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Families Held in Private Prison; What Clinton Learned in North Korea; President's Popularity Slips; Grading the President; Twitter Attacked by Hackers; Underwent Borrowers

Aired August 6, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers here in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now, families held in a private prison, the Obama administration moves toward a drastic change in its policy on immigrant detention.

Key Democrats shadowed by conservative protesters wherever they promote health care reform. Who's behind the chaos? I'll ask Congressman Lloyd Doggett, one of the targeted lawmaker.

And police say a wrong-way driver was drunk and stoned when she killed herself and seven others. But her husband and his attorney suggest something entirely different.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Families locked up in a private prison, children kept behind barbed wire. Those conditions for illegal immigrants have already been changing, but now a drastic turnaround in the detention policy of the United States is being planned. Let's go to our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. She's working this story for us.

All right, specifically, Jeanne, what is this new potential change in policy mean for illegal immigrants?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the administration took the first step today towards what it promises will be a comprehensive overhaul of immigration detention facilities.


MESERVE: On any given day, 32,000 people are held in immigration detention in the US. And at some times, in some places, investigations have revealed appalling conditions.

VANITA GUPTA, ACLU: We've had over 90 detainee deaths since 2003. There's been a real crisis in the provision of medical care at these facilities. And the problems are really widespread and nationwide.

MESERVE: Now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is re- evaluating the entire system -- promising stronger federal oversight, including random inspections of facilities and quicker investigations of detainee grievances.

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If people are going to be held by force of the rule of law, we have an obligation that they're held safely, in a clean and healthy environment.

MESERVE: Among the areas under review, the location and operation of detention facilities, health care and alternatives to detention. ICE will move almost immediately to discontinue family detention at the T. Don Hutto residential facility in Texas.

Before an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit was settled in 2007, children under 10 were being detained there for up to a year, in cells with open toilets and only one hour of schooling a day. The ACLU is elated, but is pushing ICE to establish and enforce basic standards for conditions at all its detention facilities.

GUPTA: It does not make sense to -- to just reorganize immigration detention systems. There needs to be meaningful reform.


MESERVE: ICE said today's announcement is just the beginning of a multiyear process to reform the system. But officials say they will still enforce the law -- will still be in the business of detaining people who are in this country illegally -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne.

Thanks very much.

Did Bill Clinton pick up any useful information in North Korea?

Government intelligence experts will be picking the former president's brain, trying to learn whatever they can about the secretive North Korean regime.

Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty -- Jill, they're going to be trying to answer lots of questions.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really fascinating what they -- they could find out and what President Clinton could know. But, you know, before he left for North Korea, former President Clinton was briefed by members of the National Security Council. And now that he is back, the debriefings are going to be taking place.

And they are a crucial way of getting information on a country that very few Americans, let alone former presidents, have visited.


DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Bill Clinton's meeting with Kim Jong Il -- a gold mine of observations about the ailing North Korean leader. And experts in the U.S. government are eager to analyze it, as they debrief the former president.

JIM WALSH, MIT: How does he move? Does he move freely?

Does he have use of his extremities?

Does he look good?

Does he look bad?

Are there stutters in his speech?

So sort of a physical assessment. They'll also be able to make a mental assessment.

DOUGHERTY: MIT's Jim Walsh has visited North Korea and has been through the kind of debriefings Bill Clinton could get. But Clinton, he says, has a rare skill set.

WALSH: And he's an astute observer of human behavior. Moreover, he has been through this before. He has sat down with leaders of countries, had one-on-one meetings, been to summits. That sort of experience will prove invaluable.

DOUGHERTY: U.S. government experts, he predicts, will want to know which North Koreans were in the room with Kim Jong Il, how did they interact with him, what did they say, how did they say it. It's not spying, he says.

Like the mass games in honor of Kim Jong Il, the North Koreans carefully stage manage every detail.

WALSH: So all President Clinton had to do in that circumstance is just keep a meticulous mental track of everything that he saw around him. Then when he reports that, it will be up to the analysts to say, well, which parts of this are important, which parts of it are not important.


DOUGHERTY: And a U.S. official tells CNN that in spite of these health setbacks for Kim Jong Il, the working assumption here in Washington is that he is still the man in charge of making all of the most important decisions in North Korea -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's interesting, Jill, in addition to John Podesta, his former White House chief of staff, who went along on the trip, and Doug Band, his longtime counselor, he also brought experts on North Korea, including some Korean speakers, into those meetings, who might even have a better sense of what Kim Jong Il is all about right now than he.

DOUGHERTY: Yes. That's really true, because, after all, if you don't speak the language, it's very hard to pick up on some things. And you can be sure that they were really, in some cases, literally taking notes. You know, it's not forbidden in meetings. But then also at the dinner, we are told, with Kim Jong Il, not likely that they were taking notes. But they were certainly paying very, very close attention.

BLITZER: As they should.

All right. Thanks very much for that.

We have an important programming note for our viewers. Lisa Ling will speak out about the emotional reunion with her sister, Laura, later tonight. It's her first interview since her sister's release. This is all an "ANDERSON COOPER 360." It starts at 10:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's here with "The Cafferty File."

I would have liked to have been on that trip with the former president to North Korea.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. You know who one of the North Korean officials was at Pyongyang Airport when President Clinton landed?

The country's top nuclear arms negotiator.

BLITZER: Really?

CAFFERTY: They don't do anything accidentally over there.

BLITZER: No. No. That's right.

CAFFERTY: As this country -- back here at home -- struggles with the worst recession since the Great Depression, millions of Americans looking for work, Congress is getting ready to spend some big bucks on some brand new private airplanes for itself.

The House approved $200 million to buy three brand new Gulf Stream jets -- two of them meant for members of Congress and other top government officials. These jets can fly more than 600 miles an hour, go nonstop from Washington to as far as China or Japan without refueling.

The Pentagon only asked for one of these jets, but the House Appropriations Committee decided to add two additional planes, saying they should be assigned to the Washington, D.C. Area for the use of these people that represent us.

Reports say the funding for the Gulf Stream jets was pushed through by two members of the committee, both from Georgia, where these airplanes are made. One of these Congressmen told ABC News that buying these jets supports local industry and will mean jobs for his constituents.

A Congressional staffer defends the move, saying the military was already looking to update its fleet. And some experts say the jets may be more expensive, but they're worth it, because they're more secure and efficient for VIPs. Is that what we call them now?

Critics say members of Congress are a bunch of hypocrites.

You remember how they lashed out at the auto CEOs when they flew on their private jets into Washington, D.C. Asking for bailout money last year?

I remember that.

Here's the question: What message does it send that during the recession, Congress is ordering new jets for itself?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Those Gulf Stream jets are really nice, though.

CAFFERTY: Two hundred million for three of them. They must be comfortable.

BLITZER: They're really pretty. They're really nice. You don't have to take off your shoes when you go through security...

CAFFERTY: Well, we shouldn't have...

BLITZER: just...

CAFFERTY: They don't need to have any inconveniences. Only the best for our elected officials.




CAFFERTY: I'm going to be ill.

BLITZER: OK. Jack, thanks.

Two hundred days in office -- CNN marks President Obama's milestone with a new National Report Card. We have a brand new poll.

Is the public still behind the president?

And a shocking new study estimates that nearly half the nation's mortgage borrowers may soon owe more than their homes are worth.

What does that mean for you?

Plus, an attack on Twitter affecting millions of Internet users. We've got the situation online.


BLITZER: Exactly 200 days in office -- does President Obama still have the very strong backing from the American people he had six months ago?

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

There's some new polling numbers that are coming in.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is. And, as you know, Wolf, every poll tells a little story about where we are at the moment. Sometimes they tell two stories.

So we have a new poll showing that the percentage of Americans who consider the president's first six months to be a success is a bare majority, 51 percent. But the president remains a very popular fellow.


CROWLEY: (voice-over): The president's approval rating has been dropping since April, but the 56 percent he has now is a lot of political capital, but, of course, nothing to count on.

At the same point in his administration, former President George Bush had a 55 percent approval rating. Sick (ph) trends at poll numbers.

It's been a busy 200 days for the new president, a man with a lot on his plate and the march of history in sight.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lie lei down the Transcontinental Railroad and passed the Homestead Act and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of civil war.

CROWLEY: Still, the president seems a bit too busy for the vast majority of Americans. Asked if he has tried to handle more issues than he should, 65 percent said yes in the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. As has been the case, the new president's overall approval rating is higher than those for his policies.

As the U.S. effort in Afghanistan builds up, support for the war has hit a new low. Only 41 percent of Americans say they favor the war and the numbers turn politics on its head. Three of every four Democrats oppose the war. Two-thirds of Republicans support it.

Also, 200 days in, three quarters of the American public remain sour on the economy, rating it somewhat to very poor.

OBAMA: Just a few months ago, folks thought that these factories might be closed for good. But now, they're coming back to life.


OBAMA: You're welcome. Thank the American people.

(END VIDEO TAPE) CROWLEY: As it happens, hope springs eternal out there. Fifty- five percent of Americans believe the president's economic policies either have or will make the economy better. Other good news for the president, despite the sorry state of the economy, Americans don't blame him. Twice as many blame the Republicans as blame the Democrats. The president, it seems, Wolf, has some time to work everything out.

BLITZER: Yes. I just want to clarify, in -- in the job approval numbers, the numbers you referred to, right now, the president's job approval is at 56 percent compared to George W. Bush's 55 percent at this point, 200 days into his presidency.

In the last hour, we asked -- we showed the difference comparison on whether people consider his presidency so far a success. Fifty-one percent say they see the president as a success so far, compared to 56 percent who said they saw Bush as a success 200 days into his presidency.

Did President Obama get high marks anywhere else in this new poll we have?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly, it continues to show that people believe that he is -- he is making progress. I mean, I think that the biggest thing out of this poll, frankly, is that they don't blame him, which gives him time; that while they think the economy is rotten, they think he's making it better.

So all of that says that he has -- he still is, you know, his approval rating, as we said, is -- is higher than those of his policies. So all of that is positive for him, again, because it means he may have another hundred days to work this out.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, then after that, he'll have another hundred.

CROWLEY: Right. Yes. Well, a hundred -- another hundred days before people go -- you know, turn the other way.


Thanks very much, Candy.


BLITZER: You've heard what the polls are saying, but what are the people out there saying?

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is taking the pulse in Ohio -- Jessica, tell us a little bit about what you're seeing out there in Ohio?

You're talking to regular folks.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I have been doing that all day, Wolf. I'm in Steubenville, Ohio, which is about 30 minutes from Pittsburgh, also near the West Virginia border. And it's a community that sort of represents what Main Street America has been going through.

Here, the unemployment rate, though, is higher than the national average -- 13.5 percent unemployment.

The vote was very evenly split here. Obama won this county, Jefferson County, by just 76 votes. The economy here is struggling. There are about three steel mills within 10 miles of where I'm sitting at a diner. All three have either closed or are closing. The growing industries here are hospitals, so health care field and education. There are some colleges in the community. So it's shifting to a new kind of economy. But in the meantime, it's struggling.

And I'm sitting here with a woman named Jamie Carmosino...


YELLIN: ...who has lived in the area for many years.

And I wanted to ask you, what grade would you give the Obama administration on how they've handled the economy?

CARMOSINO: The Obama administration, I would give, probably, a D minus. I am mostly concerned that he promised transparency and there's no transparency with this administration. And, also, I'm very concerned about the number of czars.

And even in West Virginia, our senator, Senator Byrd, is also questioning the number of czars and the need for that many and the lack of transparency.

YELLIN: Thank you, Jamie.

Wolf, we've also talked to a number of people who expressed concerns, one person about the stimulus, that they felt it was oversold. They are now starting to see some stimulus positive effect happen. The street that borders this very restaurant is getting $7.5 million for a complete overhaul of this major road next to this restaurant. But again, some criticism locally that it hasn't come to town fast enough -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Marks you're hearing for the president?

YELLIN: Yes. We have also heard some very positive comments. In fact, I interviewed one man earlier who gave the president an A on the economy. And here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I liked the Cash for Clunkers. I thought that was a brilliant idea. I know a lot of people in the car industry and it skyrocketed the business for them. So, you know, when people start spending money, they're going to spend money on other things. So I would think that was a great idea.


YELLIN: All, Wolf, here is economy, economy, economy. That's all they're talking about. This town really needs some help -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be checking in with you throughout the night.

Jessica, thanks.

And it's your chance, also, to grade the Obama administration on its second 100 days. You can cast your vote right now at With over two million votes already cast, you can check out how the grades are breaking down on health care, the economy. Then you can get all the results later tonight on CNN's National Report Card, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Our coverage will begin then.

It's becoming a common occurrence -- angry protests on health care reform at town hall meetings. We're talking with one Democratic Congressman who has experienced it firsthand.

And millions of Internet users unable to access Twitter and Facebook -- what caused today's disruption of the popular social networking sites?

Stay with us.

We'll explain what's going on.



BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- Deb, what's going on?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, four U.S. troops were killed in Western Afghanistan today when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. NATO military officials say an American service member was also killed yesterday, after NATO troops battled insurgents who were spotted planting roadside bombs. Just six days into August, the U.S. Death toll in Afghanistan stands at 11.

A traveling companion of the three American hikers taken into custody when they apparently strayed across the Iraqi border into Iran is speaking out. Shon Meckfessel, who did not accompany his friends on the hike, says he's "absolutely certain" that they had no knowledge of their proximity to the Iranian border. He goes on to say that he was in contact with his friends via text message during their hike and that they had plans to meet up after. He says that in the last message he received from his friends, they said they were being taken into custody and asked him to call U.S. embassy.

A judge in Brazil ordered fans attending a professional soccer match to wear face masks because of swine flu fears. The match took place in a Brazilian city where the highest number of swine flu cases in the country have been reported. Most fans complied with the judge's order.

And we're just getting word that movie director John Hughes has died. Hughes' publicist says he died suddenly of a heart attack while taking a morning walk here in New York City. Hughes directed such films as "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and wrote the screenplay for "Home Alone." John Hughes was 59.

BLITZER: I loved those movies.

FEYERICK: Loved them.

BLITZER: "Ferris Bueller" was one of the great movies of all times...

FEYERICK: No question.

BLITZER: ...and we're deeply saddened by this loss.

FEYERICK: Of course.

BLITZER: Thanks, Deb.

Thanks very much.

A hacker attack on Twitter today resulted in millions of Internet viewers unable to access the site.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is joining us now with more -- Abbi, what happened?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, many Twitter users were waking up to find that they couldn't get on the Web site. It wasn't just Twitter. Facebook was slow, as well. And now, usually, in these days, people are going onto Twitter to find out what's happening -- what people are saying about a developing news story.

But in this case, the story was that Twitter was down. And so people were finding they had nowhere to go.

Well, since then, both Twitter and Facebook have confirmed that they've been under a denial of service attack. Twitter cofounder Biz Stone adds in the last hour in a blog post that this attack was big: "Twitter has been working closely with other companies and services affected by what appears to be a single massively coordinated attack" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, how does an attack like this happen?

TATTON: It's when hackers bombard a Web site with so much traffic, they overwhelm it with so many requests, that that site can no longer function. It will slow down at first, to the point where you can't get on it at all. Because the attack is coming from so many thousands of computers, it's very hard to detect who and where it's coming from. And Twitter says they're not going to speculate the reasons for this attack.

Both the sites are mostly back up now and both assure all of their users that none of their data was compromised -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

We'll see what happens on that front.

A gloomy outlook for homeowners -- why many mortgage borrowers are expected to have to pay more than what their homes are actually worth.

And police say a wife and mother drank alcohol and smoked pot before causing a deadly crash on a New York highway. Now, the husband she left behind is defending his late wife and considering an extraordinary step to dispute those claims.

And imagine having a 32 story condo building all to yourself. One Florida couple does and they want out.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, former President Bill Clinton speaking out about his mission to North Korea, but declining to provide a whole lot of details -- why he's holding back on specifics about the trip.

And a Florida couple gets to have a brand new high rise condominium all to themselves, but it's far from an ideal situation and, literally, they want out.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A key new study estimates that nearly half the nation's mortgage borrowers will soon owe more than their homes are even worth.

Our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is joining us now with more on this very grim forecast -- Gerri, what's going on?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, Wolf, it is a pessimistic out today from Deutsche Bank. The report says that half of American homeowners -- some 25 million families -- will find themselves underwater by 2011. And by underwater, we mean they will owe more than their house is worth.

The report also states that prices will decline another 14 percent. That's on top of the 20, 30, 40 percent prices are down in some markets already.

Now, I want to show you a map here of the country. The gold areas are areas where the most people will be underwater. If you take a close look at this, you'll see California, Florida, parts of the Midwest, Michigan in particular. In those areas, you can expect 90 percent of homeowners to be underwater. That is one in nine.

And, Wolf, I've got to tell you, those are some pretty depressing numbers out there.

BLITZER: Very depressing.

If you're a homeowner, Gerri, with a mortgage, what does the report specifically say to you?

WILLIS: Well, look, you shouldn't give up on your mortgage just yet or walk away from your house. Not everybody agrees with the -- what's going on in this study. In fact, we talked to Mark Zandi at today. He said that he doesn't agree with some of the suppositions of this report. He says he expects prices to recover more quickly and to have a stronger showing. In fact, he sees the market stabilizing by next spring.

So if you're a homeowner out there, you're going to really have to watch your equity. Take care of your home and make sure you hang on tight until the recovery comes.

BLITZER: That's a pretty depressing thought.

All right, thanks very much, Gerri.

If half the country's mortgage borrowers could end up underwater, as Gerri is reporting, what does that mean for President Obama?

Let's talk about it with our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez.

It's very disturbing. You bought a house a few years ago, let's say, for $300,000 or $400,000 -- $300,000; you took a $250,000 mortgage to pay off and you put $50,000 down. But now the house is worth, let's say, $200,000 and you've got a $250,000 mortgage.

That -- that's not good.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's enormously problematic. You know, the party in power -- its approval rating, its prospects, its hopes -- very rarely outstrips the performance of the economy, right?

This is why my buddy Carville and I put that sign up that said, "It's the economy, stupid."

Actually, politically, the bigger risk is not to Barack Obama. He's got a four year, no cut contract. It's -- and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton recovered very easy re-elections after terrible recessions in their first and second years.

It's congressional Democrats in the House and the Senate. The pressure is really on those folks. And they're feeling that heat. It's why they have to deliver on health care. They have to pass something, because that's part of -- when people talk about the economy, they don't separate out jobs from health care because those are usually linked for most people.

And if they can deliver on that, I think they can perhaps cut against some of those bad economic news by showing look, there's hope. You know they did inherit the worst mess of any president since Franklin Roosevelt and they are trying to work their way through it. But it's going to take time...

BLITZER: And health care is a sixth of the economy when you think about it, Leslie.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, FORMER ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH: It is. But if you also look at the slippage that the president is facing, a lot of that that we're started to see was with independents, we started to see it with seniors, and a lot of that is circulating around health care.

Some misconceptions, but really what does it ultimately mean? The people that are already insured are probably more concerned than the people that do not have health coverage right now. And so, until you entangle that, I think there's a lot more political landmines there than Paul is alluding to.

I think an interesting thing with respect with those -- the houses that are selling like hot cakes right now according to some real estate experts are the foreclosures.

BLITZER: The ones that are in foreclosures that are worth...

SANCHEZ: Unfortunately.

BLITZER: You know, modest amount compared to what they were a couple, three years ago.

SANCHEZ: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And so they seem to be bargains. I want to show you. Since Sunday we've had this "National Report Card" at People can go on. More than two million people have already gone over there to give a grade on how the president is doing and all sorts of other questions later tonight.

We're going to have more including an opportunity for people to phone in or text in what they're seeing. Right now, if you take a look at these national numbers, these grading of the president right now, he's not doing all that well. It's in the C or C-minus range, Paul, 200 days into his presidency when it comes to the economy.

BEGALA: Yes. I doubt the president of the "Harvard Law Review" got a lot of C's or C-minuses in his stellar academic career. So I do think -- I was going to say methodologically, there is some concern with that, which is it's not a scientific poll. And second, we saw this at the 100-day mark. People tend to cluster around the mean, and the mean here on a five-point scale is C.

I wouldn't -- you know I wouldn't get my panties in a wad about that, you know? Any politician would like to see himself or herself get straight A's. But I don't think it's that. I do think that on the economy, one of the problems that the Republicans are going to have, if anything, the slow recovery is a sign that the stimulus was not big enough.

Not that it was too big. Republicans all along are saying it's too big and he spent too much money. Well, it may be -- may be -- the package wasn't big enough. And the problem is, I don't think Democrats can come back for a second bit at the apple. But Republicans have to have some kind of alternative, too. They've got to say here's what we would do.

SANCHEZ: Wow. I think it's going to be the opposite. I think that it's going to be deficits, that the president is spending too much money, that if you divide the number of days that he's been in office by the amount of money that he has leveraged against, you know, future generations, it's going to be quite significant.

Everything from Cash for Clunkers, the stimulus plan that people didn't want to buy into. And even if you look -- he's inheriting other issues, too, if you go back to the financial bailout over the fall, the TARP, the special inspector general came out and said, you know, we're not really seeing how the banks are using all those dollars. There's issues of transparency, government accountability, that are going to plague this president.

BLITZER: If you look at our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, which is a scientific poll, and we asked, are President Obama's economic policies making the economy better? 44 percent say they are. Will make it better in the future, 11 percent say that. 40 percent say his policies won't make the economy better.

What do those numbers say to you?

BEGALA: He's about where he was on Election Day. He got 53 percent of the vote on Election Day. If you add together those who say it's already working, which I'm surprised it's that high, frankly. I don't think it's already working very well, to the 11 who say that it's likely to work, but that's 55. That's about where he was on Election Day.

Leslie is right to talk about this. The great fear the Democrats should have, and I think they do, is erosion among the independents. You know?


BEGALA: It's not independent voters that are in those organized phony baloney mobs, and it's not independent voters that are on left- wing blog sites, right? It's those independents in the middle. He's still holding them now, but he doesn't have a permanent lock on them. He's going to have to deliver on health care. That's his biggest issue.

SANCHEZ: An interesting thing with that. Those are the last people in. He did carry them very well. The last people in we're seeing are the first people out, they're the ones that are skeptical about health care, the seniors...


BLITZER: Quickly, Leslie, what do you think about Jeanne Meserve at the top of the hour, she was reporting there's a new administration policy on immigration coming forward, especially the detention of illegal immigrants trying to make it a little bit more humane, if you will?

SANCHEZ: True. I think you're going to see the progressives have been very frustrated with homeland security, with the steps they've been taking because they feel that they're a repeat of the Bush administration. They haven't gone far enough.

I think there's frustration overall that the president hasn't used enough political capital on true immigration reform, but he's taken on quite a bit and in this economic downturn it's a tough sell.

BLITZER: He hasn't spent a lot of time dealing with immigration reform at least in the first 200 days of his presidency.

BEGALA: Right, and it's because his plate is so very, very full. But one of the things he's doing, and thank goodness he is, there is a detention center outside my old city where I still (INAUDIBLE), in Texas called the Hutto Detention Center where children, who are accused of no wrongdoing, children were being held behind barbed wire. Well, that's un-American.

BLITZER: Because their parents came in illegally.

BEGALA: Their parents were accused of being undocumented. We don't lock children up behind barbed wire. And he's going to change that policy. And I think that's good. I have to say, brag on my school, the University of Texas Law School, students there were the ones who first really started doing the legal work on this and it looks like they're going to prevail.

BLITZER: He loves that University of Texas.



SANCHEZ: I can't fault him there.

BEGALA: It's a great law school, by the way.

BLITZER: Don't go away. We've got a long time ahead of us. And a good night that we've got this "National Report Card" coming up.

A Democrat heckled over health care reform.


CROWD: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!


BLITZER: Speaking of Texas, that's Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas cornered by conservative protesters. I'll ask him if someone is behind all of this, what's going on. He's standing by live.

Plus, chilling home video of the man who shot three women dead in a Pennsylvania fitness center.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Key Democrats shadowed by conservative protesters wherever they promote health care reform. Take a look at this video of Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas cornered earlier in Austin, Texas.


CROWD: Just say no! Just say no!


BLITZER: Here's a question. Are these protests being organized? What's going on? Let's talking about it with the Democratic congressman, Lloyd Doggett. He's joining us now from Austin.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: Wolf, good to be with you from deep in the heart of Texas.

BLITZER: What happened earlier in the week when you got swamped over there by protesters who don't like the Democrats' version of health care reform?

DOGGETT: Well, Saturday, we had a well-organized surprise visit from a local Republican Party. They were videoing it. I think we had a little performance art there. There's nothing wrong with them coming out with TV cameras, organized or unorganized, and presenting their views.

What I objected to, after an hour of my talking with them, trying to listen to them among their taunts, and responding, they silenced our neighbors who were there with their "Just Say No's" blocking the entrance to the stores and some juvenile tactics of trying to block me from departing.

Their initial film just shows the end after I've devoted an hour to them. Fortunately, this afternoon I had another town hall meeting with some people that feel just as strongly against the plan, but it was a respectful dialogue and I think a constructive one.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what the Republican Party chairman Michael Steele said here in THE SITUATION ROOM about these protests and some of the accusations that these folks who are going out there to rail against Democratic proposals are extremists. Listen to this.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: They're being demonized and demagogued as being extremists. You know, when we get to a point in this country where dissent is extremism, we've turned I think a very dark page in our history, and I don't want us to go there.


BLITZER: Are you going there, Congressman? Tell us what you think about what Michael Steele is saying.

DOGGETT: Well, dissent is the tradition in America, and I've been on the side of dissent a good bit of my career, particularly in the last many years of the Republican Congress. I supported, would defend strongly their right to dissent.

As far as whether they're extremists, I guess they're may be the best judge of that. This crowd that I had on Saturday was claiming that the Tenth Amendment prevents us from having this health plan and in dialoguing with them it became clear they think the Tenth Amendment requires the repeal of Social Security and Medicare.

I know plenty of people and myself included who consider that to be an extreme viewpoint, a wrong viewpoint, and who believe we need more competition and individual choice here in health insurance. And that's what this bill is about.

I think some of these folks can see it coming. They've blocked reform for 60 years, they feel we're just about to get there under President Obama's leadership, and they're willing to do anything, say anything, yell out their neighbors if that's what it takes to stop reform. And we just can't let that happen.

BLITZER: There have been other episodes similar to what you had, maybe not as dramatic around the country where protesters, critics come out and face Democratic lawmakers. But the Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri who's also faced some criticism, she put this out earlier in the week on Twitter.

She said, "I disagree that the people showing concern over some health care proposals are manufactured." She's not willing to go so far as to say these protesters are all the manufactured. Some of them are really heart felt.

DOGGETT: Nor would I. And some of them have legitimate concerns. There's no party that has a monopoly on truth here. We need to continue to try to perfect this program, this insurance initiative. But the need is so great, the need for a public plan to encourage competition, to see that Americans have more choice, and some of this has been manufactured.

I had that happen to me largely on Saturday, exploiting fears, much misinformation out there. I think that's been happening to some of my colleagues around the country. If we're to have civil dialogue, that's good, that's constructive, but when people get shouted down, when the insurance companies and the Republican Party send out instructions about how to disrupt these meetings, that's not constructive.

BLITZER: Can the president push health care reform or health insurance reform, as the White House is now calling it -- can they push it through without any Republican support?

DOGGETT: Well, unfortunately, on our committee that considered the bill initially in the House, we were not able to get any Republican support. I think the Republican Party, as it has shrunk and become much more of a hard-right ideological party, doesn't give us very many partners in the House.

I hope we can get some in the Senate. I want a bipartisan bill, but let me say, if the choice is between a bipartisan bill and an effective bill, I want the effective bill. And I think our goal should be the objective of getting a strong, meaningful health insurance reform, and I hope it's one that is done in a way that Republicans can join. I'm not overly optimistic about that, however.

BLITZER: So, you think it's -- if he gets it done, it will be strictly along the lines of the Democrats showing up.

DOGGETT: I think that's true in the House. I hope that the long time that they've taken in the Senate will bring along some Republicans. I'm sure they have some ideas to contribute, but we cannot sacrifice the concept of a public plan.

You know, under the analysis that has been done by the Budget Office, if we get the public plan just as we approved it in the House Ways and Means Committee 96 percent of the people under age 65 will be in private insurance with market reforms. Only 4 percent in a public Medicare-type plan.

Isn't that compromise enough that we only have 4 percent in a public plan? I don't think we have to take it to zero. I think it's reasonable to have that approach.

BLITZER: Congressman Doggett, thanks for joining us.

DOGGETT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Former president Bill Clinton is asked about his mission to North Korea. What he's not saying about the trip and why. Listen to this.


DANIEL SCHULER, DIANE SCHULER'S HUSBAND: I go to bed every night knowing, and listen to this, I go to bed every night knowing my heart is clear. She did not drink. She's not an alcoholic.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: A husband defending his wife against police claims that she drank alcohol, smoked marijuana before causing a horrific crash on a New York highway. We'll have details right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get back to Jack for "The Cafferty File." Jack.

CAFFERTY: They just never cease to amaze. The question this hour is: What message does it send that during the worst recession since the Great Depression, Congress is ordering up $200 million worth of brand new jet airplanes for itself?

Bob writes from Michigan: "Screw the Georgia politicians, the Gulf Stream jets are made in Georgia. I'm from Michigan. I think they need transportation. They ought to ride in cars made in Michigan, create some jobs here. No private corporate planes for the Congress. Buy a plane ticket, pretend you're an executive in the auto industry."

Gerald writes: "We can buy a lot of health care with the extra jets the Pentagon doesn't want. The Pentagon only ordered one. Someone in Congress is again lining their pockets in the district where these planes are built and sold. They're built and Sold in Georgia. And their Congress ordered three."

B in North Carolina: "The message I get is that we need to vote a few more of them out. Until they learn to fear our votes, we'll be nothing more than a source of income for them. And we're not as lucrative as contracts, insurance companies, et cetera, so vote."

Russ in Minnesota: "I'm not sure what offends me more, members of the House using tax money for votes in their district, spending money that wasn't requested to be spent when we've got a $1 trillion deficit, or trying to get us to conserve energy while buying private jets for themselves instead of flying commercial."

Chad in Wisconsin: "The message here is that Americans are much too complacent. With all the outrageous things we have seen in the news including the war, the Wall Street bailout scandal, Congress seems to have realized that business as usual will always follow the now frequent knife jabs to the taxpayers' ribs. As a result, it's an all-out, free for all in Washington, and we elected them."

And Tom in Florida writes: "Jack, it sounds like the jets are a great idea. How does the general public book these flights?"


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

BLITZER: They book their flights if they have a lot of cash. They book their flights. CAFFERTY: I don't even know if you could get on one with enough cash. Could you?


CAFFERTY: No. Well, you might be able to.


CAFFERTY: Because you're like a VIP.


You're a very important person.

BLITZER: Let's move on.


BLITZER: The husband of a woman who police say was drunk and high when she crashed into another vehicle killing herself and seven others is now speaking out.

Let's bring in Deborah Feyerick once again. Deb, this is a horrific story.

FEYERICK: Oh it is so horrific. And to see those smiling faces on the cover of all the papers. But this tragedy left eight people dead, four of them children. This is one death that is still being investigated. Today, the driver's husband spoke out.


SCHULER: My little girl, she is gone.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Still grieving, Daniel Schuler defended his wife, disputing a recent medical examiner's report that Diane Schuler was drunk and high when she drove into oncoming traffic on a New York highway.

SCHULER: And listen to this. I go to bed every night knowing my heart is clear. She did not drink. She is not an alcoholic.

FEYERICK: Toxicology found Schuler was twice over the legal alcohol limits and showed evidence of marijuana use. She was coming home from the camping trip at the time of the accident and was killed instantly, along with her daughter, three nieces and three passengers in the oncoming car she hit. Only her son survived.

SCHULER: I lost my daughter, I lost my wife. All I have is my son.

FEYERICK: Dan Schuler says his wife rarely drank and that he'd never seen her drunk. His attorney suggested not all the facts are known and said a possible medical condition may be to blame. DOMINIC BARBARA, SCHULER FAMILY ATTORNEY: Did she have a stroke and then have alcohol? You have to -- if you believe the circumstances the way they are now described.

FEYERICK: Schuler was apparently disoriented when she drove on to the Taconic Parkway. She had called her brother saying she didn't feel right. Soon after, her mini-van collided head on with another car. New Yorker Guy Bastardi was killed along with his 81-year-old father and a 74-year-old friend. The Bastardi family's tragedy made worse by the possibility Schuler may have been intoxicated.

MARSHAL NEMARK, BASTARDI FAMILY'S ATTORNEY: I feel that it is inconceivable, at least from my vast experience as a lawyer, that nobody in this -- in the deceased driver's family was aware of the fact that she had a drinking problem or a drug problem.

FEYERICK: The Schuler family says they're continuing their investigation and may consider requesting the body be exhumed for further tests.

SCHULER: I would marry her again tomorrow if I could. She was awesome, she's the best.


FEYERICK: Now lawyers for the Bastardi family say that it appears there will be a civil suit against the Schuler family. That there is a fragrance of criminality to their response. They did not say whether they would seek criminal charges as well.

BLITZER: What a story.


BLITZER: Tragic indeed. Thank you.

New insight into the gunman who killed and wounded women at a health club. We have chilling video of the shooter.

And they have all the peace and quiet anyone could want in a brand new high-rise condominium. Why one Florida couple says it's like being in a horror movie, though.


BLITZER: It sounds like a dream come true. Living in a high- rise condo with no noisy neighbors. But one couple doesn't like it.

CNN's John Zarrella explains.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ah yes, resort living at the pool. There is always a chair.

(On camera): Your own private gym with state-of-the-art equipment and you can work out all by yourself. There's nobody here to bother you. Look at this parking garage. You never have to hunt for a space.

And when you get on the elevator, you never have to worry about anybody getting off first.

(Voice-over): Sounds great, right? Well, maybe you should talk to Victor Vangelakos.

VICTOR VANGELAKOS, CONDO OWNER: This is our condo on the 27th floor.

ZARRELLA: This was going to be Victor and his family's vacation and retirement home in the Oasis. A 32-story condominium building in Fort Myers, Florida. The New Jersey fireman closed in November, paid $420,000.

VANGELAKOS: I tell people at home and they just say, it's your own building. It sounds great but, you know, it can be eerie at night. It's almost like a horror movie.

VANGELAKOS: Why? Because the rest of the building is empty. This is a ghost tower. When the housing market collapsed, Fort Myers got hit hard. Most of the units never sold. Those that did, the owners were able to move to the sister tower next door where there are people. But Victor's lender won't agree to let him swap his unit here for one there.

VANGELAKOS: I have called them up a couple times. I got their law department which told me, don't leave your unit. They recommended that's abandonment. So I have to stay here.

ZARRELLA: Vangelakos' attorney and the developer are trying to negotiate a solution. Nothing yet. Victor's biggest concern, safety. Someone got into the building a month ago. Now, every night, Vangelakos checks the building's locks.

VANGELAKOS: Well, I have to make sure, yes, because if I don't, what happens is they can get into this pool area through the parking garage.

ZARRELLA (on camera): The Vangelakos family have no idea how this will ultimately work out. But what's really starting to bother them is the eerie silence. When the only other voice they hear is...


ZARRELLA: John Zarrella, CNN, Fort Myers, Florida.


BLITZER: And happening now. When and what cost for health care reform? President Obama could launch the ultimate political slap against Republicans and one powerful Republican accuses the White House of keeping a possible enemies list. Bill Clinton breaking his silence today after helping save those journalists from North Korea's grip. Wait until you hear what he will and won't say and why.

And a war over fire resistant uniforms for U.S. military forces. And new demands on Congress to buy American. Is it protectionism? And could it leave U.S. troops unprotected.

CNN's Chris Lawrence investigates our broken government.

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.