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Al Qaeda Attack Derailed; Town Hall Free-For-All; Ex-President Faces Possible Arrest; Targeting Kids, Celebrating Suicide; London Jewelry Heist; Trapped On A Plane

Aired August 11, 2009 - 17:00   ET


BLITZER: Why were passengers trapped in their plane on the tarmac for almost seven hours?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We're learning new details right now about an Al Qaeda-linked plot to attack a U.S. military target in Kuwait. Officials in that country have arrested six people and their questioning is revealing some frightening details of an operation designed to inflict maximum casualties.

CNN's Arwa Damon is working the story for us from Baghdad -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, security forces did say that two of the individuals that they detained confessed to wanting to attack the U.S. military bait in Kuwait using a truck packed with explosives sometime during Ramadan, which begins next week. The other four individuals who they detained as part of this terror cell will be interrogated on Wednesday.

The U.S. Military base there, Camp Arifjan, is a sprawling $200 million complex that literally springs out of the Kuwaiti desert and is home to a varying number, but thousands of U.S. troops. It is also the Army's forward headquarters for operations in the region, especially logistics operations to Iraq.

Now, white Kuwait is not known as being a home or a headquarters for the terrorist network, Al Qaeda, it is home to a small element of Sunni extremism and a number of Al Qaeda cells. Well, we are hearing that those leading these cells came from jihad front lines such as Afghanistan, where they fought against the Soviets and then set up operations there, which increased after the U.S.-led invasion -- Wolf.

KING: All right. Arwa, thanks very much.

I've been to that base, Camp Arifjan, in Kuwait. It is huge, huge. We're on top of this story.

From President Obama on down, proponents of health care reform are making their case to Americans in town hall meetings today. The president took questions from a mostly polite audience in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; a contrast to a Pennsylvania meeting where Democratic Senator Arlen Specter faced a hostile crowd.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, and our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi -- they're both working the story for us.

Let's begin with Jessica.

You're at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania -- Jessica, how did it go for Senator Specter today?

YELLIN: It's still going, Wolf. The senator has been working hard, dealing with an audience that's less hostile than he faced earlier in the day, but deeply, deeply skeptical. And the one thing everyone there seems to have in common is very little faith in Washington.

People have been grilling him about not just the health care alleged panel that could decide whether or not people live and die -- a big rumor out here; also, whether or not this is a slow trend to single payer system; but debt -- how much this will add up to the national debt.

Here's one exchange the senator had where he promised people the debate is not over.

Let's listen.


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Number 12, all the way to 30.

Who has 12?


SPECTER: Twelve?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In light of the debt that this nation is accruing with the recent bank bailouts, the TARP, the bailout of G.M., the desire of the government to enact cap and trade and now this health care reform, Senator, where is the money coming from?

We, as a...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, as a nation, are broke. We need to slow down and consider the venues -- other venues that we could use to bring down the cost of health insurance. And one easy step in that direction would be tort reform.

(APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But with over 50 percent of those representing us in Congress being lawyers, I don't hold out a lot of faith in that being considered.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just ask that we not destroy the world's best health care system with the stroke of a pen on a bill many of you have not even thoroughly read or researched.

SPECTER: Well, I hear your concerns. And you are reading from the House bill. And I can only repeat that that's not the -- a law. And there will be very careful consideration to the ideas that I've heard here and the ideas you have when I go back to Washington. I'm getting an earful and I'll take the message back.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, that's the message he has been repeating over and over, that nothing here is done, there is still much debate to come and that these town halls will influence the final version of the bill.

An interesting final note, Wolf. Senator Specter senator says so far, he has considered these civil experiences and it's an example of democracy in action.

BLITZER: He's tough...

YELLIN: He's not bothered by the...

BLITZER: I was saying...


BLITZER: ...he's tough, Senator Specter. You know, he's -- he's handling himself out there during some very, very tough exchanges.

Jessica, stand by for a moment, because at that town hall in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, there was also this confrontation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think this is just about health care. It's not about TARP. It's not about left and right. This is about the systematic dismantling of this country.

I'm 35 years old. I have never been interested in politics. You have awakened a sleeping giant. We are tired of this. This is why everybody in this room is so ticked off. I don't want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country. My question for you is...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- what are you going to do to restore this country back to what our founders created according to the Constitution?


SPECTER: I get a fairly firm message from the support you have, young lady.

When you ask me to defend the Constitution, that's what I've been doing.



BLITZER: He's getting some grief out there.

Let me in with CNN's chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, with the CNN Express.

You're in Paducah, Kentucky right now, Ali. And you're trying to get a sense of what folks out there think about this issue.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We've been driving since Atlanta. We went through Tennessee. Now we're in the northwest corner of Kentucky.

Just over my shoulder, actually, over the river is Southern Illinois. And -- and it's a very different debate on the streets of America that we've been having so far. There are people who are very, very concerned about health care. They feel this might be one of the most important debates this country has ever gone through.

But there does seem to be some sense of a lack of information and/or misinformation.

There are some people whop told us they felt the administration has not done a good enough job of saying what this is all about. And what that's doing is handing the conversation over to those people who are saying very clearly what they say this -- this government option, in particular, in public health care is about.

But there does seem to be a sense that most people are gathering their information through media reports or through things that are not directly related to what is actually being proposed in terms of health care.

Here's one gentleman we spoke to just a few minutes ago here in Paducah.


TOM SHEPHARD, RETIRED: You hear all these rumors and (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like from where?

SHEPHARD: You know, on the news and about, you know, what -- Obama's plan. But we really haven't seen it yet, you know, truthfully. And so you're going to get that when you get Republicans and Democrats fighting against each other. That's just the way it is.


VELSHI: And there is that sort of sense, Wolf, that this has become a political debate before most people have had a chance to understand exactly what this debate is about.

What is that public option?

I'm hearing a lot of people telling me about a fear that their choice is going to be taken away -- choice of doctor, choice of facility, choice of procedures and choice of, in some cases, rumors about how long you get to live.

And I think that's the challenge right now. People are watching these town halls. They're hearing people talk about all sorts of things, like you heard at that one with Senator Specter, that aren't related to health care. They're talking about terrorism. They're talking about illegal immigration. They're talking about criminals.

We're not focusing on the health care debate and that is frustrating a lot of the people I'm talking to.

But again, we're early in this trip. I'm going to be here in Paducah for the rest of the evening, speaking to more people, saying where are you getting your information, what do you want out of your health care system and what do you think of the proposals that are in front of you so far -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A much more measured reaction, it sounds to me, than at those town halls.


BLITZER: All right, Ali, we'll check back with you tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: You knows, it occurs to me that the government could have done a better job of putting out more specific information about what it is they're talking about doing. This stuff was all kind of done in -- behind closed doors in the House and Senate. They, you know, proposed some legislation.

People don't know what's in that legislation. And there's been an information vacuum. And vacuums tend to get filled up with a lot of dirt, i.e. These phony rumors about death panels and all kinds of other stuff.

If they had specifically set out in the beginning here are the 10 things we want to accomplish with health care reform, I think people wouldn't be maybe so afraid of what's coming down the pike.

Just one man's opinion.

During the rece...

BLITZER: Good point.


During a recession, most people tend to cut back, unless you're the government. The State of California has a budget deficit of $26 billion and yet they added thousands of people to the state payroll last year. The State of California has lost nearly 760,000 private sector jobs during that same time, but the government was actually adding 3,600 people to the state payroll.

Taxpayer groups are outraged -- and rightfully so. They suggest cutting jobs, not hiring more people, should be the answer during tough economic times. It seems pretty logical.

"When there's no money left in the till, you should economize." That's a quote. But state employees say they're being punished for the government's irresponsible financial decisions -- like hiring thousands of additional workers when the state deficit is in the tens of billions of dollars.

The state employees claim that these unpaid furloughs that have been forced upon them equal about 14 percent pay cut for some state employees. Governor Schwarzenegger says monthly payroll costs have actually decreased by about 10 percent because of these forced furloughs. But the governor says that the increase in workers is due to more demand on the state for services during the recession. One state official insists that it wouldn't be much of a safety net if we cut down services that people needed most during the recession -- for example, some of the biggest increases in hiring came in the state's unemployment agency.

Anyway, here's the question -- should there be a nationwide government hiring freeze at the federal and state levels -- and the local level, for that matter -- until this recession is over?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

The thing about government is once they hire somebody, barring them committing some sort of heinous act, they're there for life. You can't fire them.

BLITZER: Very...

CAFFERTY: Civil servants, know.

BLITZER: Very hard to fire them.


BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

A horrifying Taliban tactic revealed -- how militants recruit young men and boys from religious schools to become suicide bombers. Our chief investigative correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, goes inside Pakistan's madrassas.

Also, a $65 million holdup in broad daylight and now police are releasing video of this bold jewelry heist.

And a new development in the probe of Michael Jackson's death -- another search warrant executed in Las Vegas. We're learning new details of the target.


BLITZER: The former president of Pakistan facing possible arrest if he returns to his country from London, where he's been living.

CNN's Cal Perry has details of the case against Pervez Musharraf from Islamabad.

CAL PERRY CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials telling CNN that the former Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, could face charges if he returns to Pakistan.

Now, police have taken to the court actual documents bringing a case against him.

Now all this really centered around what happened back in November of 2007, when the former president suspended the constitution and sacked a number of judges. That was later declared unconstitutional by the high court. In fact, that was declared unconstitutional by the high court this month.

Now, we've spoken to one of Musharraf's lawyers. He said that there have -- they have not been notified that any charges have been brought. He says this is a political game and he made it clear -- he told CNN that the former president is not in exile and that he has every intention of returning to Pakistan and facing whatever charges may be brought -- Wolf.

KING: All right, Cal.

Cal Perry reporting.

They're young, they're desperate and they're vulnerable -- young boys and men inside Islamic schools called madrassas -- perfect targets for the Taliban as they seek a constant supply of suicide bombers.

Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, takes us inside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice- over): "You will find by body in little pieces," sings one young boy in this Taliban propaganda video. It's targeting children -- celebrating suicide.

The Taliban recruits its young martyrs from madrassas on the Pakistan/ Afghan border. Shaki Rullah (ph) was one of them.

SHAKI RULLAH (through translator): My dad was teaching me a couple of pages of the Koran. Then he couldn't do it and he sent me to a madrassa.

AMANPOUR: His father sent him to a madrassa when he was just 10 years old for a free education. But they didn't realize what else lay in store for him.

RULLAH (through translator): I was studying in the madrassa when I finished reciting the Koran. And a mullah told me I should go to commit a suicide attack. When I said no, I am not going, he forced me.

AMANPOUR: When he was 14, Shaki Rullah was smuggled into Afghanistan through an underground network by people he had never met to a destination he didn't know.

RULLAH (through translator): I still don't know what type of suicide attack they had planned for me. I still don't know whether God says it was good or bad.

AMANPOUR: The Afghan police arrested him before he could complete his mission. And now, sitting in an Afghan jail, he wonders if he'll ever see his family again.

RULLAH (through translator): I miss my mom and dad.

EBU PATEL: I think in some ways, we have forfeited the terrain to the Al Qaedas of the world, who are messaging to those young people in sharp and direct ways.

AMANPOUR: Ebu Patel (ph), a Muslim who grew up in America feeling like an outsider, understands the path to extremism. He's now a White House adviser on Muslim youth.

PATEL: It's not a question of them being ideologically attracted to the message of extremism, it's simply a question of that's where the jobs are. That's where the school is. That's where the free lunch program is.

I think that one of the central issues of the 21st century is that we will rise or fall on them rising or falling.


BLITZER: For more on efforts to engage Pakistan's madrassas and change the lessons being taught to the next generation of Muslim youth, you can tune into our chief investigative correspondent, Christiane Amanpour's, documentary, entitled "Generation Islam." It airs Thursday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Central, only here on CNN.

New developments surrounding those three American hikers detained in Iran -- we have details of a new message from their families.

And a roller coaster ride that was more frightening than any expected -- what went so horribly wrong?


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what's the latest?

NGUYEN: Hey there, Wolf.

Potential new evidence today in the ongoing investigation of Michael Jackson's death. The Associated Press quotes a law enforcement official as saying the entertainer's personal doctor legally purchased a powerful anesthetic from a Las Vegas pharmacy. Now, federal agents and local police search Applied Pharmacy Services today. And Jackson's death, of course, is being investigated as a possible manslaughter. Well, the coroner's report, that has been completed. And the results have not been released because of the investigation. And we'll stay on top of that for you.

There's also been an appeal today from the families of three hikers detained in Iran. In a joint statement, the families say they hope Tehran will release them as quickly as possible. The three have been held since July 31st. Family members say they were backpacking in Iraq and accidentally crossed the border. Now, Iran's state television has reported that the Americans ignored warnings from Iranian border guards.

And the search for wreckage and remains in New York's Hudson River isn't over. We now have video of a small plane being partially raised from the river. You see it right there. The plane collided with a tourist helicopter on Saturday, killing nine people. Divers were in and out of the murky waters today, trying to recover the last two victims of the mid-air collision. One of the victims was still in the submerged plane. A family from Pennsylvania, five Italian tourists and the helicopter pilot were all killed in that accident.

And just imagine this -- we talked about this yesterday and showed it to you live. Imagine dangling from a stuck roller coaster ride for four hours in a searing 90 degree heat. That's what happened to 24 people in Santa Clara, California yesterday. Emergency crews removed them one by one and very carefully from the Invertigo Roller Coaster at the Great American Theme Park. No one was hurt and everybody got pizza and soft drinks after the big adventure was over. No word on why the ride stopped -- but, Wolf, pizza and soft drinks?

That's all they got?

What about season passes? BLITZER: Well, that's why I don't go on roller coasters.


BLITZER: I never liked them to begin with.

NGUYEN: Well, they may not want to go on one after that, either.

BLITZER: No way.

All right, thanks very much, Betty, for that.

It's a jewelry heist that reads like a movie script -- London police today appealing for help finding two men suspected in what's being called one of the country's biggest ever jewelry thefts.

Let's bring in our Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, who are they looking for?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, they were caught on camera. It's these two men here, caught on tape as they entered a Central London jewelry last Thursday. You can see they're sharply dressed, strolling past security guards at this point. Police say they then pulled handguns, threatened staff and then escaped with this lot -- $65 million worth of jewels.

Now, this is Graff Jewelers in Central London their diamonds are worn by the likes of Paris Hilton, Victoria Beckham. Police say they stole more than 40 items. It was about 43 items. That means, on average, each one was worth about $1.5 million.

BLITZER: Wow! That's amazing. This was pretty audacious, too.

TATTON: In the center of London. This is the area of Mayfair, New Bond Street. This is a pretty posh area. You've got Tiffany's just down the road. The Ritz Hotel is just around the corner. And then you've got two jewel thieves firing warning shots into a busy street.

Police say they had multiple getaway cars, that they started off in a blue BMW, went a couple of blocks in that, fired another shot, then they were in a silver Mercedes. Then there was another getaway car. At that point, they disappeared.

Wolf, they said that this was an extremely well planned attack. No one was hurt. But they're saying that they're on the lookout for these men.

BLITZER: So these guys are still at large right now.

TATTON: They're still at large with those diamonds.

BLITZER: Update us if we get some information.

Thank you.

Thanks very much, Abbi. New developments in the case of a travel nightmare -- passengers trapped on their plane on the tarmac for almost seven hours. Now, the Obama administration is getting directly involved. Stand by.

Also, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton makes a dangerous journey to confront a brutal, but wildly -- widely used tactic in a long- running civil war -- rape.

And Mexico's drug cartels expand their operations into a new area, human smuggling -- why it's proving even deadlier than their drug operations.



Happening now, a reality check about health care costs -- we're taking a closer look at one staggering hospital bill and trying to dig out the hidden charges. You'll see this only on CNN.

Reading, writing, arithmetic and swine flu?

School is back in session and health officials are deeply worried about a new outbreak -- what steps they're taking right now to head it off.

And the unwritten rule -- leave the president's kids alone. A new advocacy campaign is breaking that rule and the White House wants it to stop right now.

Who's right, who's wrong?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


It's every traveler's nightmare -- passengers trapped on a tarmac for hours and hours and hours, simply prevented from getting off their plane. It happened in Rochester, Minnesota and now the Obama administration wants answers and they want answers quickly.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with more on what happened.

It's shocking when you think about what happened.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And the reverberations here in Washington -- the Obama administration is getting into the act in the wake of this incident in Rochester, Minnesota. A Transportation Department official told us the Department is investigating whether any consumer protection regulations were violated when those 47 passengers were stranded for about seven hours overnight inside that Continental Airlines plane on that tarmac. Passengers complaining of increasingly uncomfortable conditions, including toilets backing up.

Now, the Transportation Department has sent Continental Airlines a letter asking for details and asking who was responsible between Continental and ExpressJet, that regional carrier that operated that flight. Now, ExpressJet has said that its priority in that incident was ensuring customer safety, because weather was a factor in those delays.

Just moments ago, a spokeswoman for Continental told us the airline is working with the Department of Transportation in this inquiry. Continental said yesterday and today this incident was unacceptable, and they're offering passengers refunds, and they are working with ExpressJjet to review what happened. Wolf, the Department of Transportation is really trying to pressure both these airlines, Continental and its regional carrier, they want answers to this.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't blame them. And I understand Ray Lahood, the Secretary of Transportation and the Department of Transportation are beginning to think about some new rules that have to be implemented right away to make sure this can never happen again in the United States of America.

TODD: That's right. The D.O.T. spokesman told us the department is soon going to rule on a proposal to require the airlines to come up with contingency plans for long tarmac delays. Essentially, trying to get people into the terminal, things like that. They want procedure in place so that, seven hours on a tarmac with those conditions just doesn't happen again in this country.

BLITZER: Yeah, somebody screwed up big time. And they want to learn lessons to make sure this didn't happen again. I think 47 passengers deserve a lot more than another certificate for a free trip. They need some comfort after enduring that, and the airlines should step forward and do it, Brian, thank you.

Another story we're following right now, also shocking, involves Mexico. There's evidence right now that drug car items are branching out, not only smuggling drugs, but get this, they're also smuggling people. And as CNN's Michael Ware discovered, many those people don't either pay or obey, they face terrible consequences.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a tale of kidnap, imprisonment and worse, much worse. It's the story of those who fall prey to Mexico's drug cartels, because of their hope to come to America. I cannot tell you her name nor anyone else's in this story, nor can I show you their faces or tell you where I met them. Because if I did, they say, they would almost certainly be killed. That's because the violent drug cartels have a new and lucrative business. Think of it as a hostile takeover, the people-smuggling business. This woman fled the poverty of her hometown, the seventh of 12 children. As hundreds do every week in Central America, she headed north to Mexico, bound for the U.S. only to be seized by one of the most brutal cartels in the business.

The cartel ransomed them off for whatever they could get, selling them back to families who barely could pay. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They control all of the route. They have infrastructure. They have the money. They have the people. They have the guns. They have everything right now to control everything.

WARE: This man is one of few working with the cartels' victims. He says the business of human trafficking is flourishing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting money. It's not just a drug issue. Where the money comes from, they don't care.

WARE: And some of the money is used for bribery. When the car carrying the young woman in our story arrived at an immigration check point, she hoped her ordeal with the cartel was over. But she says, the immigration officials were in on it. This is another woman who was held by a cartel. Her family was unable to pay a ransom. So, for four months, she was forced to work, cooking for the other hostages, and the cartel kidnappers themselves. She says she was also ordered to take food to prisoners shackled in makeshift torture chambers and to wash the clothes of her cartel jailers. The men chopped into pieces, she says, were hostages who could not pay. Or, more often, the men they called coyotes, the Mexicans who specialize in smuggling people across the U.S. border. The cartels literally butchering their competition. And anything that makes cartels like Los Zetas stronger is a threat to America, particularly when it offered a new means of importing more drugs.

RALPH REYES, DEA: This is a prime example of an organization that has, from a traditional perspective, looked into other areas of making money, especially with the smuggling situation. It's a means of introducing drugs into the United States.

WARE: And that means only one thing. Many more horror stories to come.

Michael Ware, CNN, Mexico.


BLITZER: Shocking, indeed. The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, demanding justice for rape victims. We have details of her dangerous trip to a war-weary corner of Africa.

Plus, health care debate threatening to spiral out of control. Can the president rein it back in? Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin, they're standing by live.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Mary Matalin. The debate for health care is getting out of control, at least in some parts of the country. The president tried to tone things down today at his town hall in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: There's been a long and vigorous debate about this. And that's how it should be. Now, that's what America's about. Is, we have a vigorous debate. That's why we have a democracy. But I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other. Because -- because one of the objectives of democracy and debate is that we start refining our own views, because maybe other people have different perspectives, things we didn't think of. Where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real. Not these wild misrepresentations that bare no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed. Because the way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks, and they'll create boogeymen out there that just aren't real.


BLITZER: All right, Mary. You think he can put this fire out because it's exploding in a lot of the town hall forums out there.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he has no choice. Members are freaking out. He's losing the debate. They're going to lose their seats. We've been talking about that this entire season. He did not call them mobs. He did not call them un-American. He did not call them tea baggers or anything like that. You've had them on the show this is not Republicans, this is not Astroturf. And a better technique would be to just deal with these questions, not mischaracterize them or say they're boogeymen, he brought up some of the things, gave the extreme version. But people are concerned. And the reason they are concerned, they keep hearing, no one has read the bill. He's out there trying to defend a bill that's not his. It's the house bill, and he's -- it's a very bad execution here. Tactically and strategically and he's in a rough spot.

BLITZER: Is the white house doing a bad job telling health care reform?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think the ball is in the white house's court right now to try to basically get this debate back on the actual principles of the bill, and the particulars of the bill. HR-3200 is available online.

BLITZER: That's the house version.

BRAZILE: That's the house version. It's available for any American to call their member of congress. I don't know the 800 numbers, it's been a couple of years since I had to make a long distance call to congress. This is an important debate to congress. We should encourage people to listen to their members of congress, to raise important questions. There's a survey out today that shows that one-third of the American people are not informed of the details.

BLITZER: It's 1,000 pages. A lot of it technical it's hard to read that stuff, even if you are knowledgeable about it.

BRAZILE: But it's broken down into sections. And the American people are strong enough to go to the right section and find out there's no such thing as a death squad, and all these other comments that people are making about the bill.

BLITZER: You are shaking your head --

MATALIN: See, this is not Donna saying what the president is saying, but it's just short hand for, this end of life consultation if you had to deal with it, unfortunately I did, it's very emotional. When you are in that situation, my father made the choice, then you find out all that's available. If you're not in that situation, and you've been sold a principle that this whole health care reform is about cost cutting, and you go, this is a new program, not cutting cost, but how do you cut costs with that? Well, you would accelerate the end of life --

BLITZER: You are just jumping to the conclusion that it's designed to save money, where the proponents of it, and Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia says, you know, he doesn't support this legislation, the president's, but over the years he's supported giving the elderly opportunities for, like, creating a living will and having serious --

MATALIN: I'm not speaking to the substance. When you get into it, as we had to do, it is good, it is right. But it's available in every state. And your doctor tells you about it, and you don't have to go through the whole thing. I'm talking about the politics of it. When you have something in there, and I -- the president sold the principle.

BRAZILE: It's not in there.

MATALIN: End of life consultation --

BRAZILE: There's no such thing as a death panel. It is pretty much what we all have now, with private insurance. And I've had to make some difficult decisions regarding my brother and his end of life care, and I think this is an important way for us to have this conversation, is to put the information out there. Let the American people see what's in the bill. But let's stop mischaracterizing.

BLITZER: Let me quote to you from Senator Isakson, a Republican of Georgia, today's "Washington Post" in an interview. "How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual, rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up." Now, he put out a statement after the president referred to him, saying he hates what the Democrats are doing in the House of Representatives, but at the same time, he does and has been on record for years supporting counseling for the elderly.

MATALIN: Correct. We go back to the politics. I don't object to that provision. It's just that, in the big sweep of things, we don't want the government in our bedroom, but we want them at our death bed? It's just bad political tactics here that they have 1,00 page bill that nobody's read --

BRAZILE: I'm reading this bill. It's a long time. But the Republicans that have 55 days to introduce a bill -- BLITZER: That version in the house, it's going to be very different. The senate's got a lot of different ideas. That version in the house is never going to be the law of the land. It will go into negotiations. It's a starting point. But anyone that thinking the senate is going to pass what Henry Waxman and the Democrats like in the house --

BRAZILE: Can we get to Hillary Clinton?

BLITZER: Let's get to Hillary Clinton right now. I know both you are watching her trip to Africa and she went to a dangerous area in Congo right now. She's sort of risking her life to deal with an issue so important to her, rape, the rape that is going on in Africa right now. Up know, it's -- it's as if she's trying to show, you know what, she is the secretary of state, and she's going to be able to do something about it. You applaud what she's doing.

MATALIN: There's nobody in the Bush white house or any Republican that I know that doesn't have the highest regard for Hillary Clinton. You don't have to agree with her. But she works like an animal, and she's doing it as a job that she didn't ask for in the first place. She's very good at it. She's getting no credit. Everybody else getting all the credit. And she gets dissed, stories about, if she's relevant, her envoys --

BLITZER: She's the shadow of her husband.

MATALIN: And then she orchestrates the whole North Korea thing and integrates the policy, it was well executed. He couldn't have done it without her. He comes home the hero, I'm not dissing him at all. But then, she -- you know, there's no -- this woman deserves to get credit. You don't have to agree with her to say, those are the kinds of people, particularly women, that we want to have in public service. And they -- the conventional wisdom says, this is going to hurt her. As a fellow woman, it always ends up helping her. She's fine. She's doing a great job. She's the kind of person we need.

BLITZER: This is an issue, Donna, that you and I and Mary, all of us know this is so critical, what's happening in Africa, especially in Congo right now.

BRAZILE: The genital mutilization (ph), the raping of young girls, Hillary Clinton went and spoke out against violence against women. I applaud what she said, I applaud what she's doing in Africa. And I just wish we had more people like her going into those hot spots, saying this is wrong.

BLITZER: And she had guts to show up there on this trip. She's been working really hard.

BRAZILE: Town hall meeting.

BLITZER: That was another story. Guys, thank you.

Jack Cafferty wants to know what you think. Should there be a nationwide government hiring freeze until the recession is over? We'll have your e-mail answers.

And a new advocacy campaign is invoking the names of President Obama's children. The white house is demanding that the ad be pulled. Should the president's kids be off-limits?

And she founded a movement that went worldwide, the Special Olympics. We remember Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

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


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack. He's got the Cafferty File.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, should there be a nationwide government hiring freeze at all levels until the recession is over? Most of you don't think so.

Ron in Flint, Michigan says, "I am from a city that has an employment rate of 28 percent. The government is one of the America's largest employers. I certainly agree steps need to be taken to get us out of the recession and one step is to increase hiring."

Eric says, "Simply having a hiring freeze is not going to fix the problem. Many of those government employees are grossly overpaid along with collecting ridiculous pension and health benefits that nobody else gets these days. I don't know about you but I'm tired of public servants living better than me on my dime."

Ken says, "There should be a hiring freeze if there is a freeze in the demands that people make on their government. I don't understand why people don't make the connection, that government services aren't free. Just because there is a recession, doesn't mean that people's need and demand for these services decreases. In fact, the demand for public services probably increases."

Emma in San Luis Obispo, California says, "No, Jack, I have four applications and interviews in for a job with the feds and with the state of California. We need jobs. We need to put the American people back to work, no matter who is doing the hiring. I lost my job in December of last year and haven't been able to find another one."

And Chris says, "Of course, there should be a freeze on hiring more government workers. As a matter of fact, there should be a substantial cut in government workers. Every other business has to do this when you are losing money. Why do government workers think they are immune?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there among hundreds of others or not, Wolf.

BLITZER: It resonates, a question like that, doesn't it? CAFFERTY: It does. Surprisingly, a lot of people look on the government as being the nation's largest employer. I am looking to are a job. I don't care who hires me, government or non-government just put me to work. I guess I understand that.

BLITZER: People want a job. They want to put some food on the table and take care of their families.

CAFFERTY: Not an unreasonable idea. The idea that the state of California could hire thousands of additional workers when they are running a $26 billion deficit at the state level, that's a bit of a reach.

BLITZER: Yes, all right. Jack, thank you.

President Obama's daughters at the heart of a new advocacy campaign and the white house is not happy about it.

Plus, the Kennedys, America's political dynasty, Mary Snow has that next as we remember Eunice Kennedy Shriver.


BLITZER: Eunice Kennedy Shriver is being remembered as an extraordinary woman that made the world a better place. Seen here at a parade honoring special Olympians in 1970, she is best known for the founding of the Special Olympics. She was sister to President John F. Kennedy. She was mother-in-law of California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Eunice Kennedy Shriver died today at a hospital in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She was 88 years old. Our condolences to the family. Eunice Shriver's death leaves behind a dwindling generation of the famous Kennedy clan. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from New York with more. These days, people are looking back at the Kennedy legacy and what's involved. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are Wolf. Those legacies in one form or another are linked to public service. They are especially being remembered today in Massachusetts.


SNOW: Visitors to the JFK museum in Massachusetts paid tribute to the life and work of Eunice Kennedy Shriver signing a condolences book. The Kennedys have made Cape Cod their home for generations, regular vacations sponsoring President Kennedy's years in the white house.

DEBORAH CONVERSE, HYANNIS AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: The Kennedys are so much a part of the community just from the '60s on up.

SNOW: A prominent member of the community is Senator Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer. In remembering the passing of his older sister, Eunice, he wrote, "I know that our parents and brothers and sisters who have gone before are filled with joy to have her by their side again." Senator Kennedy is the youngest of Joseph and Rose Kennedy's nine children. He and his sister, jean Kennedy smith, are the only surviving members of that Kennedy generation. Continuing the family legacy of public service says one historian, is being carried out differently about the children.

DARRELL WEST, KENNEDY HISTORIAN: When you think about the current generation of Kennedys, they are having the impact mostly in non-elective office.

SNOW: Some of the more high profile members include California's first lady, Maria Shriver, author and lawyer, Caroline Kennedy, Timothy Shriver who followed his mother's footsteps to lead the Special Olympics, Robert Kennedy Jr. who is an environmentalist and his brother, Joe, an advocate of energy independence. Patrick Kennedy is in elected office serving as a congressman from Rhode Island. Senator Kennedy continues to have a high approval rating after more than four decades in the senate, a CNN opinion research poll finds his favorability rating as less than 51 percent. For many of the younger Kennedys, elected office is not in the cards.

WEST: They are forming nonprofit organizations, being active in arts and culture and really making a contribution in a very different way compared to their parents.


SNOW: Wolf, behind the message of public service Senator Kennedy, some of the lessons of his parents running today, it is expected, to whom much has been given. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you.