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Drug War Secret Weapon; Immigration Reform Delay?

Aired August 10, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So far, they haven't been able to remove the remains from the private plane that collided with a sightseeing helicopter over the weekend. Nine people were killed. Seven bodies have been recovered. This would be the eighth.

Just a short while ago, authorities released 911 phone calls reporting the crash that turned an Italian couple's anniversary into a tragedy.


911 OPERATOR: Nine-one-one operator. Where is your emergency?

CALLER: In Hoboken, New Jersey, in the Hudson River. A helicopter just landed on the corner of Fourth and River Street.

911 OPERATOR: Fourth and River Street. Stay on the line. Do you see anybody injured?

CALLER: Oh, my God, they're probably totally injured.

911 OPERATOR: OK, it landed or it crashed?

CALLER: It's gone. It crashed.


BLITZER: Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's got a report you will see only here on CNN.

You have been following this risky dive, the search for survivors, for remains, if you will, right now. What are you finding, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these divers are facing very low visibility, strong currents along with having to watch out for debris. The NYPD scuba unit has been in the water for three days, making over 30 dives.

And earlier today, we got a first-hand look at their recovery efforts.


SNOW (voice-over): The chief of the NYPD special operations division takes us out into the middle of the Hudson, where the department's divers are focusing their search.

CHARLES KAMMERDENER, NEW YORK POLICE CHIEF OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS: We're looking for some parts of the plane that we caught on the sonar. We believe it's the outer skin of the aircraft.

SNOW: New York City police divers go under in teams of two. At approximately 10:45 a.m., a team goes in. The officers on the zodiac boat remain attached to the divers in the water with an anchor line. Approximately three minutes later, the divers have reached roughly 60 feet below us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Divers are on the bottom.

SNOW: To get a sense of how murky the Hudson is, we put an underwater camera into the river along the shoreline so you can see what it looks like about two feet away in shallow water, enough to see your hand.

But here in the middle of the river, the visibility is about six inches, sometimes worse. After being under for roughly 10 minutes, the divers again emerge. As they debrief the rest of their team, the chief updates us and tells us the current is a problem.

KAMMERDENER: It's definitely the aircraft. How much of it still needs to be determined. Because it's so swift, we can't do the assessment of the debris that we want to right now.

SNOW: The current will keep divers out of the water for several hours, and the two detectives who just went into the Hudson are able to talk to us.

(on camera): How close are you guys to each other when you're down there?

DET. MICHAEL DELANEY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Just like this, pretty much right on top of each other.

SNOW: And you each have one hand on...

DET. MICHAEL COCCHI, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: The up line, which is up at the zodiac, the black boats that are out there. And they're basically holding it tight for us, so we have a nice strong line so we don't get pushed off whatever we hook into.

DELANEY: Pretty much we're just holding on to that line. If anything happens, and we let go of that line, we will be pretty much lost down there.


SNOW (voice-over): And these divers say while six inches may not seem like a lot, they consider it a good amount in these conditions, since they will be able to see their air gauges. And it's an improvement from the zero visibility they had at the start of the day.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Now, Wolf, several hours later after we left those divers, conditions improved, visibility, we're told was three feet, and the currents weren't as strong. Now, just before 3:30 this afternoon, the NYPD divers entered the wreckage of the private plane, discovered a body inside the wreckage and as you pointed out earlier, they have been unable as yet to remove that body.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, stand by.

We're learning more about how the deadly crash could have happened. It turns out that in the busy airspace over New York City, there are places where it is essentially every pilot for himself or herself. We're joined by the National Transportation Safety Board chair, Debbie Hersman.

We are going to go to her in a moment.

But let's get some background from our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This is a complex story, where these pilots can fly over New York City.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's a complicated airspace. There are three major airports there, but on top of that, pilots operate under different rules, depending on how high they're flying.

Let's take you through where we're talking about here in New York City, taking you down to the area along Manhattan, along the Hudson River here. What we have done is we have mapped out the altitude of 1,100 feet, because that's important.

Above 1,100 feet, pilots must be checking in with air traffic control. These are -- these could be commercial pilots. These could be smaller aircraft as well. But they're all under the jurisdiction of the air traffic controllers that are operating in those airports around the city.

Underneath 1,100 feet, then it's a different story. This is a congested area. This is sea planes. Small aircraft could be there, helicopters, private aircraft, single-engine aircraft, all down here, and they are not under the jurisdiction of the air traffic controllers.

There, it's each pilot is controlling the airspace that he's in, looking out for other pilots, and it's a busy area. In the last week or so, on average, 225 aircraft per day are going up and down this area -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, let's get an explanation for this complex rule from Debbie Hersman. She's the head of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Why this complicated situation above and below 1,100 feet? DEBORAH HERSMAN, CHAIRWOMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Well, we know that the FAA put these exclusion zones together in the early '70s.

Basically, there's a lot of busy airspace around New York City and New Jersey. There's three large commercial airports. We have got Teterboro with a lot of business jets and there are a number of other smaller airports in the area. So, it's very complex space. But these exclusion zones in the eastern Hudson River were set up to allow VFR operations outside that Class B airspace. Class B airspace, you can't enter that without being under the direct control of ATC.

BLITZER: You're going to have to make a recommendation when you complete your investigation. Is it possible you might say let's take another look at these rules that have been part of the game in New York for 70 years?

HERSMAN: Well, the rules have been in place since the 1970s. And we did actually take another look. You probably remember our investigation of the Cory Lidle action that took place in Manhattan and we looked at the East River exclusion zone.

After that October 2006 accident, the Safety Board made a recommendation to prohibit fixed-wing aircraft that were nonamphibious from operating in that airspace without being under positive control from air traffic controllers.

The FAA actually took our recommendation. They issued a notice to airmen prohibiting those fixed-wing aircraft from transiting -- those fixed-wing nonamphibious aircraft from transiting the East River without being under positive control.

BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment, because I want to Abbi to give us another explanation.

Abbi, tell our viewers what it's like for these pilots flying below 1,100 feet along the Hudson River in this area of New York City.

TATTON: Wolf, they're relying on two things. We can show you here with the graphics we have made. One of them is a common radio frequency that they are advised to get on. They're advised to get on there and state their flight path, their altitude, so they can hear where other pilots are operating and they can state themselves where they are going.

The other thing, it's simple. See and avoid. It's literally using their eyes, using visual contacts around them just to see where the other aircraft are, using that to check their blind spots. It's been likened to a highway where you're traveling along and you're just seeing which other vehicles or in this case planes and helicopters are around you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's go back to Debbie Hersman.

Is it realistic -- I have this image of a pilot sticking his or her head out of the window to see what is happening around the little plane if it's flying below 1,100 feet. Is that an image that is realistic?

HERSMAN: Well, it's obviously very crowded airspace. There are 225 aircraft per day that are operating in this three-mile radius around the accident site based on some averages of the last week's traffic.

You do need to pay attention, but one of the things that we are looking at is letters of agreement between let's say tour operators and the FAA. And, basically, they establish some rules of the road for these operations there. The helicopter operations basically have told us that they operate southbound going towards the Statue of Liberty on the Jersey side of the river at a particular altitude.

They stay a half mile away from Statue of Liberty. Then they come back north on the New York side of the river. And, so, they kind of have some rules of the road, but what we need to understand is what pilots who operate here regularly understand and pilots who don't operate here regularly, maybe newcomers to the airspace, what they know.

We know there's a common frequency. That frequency is not controlled by FAA air traffic controllers. They're not directing people about what to do while they're in that space. They can monitor it, but it's not recorded by the FAA. So we have a lot of work still to do to try to understand this airspace.

And people who are being handed off as this pilot was that left from Teterboro, he was being handed off from Teterboro air traffic control to Newark air traffic control, so he wasn't necessarily on that common frequency.

BLITZER: Good luck with the investigation, Debbie Hersman from the National Transportation Safety Board. Appreciate it very much.

The loved ones of the nine people who were killed are now in agony. The victims include 49-year-old Daniel Altman, brother to Steven Altman, 60 years old, the older and pilot of that small plane. He was a prominent name in Pennsylvania real estate, to be sure. Daniel's 16-year-old son, Douglas, was also killed.

Also, the pilot of the helicopter, 32-year-old Jeremy Clarke, he worked for the tour company for about 18 months. As for those five Italian tourists, one was a 15-year-old boy. He was with his parents, a father, 49 years old, and a mother, 44 years old. Also killed, a 51-year-old man with his 16-year-old son. And our deepest condolences to those families.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: At long last, we may start getting some answers, but don't hold your breath. The Obama administration reportedly might be getting ready to launch a criminal investigation into the CIA's treatment of detainees during the Bush years.

"The Los Angeles Times" reports Attorney General Eric Holder is poised to appoint a criminal prosecutor to look into the alleged abuses of terror suspects. One Justice Department official says it would be a narrow investigation, focused on whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized in Bush era memos.

Some say that criminal convictions would be hard to come by because the quality of the evidence is poor and this stuff has never been tested legally. A prosecutor could potentially investigate water-boarding -- 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed reportedly water-boarded 183 times in one month, and al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in one month.

Also, there are reports of prisoners being threatened with bodily harm, being buried alive and threatened with a gun during interrogations. President Obama has left the door open for prosecution of those who broke the law.

Both the president and Holder say they believe that water- boarding is torture. The real question is whether the administration will go after top Bush officials who may have authorized this stuff or just set out to prosecute those who carried out the orders. Want to bet which way that goes?

Here's the question. Should the Obama administration launch a criminal investigation of CIA treatment of detainees? Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

The debate over health care reform has turned into a shouting match.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't come and take advantage of what these individuals have done. You want a meeting with me on health care, I will give it to you.


BLITZER: We saw what happened when a congressman and a doctor faced off at a town hall meeting. Wait until you hear what happened when the two of them got together here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also ahead, President Obama admits he can't have it all -- what he's willing to give up to try to get health care reform.

And U.S. gunships go after roadside bombs and we're along for the very wild ride.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit the guy on the road. Hit the guy on the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. Hitting the guy on the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hitting the guy on the road. You guys got the guy on the side.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're clear to fire.



BLITZER: The health care debate is heating up. A congressman is questioned and winds up screaming at his questioner. Did he have a public meltdown?

Listen to the congressman's answer after he was asked if he will vote on a health care package that the questioner claimed would not work.


REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: Well, I'm not voting on any plan. First of all, I haven't voted on any bill.

DR. BRIAN HILL, UROLOGIST: Are you plan on voting on that bill?

SCOTT: I don't know.

HILL: Do you support a government-run option? How about that?

SCOTT: Yes, I do.

And I'm listening to my constituents. OK? These are people who live in the 13th congressional district, who vote in this district. That's who I have got to respond to. OK?

Right. All right. That's everybody with different opinions.

So, what you've got to understand is, those of you who are here who have taken and came and hijacked this event that we're dealing with here, this is not a health care event. You made the choice to come here.


BLITZER: The congressman was Democrat David Scott of Georgia, and the questioner was Dr. Brian Hill, also of Georgia. I spoke with both men today.


BLITZER: Congressman, he is your constituent. He's a physician. He asked a simple question I will paraphrase the question and we'll get your answer. Do you support this public option, this public health insurance agency that would compete with the private health insurance companies?

SCOTT: And I answered that question yes, I do. Every question he asked I said yes.

HILL: I didn't say -- I said, why? Why?

SCOTT: Well, Doctor...

HILL: Why do you support that plan, you know, that I discussed about? And I want a good, educated response, not talking points.

SCOTT: OK. Let me answer it for you now.

HILL: Great.

SCOTT: I genuinely believe, Doctor, that the big problem in this is the insurance company and the pricing system that is there. They lack competition. They have a monopoly on it.

We need reform of an option here that will force some competition while, at the same time, providing an opportunity for those who might -- the insurance companies might not want to take with having an opportunity. My final point is this...

HILL: How do we have a monopoly when there are multiple insurance agencies out there? And again, you're not even talking about how that is going to decrease costs. You're just doing talking points.

I mean, you're talking about a government-subsidized option that I have already looked at and we've already talked about. We've looked at data, we've looked at facts. I have talked about the Massachusetts health care plan.

We can talk about Canada. We can talk about, you know, Europe. We can talk intelligently. But I want to hear facts and numbers and data and figures.

SCOTT: May I answer you please? OK, Doctor?

HILL: Please do. Yes. I would love an answer.

SCOTT: You very eloquently explained the complexities of this issue, the fact you wanted data and all that information. You live in the district and you're a physician.

Why not take the time to call your congressman, set an appointment, and come in where we can lay all this out for you rather than...


SCOTT: Rather than come on in a very -- and the video didn't show the raucousness. HILL: Because there wasn't raucousness there. Because the whole video...

SCOTT: Listen, my friend. This was not for health care. That was the issue that rubs. This is where people whose homes are impacted by a road that's coming through that could destroy them.

HILL: Sure. And we're talking about 300 million millions that are going to be impacted by this health care plan. And I agree...

SCOTT: This was not for health care.

HILL: ... Highway 92 is important.

SCOTT: And you...

HILL: Yes. I won't talk over you. Sorry.

SCOTT: OK. But all I'm simply saying, Doctor -- and I don't want to talk over you.

HILL: Yes, I agree. I'm sorry. That's my fault.

SCOTT: I want to make clear that on the tape, when I was saying don't come in and take advantage of what these folks have done, that's what I have said, because I owed it to them to stand up for them and respect the hard work they have put for this. Their homes are going to be affected and destroyed, businesses, in this African-American community who has expressed a desire and a feeling of being disenfranchised. So, here you all come, taking advantage of that on a very controversial, complex issue that you know and I know full well is going to take far more deliberation.


BLITZER: After that conversation, Congressman Scott says he will have a health care forum this weekend in his district in Georgia, and he's even invited Dr. Hill not only to participate, but also to join him for a beer.

A translator's mistake overseas leads to a touchy response by Hillary Clinton, as her husband moves back into the spotlight.

And a powerful earthquake shakes Japan, rattling buildings in Tokyo and sparking tsunami fears.

Plus, how American authorities keep a high-tech eye on drug smugglers along the Mexican border.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a video game, right, but the difference between the video game is, there's an 8,500-pound aircraft on the end of the string.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's worth $10 million. (LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's worth $10 million.




BLITZER: U.S. forces zeroing in one of the enemy's favorite weapons in Afghanistan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One individual, he's back out of the hole right now. It looks like he's placed something (INAUDIBLE) in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's running a wire.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're engaging.


BLITZER: Stand by for some dramatic gunship video and what the Pentagon is getting out of it.

And they won a lottery to be guinea pigs. We are going to meet some of the people testing right now -- they're testing out a new swine flu vaccine.


BLITZER: Now to the front lines of America's war against Taliban fighters.

A senior U.S. official tells CNN the administration now believes the Taliban chief in Pakistan is indeed dead, killed by a CIA missile strike. And, in Afghanistan, U.S. forces are scoring dramatic hits against Taliban insurgents and their deadly roadside bombs.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, who's here with us.

We have got some remarkable gunship video that the Pentagon is releasing, Chris. Walk us through this.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What we're going to see is video from a helicopter gun camera and what happens after officials say the 82nd Combat Air Brigade saw two insurgents setting up IEDs along a road in southern Afghanistan. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call out my gun target line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Roger. (INAUDIBLE) One look like he's facing to the west. One (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. What we're going to do is, we're going to wait until he goes back to his buddies, and then we will try to hit them all.

We're going to engage these individuals. Currently observed one individual. He's back out of the hole right now. It looks like he's placed something (INAUDIBLE) in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's running a wire.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're engaging.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're clear to go ahead and shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. We have everything we need. These guys are in place. We just watched them run a wire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, roger that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit the guy on the road. Hit the guy on the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. Hitting the guy on the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hitting the guy on the road. You guys got the guy on the side.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're clear to fire.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fine. Go, try to acquire the buddies.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Pretty dramatic video, Chris.

Give us some perspective -- these IEDs, how much damage are they inflicting on U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

LAWRENCE: Well, a military task force found that last year, there were about 3,500 bombs used in Afghanistan. And that was twice as many as the year before. In fact, bombs in Afghanistan are now causing a higher rate of casualties among American troops and their allies as the bombs in Iraq. And they're also the leading cause of civilian deaths among the Afghan people.

Some of the reasons are Afghanistan has a lot of desolate areas that are surrounded by mountains. It gives the insurgents more time and space to plant them. A lot of dirt roads gives them an easier way to camouflage those bombs.

BLITZER: And that was dramatic, dramatic video.

All right, Chris.

Thanks very much.

Shocking images from a bloody drug war -- President Obama in Mexico today, renewing his commitment to fighting the drug cartels.

Here's one way he's doing that. It's America's secret weapon against drug smugglers on the border, tracking them 24/7.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is looking at this in depth -- Deb, you went to Arizona to watch this high tech operation unfold. Tell our viewers what you saw.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is a high tech tool normally used to gather intelligence. It has helped stop tens of thousands of pounds of drugs from coming into the US.


FEYERICK: (voice-over): It's the middle of the night and this unmanned surveillance plane, the Predator B, is about to take off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up to 279, up 175, Omaha, 1-0.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are at 20.83. Oh, they've got -- they're carrying packs.

FEYERICK: Not in a war zone like Iraq or Afghanistan, but in the Arizona desert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think those are our suspects. They're running. They hear something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Go ahead and mark these coordinates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what they heard, but they're getting out of dodge.

FEYERICK: Dodge in this case happens to be the 260 mile southwest border separating Arizona from Mexico and the runners are suspected drug smugglers carrying 40 to 80 pound packs of high grade marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's (INAUDIBLE) where they were yesterday, with that group of 22.

FEYERICK: Pete McNall and Rich Rouviere are pilots with the Customs and Border Protection's elite air unit.

PETE MCNALL, DIRECTOR AIR OPERATIONS, UAS-AZ: This aircraft really has a significant impact on that, because we have the ability to watch them from the time that they drop the contraband until the actual arrest.

FEYERICK: because the Predator can track suspects as far as 18 miles away and stay airborne up to 25 hours, most times smugglers and illegal immigrants don't even realize they're being watched.

RICH ROUVIERE, SUPERVISOR, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: (INAUDIBLE) to be direct. It is a video game, right. But the difference between a video game is there's an 8,500 pound aircraft on the end of the string.

FEYERICK: (on camera): That's worth $10 million.

ROUVIERE: That's worth $10 million.

FEYERICK: (voice-over): Since the Predator was deployed three years ago, border agents have seized more than 32,000 pounds of drugs and arrested nearly 10,000 people.

(on camera): The agents know that while they're working to develop intelligence on the drug smugglers, chances are high that the drug smugglers are working to develop intelligence on them and the border operations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one thing that they don't know is where we're going, what altitude we're working at and what exactly we're looking at.

FEYERICK: The increased surveillance has forced drug traffickers to become more creative. Agents say smugglers have started using ultra light aircraft, virtually undetectable, brazenly crossing from Mexico 40 miles into U.S. air space. As the sun rises, the Predator zeros it on a coyote -- a human smuggler paid to guide illegal immigrants across the border. Pilots say he'll likely cross again and next time, the Predator will be waiting.


FEYERICK: And the Predator is deployed after mules or drug carriers trip sensors on the ground. So it's really a better use of resources because agents avoid false alarms, for example, like animals -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Those Predator drones are getting a lot of operation time.

Thanks very much for that, Deb.

A sharp answer from Secretary Hilary Clinton.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?

My husband is not the secretary of State, I am.


BLITZER: Wow! It turns out that the question wasn't what she thought it was, but her answer revealing nonetheless.

Plus, health care consequences -- fallout from reform for President Obama and the Democrats. We'll talk about it in our Political Timeout.


BLITZER: Joining us now for our political time out, David Frum, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He's a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Also, the White House correspondent for Politico; and our Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, James Carville.

Guys, stand by for a moment, because I want to get some background on what Hilary Clinton is saying from CNN's Deborah Feyerick -- Deb?

FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, a mistake by a translator today gave us some insight into the mind of the secretary of State. Hilary Clinton is obviously annoyed when asked what Mr. Clinton thought about an international matter.


CLINTON: You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?

My husband is not the secretary of State, I am.


CLINTON: Oh, you asked my opinion. I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband.


FEYERICK: Except that wasn't what the student asked. The translator got it wrong. The question was really about President Obama. But Secretary Clinton's statement is clear -- she is the one calling the shots.

Still, Bill Clinton is stealing headlines after his whirlwind trip to North Korea to rescue two American journalists. And some are wondering if he could be taking a more prominent role in diplomatic issues. As one editorial noted today: "The big dog doesn't take well to a leash."

So here's the question -- will the former president quietly slip back into the shadows and should he -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Good question.

Let me ask David Frum.

What do you think?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I -- I thought that was a very testy moment. I would think that spouses would normally be privy to each other's thoughts and if one of tem is a former president, it would be an interesting question.

But there are a lot of things to worry about from this trip. And the thing I worry about most with three Americans still detained in Iran as -- as hikers, is it would be an interesting thing to know, what do they think about the precedent that has been set with these negotiations in North Korea?

BLITZER: What is that little irritable answer that she gave on that question, even though the translation had been screwed up -- but what did it say to you about Hilary Clinton right now?


JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I said today that she was asked what her husband thought about a foreign policy question and she was secretary of State and she answered -- you know...


BLITZER: It hit a nerve.

CARVILLE: Well, but...

BLITZER: It hit a nerve.

CARVILLE: But if she was asked what did he think about the economic plan or what did he think about the legacy of such and such, or something else. But if she's the secretary of State, you can almost see that it was right into the area that she was appointed. But apparently she didn't -- she didn't take very kindly to it.

BLITZER: Are we going to be seeing a lot more of the former president, Bill Clinton, doing some extraordinary diplomatic initiatives for the Obama administration? NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, I think if we think back to when Hilary Clinton was first appointed, there was all this talk about keeping Bill Clinton under wraps and how they were going to be able to control him. And so far, he's done remarkably well. He's been very quiet and very under the radar.

And if you notice that the White House has taken pains with this recent exchange with North Korea to essentially say it wasn't their doing, it was North Korea and he was acting, essentially, as a private citizen.

So, I mean I doubt that he will be kind of -- you know, out there gallivanting on the -- on the world stage and have a diplomatic role.

BLITZER: Although when he was running for president back in '92, you probably remember, we used to say, you know -- at least he used to say, you get two for the price of one. You get Bill Clinton and you also get Hilary Clinton.

FRUM: That seems to have been a one way option.

BLITZER: Is that still around now, you get two for the price of one, Hilary Clinton and Bill Clinton?

FRUM: Look, I want to give him -- the former president some props here.

One, he had a series of very serious ethical challenges when he became the husband of the secretary of State, because he's going to have to give up a lot of foreign speaking engagements. And he seems to have done that and not to have murmured about it.

And as an ex-president, he's generally been, compared to, say, President Carter, a very responsible player. Compare his behavior in North Korea, where he was following a script, with Carter's behavior in 1994, where he caused enormous embarrassment to the Clinton administration.

That said, former presidents -- they're an asset. You don't want to use them promiscuously.

BLITZER: What do you think?

Is he going to be around?

CARVILLE: You know, I think David makes a very good point, that, first of all, he was -- it was sanctioned by the administration. He just didn't take off and go there and do that. They obviously knew that he was doing it. And I think that he also makes a good point is he made -- it's like a specialty play, he's maybe a kicker or the, you know, the long snapper in a football game. I mean, if you've got to, you know, make a really long snap, you might bring him in. But the guy's not going to play that many downs in a game.

And I think that that's what you're looking at here. But I -- but he does have some utility or some value from time to time and... (CROSSTALK)

FRUM: Now we need a Clinton/George W. Bush reunion tour. That...


CARVILLE: There you go.

BLITZER: I'm sure that will happen at some point, too, guys. Stand by.

We've got more to discuss, including the consequences of health care reform -- what will they be for President Obama, for Congressional Democrats and for Republicans?

We're looking at the political fallout.

And a swine flu vaccine -- trials are now underway. We have new details, including the overwhelming response.


BLITZER: A lot of political sparks flying from the health care debate.

We're back with David Frum, Nia-Malika Henderson and James Carville.

But let's go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick for some more background -- Deb.

FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, President Obama says he's in it for the long haul when it comes to health care reform.

But could it cost Democrats at the polls next November?

Well, one reporter asked that question to the president today.


OBAMA: And I don't know if you're doing some prognosticating about the outcome of the midterm elections, which are over a year away. I anticipate we'll do just fine.


FEYERICK: Now, he might be right. But our latest CNN/Opinion Research poll shows support for Democrats is slipping. We asked which party is best to control the country. Well, 44 percent said Democrats, 34 percent said Republicans and 19 percent said it doesn't make a difference.

That's not promising news for Democrats. We all remember what happened to President Clinton in 1994. He lost majorities in both the House and Senate after his health care plan failed. So the question is this -- could the same thing happen to President Obama -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Let me ask David Frum.

Is that realistic at all?

FRUM: Well, I mean put it this way, if a 10 point advantage is not promising news for Democrats...


FRUM: ...I'd like to know what discouraging news is...

BLITZER: Well, because it was even bigger before.

FRUM: I understand that. But, look, it's 9.4 percent unemployment month after month, bad news after bad news; the president's health care plan stalled. We should be doing better.

And so I find that actually not encouraging. And I worry...

BLITZER: From the Republicans' perspective...

FRUM: Not from the Republicans.


FRUM: It's the one that counts. The...


FRUM: I worry also that, also, that too many Republicans are mesmerized by the 1994 example. I used to have a teacher of history in college who said history never repeats itself, it only appears to do so to those who don't pay attention to the details.

BLITZER: Should the Democrats be worried, though?

You lived through '94...


BLITZER: You remember what happened.

CARVILLE: Look, you worry all the time. And certainly, we're going to lose some seats. The difference between losing seven seats and 37 seats is all the difference in the world. And you're not going to -- look, if they win Congressional seats in three elections in a row -- but I had the same reaction David did. But (INAUDIBLE) is that 34 percent of the country wants to go back to the Republicans. That's a -- that's a bad number. I mean it -- and you're right, it's coming down.

There are things to worry about. The Democrats are clearly going to lose some seats. But if they lose a few seats. They'll -- I think they'll be just fine with that.

BLITZER: Is it smart to sort of demonize some of the more assertive questioners at these town hall meetings right now, from the Democrats' perspective?

HENDERSON: Yes, well, that's clearly what they're doing. I mean Obama is going to go out tomorrow. He's going to be in New Hampshire at this town hall meeting. And they're anticipating that there is going to be some fierce opposition there.

And the president was actually good. I mean, I've seen him in town halls he's good at that kind of back and forth and parrying.

And it's always, I think, probably better for them to have an enemy. You saw today that Palin, who had these very kind of -- very dramatic statements to make about the -- the health care reform, kind of dialing it back. So I mean I think the -- the Obama administration is very much kind of playing into this debate and...

FRUM: It's sucker -- I think it's sucker bait for them.

BLITZER: For who?

FRUM: For the Obama administration. Obviously, it's very tempting, it's very irresistible, you can make some political ground.

The question is, do you want to do something for the country?

And if you want to do that, you're going to have to involve Republicans and you're going to have to take on some Republican ideas. Jettison the public option and make a deal with the Republicans in the Senate.

The alternative is to do what they're doing now and that is inflaming the feeling of the country and taking something where there's a broad agreement there's a problem and hope (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Senator Dick Durbin yesterday saying, you know what, as much as he likes the public option, he could live without it.

CARVILLE: Yes. I think -- and I think they can live without it because -- my daddy used to say, (INAUDIBLE), he says, you're going -- you're going to like it because you've got to like it. They're going to live without it. And it's -- it appears to be that (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: You think it's toast, the public option?

CARVILLE: Well, I won't call it toast, but when you have somebody like Senator Durbin and you other people saying, well, this is something that -- that -- when you're at that point of the negotiations, when you're already saying this is something we might give up, it's a pretty good indication to me, at least, that -- and when you give it up, you say, gee, you know, we've got to realize (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: All right. Excellent ideas. All right, guys, thanks very much.

We'll continue this conversation.

President Obama apparently had to travel all the way to Mexico to get some perspective on his priorities here at home. Today, he acknowledged that something has got to give in his jam-packed agenda. And he said immigration reform will have to wait until more pressing problems are solved, like health care reform.


OBAMA: Now, I've got a lot on my plate. And it's very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in a way where they don't all just crash at the same time. And what we said is in the fall when we come back, we're going to complete health care reform.


BLITZER: And the next year, they'll try to complete immigration reform. That's the president's message.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

At the top of the hour, complete coverage of the escalating showdown over health care legislation. House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer watching a scathing attack against town hall protesters who criticize the president's health care plans. They accuse those protesters of, "being un-American."

Also, President Obama holding a summit in Mexico with President Calderon of Mexico, Prime Minister Harper of Canada. The president pushing for even closer ties with Mexico and Canada, ignoring what many say is a rising threat to our sovereignty.

And leftist Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez warning of possible war with Colombia, one of this country's closest allies. We'll tell you what that means. We'll have a special report on the Venezuelan leader's threats and his aggressive military buildup.

Join us for all of that and much more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Lou.

Let's check in with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is: Should the Obama administration launch a criminal investigation of CIA treatment of detainees?

Patricia writes from Korea: "The CIA was carrying out orders. And while that's not an excuse, it could be a mitigating circumstance. I think we need to prosecute the authors of the memos that allowed this to happen in the first place."

Kelly in Atlanta says: "Don't we have more important things to be doing?"

Susan says: "The hatred for the perpetrators of 9/11 is understandable. But that's not an excuse to behave as if there is no mercy in this world."

Maria writes: "Absolutely. If we can impeach a president when he lied to Congress about having sex, why on Earth would we refuse to investigate GITMO, secret terror prisons, transferring prisoners to be tortured in other countries? Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Condi Rice and all the others who knew we were breaking international laws should be investigated together, apart, whatever, the sooner the better."

Nathan in Columbus, Ohio says: "I think Obama should focus more on domestic issues instead of appeasing the rest of the world by investigating those responsible for our national security. I think this issue is a distraction on the issues we're dealing with today. We're looking backward at Bush's years."

Pat in New York: "Give it a rest, Jack. You and the rest of the leftists, you won't be satisfied until Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld and Company get frog marched into the penitentiary. Personally, I think Bush's guys and the military were too soft on these criminal lowlifes. They should have waterboarded more of them."

Rolando writes: "Waste of time."

And Jon says: "It will never happen. Just like James Bond, they a license to kill and torture and assassinate and wage secret wars. The list goes on and on and on."

And if you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among hundreds of others.

Happy anniversary, Mr. Blitzer.

Four years (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Four years ago this week we started THE SITUATION ROOM experiment. In fact, there I am four years ago.

I look pretty much the same, don't you think, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I don't know. I think you -- I think you've aged.

BLITZER: I've aged. I think you're right.


BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

We'll continue tomorrow.

Swine flu guinea pigs...


TYRA SMITH, TRIAL PARTICIPANT: I think it's good that somebody is doing a study that can help people.


BLITZER: Many are eager to receive trial vaccinations against the H1N1 virus.

Who's getting the shots and why?

And a setback for Sarah Palin days after she leaves office.


SARAH PALIN FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: ...who are (INAUDIBLE) us today. And I would ask in this crowd, knowing that...



BLITZER: Sarah Palin is no longer governor, but state government battles are following her. The Alaskan legislature overrode a veto Governor Palin made before leaving office. Palin was against accepting more than $28 million from the federal stimulus package. But lawmakers are for it, overriding Palin's veto by a vote of 45-15.

Hundreds of people right now are lining up to get experimental swine flu shots. It could protect them from a second wave of the H1N1 pandemic or it could give -- prove to be a risky gamble for them.

Let's go to our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, for more.

What are we learning -- Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we're learning is that the H1N1 shot is being tested out at eight different centers across the United States. Today, we visited one at the University of Maryland, where there were so many volunteers to be guinea pigs that, well, they had to have a lottery.


COHEN: (voice-over): When Tara Smith's boyfriend, Chris Lewis, suggested they be guinea pigs in a swine flu vaccination study, initially, she wasn't so crazy about the idea. She doesn't like needles, but she thought she'd help.

SMITH: I think it's good that somebody is doing a study that could help people.

COHEN: So now Lewis and Smith are among the first Americans to receive vaccinations against the 2009 H1N1 virus. They're part of a study of 2,400 people. They'll give blood samples and keep diaries of their symptoms -- all as part of the effort to get a swine flu vaccine ready for the fall.

DR. KAREN KOTLOFF, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The purpose of the studies that we're doing is to try to collect information that will help to inform policymakers about the best way to give the pandemic H1N1 flu vaccine. We're looking to see whether we need one or two doses and what strength we needed.

COHEN: The studies are being done at eight centers nationwide. For now, only adults are being tested.

DAN MONAKIL, TRIAL PARTICIPANT: I understand the process and it doesn't intimidate me in any way.

COHEN: Pediatric trials are scheduled to begin in a few weeks. Federal health officials are hoping to have a vaccine ready by mid- October, but concede it might be later. Once the vaccine does come out, certain groups of people will be first in line to get it -- pregnant women, anyone between the ages of six months and 24 years old, parents and caretakers of babies under the age of six months, emergency health care workers and 25 to 64-year-olds with health problems.


COHEN: Now, the swine flu vaccine is actually two shots spaced three weeks apart. And then after that second shot, doctors need to wait another two weeks to see if someone developed an immune response.

So, Wolf, it's just too early to tell if these shots have any side effects and if they work.

BLITZER: We'll watch very closely,

Elizabeth, thanks very much.

Let's take a closer look at some "Hot Shots."

In Taiwan, two men help a dog and move supplies through flooded streets.

In Afghanistan, children approach a U.S. soldier as he patrols near the Pakistani border.

In Uzbekistan, on a 104 degree day, this man jumps from a bridge into the cool water.

And in China, check it out, a mother panda plays with her son over at the zoo.

"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

That's it for me today.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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