Return to Transcripts main page


Will President Obama Raise Taxes?; Three Americans Believed Detained by Iran; Ordeal at Altitude

Aired August 3, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.


It's essentially been President Obama's read my lips promise, no higher taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year. But are two of his economic deputies revealing something we don't know?

Listen very closely to presidential economic adviser Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.


LAWRENCE SUMMERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: It's never a good idea to absolutely rule things out no matter what.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: We're going to have to do what it takes. We're going to do what's necessary.


MALVEAUX: On the president's to-do list, cut the nation's deficit and afford universal health care. But some experts say that might require raising taxes on the middle class. The White House is rushing to clarify what Summers and Geithner said.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think they allowed themselves to get into a little bit of a hypothetical back and forth.


MALVEAUX: The White House says one thing as two administration officials say something else. So, we're doing a reality check.

Our Ali Velshi has that.

But let's first begin with CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, as you know, it's easier to tax the wealthy. When you look at the polling out there, most Americans don't have a problem with it, but when you start talking about potentially having to tax the middle class, well, then it becomes controversial.

And so we heard that there was -- you know, the door was being left open for middle-class Americans to potentially become targets when it comes to tax hikes. And as you pointed out, the White House really trying to walk things back a bit.

Take a listen to Robert Gibbs today at the briefing.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Spokesman Robert Gibbs again stressed the president's commitment to not raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 a year.

(on camera): So, there's no real scenario there, as the administration sees it, where middle class taxpayers might be hit with a hike? There's no scenario right now begin discussed?

GIBBS: The president's been very clear.

LOTHIAN: If someone says yes or no...


GIBBS: The president made a commitment in the campaign. He's clear about that commitment and he's going to keep it. I don't know how much more clear about the commitment I can be.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama drew a line in the sand.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You will not see your taxes increased by a single dime. Not your income tax. Not your payroll tax. Not your capital gains tax. No tax.

LOTHIAN: When asked if Geithner and Summers were testing the temperature by leaving the door open, Gibbs said, "I don't know."


LOTHIAN: So, essentially, you see there, Suzanne, the White House really trying to pour water on this, saying that this was nothing more, we shouldn't read into this beyond what they said, that the president really stands behind what he has always said in the past.

And again, we were also told that the president met with his economic advisers today. Both Geithner and Summers were in that meeting, and he reiterated to them where he stood, sort of a way to clarify, if you will, where he stands on this -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, Dan, thank you so much. Dan Lothian at the White House.

Let's bring in our CNN chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, for a quick reality check. How do you pay for the president's programs and reduce the deficit without raising taxes? How does that work?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's a several trillion dollar question.

Let me just show you the budget that we have just come out of, the budget that goes from January to June of 2009, of this year. We took in, the U.S. government took in $0.986 trillion. That's $986 billion in revenue. That's from taxes and things like that. The U.S. spent $1.9 trillion. So, you can see, we spent nearly twice what we took in, creating a shortfall or a budget gap of $954 billion, almost $1 trillion short.

Now, if you look at the federal debt, that's every shortfall, every deficit, you add it all up and what we have got is a national debt that's $11.6 trillion.

The net effect of continued national debt is that we pay interest on that, we have to print more money, and the value of our money goes down, there's inflation. So, we're going to have to deal with that and the president has said we're going to have to deal with that.

At this point, Suzanne, there's no recipe for dealing with that. We continue to spend more than we bring in. And if you say you're not going to raise taxes, we got to find some other way to make up for the money that's missing.

MALVEAUX: So, if the president wants to avoid a ballooning debt by having a balanced budget, does he have to raise taxes on the middle class? Is that the idea?

VELSHI: Yes. You have got to raise taxes somewhere. And we are so far away from a balanced budget, as you see, we are double what we would need. We are spending twice as much as what we need to do. None of the cuts that the president is proposing get us anywhere close to a balanced budget.

So a lot of thinking by many economists is that there's no way to get a balanced budget, stop running deficits and reduce the national debt without raising taxes, unless something very, very unusual happens and all of a sudden, all of us are making a lot more money and hence the taxes we pay don't have to go up in terms of percentages.

But, at the moment, most people think there's no way out of this mess without raising taxes in the long term.

MALVEAUX: OK, Ali Velshi, thank you very much.

How would you grade the president's performance on the economy? Well, this Thursday, we take note of 200 days in office for the Obama White House. And CNN anchors, analysts, many of you will grade the president on the economy, health care reform, foreign policy, other issues that you care about, special coverage of this national report card this Thursday night right here on CNN. In another reality check, we are helping you separate fact from fiction about the impact of the government's cash for clunkers program.

Let's bring in our Tom Foreman.

Tom, tell us about this. Has it helped automakers? What has this done?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, I got to tell you, the real issue is how do you separate fact from fiction on this.

Here's a fact. We know this. If you're somebody who got the deal on this, if you were able to trade in a clunker like this and you managed to get $4,500 off on a new car, you think it's a wonderful program. If you're an auto dealer and you're getting more sales because of this, you may think it's a wonderful program.

But let's take a look at what the numbers are for July compared to last July. Ford Motor Company, this was a big deal, up 2 percent. Now, that's kind of a big deal because Ford has been struggling a good bit, as all the big ones have. Hyundai up 12 percent. That's a big, big change there.

The other ones, you may think this is bad news, GM is down 19 percent, and that is not a good thing. They wouldn't like that. We have got Toyota is down by 11 percent, if I remember properly, and then we have got down here Chrysler down 9 percent. And we have got Hyundai -- excuse me -- Honda down 17 percent down here.

But, Suzanne, the important thing that people have to bear in mind in all of this is even though these are bad numbers, the predictions were much worse. So there's a sense that there's growth there, cars being sold. They're very happy about that and obviously those that have risen say a big boost.

And all of them say to some degree say cash for clunkers brought people into their dealerships, and even if they didn't have a clunker, some people bought cars anyway because they got interested -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Tom, it looks good, the numbers, but what happens next now?

FOREMAN: Well, that's the big puzzle. Nobody really knows what happens next. The simple truth is they're selling cars, yes. They're selling cars because the government is helping to buy cars for people.

If we don't get the extension of this, which is being talked about right now, as you know, then the question is, does this fall right back off a cliff? Do we go into next month and all these same people who have all these people in the showroom now see people saying, well, I didn't get in on the deal, the money ran out, now I'm going to put off again for two months, three months, four months?

And it's not a done deal that they will get an extension of more money. And, again, even if they do, what happens when that money runs out? So, the fact from fiction here, we know the facts of the numbers. We don't know the facts of what really is triggering this and if it will last once this money dries up -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yes, treasury secretary -- rather, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, talked to him, said didn't quite know when that money was going to be running out and what kind of impact that would be.

So, thank you, Tom.

Jack Cafferty is joining us this hour with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, what are you following?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Women, it says here, make better bosses than men, so says Carol Smith, who is a senior vice president at Elle media company.

She told "The New York Times" there's no contest that women are better advisers, mentors and rational thinkers and she adds that male bosses love to hear themselves talk and that in some jobs, she has intentionally come late to meetings so she could miss the sports talk before they got down to business.

Some experts agree with her. They say women are more collaborative, democratic than men. Also, they say women are more encouraging, less bossy, because people tolerate bossy women even less than bossy men.

One former female executive says women give more straight talk than men and that many employees complain about the feedback style of male bosses, calling it everything from harsh to evasive. But others say that women don't necessarily make better bosses. They find them less likely to take risks, say they're more emotional, which can be a bad thing.

They say that women who make it to senior management positions wind up belittling other women as a way to prove their own superiority. One study shows that women report less stress if their boss is a man.

Research also shows that good managers usually exhibit more so- called masculine traits, things like autonomy and independence, than feminine traits, like warmth and sensitivity to what others need.

Here's the question. Do women make better bosses? Go to, post a comment on my blog.

Did you ever work for a woman, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Yes. But I like to think I'm warm, sensitive and independent all together.

CAFFERTY: OK. I will buy that.

MALVEAUX: As well as a boss. Yes, there you go, all those things.

CAFFERTY: Whatever you say.


MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack.


MALVEAUX: Imagine you are resting on a plane and it violently drops.


JOHN NORWOOD, PASSENGER: People that weren't seat belted in flew up and hit the ceiling, so their faces, their heads, hit the plastics and broke all the plastics up at the top.


MALVEAUX: Some passengers are happy to be alive after suffering gut-wrenching turbulence. What can you do in a situation like this?

Well, they're young in age, but old enough to kill. Teenaged boys say the Taliban trained them in terror. Now an expert says some are psychotic and could be lurking anywhere.

And going far vs. crossing the line. With American hikers detained in Iran, how far is too far when it comes to extreme tourism?


MALVEAUX: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is concerned about three American hikers believed to be detained by Iran. They were traveling in Iraq's Kurdistan region last week when they apparently crossed the unmarked border into Iran and were surrounded by Iranian soldiers.

Clinton says she is asking Swiss diplomats who represents U.S. interests in Iran to find out more.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We want this matter brought to a resolution as soon as possible. And we call on the Iranian government to help us determine the whereabouts of the three missing Americans and return them as quickly as possible.


MALVEAUX: The region of Kurdistan is considered one of the safest in Iraq and has emerged as an extreme tourist destination for adventurous travelers.

Well, let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. Abbi, the entire country is still under -- the State Department considered very, very dangerous.


MALVEAUX: A travel warning.

TATTON: But still people are going. Now, we're not saying that tourists are flooding the region of northern Iraq, nothing like that, but adventure tourists are heading to parts of this region, drawn by a stunningly beautiful area around there.

Let's show you the area where these hikers were heading. This is the approach up to the border with Iran in this area just across from Sulaimaniyah. When they got up there, the town of Ahmed Awaa, this is a beautiful tourist resort town with waterfalls. And this here, the photo along here, is the area along the border, all shot by a local filmmaker.

Now, there are adventure tour companies that will take small groups there, but they're saying they're not going this far, they're not going up to that border. We spoke to a British company, Hinterland Travel, that runs these extreme tour groups.

They say that while they will stay in the area of Sulaimaniyah, which is at the base of this mountainous area away from the border, they don't go any further than that, and they are quite baffled as to why these travelers would go so far into this area that's just not that popular with Western tourists.

MALVEAUX: Sure. And, Abbi, how experienced were these travelers that crossed the border?

TATTON: Well, you just have to look at the Web site of one of them, Shane Bauer. He is a freelance reporter. And if you look at where he has reported from, it reads like a State Department travel warning list, Syria, Darfur, Yemen. He has reported from all of them. He is considered by colleagues to be a gifted Arabic speaker as well, lives in the Middle East.

MALVEAUX: OK. So, they all have various experiences, very...

TATTON: Absolutely, seasoned travelers.

MALVEAUX: OK. Abbi Tatton -- thank you very much, Abbi.

Now a story only you will see on CNN. Behind these masks should be lighthearted stories from teenaged boys. Instead, these teenagers say they have been trained to be cold-blooded killers, traumatized, some even call them psychotic. And one expert fears many of them could be masking their violence behind a veil of teenaged innocence.

CNN's Stan Grant has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look into the eyes of these boys. Pakistan's military says these are the lost souls of the Taliban's terror.

The boys tell me they were stolen from their families, abused, beaten and brainwashed by the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The first day, they beat us. Then they made us exercise. They made us run and told us you will wage jihad."

GRANT: The Pakistan military gave CNN limited access to these boys. The army says they rescued them during heavy fighting with the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

Their faces are covered, their identities protected because of the possibility of retribution. The youngest is only 13. We can't independently verify their stories, but doctors say they have no doubt about their trauma.

The boys themselves each told me how they were kidnapped by the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): "I was coming from the shop to my house. I had some stuff with me. They said put your stuff in the car. They said should we drop you in the village or in the square? When we reached the village, I said I want to get off here, but they blindfolded me and put a hand on my mouth.

Other boys say they were snatched working in the fields. In militant camps, they say they were being trained to be suicide bombers to do the Taliban's killing.

(on camera): Would you kill for God?

(voice-over): "Yes," he says. In the right circumstances or the wrong circumstances, would they kill?

DR. FARIHA PERACHA, PSYCHIATRIST: They would kill them, two of them, wouldn't even feel it.

GRANT (on camera): They would kill them and they wouldn't feel it?

PERACHA: They probably wouldn't have an empathetic response to what has happened.

GRANT (voice-over): These boys have been so badly damaged by this experience, psychiatrists say, it's difficult to know exactly how they are feeling. The doctors say some are psychotic, some psychopathic, and some pose a very real risk.

PERACHA: His statement with the army was that, if he had a suicide jacket, that he would have committed suicide, and he had a Kalashnikov, he would have fired. GRANT: Dr. Fariha tells army chiefs they are just the tip of the iceberg. After talking to the boys, she believes there are possibly hundreds of others just like them.

(on camera): Are the boys brainwashed?

PERACHA: Yes, of course they are. They are brainwashed against you and me.

GRANT (voice-over): But Dr. Fariha does not blame these boys. They are the innocent victims, she says. All they are left with, they tell me, are the voices in their heads, voices of the Taliban, commanding them to kill.

(on camera): These boys obviously face many, many years of treatment before they can even hope to rejoin normal society here in Pakistan. The guns hopefully one day will be silenced, but the torment will live on -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Turbulence like few of us have ever experienced injures dozens of passengers and forces this U.S.-bound plane to divert. We have new pictures of the chaos and damage inside.

Plus, what's the deal with these eye-catching outfits? Details of what Japanese researchers are calling the robot suit.



MALVEAUX: Well, it was likely the most frightening plane ride passengers had ever taken.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was scared, all the people so scared, all the people.


MALVEAUX: A plane just drops unexpectedly. Everyone is safe, but what should you do in a situation like that?

And remains for the first American officer shot down in the Gulf War have been found. Does this provide closure to his family or open up painful wounds?


MALVEAUX: Their stories are frightening, but at least they are alive to tell them. We are taking you inside a plane that ran into some severe turbulence today. One passenger says there were people whose faces were cut up and that it felt like a roller coaster ride. Another says passengers not wearing seat belts hit the ceilings.

But what can you do in a situation like this?

Let's get more from our Brian Todd.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, there's not much you can do if you're not strapped into your seat or buckled in.

Now, we're told that the crew of Flight 128 is being interviewed by investigators this evening, but, already, passengers and their pictures tell a harrowing story.


TODD (voice-over): This is what violent turbulence looks like inside the cabin. These photographs from a passenger aboard Continental Flight 128 show the ceiling of the plane split open. Two sections you can see in this shot look like casings for several oxygen masks.

One witness says this damage may have been done by passengers who were thrown upward.

JOHN NORWOOD, PASSENGER: Yes, all the lighting and all -- where the masks come down and everything, people that weren't seat belted in flew up and hit the ceiling, so their faces, their heads, hit the plastics and broke all the plastics up at the top.

TODD: The plane with 179 people aboard encountered severe turbulence on the way from Rio de Janeiro to Houston and diverted to Miami -- 26 passengers were hurt. Some required at least temporary hospitalization.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers says there was no severe weather in the area at the time. And a Continental Airlines official now tells CNN this aircraft encountered what's called clear air turbulence. Pilots we spoke to say this is when a plane gets caught between air masses moving swiftly in different directions.

As the name indicates, it often happens when the weather looks fine, and it comes on with virtually no warning.

JOHN WILEY, PILOT: So, as the pilots are transiting this area, they're not seeing anything on the radar, they're not seeing anything visually that gives them reason to believe that they're getting ready to penetrate an area with clear air turbulence.

TODD: Pilots say, during these events, passengers not wearing seat belts can get severely injured when G-forces throw them to the ceiling. They can stay pinned on the ceiling even for a few seconds, then could get injured by being thrown back down on to seats or the floor.


TODD: Now, after landing in Miami, some passengers said they got no warning to buckle their seat belts when the heavy turbulence began. Continental said the seat belt sign was illuminated and their procedure is to give a verbal warning when that happens.

A Continental official just told me they are still gathering information, but: "There's every reason to believe a verbal warning was given in this instance."

MALVEAUX: And, Brian, is there any kind of clear takeaway -- a lesson from this when you see that kind of video and this experience these guys went through?

TODD: Yes. We spoke with several pilots today. And they say if you don't have to move around inside the cabin, stay seated with your seat belt fastened. One pilot told me that these seat belts in planes are what he called G stress. They're tested against several G forces. He says if your seat is bolted to the floor, you're going to stay in your seat through some of the worst turbulence if your seat belt is on and fastened.

MALVEAUX: So wear your seatbelt.

TODD: That's it.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Brian.

Well, a bittersweet end to a mystery that haunted one family for almost two decades -- the disappearance of a Navy pilot shot down at the start of the Gulf War. Now, remains found buried in the Iraqi desert have been positively identified as those of Captain Scott Striker -- Speicher, rather.

CNN's John Zarrella is in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida -- John, how are people reacting today?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Suzanne, Scott Speicher's name is on this veterans memorial wall here behind me in Jacksonville. But until now, the community had held out hope that somehow, Scott Speicher was still alive.


ZARRELLA: (voice-over): On an overcast Monday in Jacksonville, Florida, people stood solemnly along a road leading from the naval air station holding American flags, paying their respects as the hearse drove by carrying the remains of a Marine Corps private killed in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're here to honor this fallen hero. To let the family know that we care.

ZARRELLA: And in Jacksonville, they continue caring no matter how many years go by. For 18 years, they kept alive the name Scott Speicher -- Navy pilot, shot down on the first night of the first Gulf War, never knowing whether he was alive or dead. A banner still flies above a fire station. Speicher's name is etched on a veterans memorial wall. Beneath it, a yellow ribbon and a letter to his family. "He will always be remembered," it reads, in part.

BOB BUEHN, SPEICHER-HARRIS FAMILY FRIEND: These would be the first Gulf War as we call it.

ZARRELLA: (on camera): Right. Right.

BUEHN: We didn't know that when this was put up there.

ZARRELLA: (voice-over): Bob Buehn, a retired Naval aviator, knows the Speicher family. In all these years, Speicher's widow, Joanne, talked only once to a national magazine. There's a reason, says Buehn.

BUEHN: Joanne has focused on her family and her kids and done a wonderful job of -- of taking care of them and raising them as close to a normal situation as possible.

ZARRELLA: Joanne Speicher remarried. The children now attend state universities. They were on hand when Governor Charlie Crist signed legislation extending free tuition to children of missing soldiers and POWs from the Gulf Wars.

For the Speichers, some questions still have not been answered.

CINDY LAQUIDARA, SPEICHER-HARRIS FAMILY FRIEND: Any information we can learn about what happened when he ejected and to the point of which he died, we think, is beneficial.

ZARRELLA: At Arlington National Cemetery, there is a headstone with Speicher's name on it. Where he will be buried has not been made public. But he has, after 18 years, finally come home.


ZARRELLA: Now, that family spokeswoman told us that the Speicher family still does not believe he died in the crash. And the reason why, Suzanne, is because they hired private investigators in Baghdad. And they believe they got credible evidence from those investigators that leads them to believe that Speicher was captured after the crash -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, John Zarrella.

Well, never say never -- President Obama has pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class. But some top advisers aren't ready to make the same promise.

And, well, their wedding dance, down the aisle and it was an Internet sensation. But it was only a matter of time before a divorce court dance became an Internet parody.

Jeanne Moos finds it Moost Unusual.


MALVEAUX: Well, it's going to be a busy, even contentious, August break for Congress.

We're here with the best political team on television -- Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley and Joe Johns.

Carol Costello is going to get the ball rolling on all of this.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am, Suzanne. You know -- but, you know, Suzanne, I'm sure most members of Congress who left town on Friday were hoping for a break from all that noise in Washington. That's not exactly how it turned out for Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas.

Here's what happened when he tried to hold a question and answer session on health care.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Just say no. Just say no. Just say no. Just say no.


COSTELLO: Oh, yes. It was pretty ugly, especially if you were like a Blue Dog Democrat. Representative Doggett's office called the protesters "a mob sent by Republicans."

But Democrats aren't the only ones facing tough crowds. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was confronted, too, recently.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and better than mine? I should have the same insurance you have.


COSTELLO: So it doesn't sound like it will be a quiet vacation for many members of Congress.

So, what does this August recess mean for the health care debate?

Will Republicans or Democrats win on the battleground?

MALVEAUX: So we're going to ask our best political team here to tackle this. You've all dealt with Congress. And, obviously, this is one of those rare moments they get, what, four -- more than four weeks or so to -- to deal with all of this.

How productive is this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this is a time -- when you have a bill that's unfinished -- and, by the way, unwritten. I mean you have a whole bunch of bills in the House and the Senate. You don't have one final version. And what you've got are people who have lived through pretty bad economic times. They're afraid that something's going to happen with their health care. They're not quite sure what. And they're also afraid that someone is going to raise their taxes to pay for it. So they're angry. So you go home. You have constituent meetings and they let you know what they're thinking about.

MALVEAUX: And you see you have angry people yelling at you, this type of thing, I mean how does that translate into, gee, I feel pressure, maybe I should vote for this or not vote for this?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It depends. It depends, really. It depends on what district you're in. And I suspect that it will be interesting to go to some of the liberal Democratic districts, because on the left hand side of some of these Congressmen are people going wait a minute, what happened to the public plan, as they hear that the Senate might go for a co-op of some sort.

So I think they'll all have trouble of some sort.

Do I think it changes minds?

I think it informs things when they come back. But when you look at the Democrats, they still have a vested interest in seeing that this president succeeds in some fashion.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this stuff happens all the time. I mean, the -- this health care story really goes all the way back to 1993. And when you asked that question, I almost laughed out loud, because it brought to mind this memory of Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee...

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

JOHNS: ...who told a story of a senior citizen jumping on the hood of his car and yelling at him.



JOHNS: Right.


JOHNS: Years and years ago. So people get very impassioned over this stuff. They feel it. And they don't understand it sometimes. And they're going to let their members of Congress know about it.

MALVEAUX: Who has done a better job here of explaining this thing?

Has it been the Republicans or the -- or the Democrats here in this?

BORGER: I don't think anybody's done a really good job of explaining it, because it's a moving target right now. At first...

CROWLEY: Well, that's what makes everybody right.

BORGER: Right.

JOHNS: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: They're talking abstracts and so it's really easy to be right if you don't really know what's in it.

BORGER: But, you know, at first the president came out and said this is going to reduce the deficit. Then the Congressional Budget Office came out and said maybe it won't, not so fast. So now he's changing and it's the big, bad insurance companies. The Republicans are saying it's socialized medicine.

You know, take your pick, right?

CROWLEY: Well, but the quicker answer to that question is the Democrats are on defense now. And that's because, A, it's just sitting out there. And any time anything you want sits out there...


CROWLEY: -- and is batted around like a pinata, it is not in your favor.

JOHNS: And they're a target in a lot of ways. This is a target for the Democrats to defend, for the Republicans to shoot down. But when you get out in the country, though, and you talk to people, again and again, I hear from individuals who say I really want to do something about health insurance. I really want to make it so it's more affordable, so it doesn't get cut off if somebody gets sick. And that's really the bottom line.

The question is how engaged those people are.

BORGER: And that's why the administration has decided to take on the insurance companies now, because when you poll, the one thing people sort of agree on is that, you know, their insurance rates are going up and they don't like it.

However, the insurance companies, at this point, are supporting reform. They don't like the public plan, but they're actually with the program right now.

JOHNS: Right.


CROWLEY: In the end, what you have is two -- two sides of this debate -- the evil insurance companies versus socialized medicine.

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: That's how it all comes down. BORGER: Yes.

MALVEAUX: We're going to have more on the -- on the other side of the break.

Mixed messages on a middle class tax hike -- is the Obama administration opening the door, closing it or something else?

Also, your answers to this hour's question -- do women make better bosses?

Jack Cafferty has your e-mail.

Plus, a wedding video goes viral. Now, bring on the spoofs.


MALVEAUX: We're back with the best political team on television.

Our Carol Costello brings you up to speed on why some are comparing President Obama to the first President Bush.

COSTELLO: Well, it's because of six little words, Suzanne. I bet no one remembers those six words better than the man who uttered them, then presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush.




COSTELLO: Oh, that sounds painful now, doesn't it?

That line came back to haunt him, of course.

So, could President Obama wind up making the very same mistake?

That's what people are asking after some vague talk from the president's top economic advisers on whether taxes could be raised.

Larry Summers said, "It is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out no matter what."

And Treasury Secretary Geithner said, "We're going to have to do whatever is necessary to bring down the deficit."

But what about those campaign promises?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you make less than $250,000 a year, your taxes will not increase one single dime -- not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains tax, no tax. Because you need a break. And that's what I intend to give you.


COSTELLO: More than six words, but much more explicit. Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president is committed to not raising taxes on the middle class. Of course, it's too soon to tell exactly how the president will pay for his health care plan.

So here's the question -- what are the political implications for President Obama if he is forced to raise taxes?

MALVEAUX: OK. To our best political team, what's going to happen here?

Is this his read my lips moment?

BORGER: Well, look, it's never great for any politician to raise taxes.

Have you ever met a politician who was thrilled about having to raise taxes?

This administration...

CROWLEY: Walter Mondale...

BORGER: Right. Right.


CROWLEY: -- in his campaign. But he lost.

BORGER: Right. But he lost. You know, so this is an -- this is an administration that's -- that's hemmed in because -- because of the president's promise that 95 percent of the people, he's not going to raise your taxes. He's already proposed some tax hikes on the wealthy. He's going to repeal President Bush's tax cuts on the wealthy. Congress is set -- trying to put a surtax on the wealthy for health care. They have to find a way to pay for health care reform and not add to the deficit. It's tough.

MALVEAUX: Has he boxed himself in?

CROWLEY: No, he hasn't boxed himself in, because he'll do what he has to do. It really depends on what you get for raising those taxes. If everybody gets great health care that they love, well, I suspect they would be happy.

But here's the problem. When you put economists out to make political statements, when they really -- you know, they should have backed off that. I mean, look, Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner are economists at the heart of it and they stated the truth. If you've got huge deficits, there's one of two things that you can do to bring that deficit down. The economy just explodes and it's great and everyone has a job or you raise taxes. So I just think you heard a little dose of realism there.

BORGER: Which is why (INAUDIBLE)...

JOHNS: Right.



BORGER: Right.

JOHNS: And so you can automatically see the friction there. You have Larry Summers. These guys are looking at the numbers. They're trying to add them up. And they're just not adding up.

On the other hand, the political guys over at the White House, you know as well as I do, are saying you start talking about raising taxes, you're killing us here.

So there's a real challenge for this president. It's, at the end of the day, a question, as it was for President Bush, a question of credibility. Because even people on his own side will start ridiculing him for making a promise during the campaign that he was unable to keep. That's the reason why some people are so reluctant to start going down this road.

MALVEAUX: Does anyone even know how much this health care plan is going to cost?

Do we have an idea?

BORGER: Well, you know, you know the trillion dollars over...

CROWLEY: $800 billion, $900 billion.

BORGER: ...over 10 years.

CROWLEY: But this...

BORGER: But we don't know, because we don't know...


CROWLEY: -- this health care plan. There's no like plan. So where they get $1 trillion is a little beyond me, because like, well, what's the plan and then it would seem that you would add it up.

BORGER: Well, and, also, don't forget, they are proposing new ways to control costs. And it's very difficult to figure out how much you're going to save when it hasn't been done before.

MALVEAUX: Joe, is it better for them to be vague or detailed at this time?

JOHNS: Right now, it's better to be vague, simply because you really don't know what's coming down the pike. You don't know what the Congress is going to do. And some people are saying right now, even Democrats, that it wasn't the greatest idea to let the Congress do this thing without a whole bunch of guidance because it goes all over the place.

MALVEAUX: OK. We've got to leave it there.

Thank you so much, guys.

To Lou Dobbs -- Lou, what are you working?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, Suzanne, first of all, a terrific question and a terrific answer.

New controversy over the possibility the president may be planning to break a campaign pledge and raise middle class taxes. It's a controversy driven, in part, by two of the administration's own officials. We'll have complete coverage.

Also tonight, rising outrage over the president's health care plan -- whatever that plan is -- as Congressmen are returning home for their August recess meeting with their constituents. We'll ask the questions that members of Congress so far have not asked and have refused to address -- answers you will be interested in, I assure you.

President Obama also facing strong opposition to that health care plan from his former doctor, Dr. David Scheiner. Dr. Scheiner is among my guests here tonight.

And in our Face-Off debate, we examine the president's sinking poll ratings. Two leading pollsters -- one Republican, one Democrat -- join me. We hope you will, as well.

For all of that, all the day's news and much more coming up at the top of the hour -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Lou.

Great to see you.

Jack Cafferty joining us again -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question of hour is do women make better bosses?

Darrell in Houston writes: "The answer is no. Women are the best co-workers, great team players, just great to work with. But this all changes when they're the boss. Women have one major flaw in their character -- emotions. As a boss, she'll either be your best friend or your worst nightmare. And this is just Monday and Tuesday. It depends on how all the other relationships are going in her life."

Melissa writes: "Speaking as a woman, I say, no they don't. Women are, by nature, are cattier, even crueler, in some ways, than men. Plus, most women think they have something to prove so they're more aggressive because of it." Kathy says: "Very possibly they do, but a blanket statement is never entirely correct. Women are often more organized, better able to multitask than men. They can be much more sensitive to the underlying causes of problems."

Steve says: "For the last seven years, I've had a boss who's a woman. She's not a big risk taker at all. She kind of goes with the flow, like a lot of women do. I'm married and it feels like I have to cater to both of them all the time."

Julie in Texas says: "I think it's a sexist question. I wish everybody would finally accept the fact there are women who are bad bosses, women who are good bosses, just like men. I manage 36 people. I've been told I'm a good boss. My husband, on the other hand, worked for a woman who only made emotional decisions and was absolutely impossible to work for."

Ken says: "I've been out of work for three years. Right now, I'd be happy to have a coffee table as a boss."

And Graham writes: "Jack, your boss, man or woman, needs to find more for you to do."

If you didn't see your e-mail -- what are you snickering about?

I heard that.



CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here...

MALVEAUX: Jack, have you...


MALVEAUX: Have you ever had a female boss?

CAFFERTY: Yes, as a matter of fact, I have, a couple of times.


And how -- how did that work out?

CAFFERTY: Well, great. You know, I've got four daughters. I've have had two wives. I love women. I get along just fine with women.


MALVEAUX: Well, that's great, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

MALVEAUX: I'm one of your biggest fans.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack.

While most people kick up their heels at weddings, you may have even seen the popular YouTube video of a Moost Unusual wedding procession that made the rounds. And now here's a flip side. The choreography is much the same, but the setting is very different. It is divorce court.

And a giant dessert in India almost fills the wall in our Hot Shots, when we come back, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at Hot Shots -- pictures likely to be in your hometown newspaper tomorrow.

In Pakistan, children go to school outside after fighting in the Swat Valley destroys their school.

In Mexico, police officers stand guard as the media are briefed on the leader of a drug cartel.

In England, a paddle board instructor and student take a ride down a river.

And in India, just put the finishing touches on this giant 59 pound dessert.

That's look at today's Hot Shots -- a pictures worth a thousand words.

And, well, we have to say it was inevitable -- video of a very popular over the top wedding procession that took YouTube by storm has now, after millions of hits, spawned a Moost Unusual parody.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They just got married...


MOOS: ...just got married a few weeks ago and already they're dancing into divorce court?


MOOS: There's the groom. Here comes the judge. If this looks and sounds familiar, it's because you and more than 15 million other people have watched the original wedding dance video on YouTube.

(VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: Real bride Jill Peterson and her groom, Kevin Heinz, kick- started their ceremony dancing to "Forever" by Chris Brown. The video was such a hit -- even to this toddler -- that "The Today Show" asked the bridal party to re-enact it.


MOOS: Contestants on Australia's "Dancing With The Stars" staged their own version.


MOOS: Even a local news team got into the act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got own thing going on here.

MOOS: But now instead of groomsmen...


MOOS: ...lawyers are doing the dancing. Instead of bridesmaids...


MOOS: ...stenographers are kicking up a fuss in divorce court.

(on camera): Do you think they're going to be divorced in six months?

MAX ROSEN: No, we hope -- we hope that they're together forever.

MOOS (voice-over): Max Rosen produced the parody divorce court video for Indigo Productions using real dancers and actors and Conan O'Brien's choreographer, Neillo (ph).

(on camera): How long did you take to shoot it?

MAX ROSEN, INDIGO PRODUCTIONS: We shot it in one hour.

MOOS: Wow!

In the real courtroom?

ROSEN: In the real courtroom.

MOOS: I can't believe they let you in there.

(voice-over): The couple even stood on the furniture, pantomiming a fight.


MOOS: In the end, they make nice with the newlyweds they're spoofing.


MOOS (on camera): And talk about marriage -- the original wedding dance video and the parody are now together forever.

Do you take this spoof to be your lawful wedded parody?


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: We want you to check out our political podcast. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.