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Iraq's Deadliest Day Since Handover; Brutal Anti-Election Campaign; Storm Slams Minneapolis; Category Four Monster; Patients As Partners

Aired August 19, 2009 - 17:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Well, Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As the U.S. and its allies focus on Afghanistan, where a crucial election is due to get under way just hours from now, insurgents in Iraq make it clear that they are not going to be counted out. A half- dozen devastating bombings just minutes apart killed and wounded hundreds of people in Baghdad.

We begin with CNN's Arwa Damon in the Iraqi capital.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, it was the type of violence that was reminiscent of Iraq's darkest days, when the insurgency was at its peak -- the type of violence that so many Iraqis had hoped was a thing of the past.


DAMON: (voice-over): In the span of less than an hour, six attacks -- the deadliest day in Iraq since the country took responsibility for its own security on June 30th.

(on camera): This is the aftermath of just one of the many bombings to strike the capital, Baghdad. We're here just few moments after the explosion itself took place -- a scene of total and utter devastation. And tensions here are running very high.

(voice-over): This would end up being the deadliest attack -- a truck packed with explosives setting off a blast so powerful, it blew through the front of the foreign ministry, sent some vehicles flying and reduced others to twisted hulks of metal and demolished homes in the surrounding area.

"I was sleeping here and the explosion happened. The fans fell from the ceiling," Yusuf Sayed (ph), a 25-year-old student, says, pointing to the damage.

The areas just outside of the heavily fortified Green Zone, teeming with Iraqi security forces. "I don't have any faith in the security forces," Sayed says. "This is supposed to be one of the safest neighborhoods in Baghdad and there are explosions like this?"

The road where the bombing took place used to have a checkpoint where every vehicle was stopped and, more importantly, it had bomb detection equipment. That was recently removed, giving the insurgents a target of opportunity.

"Why are they doing this to us," this woman wails. "All these dead people. This kid, our neighbor, died. Another neighbor died before. Why?"

The Iraqi government has been removing blast walls in some areas, reducing checkpoints to try to create a semblance of normalcy. Its rush and desire to prove it's control on this day came at the expense of the people.


DAMON: The prime minister's office issued a statement saying that today's attacks were carried out by those who wanted to decrease the Iraq people's confidence in the Iraqi security forces. It would appear that they succeeded -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

The series of bombs that shook buildings across Baghdad were felt by an iReporter working in the Green Zone.

Our Abbi Tatton is here with those images -- Abbi, that's amazing. We were talking about this. You said it's the first time they got something like this from Baghdad.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: We haven't seen this before. This is a U.S. contractor who is currently in Baghdad and saw these explosions happen right before him. This is from Jon Peters, who is there right now.

He was -- shortly before 1:00 a.m. this morning, when he says the whole building that he was in shook. There was a rumbling sound. When they went up to the roof, they saw smoke rising. And then right in front of them, just a couple of minutes after that, a second explosion -- what he then called a huge explosion he later identified as happening at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as far as he could tell.

That one much bigger. At that point, they heard the loudspeaker telling them to lock down, seek shelter and they ran back down below, as smoke continued to rise around them.

This was more than a mile away just -- or slightly more than a mile away, as far as they could tell. But still, the damage felt where they were in the building when they were working. This is one of the downstairs windows that was blown out by the explosion. John says he's been there for about a month already. He's got another five months or so to go. This, by far, the biggest explosion or attack that he's seen...

MALVEAUX: Those are...

TATTON: -- and he's in the...

MALVEAUX: ...incredible pictures. Thank you very much, Abbi.

Well, in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents are doing all that they can to turn a high stakes election into bloody chaos. On the eve of the battling -- balloting, rather -- the U.S. military announced the death of six more American troops.

CNN's Atia Abawi is in Kabul.

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, it's been a very bloody week leading up to Afghanistan's second ever presidential elections. We've seen rocket attacks. We've seen gun battles between potential suicide bombers and Afghan forces. And we've also seen two suicide car bombs, killing at least 15 people in a span of four days.

And it makes many people in the country wondering is it even worth going out to vote?


ABAWI (voice-over): What's left after Tuesday's suicide car bombing in the capital of Afghanistan. Among the dead, civilians, U.N. workers and a coalition soldier.

(on camera): This is an area that's usually very busy. This is an area that has shops. This road leads to the largest U.S. base here in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Field. This is where the blast occurred. It's usually an area that's bustling with Afghans trying to sell goods, trying to sell food.

(voice-over): Survivors came to assess the damage and somberly go about their lives and return to their jobs. This police officer blacked out at the time of the attack.

(on camera): Azel Karuzan (ph) just told me that there were three dead bodies that fell next to him. But he says that he's fine. He said he was protected by his flak jacket.

(voice-over): There were no flak jackets for two workers who were killed at this hotel. The owner says they were villagers who came to the capital for work so that they could provide for their families.

Many Afghans say they will not vote tomorrow, not just because of the danger, but because they don't feel any candidate will be able to improve their lives.

(on camera): It's hard to believe that that little hole that remains from that suicide blast caused this much damage. Azel Karuzan (ph) just told me that he went from this side of the road all the way to the other side of the road when the blast went off. And it goes to show you why he doesn't remember the blast. And it's obviously something that sticks with them. But yet, a day after the blast, they're all still here. They're all still going on with their lives because they have to. (voice-over): And the elections must go on, too. There's a bit of an eerie calm in parts of the capital of Kabul today. Other parts are seeing blazing gun battles, the Taliban claiming that they have 20 infiltrators within the city limits.

But behind these walls -- this is a girls' high school -- preparations are still underway by the Independent Electoral Commission to make sure that the vote goes on.

Even though we have Independent Electoral Commission press cards, we're being denied access to get into the polling stations, to look at the preparations being made. I've heard from some journalist friends who have actually been attacked by the police and the military for trying to just take pictures. So it goes to show you we don't know how preparations are going. We don't know what's going on in the polling stations and we don't know if we'll have access tomorrow.

Atia Abawi, CNN, Kabul.


MALVEAUX: And Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack, what are you following?

CAFFERTY: What an incredible story.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

CAFFERTY: I was just watching that report. It makes you appreciate how we manage to do these elections here in this country, doesn't it?

MALVEAUX: It certainly does.

CAFFERTY: President Obama and the Democrats may wind up going it alone when it comes to health care reform. The Democrats say they now see little chance of getting any Republican support and they point to lawmakers like Senator Charles Grassley, who they say are not serious about making a deal. The administration says it had hoped to get bipartisan backing, but now it's looking less likely.

Instead, they would have to get moderate and conservative Democrats on board. That's not guaranteed, either. Party leaders in the Senate could wind up using a tactic where they only need 51 votes to pass a health care bill instead of 60.

One Republican warns if the Democrats go this route, it would be, "like a declaration of war," -- as opposed to the spirit of cooperation that we have now.

Going it alone has pros and cons for the Democrats. It could mean crafting the bill that that they really want. For example, the public option, which the White House appeared to be abandoning this week, would likely be back on the table. But pushing legislation through without Republican support could also be risky, as the GOP might call it a power play and say they were merely opposing a bill that the public disliked.

One recent poll shows almost 60 percent of registered voters oppose passing a health care bill without bipartisan support.

But the White House doesn't seem too worried. One official told CNN -- quoting here -- "If we have to push it through this way, no one is going to remember how messy it was. A win is a win."

I don't know about that.

Here's the question -- when it comes to health care reform, should the Democrats just go it alone?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

It's getting ugly out there -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yes. We know that President Obama -- one of the campaign promises was to try to bring people together. So we'll see if there's...

CAFFERTY: I think he's trying, you know...

MALVEAUX: ...if there's...

CAFFERTY: You know, he's made a -- he's made a Herculean effort to do that, but he's just not having much luck.

MALVEAUX: We'll see -- we'll see what's in -- what the viewers think.

Thanks a lot, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

MALVEAUX: Well, how to survive the ultimate stress of combat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember distinctly crashing. And I thought, I'm going to die right here.


MALVEAUX: Coping skills taught to troops by a woman who overcame her own incredible ordeal.

And a pack of wild dogs -- killers of an elderly couple -- meet their own fate in rural Georgia.

And a possible tornado rips through Minneapolis. We've got pictures from the scene and a report from our own severe weather expert.


MALVEAUX: Powerful winds slammed into Minneapolis today, tearing off part of a church steeple and ripping up trees.

Let's go live to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, who is in Atlanta -- Chad, tell us, was this a tornado that we saw?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: There is -- the public reported this, Suzanne. So it's not official yet. Many things can look like a tornado. It can be scud, which is just rapidly rising air. It looks kind of like wispy, like almost like smoke. Or it could have been a wall cloud that got very close to the ground. They're going to have to go see.

We do know, though, that there was damage, especially on the South Side, 35W. We know there is actually other tornadoes not that far to the west of Prairie du Chien and also to the west of Champagne. A couple of tornadoes still on the ground there. That's the big story.

We'll take you to a few pictures here from Minneapolis. This is the Central Lutheran Church. This is very, very close to the -- the convention center. And, in fact, let me take you on a -- a little tour here.

Here's our Google Earth. I'm going to hit play. And there's downtown Minneapolis.

Here's 35W coming up here. So we're now going to take you to a place called Powder Horn. Powder Horn is where we know there was damage. This is very close to like Green Central Park School, which would be right there. And then you've got Portland and South Fifth Avenue kind of down there. We know that there was damage there.

There, right there, that is the convention center. And I'm going to zoom you around that building right there. It was that Lutheran Church that I just showed you.

Here's one of the entrances of the convention center. We'll zoom you back out. That's the building that we know had some damage; also, probably some tiles off the convention center itself.

We're going to get to some of those pictures. Here is the police car. We know some type of a tent was probably at the Lutheran Church. There it is again, blown around.

So far, no injuries with this either wind damage or a potential tornado. I'm even seeing some parts right here. They look like big foam sheets. It's usually part of a roof structure somewhere. But I know we have more on that coming up, because we have somebody on the ground -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you so much, Chad.

Amazing no injuries there.

I want to go straight to our CNN's Chris Welch, who is joining us by phone from the scene in the storm -- Chris, we're used to seeing you, obviously, in the middle of all those political stories that you handled during the campaign season.

But what did you see today on the ground?

CHRIS WELCH, CNN ALL PLATFORM JOURNALIST: Well, it was interesting. I was actually downtown when whatever it was -- whether it was a tornado or not, came through. And they started, you know, the -- we could hear the sirens going on and off and police cars, fire trucks going by. I started to wonder what was going on.

And then, as you drive around a little more, you see they have -- police taped off around the convention center. And, you know, police -- a sergeant standing around. A couple of them said they had heard word of one very minor injury from someone who worked inside the convention center. Whether that was just an early report that maybe they were misinformed about or not, I'm not sure. But that's what one of the sergeants with the Minneapolis Police Department said.

Now, if you go further south, Chad mentioned there's a (INAUDIBLE) Powder Horn -- not, Powder Horn. Rather, Portland is a street that goes from the north and south and goes south out of downtown. And for about two miles long down that, there are trees -- big trees down everywhere and large sections of that road have been closed down. And there are trees that are uprooted and literally leaning against people's houses.

It looks as if something came through -- a gust of wind. People who were in the neighborhood said they had been startled by rattling of windows. It sounded like a freight train. It came up and down this street. They looked out their window and they said they saw swirling air, like a light color of swirling air. And it was -- you know, it had some debris in it, leaves, all kinds of gunk. And they basically said they started to run outside and they saw something moving. And they didn't really realize what it was until, you know, they saw it. And they said that was a tornado.

Now whether it was or not, who knows?

MALVEAUX: Well, we are...

WELCH: But these people -- this stuff was pretty bad.

MALVEAUX: We are taking a look at those pictures -- those incredible pictures that you submitted.

I want to thank you so much for your report.

As always, excellent reporting from our Chris Welch, who is actually on the ground there.

Hurricane Bill is now a dangerous category four storm. We are tracking its path and looking at where it could make landfall.

And a very violent and dangerous situation in Afghanistan, with the country's presidential election just hours away.

Will national security concerns overtake the health care reform debate here in the U.S.?

Stay with us.



MALVEAUX: Poppy Harlow is monitoring the stories that are incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- and, Poppy, what are you working on?

HARLOW: Well, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood trying to reassure the nation's auto dealers that they will be reimbursed for the Cash for Clunkers program. Many dealers are frustrated right now by what they say are delays in the government's reimbursement program to them. The Cash for Clunkers offers up to $4,500 for car buyers who trade in their old gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient models.

Also making headlines, Swiss banking giant UBS giving the IRS access to the accounts of nearly 5,000 of its American customers. The IRS believes those Swiss bank accounts are holding undeclared assets. The deal between UBS and the IRS ends an international lawsuit between the Swiss bank and the U.S. taxi -- tax agency.

And California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got a firsthand look at damage caused by a riot at the state's Chino Prison earlier this month. More than a thousand inmates were involved and 175 were injured in that violence. Governor Schwarzenegger compared the damage at the prison to the devastation on some of his movie sets. He says the riot shows the need to reform sentencing laws that lead to prison overcrowding in the state.

And they're known to millions of fans by the numbers on their cars. Number 48 -- NASCAR's 2008 Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson, was honored by President Obama at the White House today. Many other top drivers tagged along for the ride at the White House, including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

And I've been so to those NASCAR races. And the fans, they just go crazy.

MALVEAUX: Oh, yes. You and I both. They're very, very popular there. It's interesting to see that car. I think it -- 3,500 pounds, it weighs, on the South Lawn. Amazing.

HARLOW: I've ridden in one at 180 miles an hour, Suzanne.


HARLOW: Quite an experience.

MALVEAUX: I'm impressed. I did not know that.

Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Sure. MALVEAUX: Well, Hurricane Bill is a category four monster, with winds topping 135 miles per hour. Now, we are tracking it as it churns through Atlantic.

We want to go back to our severe weather expert, meteorologist Chad Myers.

He's at the CNN Hurricane Headquarters in Atlanta -- Chad, what are we seeing?

MYERS: It is a big storm and it's making large waves. That's the first thing you need to know. Even if it never even approaches the U.S. coast, it's making large waves right now. These waves are going to crash onshore all the way through the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands into Puerto Rico, the D.R. and Haiti.

And then eventually, as the storm makes its way farther to the north, those large swells are going to affect the U.S. East Coast, especially for this weekend.

And I know a lot of people are going to be going to the shore this weekend and there's going to be giant swells. You're going to want to go out in them. These swells are going to be dangerous. They are going to be rip tide killers this weekend.

Don't let the kids out there. Go swim in a pool somewhere. Do not go in this ocean when these waves are going to be five and 10 feet out here.

This storm gets all the way to 145 miles per hour tomorrow, then down to 130, 135, but still a category four hurricane as it makes its way up toward the Northeast. We still don't know whether it's actually going to make landfall in the Northeast or not. -- our friends there at this Web site have all the computer models. They all miss the US, but some get dangerously close to, like, Cape Cod and Narragansett and places there across parts of the Northeast -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you very much, Chad, for the very latest.

Well, they have been mentioned as possible alternatives to a government insurance plan.


NORMAN NISTLER, HEALTHPARTNERS CLINIC PATIENT: I watch a lot of it on television. Now there's a lot of talking about co-ops, but I didn't realize this was a co-op.


MALVEAUX: But just how do medical co-ops work?

Well, we're going the take you inside one of them. Also, he wanted to make it a special occasion for his fiancee -- why a Maryland lawmaker is now apologizing for making a marriage proposal at taxpayers' expense.

And a Georgia couple meets a horrifying death -- attacked by a wild pack of dogs.



Happening now, a man convicted in the 1988 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 is being released from prison. Some of the family members of victims are expressing anger.

Families of victims of the Virginia Tech shootings are getting new insight into the killer. Records are being released of the troubled shooter's visits with counselors before the rampage that killed 32 people.

And angry town hall meetings -- are they cultivating hate speech and possibly violence?

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.


From the outside, it looks like any other health clinic. But inside, it's a cooperative run by its members. If the so-called public option, a government-run health plan, doesn't survive the reform process, health care co-ops may take on a bigger role instead.

Our CNN's Chris Welch shows us one that has been around for half a century.


MARY: HealthPartners (INAUDIBLE), front desk. This is Mary.

How may I help you?

WELCH (voice-over): HealthPartners serves more than a million people in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Norman, come on back.

WELCH: Some members, even if they've been with HealthPartners for decades, don't even know they're with a co-op.

NISTLER: I watch a lot of it on television. Now there's a lot of talking about co-ops. But I didn't realize this was a co-op.

WELCH: You might say that co-ops fly under the health care radar. There aren't that many and they don't have the lobbying power of other players.

(on camera): How describe what a health care co-op is to people who have no idea, have never heard of it before?

MARY BRAINERD, CEO, HEALTHPARTNERS CLINIC: Well, I describe it as an organization that is governed by its membership, by its customers and that is not for profit in nature.

WELCH: For example, it saved millions by switching to generic drugs and it cut tobacco use among its members by double the Minnesota state average. That's all because doctors helped patients to quit.

HealthPartners was a pioneer of electronic records. Its administrative costs are half those of the average private insurer.

DARLA ANDREWS, HEALTHPARTNERS CLINIC PATIENT: My doctor can get easy access to everything. And even when I go outside, everything comes through the computer. It's all digital.

MARY RITCHIE, HEALTHPARTNERS CLINIC: And they like that because oh, yes, you know, I can go to another clinic another day and oh, yes, you've got my information.

WELCH: And as a co-op, they don't have shareholders worried about the bottom line every quarter. And the members here elect the board.

ANDREWS: I like the small community feel of here. It's more personal attention.

WELCH: It does help that Minnesota has laws that favor co-ops. But CEO Mary Brainerd says it's affordability that drives success.

BRAINERD: Making sure that health care is affordable is a very big deal to a cooperative. Having low administrative costs -- there's no value to our membership in having high administrative fees.

WELCH (on camera): There must be some type of drawback or problem or issue that's preventing other people around the country from doing something that you've done.

BRAINERD: The environment hasn't been very supportive of co-ops. It's been a much hotter deal to be a publicly traded, for-profit health plan or health care company. That's where all the action is. I see a lot of potential for co-ops going forward. I think the discussion that's going on right now is really positive for the co-op model.

WELCH (voice-over): Co-ops may not have the industry clout of the big companies, but here at this clinic, they think their time is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Thanks. You, too.

WELCH: Chris Welch, CNN, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.


MALVEAUX: Well, patients seem to be happy with health care co- ops, but just as we saw, there are some patients that don't even realize that they are partners. So, how does the white house clear up the confusion? Joining me, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Trent Duffy, whose consulting firm works with health care clients.

I want to start off with you, James. I mean, obviously, the white house message has gone through a different -- some changes here. The president arguing that health care reform is good for the economy, then emphasizing good for security, your own insurance, you get your own insurance, it's not going to change, and some folks are talking about the moral issues around health care reform. What is the message the white house needs to get to folks to make it stick?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the first thing -- the problem is depending on the senate finance committee to produce a bill. Apparently it's dawned on them that's highly unlikely to happen. I think they're --

MALVEAUX: What's the message?

CARVILLE: Cost. Cost. Cost. That -- yes. Spending $8,000 per person in the United States on health care. The next country closest to that is Switzerland, $4,000. We spend $1.2 trillion. The co-ops are a good idea, but they won't have a chance in Washington because no one is making money on it. That's the whole problem and people understand that. Premiums went from $6,000 a year in 2001 to $12,000 a year in 2007. The cost is killing people out there.

MALVEAUX: Trent, do you agree that the president is essentially saying that health care costs are going to go down, that's what's going to get this thing through? What does the white house need to do?

TRENT DUFFY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know, Suzanne. I think they've tried the cost issue as one of their first arguments and it fell on its face when the congressional budget office said it would not control cost, it would not drive down premiums and it would drive people from their employer-provided health care coverage or what they get there from the private insurance market. I make an observation that co-ops exist in Minnesota. I'm glad it worked there. But the fact is the rules exist for these things to take off. In Iowa, on the other hand, a blue state, they had regulations and laws encouraging co-ops but it failed. So, this is a model that may be looked at, but the fact of the matter is it's still a government option. The government pays the bills, sets the rules and it won't drive down costs.

MALVEAUX: Go ahead, James.

CARVILLE: That's exactly the message they want. There's nothing you can do. The costs have gone from $6,000 to $12,000, maybe it will go to $24,000. That's the answer to anything. You can't have co-ops. Everybody in a credit union is in a co-op. The answer is we're paying $4,000 a head more than anybody in the world and they do that because they have the lobbies.

DUFFY: Medical liability reform can bring down costs.

CARVILLE: Yeah, right.

DUFFY: They believe that. I don't know that you or I believe but they believe that. This included Canada.

MALVEAUX: Trent, why should the president try to get Republicans on board if the white house sees nothing but dissent here? Is there any reason why they should?

DUFFY: I'm not arguing they should, I just think --

MALVEAUX: You don't think they should. Do you think the white house should still try to get Republican support?

DUFFY: I just think the main problem with the white house right now is the confusion over the message because they don't have a clear policy. It's hard to argue what you're for when you don't know what you're for and cannot specify what you're for. I agree with James. They are handcuffed in the fact they have wedded themselves to a committee finance proposal and everything is loosey-goosey until they come out with a bill. That's a fundamental problem. But you cannot unleash a messaging machine until you know what the policy is. They don't.

MALVEAUX: The people who perhaps are delivering this message, James, you worked under the Clinton administration, obviously you advised the Clintons, Hillary Clinton as well as former president bill Clinton when it came to health care reform. Do you think that the president or his administration should tap into that? Should they have former president bill Clinton out on the road trying to appeal to folks to bring their message of health care reform? And should they quietly be using Hillary Clinton to give advice?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think that the secretary of state probably got quite a bit on her plate. Secondly, you know, I think ex-presidents can be valuable, but I think in a very limited and a very strategic sense. And sure, if I were the white house, I would call President Clinton every day. He's probably the most brilliant strategist that I know. There's a big difference. People always draw an analogy to what happened in the Clinton white house and now. Sunday, the euphemism of the moment, they pulled the plug on it and I think it was September of 1994, an election year. There's over a year between now and the election, I might add, thank god. So, there's a lot of time and there's a lot of things that they can employ. And I think you're going to see -- you know, start seeing a little more focus, a little sharpness and change here right after labor day when the president gets back from vacation. Right now, to be honest with you, it's not working out that well. MALVEAUX: Trent, I want to switch over here. Obviously, there's a lot that's on the president's plate, especially in September. What we are seeing here is national security is at the forefront. We had -- 95 people who were killed today inside of Iraq. Afghanistan's elections are starting within hours. How does the president keep the focus on health care reform? Because the last go-round, when he was at the g-8 summit, he lost a little bit of control of that message, you may know, and he has got to keep focus on this.

DUFFY: I think you're right. I don't think that the health care debate is going to be reduced by any way by this one policy debate, but you're absolutely right. The increase in violence in Iraq and the increased violence in Afghanistan giving President Obama's wanting to increase troops, which I support because the Bush policies are going to reflect on him at a bad time for this debate on health care because it's the liberal anti-war left that's going to be dissatisfied with increased violence overseas. They're also going to be dissatisfied with him backing off their public option. So, here you've got the president's base, who will be really angry at him at a time he needs them the most.

MALVEAUX: Have to leave it there. James, if you could do a five-second answer on that one, rebuttal.

CARVILLE: First of all, that Afghanistan election, I don't like violence overseas. You're right. That makes me part of the liberal whatever, kind of weird.

DUFFY: Don't need it, James.

MALVEAUX: We're going to leave threat. You're in agreement. Thank you so much.

Calling in a police boat and helicopter for backup, a politician makes a dramatic marriage proposal to his fiancee. Can he now make it up to taxpayers?


MALVEAUX: Well, a dog is known as man's best friend, but a pack of wild dogs ended up being vicious killers of an elderly couple until Georgia. CNN's Brooke Baldwin is at a CNN center in Atlanta with those details.

Brooke, what can you tell us?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, 16 dogs in total have been caught. They've been put down. One still on the loose tonight. I talked to the county coroner. I took one look at the scene Friday night. He described to me the hundreds of flesh wounds as traumatic.


BALDWIN: These are the last pictures of the dogs, by now 11 adults and five puppies have been euthanized for court order. Friday night on this rural road, this same pack of dogs mauled Carl and Sherry Schweder to death according to investigators. They say Sherry had gone out for a walk that evening and when she didn't come home, her husband went looking for her.

MARK SCHWEDER, VICTIM'S SON: It's a huge shock. It's a huge shock.

BALDWIN: Mark's parents' bodies were found Saturday morning mutilated, riddled with hundreds of dog bites according to the county coroner. The dogs still standing guard above their prey when authorities arrived on the scene.

JIM FULLINGTON, GEORGIA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: It appears at this time that she was attacked and killed by the dogs in some manner at some point. And then possibly later on he came up, but we feel sure that she was probably attacked first.

BALDWIN: Animal control was called in to capture the dogs. The sheriff described them as aggressive. After the animals attacked two of his deputies, tranquilizers had to be used. The dogs were wild, according to county officials, but they say an 83-year-old man, the only man to live on this road, had been feeding them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the most part, it is pretty rare.

BALDWIN: In the first eight months of this year, there had been 20 fatal dog attacks nationwide. Compare that to 22 in 2008 and 33 the year before. While rare, Adam points to a possible explanation for Friday's brutal attack.

ADAM GOLDFARB, PRES., U.S. HUMANE SOCIETY: I think because they're stray they're probably not well cared for, they're hungry, they're territorial, and likely have one or more dogs who were leading the charge and their actions sort of initiated others to do so, as well.

BALDWIN: Even though this sort of attack is unusual, it is little consolation for Mark Schweder, who will never see his parents again.

SCHWEDER: And they were, you know, wonderful, dear, kind-hearted people and we miss them. And this is just terrible. Terrible.


BALDWIN: No charges have been filed against the man, 83-year-old man who's been feeding those dogs, Suzanne, at least not yet.

MALVEAUX: Okay. Thank you very much.

A politician makes a dramatic marriage proposal to his fiancee. Now he may have to make it up to taxpayers. Here's reporter Kerry Owens from our Baltimore affiliate WMAR.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KERRY OWENS, WMAR REPORTER: State delegate John Cardin wanted to make his fiancee's night perfect. His plan to propose to her on a boat August 7th. That proposal apparently involved having a Baltimore city police department helicopter hover overhead as city marine police intended to search the boat. No one is saying how that was arranged, but the police commissioner Fred Bealfeld has ordered an investigation. He wants to know if this was more than just a case of bad judgment.

COMM. FRED BEALFELD, BALTIMORE POLICE: I don't know, though, that this is much beyond the scope of a couple officers who used poor judgment. And I'm going to reserve much more comment until I know more of the facts.

OWENS: The commissioner also wants to know why he's only hearing about it now, even though state employees have been talking about it for a while. Apparently it was the talk of last week's convention in ocean city. The Commish, obviously frustrated that this is happening at a time when budget cuts threaten the mounted and marine units. Bealfeld is hope that feel the police department is doing everything it can to stop waste.

BEALFELD: Because I think people will put this in context, and I think that they -- I think they will understand bad judgment or human error differently than they would understand systemic waste.

OWENS: Delegate Cardin has already contacted the department about reimbursing the city for its cost.

BEALFELD: He has contacted me, and he offered an apology for putting the Baltimore police department in, you know, this kind of predicament and spotlight.


MALVEAUX: That report from Terry Owens of our Baltimore affiliate WMAR.

From Elizabeth Edwards to Jenny Sanford, the stories of betrayed wives make news and are the inspiration for a new television series.


MALVEAUX: The wife of South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford is opening up about her husband's affair and the future of their marriage. The public seems to like what they're hear, and Hollywood is taking notice, as well. Our CNN's Carol Costello has the story.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The betrayed wife as empowered role model. It's the picture September's "Vogue" pains of Jenny Sanford, whose cheating husband is fighting to hold on to his governor's seat in South Carolina. And she's not the only wronged woman to hold our attention. These ladies have inspired a new CBS drama. It's called "The Good Wife." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never traded lighter sentences for financial or sexual favors.

COSTELLO: That scene was inspired by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer who resigned after he was caught in a call girl scandal, his good wife by his side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many of these women are so accomplished and so high-powered and intelligent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just kind of liked the idea of what would happen to that woman a minute later, six months later, seven months later, and throughout the rest of her life.

COSTELLO: Bits and pieces from the real-life Sanford soap opera will figure into the Good Wife, too. Mrs. Sanford is appealing because she didn't stand by her man as he told the nation he cheated. She took the kids and moved out of the governor's mansion, telling "Vogue" she's forgiven her husband, that they weren't madly in love when they met but were good friends, that he became obsessed with going to see the other woman. It was like an addiction to alcohol or pornography for him. For many, her candor is refreshing.

JERI CABAT, COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON: What's interesting is that every time she speaks, people seem to understand and are going to support her words. Every time Mark Sanford speaks, people are left with more questions and are wondering how did this man get so far in his political career.

COSTELLO: It's the kind of thing that fits perfectly into a TV drama. In "The Good Wife," the political spouse uses a sort of Sanford power to return to work as a lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only are you coming back to the workplace fairly late, but you have some very prominent baggage. But hey, if she can do it, so can you.

COSTELLO: Mrs. Sanford isn't going back to work, but some in South Carolina are urging her to run for political office, maybe even for governor. Mrs. Sanford did run her husband's campaign, and many consider her the brains behind the man. I asked Mrs. Sanford's press person about the possibility. She told me for the time being, Mrs. Sanford is totally focused on getting her boys started in their new school and settling into the house. Don't think she has any political ambitions, but I will pass along the compliment.

Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


MALVEAUX: Time now to check back in with Jack Cafferty. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just want a little correction. Eliot Spitzer was the governor of New York, not the attorney general.

MALVEAUX: Right. CAFFERTY: When it comes to health care reform should the Democrats just go it alone?

Steve says, "Absolutely, Republicans never cared about health reform. The only thing they knew about Benjamin Franklin is that he's on the $100 bill. They're not going to vote for anything this president proposes, no matter how beneficial. This is all about destroying Obama's presidency, and unfortunately, there are enough suckers in this country to do their dirty work."

Marilyn writes from Nashville, "Democrats should go it alone. The president has bent over backwards to include Republicans. So far, the right has no plan, no platform, no strategy, no cooperation, no integrity and no truth." say nothing of no concern for the citizens of the country.

J.W. in Atlanta, "No. If the package doesn't fly with bipartisan support, it ought to be postponed and rethought. The problem in health care is cost, and tort reform plus product pricing have to be addressed in a big way. We can't afford any political shenanigans on this matter. Best to cool down now and try again later."

Bobby in Georgia writes, "The president, the house and senate have no choice. Republicans never intended to help reform health care. After all, what did the Republicans do about health care reform when they controlled the white house and both chambers of congress from 2001 until 2006? Absolutely nothing."

Rich in New Jersey writes, "Jack, I used to be a Republican, but no more. Think about the title -- health care reform. How can that be bad? My wife and I have our own small business. Our medical insurance premiums are $14,000 a year. Between co-pays and a high deductible, figure $20,000 a year. The Republicans used to be country first. What happened to that?"

And Frankie writes, "Bipartisan support has become a luxury. While health care reform is an urgently needed necessity."

If you didn't see your e-mail, go to my blog at Look for yours there among hundreds of others. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Jack.

Debt collectors accused of abusive behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, learn English, get an education, since you're sitting on your fat derriere all day long.

MALVEAUX: New York's attorney general says it goes way beyond that to threats of violence. We'll hear from a victim.

And he blew up an airliner in mid-flight. Now he's about to be let out of prison. What the families of victims have to say about it. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq don't just have to be physically fit. They are also supposed to be mentally strong, able to survive stressful times. So, the army is teaching them key coping skills. Here is CNN's pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Soldiers learning battlefield skills. But with suicides, alcohol use and divorce rates on the rise in the army, troops are now being taught how to cope when life goes wrong.

MIKE RINEHART, WALTER REED ARMY INST. OF RESEARCH: If you cannot change the situation, what can you change? Your reaction to it, okay? That will help to limit your frustration and stress when the event does come around.

STARR: We came to Ft. Jackson for a firsthand look at how the army is now teaching what it calls mental resiliency to every new soldier. Leading the program, a most remarkable choice, Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum.

BRIG. GEN. RHONDA CORNUM, U.S. ARMY: The time to instill those skills is before you actually need them.

STARR: A flight surgeon during the first gulf war, Cornum was on a rescue mission when her helicopter was shot down over Iraq. She was held captive for eight days.

CORNUM: I remember distinctly crashing, and I thought, well, I'm going to die right here. Then when I wasn't dead when I, you know, woke up, then, yeah, I was a prisoner of war, but that was the best possible outcome.

STARR: Cornum, who suffered two broken arms in the crash, was sexually molested by her Iraqi captors, but she has refused to let the horrifying experience haunt her. She believes troops can be taught to do the same.

CORNUM: I came into that experience a very resilient person. I mean, I had had other challenges in my life and had automatically applied that kind of thinking.

STARR: Under her program, soldiers will answer a questionnaire on how they cope with stress, all aimed at assessing their emotional and mental resilience. Every soldier from private to general will now get training on how to improve those skills.

CORNUM: If you have better coping skills, if you -- if when, you know, your girl or boyfriend dumps you, you don't just think, oh, I'm unlovable, I will never find anybody else, I was really a failure. Instead of thinking that, you think, you know, you're sad and you're disappointed both in your partner and sometimes in yourself, but you get over it. STARR: It's critical training for the army. In the first seven months of this year, the number of suicides or potential suicides, 96, up 17 incidents compared to the same period last year. If the new program works, Cornum says soldiers will be mentally stronger.

CORNUM: They will see that every problem is finite, that whatever bad thing is happening is not going to last forever and that at whatever level, there's always something you can do about it.

STARR: Commanders hope all of this training will teach young soldiers the emotional and mental strength they need to go to war and come home to a healthy life.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.


MALVEAUX: Happening now, breaking news. The bomber who blew a plane out of the sky apparently is about to go free. This hour, new reaction from families of victims in the deadly attack on a pan-am jet over Scotland.

Plus, she says she was bullied, insulted and harassed over a $187 bill. Debt collectors are under investigation for shocking tactics, including racial slurs and the threat of sexual assault.

And chilling warnings about the Virginia Tech killer over a year before the massacre. Documents show that mysteriously vanished, finally made public.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.