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Bi-Partisan Deal on Health Care Could Be Near; John Faces Obstacles To Adopt; Obama Talks Changes To Wall Street

Aired September 14, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama has a warning on the anniversary of the biggest bankruptcy in American history. Lehman Brothers' failure sparked events that threatened the nation with another depression. And now, on this anniversary, President Obama says he's determined to never see that happen again. He's warning Wall Street of what it must do and what it must stop doing.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's following this for us.

Dan, what happened?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you can hear behind me the noise of Marine One, the president arriving here at the White House after his speech in New York City earlier today.

The president, of course, no surprises in that speech today. He pointed out again that he really wanted a consumer protection, financial protection agency that would really be the enforcer behind new rules that would provide more transparency and oversight.

But the president as well had some very harsh and stern language for Wall Street, pointing out that the kind of reckless behavior that led to the financial collapse will not be tolerated.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (AUDIO GAP) Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we're still recovering, they're choosing to ignore those lessons. I'm convinced they do so not just at their own peril but at our nation's.

So I want everybody here to hear my words. We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses. Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences and expect that next time American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.


LOTHIAN: Now the president was a little more upbeat when he was talking about the current temperature of the economic climate. The president pointing out that the $787 billion stimulus plan, along with quick action by his economic team, really helped to keep the nation from falling into another Great Depression, but he pointed out that a complete recovery will still take a long time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: While the president, Dan, was in New York, he had lunch with a former president.

LOTHIAN: That's right. You know, aides had said that the president when he was in New York wanted to get together with the former president, Bill Clinton. He was in New York last week for the memorial service for Walter Cronkite. They did not have a chance to get together.

Today they did have lunch at an Italian restaurant. We don't know what they spoke about over lunch, but when they did come out of that restaurant, they were asked about the meal, what it was like and former president, Bill Clinton, said it was great.

BLITZER: I'm sure it was. All right. Thanks very much, Dan, for that.

Stern speeches like these could be helping the president. We have some fresh polls of his job approval numbers. Fifty-eight percent of the American people now approve of the way the president is handling his job. Just two weeks ago, that number was 53 percent.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, it looks like the president's speech to Congress is helping.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, his approval rating, as you just showed, is up a bit, but he's got the same problem, Wolf, that he's been having for months now, which is that he remains more personally popular than his policies, particularly on health care, which is such a polarizing issue among Republicans, independent voters.

They're worried about the deficit. Two-thirds of them believe that the deficit is going to grow, and they're worried about how it's going to affect them.

Let me show you this poll. Take a look at this. When we asked people whether they thought they would be better or worse off with health-care reform, only 21 percent said they would be better off. Thirty-five percent said worse, and about the same, 43 percent.

And that's really interesting is when you break down these numbers, only 5 percent of Republicans think they're going to be better off, and only 15 percent of independent voters think they'll be better off. So that gives you a sense of how divided the country is.

BLITZER: But the older -- the older the people get, the less they like at least what they think is the president's plan.

BORGER: That's right. He did not make many inroads with seniors. As you know very well, this is a group that he didn't beat John McCain on during the general election.

BLITZER: Sixty-five and older.

BORGER: That's right, and now his approval rating is still below 50 percent. And only 44 percent of them, if you take a look at this, believe they're going to be worse off, 10 percent better off. So you see they're really not convinced.

BLITZER: We also asked in this poll about Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... about his outburst on the House floor the other night.


BLITZER: Listen to this.



OBAMA: There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.


OBAMA: That's not true.


BLITZER: All right. Now in our poll, 85 percent thought the congressman's behavior was inappropriate...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... when he shouted out "You lie," but on the issue of illegal immigrants and the health-care benefits that potentially could be in the works, what are we learning?

BORGER: Well, we asked whether people thought the president had lied on that issue, and only 32 percent thought that the president had lied. Sixty percent believed him, said they didn't think so.

But, again, to show you the polarization, 59 percent of Republicans said the president lied.

BLITZER: So there is a real polarization in these poll numbers, which are fascinating.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Gloria. Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Washington, D.C., on Saturday in the largest demonstration against President Obama since he took office. The march leading to the Capitol was loud and animated and stretched on for blocks, as you can see in these aerial pictures.

It seemed like the culmination of what began as tea parties in the spring against the president's economic stimulus package and then morphed into health-care protests over the summer months. These protesters have managed to give a voice to an opposition, which is something the Republicans have been trying mostly unsuccessfully to do.

The crowd was protesting a whole bunch of things. There were opponents of Mr. Obama's tax, spending and health-care plans, as well as those who were concerned about the government's possible encroachment on their right to bear arms.

There were accusations of socialism, shouts of "liar." Protests liar this, also, of course, attract the lunatic fringe. They were there: those who questioned the president's citizenship; compared his administration to Nazi Germany; even those who likened President Obama to an African witch doctor. Swell.

The White House says the protesters are wrong about health care and that the president does not think the protests and the growing conservative movement against him are motivated by racism.

Whatever the cause, it's worth noting. Tens of thousands of people gave up their Saturday to march on Washington, D.C., against a man who has only been in office for eight months.

Here's the question: What message do tens of thousands of protesters marching on Washington send to President Barack Obama? Go to, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jack.

She was supposed to be celebrating her first day of marriage. Instead, police find her body stuffed in a wall. We'll have the latest on the missing Yale grad student. Could police be close to busting a suspect?

And it's been called the Kennedy curse. Now two Kennedys, both of Ted Kennedy's sons, are talking to CNN. Wait until you hear what they're telling our Larry King.

And when it comes to fixing the economy, what's not done that should be done.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The missing grad student, the body found hidden behind a basement wall and blood-stained clothing. All are elements of an unfolding mystery on the campus at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. And we now learned that the body has been positively identified.

Let's go to the scene. CNN's Mary Snow is following the investigation for us.

Update our viewers, Mary, on the very latest.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, that confirmation just came moments ago, and the New Haven medical examiner's office is saying that, in order to facilitate this investigation, that the office is temporarily not releasing the cause of death.

New Haven Police are saying, in their words, that this was not a random act, but they are adamant. I just spoke with them moments ago. They say that they do not have any suspects in custody, that they have been questioning many people, including students, faculty members, anyone who knew Annie Le, anyone who was working with her in the lab building.

You can see it's about a block or so behind me, now a crime scene. She was last seen going into that building on Tuesday morning at about 10:10 a.m., and yesterday police found her body in the basement of that building behind a wall. It was the same day she was to have been married.

Now officials at Yale have been holding meetings throughout the day, and Yale President Richard Levin just addressed students, an overflowing crowd, saying, "We know everyone who was in the basement. There was a limited number of people in that basement, and those names have been given to police."

In order to get into that building, Wolf, people have to go through with an I.D. card and swipe their I.D. card. That is why the officials here at Yale are saying that they think this is a limited number of people that police are now looking into.

And in the words of the Yale president, Richard Levin, he says there is an abundance of evidence.

As you can imagine, nerves are pretty frayed here on the campus. Students we spoke to say they are scared, that they did not think this was possible here.

And they -- they also point out that this was a very secure building. There are more than 70 cameras outside that building. But a Yale spokesman tells us there were no cameras inside the building in that basement, where Annie Le's body was found.

And tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern there will be a vigil here on campus for Annie Le -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow is watching this story. She's going to be back in the next hour. We're also going to be speaking to one of the key students at the university and see what the campus reaction has been.

But what else do we know about Annie Le? Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

We're learning a lot about this extraordinary young woman, a brilliant woman on -- on the Internet. What are -- what are we picking up?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this was a woman who was an active member of a tight-knit community of students. She contributed to a department magazine. She's seen here in the pictures that I can show you, her light-hearted side shown here at a costume party with her fiance and fellow students.

Online, she jokingly compared herself to mad scientic (ph) -- mad scientist Lex Luther on this online magazine that you can find through the Yale University Web site.

Her smarts in no doubt whatsoever. Her fellow students at the magazine recognizing her for winning a fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

But of all the contributions she made to this magazine here, it is this one right here that's got the most attention, an article she wrote earlier this year on crime and safety in New Haven, giving advice to her fellow students on how to keep safe around campus, telling them one can avoid becoming yet another statistic if she just -- people just took her advice about how to be self-aware on campus, use campus security like campus buses.

All of that written in the same issue as this entry here about her engagement to her fiance, the wedding that was due to happen this month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Due to happen this past weekend, in fact. Thanks very much. We're going to have much more on this developing story coming up. Thank you, Abbi.

What a sad story indeed, and our deepest, deepest condolences to the family.

He has passed away, but the late Senator Ted Kennedy has opened the book on his life. His memoir has hit the book shelves today. We're going to go inside the pages with his editor and publisher.

Also, former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, in China for a speaking engagement about -- what -- what is that speaking engagement about? That's anybody's guess. Her appearance is closed to the news media.


BLITZER: Death, assassinations, fatal accidents, the Kennedy family has endured all that and much more. So much that some have coined a special phrase for all of it. And now days after their father's death, Ted Kennedy's two sons are speaking to CNN's Larry King about it.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Patrick, do you ever buy anything of this Kennedy curse thing?

PATRICK KENNEDY, SON OF TED KENNEDY: I mean, obviously, there was terrible tragedies. Both my uncles, you know, being assassinated so publicly, I think, make their lives and their tragic deaths so fixed in our nation's collective memory and our nation's history.

My dad had a sense of spirituality that transcended his ability to face these problems, you know, in a way that would have otherwise paralyzed the normal person. He sensed that there was something that made him charge onward in spite of these problems that he faced that anyone else would have just been destroyed by.

TED KENNEDY JR., SON OF TED KENNEDY: And -- and Larry, if I could just add to that. You know, as -- I think our family, the Kennedy family, has had to endure these -- these things in a very open way, but our family is just like every other family in America in many ways.

You know, we've had, you know, individuals facing cancer, addiction disorders, deaths, you know, divorces, all sorts of things. And remarriages, and, you know, new integrated families that, you know, that our family now celebrates today.


BLITZER: You're going to be able to see the full interview, by the way, with the two Kennedy brothers later tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," 9 p.m. Eastern. They'll be Larry's guests for the full hour.

The memoir of the late Senator Ted Kennedy hits the book stores today.

Joining us now to talk more about the book and more is Jonathan Karp, who's the editor in chief of "Twelve" -- the publisher of "True Compass," the memoir.

Jonathan, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: This is an amazing book, and I know the first printing is, like, 1.5 million hard cover copies. So you guys are really getting ready for a massive best-seller.

But let me read to you from page 5, because it talks about when he and his wife, Vicki, were informed of how bad the situation was when he had the brain tumor. "A biopsy the following Monday confirmed that I had a brain tumor, a malignant glioma in my left parietal lobe. Vicki and I privately were told that the prognosis was bleak, a few months at most. I respect the seriousness of death. I've had many occasions to meet -- meditate on its intrusions, but I wasn't willing to accept the doctor's prognosis."

He did live 14 months after the prognosis, and you spent a lot of time talking to him during those 14 months, preparing this memoir. What was he like?

KARP: Well, the first thing about that that was interesting is that, when he got the news it made him furious, and that surprised me to hear that. But the reason why was because he was basically told to give up, and that was not in the Kennedy family's DNA. They didn't give up.

And in fact, I kind of think that that is an example of why Ted Kennedy was such a remarkable man. We actually thought of calling this book "Perseverance" and when I asked him what I wanted the message of the book to be, he said perseverance. He didn't quit. He didn't quit in politics, and he didn't quit in life.

And as I was working with him over that period, I never got the sense that he was suffering or he was in any pain. And yet, of course, he must have been. And that was just one of the many remarkable things that I discovered about this man as I worked with him.

BLITZER: And your publishing company had an opportunity to interview Senator Kennedy, and I'm going to play a little clip to explain how you came upon the title of the book, "True Compass."


EDWARD KENNEDY, FORMER SENATOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: There's nothing surer than a north star. It doesn't vary. It doesn't change. It's constant. the idea of a compass and following the direction of a compass and staying true to its direction made sense to me.

and what I've tried to do in the United States Senate is to be true to the things which have been important in my life.


BLITZER: This interview you did, what, back in February of this year?

KARP: Right. His family and his faith were his true compass, and that's what -- that's what kept him going. That's what centered him after the tragedy in his life.

It's interesting. After Bobby died, he felt despair and darkness like he'd never known. And it was his family that brought him back, and also it was sailing. He said that sailing was the place where the physical met the spiritual. And he'd be out there on the -- out there at sea, and he would feel the natural order of life, because every voyage has a beginning and a middle and an end.

And all of this was a side of him that I'd never seen before and that I think a lot of readers are going to be surprised to discover. In fact, some people in his family were even surprised to hear him talking this way.

BLITZER: There is also a clip that I found fascinating in the same interview you did with him back in February when he speaks about his own father, Joe Kennedy. Listen to this.


T. KENNEDY SR.: I had a sit-down with my dad. He said, "Now Teddy, you have to make up your mind whether want to have a constructive and positive attitude and influence on your time. And if you're not interested in a purposeful, useful, constructive life, I just want you to know, I have other children that are out there that intend to have a purposeful and constructive life. And so you have to make up your mind about which direction you're going to go."

I remember getting -- climbing into bed and staring at the ceiling for a time, but the night hadn't been over when it was very clear to me what kind of life I wanted to lead.


BLITZER: You know, anybody who reads this book "True Compass," Jonathan, will come away -- there were rules of the road for the Kennedy kids. They all had to follow them, and those rules came from Joseph Kennedy.

KARP: Absolutely. He was the patriarch. He was a towering figure to Senator Kennedy, and -- and he made sure they were never ostentatious. He wouldn't let them have bicycles when other kids on the block had them. When Senator Kennedy had a car horn that made the sound of a moo, his dad told him to get rid of it, because it wasn't the kind of thing he wanted to be known for. And Ted Kennedy got rid of the mooing car horn.

He -- he loved his father. He wanted to impress him, and that story was key to understanding who he was. That's why he led a serious life.

I mean, this is a family where they would argue at the dinner table about politics, and if you wanted to get a word in, you had to be prepared. And he says that actually that's why he was always so well-prepared for his Senate work, because he learned it at the family dinner table.

BLITZER: Good place to learn it. Good lesson for a lot of us.

Hey, thanks very much.

Jonathan Karp is the editor and publisher of the new book, "True Compass: Edward M. Kennedy, A Memoir."

Thanks for coming in.

KARP: Thank you.

BLITZER: Can he do it? President Obama insists health insurance reform will not add to the deficit whether now or in the future, but do you believe he can really do that? The former labor secretary, Robert Reich, and the "Forbes" president and CEO, Steve Forbes, they are here in THE SITUATION ROOM, getting ready to debate.

And the singer, Elton John, wants to adopt the orphan, but he may not get the chance because of his age and marital status.


BLITZER: For our viewers here in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan are always on alert for insurgent IEDs. Now we have some startling video of one of the bombs blowing up while it's being planted.

He tossed a shoe in outrage at then president, George W. Bush, and went to jail for it. The Iraqi reporter who did it was supposed to go free today. We're going to tell you why he didn't.

And Elton John's plans to adopt a 14-year-old HIV-positive Ukrainian child are shut down. The government says Elton John is simply too old. Gay rights activists say there's more to it than that.

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

All that coming up. But let's check in with Betty Nguyen first. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Betty, what's going on?


Well, CNN has learned that a helicopter raid on a car in southern Somalia today was carried out by U.S. forces, and it's believed that assault killed one of the region's most wanted militants. He was wanted for a hotel bombing and a botched attack on an Israeli airliner.

Well, it was back in court today for the California couple charged with kidnapping 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years. Phillip and Nancy Garrido barely acknowledged each other at a bond hearing this morning. Bond for Phillip Garrido was set at $30 million. No bond has been set for his wife, but, together they face 29 felony counts in connection with Dugard's kidnapping and rape. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Police say it was a domestic dispute that led to the fatal shooting -- listen to this -- of a pregnant teenager at a school bus stop this morning. It happened in Charlotte, North Carolina. Police say 15-year-old Tiffany Wright was shot in the head. She died at the hospital. Her baby, who is 32 weeks along, is in critical condition. Investigators are searching for a suspect. And there's been a lot of talk about this. Hearing more about it today. Tennis star Serena Williams put out a second statement apologizing for blowing up and mincing no words at the U.S. Open over the weekend. See that? And you hear the bleeps.

She said she wants to -- quote -- "sincerely apologize" for what she calls her inappropriate outburst, which included a string of salty language directed at the lineswoman and finger-pointing as well. The tirade cost Williams the match and a $10,000 fine.

And, today, we're hearing a second apology -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this story is not over with yet, Betty.


BLITZER: All right, thanks very much

We could be close to seeing a long-awaited bipartisan deal among some senators negotiating over health care reform. A key Democrat says Republicans and Democrats in that so-called gang of six are finding some common ground.


SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think, basically, as senators on and off the committee and the public starts -- begins to know more about all this, their comfort level is starting to come up a bit. And it's -- it's -- and I believe that strongly, and I do believe that -- that, in the end, we will have significant bipartisan support.


BLITZER: The Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, meeting with that gang of six right now.

In fact, let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, for more.

What exactly is the latest, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is that, after months of standing out here and talking to you, Wolf, about these bipartisan talks in there, it has finally reached a potential climax, and we could know whether or not this -- this group is going to go forward with or without Republicans on a health care plan as soon as tomorrow.

And what's going on behind me, behind those closed doors, is that they are trying to work out some of the last-minute details. And there are certainly some controversial issues that are there trying to still hammer out, and I will go through just a few of them just so you and our viewers get a sense of what's going on.

First of all, the whole issue of expanding Medicare, that is the idea they have to try to expend health coverage to some of the poorest in this country, but the one question is, how is it going to be paid for? States are worried that they are going to have to foot the bill. They are trying to figure out how the federal government will do it.

Also, medical malpractice, you heard the president talk about it last week. It's a big Republican priority. They are trying to figure out how to deal with curbing medical malpractice costs, and also the -- one of the most controversial issues, illegal immigrants, trying to make sure not just that this will say in the big print that illegal immigrants won't get health care benefits from this plan, but also making sure there is a verification system to enforce that -- that law that they want to put into place.

And, lastly, another very controversial issue, Wolf, abortion. They are also talking in there about trying to figure out how to make sure that whatever health benefits come from the federal government, federal taxpayer dollars don't go for any abortions.

BLITZER: Yes. So, just to be precise on the illegal immigration's front, which is a very sensitive issue, the Senate Finance Committee is willing to include these amendments that the House committees flatly rejected; is that right?

BASH: Well, I think some of the language that was rejected in the House committee, they are talking about trying to work into -- into this -- this bill that the Senate Finance Committee is working on. That is absolutely what they are talking about, because we are talking about some conservative Republicans and Democrats in this room.

And even the Democrats say that it is absolutely essential to their constituents that they don't just put this -- this language banning illegal immigrants from getting health care benefits in, but making sure that there is an enforcement mechanism to do that -- Wolf.


BLITZER: So, is it likely any of these Republicans are going to be on board?

BASH: You know, that is the -- the big, big question. The White House still is very -- you know, they don't really think that's going to happen. Democratic leaders don't think that's going to happen. We have talked to all three of the Republicans who are in there still, and they are still in there, and they say that they are still working.

Unclear if, at the end of the day, they will come up with it, but the price tag, Wolf, is just under $880 billion. That is a little bit lower, and that is a big issue, cost. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican in there, he told us earlier that he still thinks that's too high. That could be one of that -- the red flags for him.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana. We will check back with you.

One of the most famous celebrities in the world wants to do what other celebrities have recently done, become a parent. But the singer Elton John's hopes may be dashed because of his age and his sexuality.

CNN's Ayesha Durgahee has details.


AYESHA DURGAHEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Elton John is the latest celebrity to make headlines after voicing his desire to become a father and adopt a child from overseas.

(voice-over): Brad Pitt and Angelina have three. Madonna has two, and now Elton John wants one. During a visit to an orphanage in Ukraine, and after meeting 14-month-old Lev, Elton John says he's had a change of heart about adoption.

ELTON JOHN, MUSICIAN: You know what, David and I have always talked about adoption. And David has always wanted to adopt a child. And I have always said no, because I am 62, and I think, because of the traveling that I do and the life I have, maybe it wouldn't be the fair thing for a child.

But after seeing Lev today, I would -- I would love to adopt him. I don't know how we do that, but he has stolen my heart.

DURGAHEE: Elton John's quest to adopt baby Lev may have been short-lived. The Ukraine family and youth minister says the 62-year- old singer would not be able to adopt, because he is too old and not married.

Under Ukraine law, potential parents must be less than 45 years older than the child. Adoptive parents must be married. Same-sex unions are not recognized.

Elton John faces obstacles in the U.K., too. British guidelines say parents who want to adopt should be no older than the retirement age of 65 when the child is 18. At 62, Elton would have to rely on his civil partner, David Furnish, who would be 63 when the child turns 18. Either way, pro-adoption activists say Elton John's interest in adoption is a powerful signal.

PETER TATCHELL, GAY RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER: Their actions will have a huge impact in breaking down prejudice and ignorance. I also, of course, hope that it will encourage lots of other people, not just celebrities, but ordinary people, to consider adopting children who are in need.

DURGAHEE: As Madonna's case demonstrates, adoption rules can sometimes be waived when it comes to celebrities. She was able to adopt her Malawian children, even though the law requires adopting mothers to be married and to have lived in Malawi for at least 18 months.

ANNA FEUCHTWANG, CEO, EVERY CHILD: Firstly, we're really pleased that Elton John is drawing attention to the plight of children with HIV and AIDS in Ukraine. However, we are worried that this will encourage or could possibly encourage even more parents who are vulnerable and needy to abandon their children to institutional care, which did happen in Ukraine straight after the whole high-profile Madonna story.

DURGAHEE: The debate over celebrity adoption is by no means over. Opinion continues to be divided over whether fame and fortune equals good parenting and a better life, or that taking children away from their native countries does more harm than good.

(on camera): And we will have to wait and see whether the Ukrainian government will reconsider its decision and allow Elton John to adopt baby Lev -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Ayesha Durgahee reporting for us from London.

There are signs the U.S. economy is sputtering back to life, but how much credit does President Obama deserve for any improvements? We are going to ask the former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and the Forbes CEO, Steve Forbes. They are standing by for a debate.

And they hold tea parties to air their political views. CNN's Elaine Quijano profiles the tea party-goers.

And if you use a cell phone or BlackBerry, there's a new study that may want you to hang up right now.


BLITZER: A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, President Obama today was back on Wall Street talking about the economic recovery.

Let's discuss that in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us now, professor Robert Reich. He's the author of "Supercapitalism." He's a professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, a former Clinton administration labor secretary. And Steve Forbes, he's the president and CEO of Forbes Incorporated. He's the co-author of a brand-new book as well entitled "Power, Ambition and Glory."

Gentlemen, thanks to both of you for coming in.

Steve Forbes, first to you.

How much credit does President Obama deserve for the economic improvement, shall we say, over the past year?

STEVE FORBES, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORBES INC.: Well, there has been some improvement, but they have a lot more to do if we're going to get a really, truly vigorous recovery that creates jobs, instead of stagnating, as we have had so far this year.

First and foremost is a strong and stable dollar. That was a policy that Bill Clinton had. George Bush had a weak-dollar policy. I'm surprised this administration hasn't repudiated it. And then the other thing the administration can do it drop its agenda on health care, forced unionization, cap and trade. If they did that, you would see this economy roar back.

BLITZER: I suspect, on last three recommendations, Robert Reich, you totally disagree.



REICH: How did you know, Wolf?

BLITZER: Because I know you.

REICH: Look, I -- I do agree with Steve Forbes that things are looking better. The administration does deserve credit for bringing the financial crisis back from the brink. And, also, that stimulus program does seem to have had an effect. Although the spending part of it has not really done very much yet, much of it that is out there really has stimulated the economy.

Let me just say that the health care reforms that the president is talking about will go some way to continuing to stimulate the economy, simply because Americans are now spending so much on co- payments and deductibles and premiums that, if that could be lowered, if they could actually get better deals, that would give them more money to spend on other things in the economy. And that's going to be stimulative.

BLITZER: So, that's a new argument, Steve Forbes, that the economic -- that the health care plan will become an economic stimulus, if you will.

FORBES: Well, that's -- that's quite something. Health care costs go up, but, heck, if the government takes over, they are going to reduce costs.

The only way they can do that, Wolf, is cutting back on care, whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, or taking over the system. And in terms of -- of getting the economy truly moving again, one of the overhangs on it is the uncertainty about health care.

And nationalizing the system, instead of giving consumers choice, like allowing them to buy health insurance across state lines, giving them the same kind of tax treatment that businesses have, and having real tort reform, well, those -- those would be positive reforms, instead of having the government encroach more and more on health care decisions.


BLITZER: But it looks -- it looks -- Robert Reich, I was...


REICH: Well, Steve, nobody -- nobody is talking about -- nobody is talking about nationalizing it. And let me just say that if you make it so that there's more preventive care for people, if they don't have to just wait until something gets really catastrophic and they use emergency rooms, if you streamline the provision of information for health, and if you put in something that is a public insurance option that competes with private insurers to get costs down, that's going to have a tremendously positive effect on the economy overall.

BLITZER: I was going to say, Steve, if -- if the public option, as it's called, goes away, where -- do you still believe the president is going to nationalize health insurance?

FORBES: Oh, I think the government is going to increasingly encroach on health care, especially with regulations such as perhaps requiring people to have health insurance nationally, telling insurance companies what they must offer in their policies, like a number of states do.

Again, if you want competition, Wolf, in health care, remove state barriers, so that people can shop nationwide. After all, members of Congress and the federal government get a choice of 230 health care plans that are designed for -- to appeal to them, not to their employers, not to the government, but to them as individuals. Why can't we have that same kind of competition nationwide?

BLITZER: Well, I -- let's ask -- let's ask Robert Reich, because, as you know in states, you can -- you can buy -- for example, in Alabama 80 percent or 90 percent of the people really have no choice. They get blue Cross/Blue shield. Why not open up competition across state lines?

REICH: Well, the reason that they are now under -- that competition is limited to certain states is because insurance regulation is primarily a state responsibility.

I don't know if Steve Forbes really wants to change all of those...

BLITZER: Would you support changing -- would you support -- would you support changing that?

REICH: ... insurance regulations and put them under the federal government.

I would be completely -- I think it's a good idea, but that means the federal government has got to be the -- the regulator of all insurance in every respect with regard to health insurance.


REICH: I don't know that -- that sounds like big government to me, Steve Forbes.

FORBES: Yes. Well, all you have to do, Robert, states can have their own regulations, but allow people to buy across state lines. And the states can have onerous ones. They can liberal ones. Why is it, for example, that a health care policy for a family in New Jersey, which is a crazy regulation-loving state, costs $13,000 to $20,000, whereas, in Wisconsin, not known as a backwards state, you can get a similar policy for $5,000 or 6,000?

BLITZER: What's the answer?

REICH: Well, I will tell you why. I will tell you why. Because there are so many differences in costs -- not outcomes, but differences in costs -- depending upon not only concentration, but also the extent to which the actual insurance companies are under pressure. This is why the public option is so important.

If you have a public insurance option, that would mean that people...

FORBES: Wisconsin is a lightly regulated...

REICH: ... could have a real choice everywhere. It kind of -- it guarantees a minimum degree of competition.

BLITZER: Do you believe -- hold on a second. Do you believe, Robert Reich, that the president really can enact the health care reform that he wants without increasing the deficit?


Steve and Wolf, I think that the deficit temporarily will be increased, because, if you want to cover everybody, it's going to probably cost about $900 to $1 trillion over 10 years. And in order to do that without increasing the deficit, it's going to be very, very hard to find immediate savings.

But I do think, over the long term, it is going to save the entire country a lot of money. Right now, the Senate Finance Committee is getting -- well, they're talking about 850, presidency, billion dollar over 10 years. The president really, definitely wants to cover all of those with cost savings elsewhere in the government.

But I think, realistically, it's going to be hard immediately.

BLITZER: Well, let me -- just a final question.


BLITZER: Hold on one second, Steve Forbes.

What would be wrong with spending $1 trillion if you're going to provide health insurance for every legal resident, citizen and non- citizen, of the United States?

FORBES: Well, again, Wolf, the question is not the desire to get more universal health care coverage and access to the health care system, which a lot of countries that have nationalized systems don't have. You have to wait six months, 12 months to get some basic surgery. That's the -- that's not the question. The question is how best to achieve it. Can the government do it? Well, look at the way they have run Medicare and Medicaid, subsidized by the private sector, to the tune of $90 billion a year, rife with fraud and corruption.

Look at everything else they run, Freddie and Fannie, the post office, Amtrak. Why is health care going to be any different, if they make it even bigger than Medicare and Medicaid?

BLITZER: All right.


BLITZER: We have got to leave it there. We have got to leave it there, unfortunately.


REICH: Steve Forbes, a lot of people like Medicare.

BLITZER: Robert Reich, hold -- hold your fire. Hold your fire for the next time. We definitely want to have both of you back, but we're simply all out of time for today.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

REICH: Thank you very much, Wolf.

FORBES: Thank you.

REICH: Bye-bye.


BLITZER: Robert Reich and Steve Forbes, two very, very smart guys.

What Sarah Palin will say is not meant for you to hear -- she's giving a very big speech very soon, but it's shrouded in secrecy, in China. We will tell you what's going on.

And Jack Cafferty is asking, what message do tens of thousands of protesters marching on Washington send to President Obama?


BLITZER: Own our "Political Ticker": no reporters allowed. Organizers of Sarah Palin's upcoming speech say you won't be able to hear what she's saying. They are banning the news media. The group is even keeping secret what Palin will talk about. She speaks to investors in China next Wednesday. Palin could decide to open up her speech to the press, a representative for the organizer says, but, at this point, she's not doing that.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: She's going to speak to a group of investors in China?


CAFFERTY: Maybe she could explain to them what ought to be done to regulate derivatives in this country. What do you think?

BLITZER: Maybe she could.


CAFFERTY: The question this hour: What message to tens of thousands of protesters marching on Washington Saturday send to President Obama?

J.C. writes from North Carolina: "The message is that scare tactics, half-truths and lies can confuse concerned and somewhat gullible citizens. Obama is to some extent responsible for this response because he has allowed this furor to fester. Coyness isn't going to work for Obama. Tim Russert would call for details, details and more details."

Tom writes: "No one believes Obama anymore. He's a good used car salesman, but a poor president. Face it. The jobs are gone. He can't get a health care bill, and he can't even get kids' parents to listen to him. I voted for him, but he's a failure. He's had more than enough time to do something constructive."

Mervin says: "These tea party and birther types are just like the loonies who plotted and carried out all manner of violence against black students during the integration of schools in the late 1960s. It just burns them to the core of their hateful beings that the president is a highly thoughtful and intelligent black male."

Jane in Wisconsin says: "It's amazing how many ignorant people on your blog seem to think everything is about race. Obama's radical agenda would be disturbing no matter what color he was."

Sam says: "It's ridiculous that these easily manipulated FOX fools are making such a racket in the first year of President Obama's term, after sitting on their hands for eight years of Bush driving the country into a ditch. I'm deeply offended."

And Bob in Philadelphia: "The protests would be taken more seriously if the lunatic fringe stayed home. Half of these people at these protests look like they escaped from an asylum. The fact that Obama's approval rating just went up to 58 percent backs up this thinking."

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

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

Kennedy letter mystery. A letter from Jacqueline Kennedy to Ethel Kennedy after her husband, Robert, was killed, you are going to find out why the FBI now has the letter.

And the search for a missing bride-to-be is now a search for a killer. We're following breaking news out of New Haven, Connecticut. Police confirm that Yale -- that a Yale graduate student was in fact murdered. Is an arrest coming?

And security cameras could help police find the Yale student's killers, as those cameras also help officials fight crime on several college campuses all across the country.


BLITZER: The FBI has seized an allegedly stolen condolence letter sent by Jacqueline Kennedy to Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel, shortly after his assassination.

Let's go to our Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, what does this letter say?

TATTON: Wolf, it's just a dozen handwritten lines written by one Kennedy widow to another on or around the date of Robert F. Kennedy's funeral in 1968.

I will read it to you here. Jackie Kennedy's note reads: "My Ethel, no one in the world could ever have been like you were yesterday, except maybe Bobby. I stayed up until 6:30 last night just thinking and praying for you." And it's signed, "My deepest, deepest love, Jackie."

Now, this has been referred to as the Jackie letter, and the FBI is now looking at how this got from Ethel Kennedy's estate to an auction house in Dallas, where it was spotted in 2006 by the son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, who said, we did not give permission for this sale.

It was resold several times before that, according to an affidavit the FBI had filed over this summer, resold, but, before that, originally discovered by the son of a plumber who the affidavit said had worked in the late '60s and early '70s at the Kennedy estate -- the FBI spokesman saying that this is an ongoing investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. We will stay on top of that story.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, breaking news: A body found inside the wall of a Yale University lab has just been identified as that of a graduate student who disappeared last week. Now the investigation moves to the next level, as police narrow their list of possible suspects.

Extraordinary video highlighting the deadly and increasing danger U.S. forces are facing from roadside bombs in Afghanistan. Only, this time, the effort to kill Americans backfires. Findings that will disturb anyone who uses a BlackBerry or a cell phone -- details of a new study on the cancer risks all of us may -- repeat, may -- be facing.

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