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GOP Senator Faces the Heat; Insurance Insider Blows the Whistle; Marines Battle for Taliban Stronghold; AARP: President Obama Went Too Far

Aired August 12, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And more than six feet of rain triggering deadly flooding. Now, frantic efforts to rescue survivors.

Can they be reached in time?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Democratic lawmakers have been facing much of the reform outrage. Now, a Republican is putting himself out there, as well. We're talking about the Iowa senator, Charles Grassley.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is joining us now -- Senator Grassley, Candy, he's doing, what, four town halls today?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Four town hall meetings today. And I tell you, we were talking to the senator after the second of these town hall meetings. And he says he has not seen this sort of passion at town halls since 1989. And he ought to know, because he holds an awful lot of those meetings.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (D), IOWA: Well, if it's OK with you, I'll -- I'll get started.

CROWLEY: (voice-over): Winterset, Iowa -- Senator Chuck Grassley holds his 72nd town hall meeting this year. And what a year.

GRASSLEY: We're here at a time when I sense that people are scared for our country.

CROWLEY: The stimulus plan, the bailouts, government spending and now health care -- Grassley's been getting two, sometimes three times the crowds he's had in previous years. Many people, so many hands in the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do my children go to get their insurance if they don't want government health care?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you going to change the insurance so that the small businesses can compete?

CROWLEY: So many crosscurrents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to know. What are you doing to these insurance companies that are putting everything in their pocket and just laughing at everybody else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Simple math, even for this Southern Iowa redneck, shows that we can do -- we can cover the people who want coverage with a private policy cheaper, by like one third, for what the government's proposing.

CROWLEY: It's a tricky journey home for the senator. He is ranking Republican on the Finance Committee and part of a smaller group, Republicans and Democrats, trying to come to some sort of moderation -- piecing together a compromise health care bill. Some of his constituents urge him to press on, but the core of his base is concerned Grassley will bend too much on his way to a compromise. So bouncing from town hall meeting number 72 to 73, 74 and 75, Grassley, up for reelection next year, starts with what he won't agree to.

GRASSLEY: I'm not going to do anything that's going to nationalize health insurance or I mean nationalize health care in America. I don't intend to do anything that will allow government bureaucrats to get between you and your doctor.

CROWLEY: The senator pushes back against people he says want him to sit at his desk with his feet up. He's at the center of the Senate negotiations, he says, to keep the Senate from giving away the store.

GRASSLEY: And you know the old saying, if you aren't at the table, you're the menu.


CROWLEY: Senator Grassley is about as pessimistic as I've heard him when he talks about those meetings within the Senate Finance Committee. He said that something the president said yesterday about wanting a bipartisan bill, but nonetheless seeming to be -- seeming to want to push forward even without bipartisan support, leads Grassley to believe that the president is set to go forward in a partisan manner. And, in fact, Senator Grassley said that he thinks, in fact, that the committee may come up with something he can't agree with and will, "push him away from the table" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the negotiations continue.

Candy, thanks very much.

And the debate over health care reform has been raucous and chaotic. But now it's entering territory few would have predicted. Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore of Kansas says he's received two death threats over the bill currently working its way through the House of Representatives. And those death threats have him refusing to hold any town hall meetings on the subject, at least for now. Police in Overland Park, Kansas are investigating.

Moore says while he respects people's opinions and expects differences, he won't tolerate threats. And he adds, he hasn't seen an issue this contentious, in his words, since the Vietnam War.

A one time insurance insider has now turned whistleblower on industry tactics to try to sway the health care debate.

We asked CNN's Elaine Quijano to take a closer look.

She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with some answers.

What are you finding out -- Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. You know, in the heat of the summer battle over health care reform, Democrats are deploying another weapon. He's a former insurance company insider who's speaking out once again.


QUIJANO: (voice-over): Wendell Potter used to work as the chief spokesman for CIGNA Insurance, but he's now accusing the industry of playing what he calls "dirty tricks" to manipulate public opinion.

WENDELL POTTER, FORMER CIGNA SPOKESMAN: Words matter. And the insurance industry is a master at linguistics and using the hot words, the buzzwords, the buzz expressions that they know will get people upset.

QUIJANO: Potter first came to Washington in June to testify before a Senate panel about insurance company practices.


POTTER: I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance companies.

QUIJANO: Now, he's back -- at the invitation of Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter. Potter is questioning insurance companies' public relations tactics and says some of the rhetoric at recent town hall meetings is familiar.

POTTER: People talk about a government takeover of the health care system, for one. That's a buzz term that comes straight out of the insurance industry. It's not true. It's not at all proposed. It's not going to happen.

QUIJANO: His concerns fall right in line with the Democrats' strategy of hitting insurance companies hard this summer.

REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), NEW YORK: There's no question that this is a whole setup here to try to protect one industry.

QUIJANO: But many Republicans argue insurance companies aren't solely to blame for the health care crisis. And they note many of their constituents are perfectly happy with the current system.

For his part, Potter insists he has no agenda and says his decision to speak out is deeply personal -- to expose what he says are dishonest practices.

POTTER: This is hard to do. It's -- it's scary to do something like this. And I don't think I'm any more courageous than anybody, but I just felt I was -- I had to do this.


QUIJANO: Now, a CIGNA spokesman wouldn't comment directly on Potter's accusations. Instead, the company released a written statement saying officials agree that health care reform is needed. But the statement went on to say that officials don't see how a "government-sponsored plan" can accomplish that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine Quijano, thanks very much for that report.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now.

He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the increasingly bitter battle over health care reform is making some people question President Obama's leadership. Critics suggest that when it comes to governing on issues like health care, the president is missing that smooth confidence and "yes, we can" charisma that got him elected.

"New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd writes of this debate that seems to be spinning out of control: "President Obama has proven quicksilver instincts, but not in this case. You would think that a politician schooled in community organizing and the foul balls of a presidential campaign would be ready to squash this kind of nuttiness."

Dowd adds that President Obama knows how to rise to the occasion, but says he may be running out of time to do so.

On, Leo Paglia criticizes the president for proposing only "vague and slippery promises" -- her words -- when it comes to health care. Paglia, who supports President Obama, faults him for handing over much of the debate to Congressional leaders and also seeming to be in an unexplained rush to get something -- anything passed. She compares it to the "massive boondoggle" -- again, her words -- of the economic stimulus package, which the president pretty much gave Congress free reign to turn into one big pork project.

And it's not just health care. The list of issues the president faces is mind-boggling and probably unprecedented -- from the economy and health care to immigration reform on the home front -- immigration, by the way, Mr. Obama says will not happen until next year -- to Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, on and on and on overseas.

Critics say on a lot of this stuff, President Obama is talking, but not leading.

Here's the question: Is Barack Obama meeting your expectations as our president?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog.

His poll numbers have indicated that some doubt is creeping into the people's perceptions of his ability to -- to get all this stuff done.

BLITZER: Yes. Slipping, but he's -- at the job approval, he's still above 50 percent -- at least in our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls. Not as good as 60 percent or 65 percent, but he's not too shabby, at least not yet.

CAFFERTY: No. And I think that every day that this health care turmoil rages on, it probably isn't helping him.

BLITZER: Yes. I think you're right. That's why they've got to move and that's what they're trying to do.


BLITZER: We'll see how far they get.

Thanks, Jack.

Real people voicing real concerns -- we're going to hear from two of them who attended a town hall meeting in Iowa today, both passionate about health reform, but on opposite sides of the issue. Stand by.

Also, why the AARP says President Obama simply went too far at his health care town hall meeting in New Hampshire -- details of their beef with the president coming up.

Plus, a reality TV star going to extreme measures -- and we're talking really extreme measures -- allegedly using deadly measures, all in a quest for ratings.


BLITZER: Let's go back to our top story -- the health care debate running across the United States right now. As we showed you only a few moments ago, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is holding a series of health care reform town hall meetings today in Iowa. And while they're turning out to be a lot more civil than some of the Democratic lawmakers are facing elsewhere, there are passions that are clearly being expressed.


MARY TERRY, SUPPORTS HEALTH CARE BILL: I totally want the health care coverage for everybody and some kind of national approach to it. But I don't want to rush into it. I want...


TERRY: No, excuse me. I don't mean -- I'm not saying single health payer system.

I'm saying I want to have a system that covers everybody.


BLITZER: Iowa resident Mary Kerry is joining us now from Des Moines, along with Craig Stephens. He didn't get a chance to speak today, but I understand, Craig, you did have a chance to speak with Senator Grassley afterwards.

What point did you make to him?

CRAIG STEPHENS, AGAINST HEALTH CARE BILL: Well, what I said was to the senator, when he got done with his interview, was that I appreciated him being here and I felt that he had listened to our concerns and answered our questions. But I mainly wanted him to go back to Washington and let the people know that have been calling us un-American and calling us mobs that we really can be civil and that this is a discussion that we should be having. And this is what America was founded on and what it's all about.

BLITZER: You oppose this proposed health care reform legislation, Craig, don't you?

STEPHENS: Yes, I am.

BLITZER: And give us the biggest...

STEPHENS: I'm opposed to this particular bill.

BLITZER: ...the biggest reason you oppose the House Democratic version is what?

STEPHENS: Well, I can tell you, from my point of view, that I see this as a massive government intrusion into the lives of the American people. And I was going through the bill last night just so that I could be better informed.

And I can tell you, Wolf, I went through a very short five minute look through this thousand page bill. And it only took me five minutes to find something that concerned me. Now, if I can do that simply by browsing it on the Internet as layman, then I can understand why there's so much concern for it in the country.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Mary Terry now.

Mary, you have a different perspective. I take it you would like the to see health care reform passed.

TERRY: Yes. I would like to see some kind of coverage for everybody in the United States.

BLITZER: Tell us...

TERRY: I'm not...

BLITZER: Tell us how you think that could be done based on, you know, your understanding of what's out there. TERRY: I don't think we're there. So one of the things I said to the senator was I agree that we need to slow down. We need to rethink it. And one of my concerns is everything that has been talked about has been mainly around how do we pay for it and how do we get insurance for people.

And one of the things I'm concerned about is, I think we need to be -- we need to take a deeper look at it and make sure that we understand how we can reduce costs, because the problem is it's just too expensive. And if we could reduce costs, then I think everybody would be willing to make sure that there was more comprehensive coverage.

You know, we're a bunch of smart people here in America. We've done many things that have astounded the world for decades. And I think we're smart enough to look at a system that can make sure that we can provide basic health care for everyone and provide a system, at the same time, that would allow those that can afford to pay more to get insurance to pay for more.

BLITZER: Were you satisfied...

TERRY: Other countries have done it...

BLITZER: Mary, sorry for interrupting.

Were you satisfied with what you heard from your senator, Senator Grassley?

TERRY: I respect Senator Grassley very much. I -- I am a Democrat, but I've always voted for that man. I was a little bit concerned because I did not walk away feeling like that he really understood what the issues were in terms of having comprehensive health care. I think he was looking way too much at the money, way too much at we can't add things at this time.

And, quite frankly, it's a system that's broken. If we don't look at it now, it's only going to get worse.

I'm a financial adviser. I have been for 25 years. Twenty-five years ago, nobody talked about health care and whether it affected their retirement. Now, people come into me every day and say I cannot retire because I cannot afford health insurance until I'm 65...

BLITZER: Craig...

TERRY: ...that dreaded national plan that nobody wants.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring back Craig. He's going to get the microphone.

Now, Craig, were you satisfied -- are you satisfied -- are you happy that your senator, Senator Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is working with some Democrats trying to forge a compromise piece of legislation out of the Senate Finance Committee? STEPHENS: I can tell you that the Republicans of this state of Iowa are sometimes a little bit suspect of Senator Grassley's negotiations, so to speak. I think that he has the integrity to be looking at for people's best interests. And I respect him for that.

I thought that the answers he gave today were -- were answers and not just your regular political spin. I was a little bit concerned about the answer that he gave when he was specifically asked if Congress would go on this plan. And he -- it was a yes or no question and he kind of danced around it a little bit.

But overall, I think that the senator is listening to his constituents, which is why we're trying to be respectful and civil at these meetings. And I hope that when he goes back to Washington, he will take our concerns, which I think are legitimate and I hope that he takes our ideas and he is able to negotiate with the opposing party to get something done that will work for this country.

BLITZER: Craig Stephens of Iowa and Mary Terry of Iowa.

Guys, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

This debate, obviously, is going to continue.

Appreciate it very much.

STEPHENS: Thank you, Wolf.

TERRY: Thank you.

BLITZER: U.S. Marines taking on militants in Afghanistan right now -- the fighting is raging even as we speak. We're going to take you there for details of this new battle. Stand by.

And free from imprisonment in North Korea -- the journalist Laura Ling sending a new message to her supporters. We have it for you.

Plus, dramatic rescues underway right now after flood -- flash floods triggered by unbelievable rain. Get this -- more than six feet in some areas.


BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?


One of the American journalists freed from North Korea last week is thanking those who supported her and says that she hopes other jailed journalists receive similar backing. In an Internet message posted today, Laura Ling shares a journal entry from her time in captivity, saying: "I've been so overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of support from so many people -- loved ones, friends, people I haven't been in contact with in ages and even total strangers -- it makes you have faith in humanity. I hope that I would be as good of a friend or a human to someone else in a similar situation." That message from Laura Ling.

And U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in Nigeria today, warning that terrorist organizations may be seeking to capitalize on sectarian violence there. Hundreds of Nigerians have died in clashes between Christians and Muslims over the past few years. Clinton says international terror groups may be involved.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no doubt in our mind that Al Qaeda and like organizations that are part of the syndicate of terror would seek a foothold anywhere they could find one. And whether that is the case here or whether this is a homegrown example of fundamentalist extremism, that's up to the Nigerians to determine.


WHITFIELD: An international search is underway for a cargo ship that apparently has vanished. The Russian cruise ship was carrying timber from Finland to Algeria. It was last in contact with authorities more than two weeks ago when it passed through the English Channel. Four days earlier, the crew claimed to have been boarded off the coast of Sweden by hijackers posing as drug enforcement agents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred, thanks very much.

We're also getting reports of heavy fighting in Southern Afghanistan right now, where U.S. Marines have launched a predawn assault on a key Taliban stronghold ahead of next week's presidential election in Afghanistan. Marines, backed by their Harrier jets, are fighting for control of a strategic town right in the heart of the country's producing region.

CNN's Atia Abawi is on the scene for us in Kabul -- Atia.

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Afghanistan is just a week away from its second ever presidential elections and operations are still underway by coalition forces throughout the country to secure and hold areas, to make the Afghan people feel comfortable enough to go out and vote.

The latest occurred in the Nawa District of Helmand Province. Let's remember, Helmand is an area where thousands of U.S. Marines and thousands of coalition troops have flooded into in hopes of taking back districts, towns and villages from the Taliban and giving it back to the Afghan people.

The operation actually started in the early morning hours of Wednesday. And the U.S. Marines have met much resistance from these Taliban forces.

Nonetheless, the elections are only a week away. Is that going to be enough time for the Afghan people to feel comfortable enough to go out and vote?

When we spoke to many Afghans, they say it's not enough because they're not sure if the coalition forces are here to stay. And they're afraid of actually moving toward the government, because if they do and the coalition troops leave, that means the Taliban will come back and they will be punished -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Atia.

Thanks very much.

President Obama, by the way, will be addressing the nation's largest organization of veterans next week. Just a short time ago, the White House announced that the president will speak at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Phoenix on Monday. He's expected to discuss the nation's responsibility to former combat troops. That's coming up on Monday.

President Obama wants to clear up some of the misinformation about health care reform, but now one key group, the AARP, says the president may have added some of the misinformation of his own.

Also, we're finding out more about former White House adviser Karl Rove's involvement in the firing of a federal attorney.

Should there be a formal investigation?

And allegations of murder for ratings -- there are shocking details of a Brazilian crime show host whom police say created the bloody stories he was covering.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, America's economy, "leveling out" -- that's the word from the Federal Reserve today.

What will it mean for interest rates and your bottom line?

Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is standing by live.

You could call it a divinely inspired alternative to health care insurance -- one Christian group is using a unique variation of a cooperative. Only on CNN -- this is a report that you will see and how it's working.

And the ideology that brought about the Oklahoma City bombing back in the 1990s now making a comeback with a Democrat back in the White House.

What's going on?

Brian Todd goes in-depth on the growing threat from anti- government militias.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The AARP says it's not endorsing any health reform legislation -- at least not yet -- contrary to what President Obama said only yesterday.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.

She's got the explanation of what's going on.

Some confusion out there -- Mary, what happened?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the AARP has been on board with supporting health care reform. But when it came to the president's comments about the group, the group said it had to set the record straight.


SNOW: (voice-over): President Obama set out to try and clear the air about misinformation on health care reform at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire Tuesday. But in doing so, he added some misinformation of his own.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the AARP on board, because they know this is a good deal for our seniors. The AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare.

SNOW: Not so fast says the seniors' advocacy group, speaking for its 40 million members. It quickly corrected the president and issued a statement that said, "While the president was correct that AARP would not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate."

AARP, for the most part, is seen as one of President Obama's allies in the debate over health care, even hosting a recent meeting on health care featuring the president. The group says it's not terribly upset by the president's misstep, but adds details matter.

JOHN ROTHER, AARP: We thought it was important just to be absolutely clear that we have not come to that point and we are still weighing very seriously the pros and cons of different legislative proposals.

SNOW: At a White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs says the president wasn't trying to mislead anyone.


Right. We're not intentionally meaning to mislead.

SNOW: But in a debate this important, misinformation, even unintentional, can be damaging.

STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: The White House wants to be aggressive in creating the narrative. To the extent that they have to take time explaining and correcting what the press has said because he misspoke, however unintentionally, and even though it's not a major factor, it takes them off message, and that's bad for any White House.


SNOW: In the meantime, the AARP says the five different committees working on health care reform bills will look forward to legislation coming together and only then will it make a judgment on whether or not to endorse it -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thanks very much.

Let's talk about this and more with CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist, James Carville, and Republican strategist Terry Holt, former spokesman from the Bush/Cheney campaign. Thanks very much for coming in.

Did the president simply get confused about the AARP? Because they haven't endorsed the House Democratic version.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He misspoke. Whatever you want to do, the press secretary said that. He said that. We'll see in the final piece of legislation if they do. I suspect somebody probably told them at some point they were thinking about it. Obviously, he did misspeak.

BLITZER: Is the president doing enough, in your opinion, as a Republican strategist, to convince the country that he knows what he's doing as far as health care reform is concerned?


BLITZER: What else does he need to do?

HOLT: Well, I think they've relied so much on the same speech over and over again, but the American people expect details. They expect that policy matters to people. They want to know how their health care is going to be affected specifically, and confusion reigns in this political --

BLITZER: James, almost every single day he's got a talking point.

HOLT: The talking point, explain what he's trying to do to the American people.

CARVILLE: First of all, I think it's kind of refreshing to see a man who knew what he was talking about yesterday.

BLITZER: He spent an hour answering questions.

CARVILLE: The truth of the matter is that as this winds itself through the legislative process, not exactly sure what the final bill's going to look like. I mean, they've got to go to this committee and this and the Congress report and everything else. But I think that they're going to get, you know, some legislation. In a sense, I think it'll be fairly dramatic. And then, you know, they'll have to keep pushing on that. But it's very difficult to say that this is what's in it when you're not sure what's in it. There's no other way to get around that. We have a constitution and we have a Congress.

BLITZER: What else can he do? He's doing town hall meetings, giving speeches, holding prime-time news conferences.

HOLT: He's good at public relations, but at this point he's playing catch-up. He's on defense at this point. The White House is on the run, a little panicked because for the first time the American people are really Bushing back on this White House and I think they're a little off guard.

BLITZER: Does he need to sort of say, you know, what I'm going to take charge now, enough with these committees in the Senate and the House writing all sorts of legislation? Here's what the legislation is going to be, I'm going to submit it and dote vote on up or down?

CARVILLE: Well, it doesn't work like that. There's a thing called the Constitution.

BLITZER: Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton tried to do it in '93 and '94.

CARVILLE: And they were modified, anyway, the president's economic plan in 1993, the most successful economic plan in history, still went through the committee but was altered as it went through that. President Bush, the tax cuts that's caused us so much grief with the deficit and everything, he didn't get everything he wanted. You can't circumvent the process.

HOLT: In order to radically reform health care it takes a ton of money. He's got to raise taxes, cut benefits, change the way benefits are delivered in a very fundamental way. And that is no easy thing. You don't rush a thing like that. And you try to get as many friends as you can. You don't push it through in a partisan way like I think they've tried to up to now.

BLITZER: His personal physician for 20 years, Dr. David Scheiner, was on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night. He would like the president to go farther and have a single-payer government system along the lines of, you know, England or Canada or whatever. Listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID SCHEINER, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FORMER PHYSICIAN: I have a huge practice. I see between 4,000 and 5,000 patient visits a year. 80 percent of my patients are in single payer. The federal government in the 40 years I've dealt with Medicare has never interfered with my patients. This constant myth that government will get between the patient and the doctor, it is an absolute myth.


BLITZER: A few years ago he said if he had his way, starting from scratch, the president said I would have liked the single-payer system as well but he's modified that saying you have to let those folk who is like their private insurance companies continue to deal with it.

CARVILLE: He's a doctor. OK? I don't follow his sort of political thing. The truth of the matter is he's right. Everybody over 65 has head Medicare. You know, if all these people don't like the government thing, I'm like this guy in South Carolina, tell the government to get their hands off of my Medicare.

HOLT: A single payer is a --

BLITZER: It's not going to happen. We know it's not. There might not even be a public option.

HOLT: Of a group of people on the Congress and on the left, and they believe passionately that's how it goes but that's going to rub up against this very real American concern that I want to choose my health care, I want to choose my doctor and they haven't explained how these two things operate.

BLITZER: I just want to move on to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because she's continuing her trip in Africa today. She was at another one of these town halls herself, and someone was talking about democracy, how to get democracy going in Africa and some of these developing countries. She said this. I'm going to read it to you because I suspect this is going to cause a little heartburn out there. She said, "You know we've had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state, so we have our problems, too."

HOLT: One hundred percent factual.

CARVILLE: There's not a single thing in there -- she should have added that the supreme court stopped a vote count and that Al Gore got 500,000 more in the popular vote and was getting ready to win Florida, she would have been 100 percent accurate had she said that. There has to be a time when the secretary of state can tell the truth and that's all she did. The truth.

HOLT: She spoke factually. She might have added obscure fact of the day 66 out of the 67 counties in Florida were controlled by the Democratic Party. And that was a bigger part -- I spent a month in Florida during that period. It was a little bit more complicated than that. She's had quite a string of frank comments in Africa. I hope she goes to Africa more often. I love this Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Because the implication of what she's saying, James, may be factually accurate. But the implication, and you understand politics as well as anyone, is that Jeb Bush was doing hanky-panky to get his brother elected. This is what she's saying to a group in Africa.

CARVILLE: Again, what it is, we all agreed what she said was factual. So, that's -- and I don't think, again --

HOLT: African democracy to American democracy --

CARVILLE: Again, the idea that certainly there were a t lot of people that thought that the Supreme Court stopping the vote --

BLITZER: Do you believe Jeb Bush did some --

CARVILE: I don't know. No. I didn't say that. But what she said was 100 percent factual. No one can argue with the facts. That's just fact. And the facts here is that the supreme court voted to stop a vote count that Bush would have lost.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, but tell me how Republicans will view this comment. We'll get the tape, get the context, play it for our viewers. I think that's in our next hour, in our 6:00 p.m. eastern hour. We'll give full context of what she said.

HOLT: I still feel there's a lot of hard feelings about what happened in Florida. But I was there, and I saw those machines running those ballots through over and over again. It'll never be solved. Democracy can be messy. But the outcome was certain. And the country survived. Let her speak her mind. It's not going to hurt anybody.

CARVILLE: Not near as well as it would have if the Supreme Court stayed out of it.

HOLT: Democrats still think they got ripped off in Florida, but the fact of the matter is Democrats controlled 66 out of the 67 counties in that state.

BLITZER: We're getting the tape in, we'll play it for our viewers. I want everyone to get the context, the perspective. We understand where you guys are coming from. Thanks very much.

More than 100 people killed, dozens still missing after walls of water wipe out remote mountain villages. Dramatic rescues in the wake of a deadly typhoon.

Plus, get this -- murder for ratings? Details of stunning allegations against a well-known reality TV star.


BLITZER: A disaster is now unfolding in Taiwan after a typhoon hits. The death toll has now topped 100 with dozens missing and hundreds feared trapped. CNN's Pauline Chiou is there.


PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the raging floodwaters, a rescue effort goes wrong. An emergency worker tries to reach a village that's been cut off, but his inflatable boat is swept away. He's helped to safety after clinging onto debris. The rescuers themselves are at risk as they try to reach a remote community.

Some villages have virtually disappeared. This is -- or was -- one. A few houses left standing, a cat shivering amid the rubble. Officials fear dozens of people may have been killed. This rescuer points to the place where a temple had stood. Now there is just tarmac, he says. It's all gone. In other mountain towns, roads are inaccessible and bridges impassable.

The only way to reach people is by air. Flying in dangerous conditions amid mist and low clouds, rescue helicopters continue to airlift groups of typhoon survivors to safety. Most are indigenous Taiwanese who live in aboriginal settlements in the central mountain chain of Taiwan.

These rescue helicopters have been battling storm clouds that are coming in and out. Right now, we're walking into the school hall where a lot of the survivors who were rescued are resting up, getting some food and water, so they're trying to speak with some of them to get some of their stories. A lot of them, as you can see, are exhausted and hungry. This woman says she knows her mother is alive in the mountains since they've talked by phone. "I don't know when the helicopters will come. They don't have a specific order of which villages to search. The authorities control the schedule." So, she meets every helicopter, hoping her mother is on board. Others find relief much sooner, as they welcome family back into their arms. All she can do is to help comfort while she waits. For some, touching solid ground provides temporary respite, but not much comfort knowing the devastation left behind.

Pauline Chiou, CNN, Taiwan.


BLITZER: Now to a shocking story out of Brazil. We're learning details just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM of just how far one television personality in Brazil allegedly went to get good ratings for his TV show. Here's CNN's Rosemary Church. Rosemary?

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, police in Brazil are investigating a TV host they say was a little too good at getting the story.


CHURCH (voice-over): A popular TV crime show the host denounces criminals while his crew gets to the crime scene first capturing dramatic footage like this dead drug trafficker. But now police say the host had a news gathering edge.

THOMAZ AUGUSTO VASCONCELOS, POLICE INTELLIGENCE CHIEF (through translator): In truth, he went as far as creating facts and ordering that crimes be committed to generate news for the program.

CHURCH: Murder for ratings, say police, who were investigating TV host Wallace Souza who is also a state lawmaker. They suspect he commissioned at least five murders and not just to boost his audience. They say he's also a drug trafficker who was eliminating his rivals. Souza denies all criminal allegations.

FRANCISCO BALIEIRO, SOUZA'S DEFENSE LAWYER (through translator): In all, the investigations made by the public ministry and the police. So far, they have not been able to present any proof of any kind.

CHURCH: Souza says his political opponents and drug dealers are setting him up. He says he gets good footage because his crews are good sources and listen to the police scanners. He remains free because he has legislative immunity while officials keep investigating.


CHURCH: The show itself has been very popular in Arizona State but was taken off the air late last year when these accusations surfaced -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Rosemary Church reporting. What a story. Thanks very much.

A global tribute concert to Michael Jackson, a unique look at where it will be held.

And there's been a lot of talk act cooperatives as part of a possible health care reform package. Only on CNN, we're going to take a look at a Christian group's real-life example.


BLITZER: Michael Jackson's brother, Jermaine, tells CNN's Larry King on Friday that he is organizing a global tribute to the king of pop this September in Austria. We are learning it will be in a 17th century palace. Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, why this location?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This is in Vienna, Austria. It is stunning. As Michael Jackson's brother, Jermaine said, Michael Jackson loved castles. This is one of Europe's grandest palaces but you'll see what we mean. This is Shirmberg Palace in Vienna, Austria. You can take a tour of this area and show you, it is absolutely stunning inside with 1,400 rooms. It's the country's most visited tourist attraction. This will be the location of a September 26th tribute concert for Michael Jackson. According to promoters, World of Wars media who have been working with Jermaine Jackson, 85,000 tickets will be sold. An outdoor stage will be built outside. You can already see photos on the website of it being a crown-shaped stage being built underway right there. No official word on the lineup right now, Wolf but they are planning a series of press conferences in Europe in the next two weeks.

BLITZER: That's a lot of people at that convert. Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

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

CAFFERTY: They ought to put that thing on pay per view. Do they still do that stuff? They can make a fortune with that putting it on pay per view.

The question this hour: Is Barack Obama meeting your expectations as president?

Eric in Sacramento writes: "President Obama is what he said he is. The election was a disappointment to me from the beginning because social is stick government was in his plan. America overreacted by hiring him and now we are going to be sorry for a long time to come unless we stand against the tide of his agenda and let our voices be heard. Obama is not a liar. He is just very wrong to lead our country."

Mira writes: "Not since Roosevelt has a president had to deal with as much as President Obama. He has not only met my expectations, he has exceeded them. His stamina has only been exceeded by his intellect and oratory. I would hate to imagine where this country would be if he weren't willing and able to take on the overwhelming issues we face today. I pray he'll continue to push forward."

Brian in Kansas writes: "Yes, he is meeting my every expectation. He indicated for two years his intent to further federalize, if not socialize this republic. He demonstrated his propensity against self government and free markets in the campaign. I don't know what everybody is overworked up about. He is over governing as promised. This is the change he offered and we bit. It's the disaster I expected."

Liz says: "President Obama is leading admirably in the most troubled time in recent history. It is hard to lead irrational people, which is what he is trying to deal with on the Republican side of the aisle. There is a reason the right wing lost the election but they are still trying to run things their way. I hope the American people are wise and patient enough to give him a chance to fix the mess he was left. It won't happen overnight."

Carol writes: "He has exceeded my expectations. He is worse than I ever thought possible."

Tim in Iowa says: "President Obama is more than living up to expectations. When we elected him, we expected competent leadership, which he has provided. We expected issues that have been ignored for years to be addressed, which he is doing."

David writes: "Bring back the primaries. I am voting for Hillary."

If you didn't see your e-mail, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among the hundreds that are posted -- Wolf?

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Jack. Thank you.

THE SITUATION ROOM goes in depth. Anti-government militias, their ideology fueling the rage behind the Oklahoma City bombing back in the 90s. Now, there are disturbing signs the militia membership may be on the rise right now.


BLITZER: In Germany, raising the level of interest in this year's election campaign along with some eyebrows. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has more.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the first scandal of an otherwise dull German election season. This unauthorized poster by Vera Lengsfeld who is in the same party as Chancellor Angela Merkel and running for a seat in German parliament and showing a very open-hearted pose.

(on-camera): This sexes up the German election campaign. What do you think of that?

VERA LENGSFELD, CDU CANDIDATE: I would rather say I brought more humor into the campaign and I woke the campaign up somehow because the campaign was sleeping a little bit. It was very dull.

PLEITGEN: Just how foxy can a chancellor be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm surprised, very surprised. It isn't normally what you would expect from the CDU.

PLEITGEN: Yes, we know.

What do you think of that election poster?


PLEITGEN: Why do you think it's awful?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I don't want to see the breasts of Ms. Merkel. I want to see what she has to say about the economy.

PLEITGEN: What is the political message?

LENGSFELD: We have more to offer.

PLEITGEN: Maybe offering a little too much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like it. I don't think so.

PLEITGEN: You don't like it? Why not? How did you get her to approve this?

LENGSFELD: No, she didn't. I didn't ask her.

PLEITGEN: Chancellor Merkel, the poster seems to have left her speechless. The party says, no comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is very, very bad.

PLEITGEN: Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


BLITZER: Happening now, new reason to hope that the economic tailspin in the United States is ending. This hour, what the experts are saying and what people in the heartland are feeling right now. Our Ali Velshi is traveling across the country on the CNN express.

They are armed and dangerous and they are recruiting online right now. There is new evidence that right ring militias are making a comeback. Brian Todd examines their message.

Finding health care through religion. A Christian ministry is taking an unconventional approach to helping members cover their medical bills.