- not just monitoring. That sounds so passive. But really watching out or working closely with our federal partners and importantly state, local, tribal law enforcement, the first -- you know, they've got the first eyes on the ground.
SNOW (voice-over): To make her point about the need to work with local partners, the secretary joined the city's mayor and police commissioner on New York City subway. She announced millions in federal money for security for the transit system, seen as a primary terrorist target.
But the theme of her visit and the speech she delivered while here was the need for government to not just protect the public but look to citizens for useful information to thwart potential terrorist attacks.
NAPOLITANO: The consequences of living in a state of fear rather than a state of preparedness are enormous. We may be better prepared as a nation than we were on 9/11, but we are nowhere near as prepared as we need to be.
SNOW: Wolf, the secretary also said that terrorists in a 2.0 world that requires new thinking. She says one thing the department has done recently was hire a former computer hacker to help identify weaknesses in the country's cyber network. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Mary, thanks very much.
This footnote to our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar's report, from the Longworth House Office Building, that scare, a suspicious package, it's over with. They've just cleared everyone. They're going back inside and going back to work on Capitol Hill.
Fifteen years is a long time to wait to set a wedding date, but the man that Jewel Mitchell said yes to went to prison after proposing. Convinced of his innocence, she stood by him until it was finally proven than the wrong man was behind bars.
CNN's Brooke Baldwin has more on this extraordinary love story.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dean Cage's question was simple.
DEAN CAGE, RELEASED INMATE: Will you marry me?
BALDWIN: Jewel Mitchell said yes.
JEWEL MITCHELL, DEAN CAGE'S GIRLFRIEND: His smile. He had a really handsome smile. BALDWIN: That was 15 years ago. To this day, there's been no wedding, no I dos, no honeymoon for the Chicago couple. One month after their engagement, Cage was arrested.
CAGE: I seen this young lady pointing and crying, and next thing I knew they put the handcuffs on me.
BALDWIN: An Illinois jury found Dean Cage guilty of sexual assault, a crime Cage maintains he didn't commit. Jewel never doubted his innocence.
MITCHELL: Oh, never. Never. Absolutely not.
BALDWIN: After spending more than a decade behind bars, Dean was exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that uses DNA evidence to help prisoners prove their innocence.
ALBA MORALES, INNOCENCE PROJECT: She knew that he didn't do it because she was with him the morning that this crime occurred and to me it's remarkable that she waited for him for 14 years.
BALDWIN: Still, 14 years of his life, gone.
MITCHELL: These are some of the Christmases that Dean missed.
BALDWIN: During that entire time, Jewel was willing to wait. She says visits were tough when they had to say good-bye, so this couple kept hope alive through love letters.
MITCHELL: I picture you there, while I'm sitting here.
CAGE: I'm trying every day to get out of this hell hole.
MITCHELL: I love you forever, Dean, Jewel.
CAGE: I'll always love you.
BALDWIN (on camera): Would you wait for mail or...
CAGE: Oh, yes, most definitely.
CAGE: Yes, yes.
BALDWIN: Because it kept you going?
MITCHELL: Every time I'd see the mailman, I'd just run to the mailbox. Sometimes there would be letters. And sometimes he didn't get a chance to write.
BALDWIN: So you had this writing relationship for 14-plus years. Was it funny to finally see one another face to face and have to talk?
MITCHELL: Yes. It was scary for me because I hadn't seen him in a long time.
BALDWIN (voice-over): These days, Jewel and Dean are getting reacquainted, sharing a home on Chicago's South Side. As for any wedding plans, they are working on finally setting a date.
BALDWIN: And now there is a group called The Life After and this is a project that's now working with Dean to help him find a job, recoup lost wages. Illinois is one of 25 states nationwide that actually provides these exonerees with some kind of compensation.
And Dean, I'm told, is said to receive about $130,000 pretax and, Wolf, I think it's set to believe that some of that money will go towards the wedding.
BLITZER: I hope so, indeed. What a happy, happy ending to what was a terrible story. Brooke Baldwin, thanks very much.
One-way tickets out of town. That's what New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is offering the homeless.
And tanning bed warnings. Why scientists are now putting those artificial sun machines in the highest cancer risk category.
BLITZER: Right back with Jack for the "Cafferty File." Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, what's behind the steep drop off President Obama's approval ratings during the past several weeks. He's down below 60 in the latest Gallup poll. And during the month of July his numbers are as low as any in his presidency so far.
Jack writes, "Two things. Health care and the Crowley-Gates incident. In terms of health care he comes across to me not knowing what's in the bill. He's good at giving a speech but if you listen carefully, his words have no substance. The Crowley-Gates deal is a fiasco. A national fiasco caused by no one other than Obama. It's detracted from his message and cost him credibility."
Rush in Pennsylvania says, "His approval rating is dropping because Americans are finally remembering what clowns the average left-wingers are. They demand too much intrusion into our lives. It's Jimmy Carter all over again."
Max in Fairview, Texas. "Jack, it's simple. Obama acted stupidly."
Pearlie writes, "The Gates incident is a problem for him. People are afraid to talk honestly about race and blacks who do, even the president, will suffer. Blacks walk a fragile line where race is concerned. This is why Obama had to basically avoid the issue during the campaign. And this is why his ratings now are suffering."
Derek writes, "Why? Because the Republicans and their assorted allies are doing everything in their power to make him look as bad as possible. They're mad they lost and instead of putting country first, they're playing politics. How sad that so many Americans aren't bright enough to see that clearly."
Michael in New Jersey says, "I thought you knew. It's been discovered that he cannot turn water into wine."
And Ketch writes, "It just bears out that old saying, every so often, you have to elect a Democrat just to remind you why you should have elected a Republican."
If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Look for yours among hundreds of others. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Jack, see you in a few moments.
Yesterday I asked Republican senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, if he was afraid that a government-run health care plan would drive some private insurance companies out of business. This was his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I'm not just afraid of it. The Lewin Group and other outside analysts who have looked at this, nonpartisan groups have said at least 80 million Americans will lose their private insurance if we have a government option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Lewin Group is cited frequently by Republicans opposed to public health options. Our Abbi Tatton has been digging into more on this group.
Abbi, what are you finding out?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what you didn't hear there is that the Lewin Group is owned by one of the biggest private health insurance. Take a look. The Lewin Group estimates 88 million workers would be forced out of private insurance under this proposal.
The Lewin Group is owned by the company Ingenix. That is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Health Group, a huge health insurer. Ingenix -- the Lewin Group, I'm sorry, e-mails a statement to say that they operate with editorial independence and that there are firewalls and processes in place that insure that as many people are now pointing out that at least seems like a conflict.
At the very least it is something that should be pointed out when we're talking about the Lewin Group.
BLITZER: And -- but are there numbers in any dispute?
TATTON: Well, there were some different numbers being put out by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Their set of numbers based on different assumptions, they estimate, a substantially smaller amount of people would shift to a public plan than the Lewin Group estimates.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for clarifying that, Abbi.
Up next, the new report puts tanning beds into the highest cancer risk category labeling them a human carcinogen.
BLITZER: As dangerous as cigarettes, arsenic and even asbestos. That's what a new study says about tanning beds.
Our Brian Todd is here with more on why experts now say sunbeds definitely cause cancer.
Brian, fill us in on this important study.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.N.'s cancer reach division is now making its strongest link ever between tanning beds and the different forms of skin cancer, like melanoma, which kills more than 8500 people just in the United States each year.
TODD (voice-over): They look enticing for those who want a tan without extended sun exposure. CNN intern Genevieve LeMay is one of the millions who routinely use tanning beds.
GENEVIEVE LEMAY, CNN INTERN: When I go tanning, I feel good about myself. I have confidence. I look healthy. I feel great.
TODD: But now the U.N.'s cancer research arm is ranking tanning beds in it's top group of cancer-causing substances, right up there with cigarettes and arsenic. An official with the International Agency for Research on Cancer tells CNN people who consistently use tanning beds before the age of 30 increase their risk of getting skin cancer by 75 percent.
(On camera): And to illustrate the real effect of tanning beds on the skin, we came to this place called Radiant Med Spa in Washington, D.C. It does medical and anesthetic skin treatments. It's got this digital skin analysis device. Almost like an x-ray machine.
We're going to test it out with our intern Genevieve who does use tanning beds versus the skin of our intern Catherine Castellanos who does not use tanning beds.
(Voice-over) They each go through the scan. Some very detailed images pinpointing skin damage tell the story. We look at the results with Dr. Howard Brooks, a dermatologist not affiliated with this spa who the facility allowed to come in as an independent analyst.
First, Catherine's results.
DR. HOWARD BROOKS, DERMATOLOGIST: The fact that she doesn't use a tanning bed shows here on this picture. Much less brown spots. Much less UV damage. TODD (on camera): This brown image of Genevieve kind of does reveal the real damage.
BROOKS: This is a perfect illustration. This is -- Genevieve is a 20-year-old young woman. She admits to using a tanning bed, and this is the result of tanning bed use as the study indicates. You see all these brown spots here, which indicates UV damage that is directly related to tanning bed use.
TODD: Does this change your perspective at all?
LEMAY: The results were shocking. I mean I look horrible, but as much as that's a deterrent, a tanning is addicting, and I don't know if I'll stop going right away.
TODD: The Indoor Tanning Association, which is an advocacy group for tanning spas, says media reports linking tanning beds to things like cigarettes and arsenic are over-hyped. The association has taken out this newspaper ad this week saying indoor tanning putting in the same category as sunshine, "duh".
The association says it's always emphasized moderation and that points out that the other items in that same category on cancer causers include salt and fish. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, what about spray tanning? Is that as dangerous?
TODD: Well, Dr. Brooks says it is not, and he recommends people use sprays or lotions. They're not considered as comprehensive, and they don't give you as even a tan as the beds, but they are safer, he says.
BLITZER: Good to know. Thanks, Brian.
To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now. Urgent care for medical reform hold out in the House of Representatives reaching an important agreement to move forward. We're getting brand-new details this hour on the deal and whether the president is getting what he wants.
Plus, only on CNN. A sky diving accident cracked his skull, but this is what killed him. A common infection he got in the hospital. CNN's Deborah Feyerick examines a problem costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars every year.
And some of New York's homeless are getting one-way tickets to paradise, or at least to Paris. Will Mayor Bloomberg's great experiment cost him in the end?
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.