Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Book Quote Bush Dissing Obama, Palin, Others; Serena Williams Wrong Call; Pres. Obama Comments on Kanye West; Becoming Pres. Obama's Neighbor
Aired September 15, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go straight to our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, who's watching these developments on Capitol Hill.
And they're coming in pretty quickly -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. CNN has learned that barring some unforeseen change, the Senate Finance chairman, Max Baucus, will go forward with a health proposal tomorrow without support from the three Republicans he's been negotiating with so far. Now, we're talking about Republican Senators Charles Grassley, Olympia Snowe and Mike Enzi.
Now, senator -- Senate sources close to Enzi and Grassley and, in fact, in the case of Senator Snowe, the senator herself, told us today that they simply still have concerns that have not yet been addressed -- concerns, for example, like a prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortion or illegal immigration. And specifically in the case of Senator Snowe, making sure that -- that there is affordability for this health coverage that the law would now require.
Now, I want to emphasize -- and this is important -- that these GOP senators are not saying that they are walking away. They are insisting that they will continue to talk, will continue to negotiate. And when these votes start next week in the Senate Finance Committee, they will offer amendments to try to address their concerns.
But the bottom line is that Senate chairman -- Finance Chairman Max Baucus will go forward tomorrow. He will unveil his health care proposal. And for now, he is going to be doing that without the three Republicans who have been spending hundreds of hours negotiating with him for months.
BLITZER: Yes, just like four other committees -- one other one in the Senate and three in the House of Representatives -- strictly Democratic proposals, no Republicans on board. That's a significant setback, at least.
BASH: So far.
BLITZER: You're right, so far.
But at the same time, you're getting word of a significant Democratic Senator defecting. BASH: That's right. This is a Democrat on that Senate Finance Committee. It shows you the push and pull of -- of negotiations. Jay Rockefeller, who was a veteran here, and certainly on health care issues, he told our Ted Barrett just now in an interview that as of now, he cannot support his Democratic chairman's health care proposal for lots of reasons, but primarily because it does not have a public option. And Jay Rockefeller, the senator from West Virginia, believes that, among other things, is essential.
So what you are seeing here is part of -- and he believes that part of the problem that Max Baucus is having is that he's abandoned some core Democratic principles in order to try to get the Republicans on board and even some moderate Democrats.
So it's a very interesting development and it shows how difficult it is going to be in the days and weeks ahead, as we actually begin to see pen to paper and we begin to see these votes and where these Democrats -- again not just Republicans, but Democrats -- line up on the Senate Finance Committee, which is so crucial to whether or not the president will get this health care proposal.
BLITZER: A significant setback on both fronts.
We'll see how long that lasts.
Thanks very much, Dana.
Other important news we're following -- out of prison, into the spotlight, now out of the country. The Iraqi journalist who infamously threw his shoes at then President George W. Bush during a news conference in Baghdad last year is unrepentant. He's angry. And to many people, he's a hero.
CNN's Cal Perry is in the Iraqi capital with the latest -- Cal?
CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's an image that nobody is likely to forget about any time soon -- two shoes being hurled toward the former U.S. president, George W. Bush. Well, the man responsible for that today walked out of prison.
PERRY (voice-over): A hero to millions and unrepentant after nearly a year behind bars. These the first images the world has seen of Muntadhar al-Zaidi since he threw his two shoes at the former U.S. president, George W. Bush.
(on camera): After nine months of waiting, his family has just found out that he has been released. You can see the celebrations have begun -- a variety of celebratory chants and dancing.
(voice-over): His first words to the world, "Here I am free and the country is still prisoner."
He launched in a speech seemingly still filled with anger, haunted by the images he saw as a reporter in Baghdad. MUNTADHAR AL-ZAIDI, IRAQI JOURNALIST (through translator): I was humiliated seeing my country being desecrated, my Baghdad being burned and my people being called. Thousands of tragic pictures still in my head haunted me every day.
PERRY: Across town, his family was overwhelmed, at times, with joy, until he began speaking about his treatment -- a moment that brought his sister to tears.
AL-ZAIDI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I was beaten up by cables, beaten up by iron bars. And in the backyard of a conference hall, I was left until the morning in an exposed place in cold weather. Therefore, I asked Mr. Maliki to apologize for hiding the truth.
PERRY: The government has never responded to the allegations. A hero in his own home, but not necessarily everywhere else. Some journalists believe he should have used the power of his pen rather than his attack with his shoes. And so his only apology was to the media.
AL-ZAIDI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): If I insulted -- and that was not my intention -- the media and journalism, I want to apologize for the professional embarrassment that I caused to the media.
PERRY: Regardless, the media here is drawn to the story -- a virtual invasion of his house throughout the day, everyone waiting for a chance to ask al-Zaidi questions. But he never arrived. And within hours of his release, he left his homeland on a private plane. He says he plans to dedicate his life to helping the orphans, widows and all those affected by war -- a journalist, a convicted criminal in Iraq, now a self-proclaimed humanitarian.
PERRY: Now, family members tell us that he's headed for somewhere in Europe. That will be his final destination for what they say is much needed medical treatment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Cal Perry, thanks very much for that.
Cal Perry reporting from Baghdad.
By the way, we have another way for you to follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm now on Twitter. You can you get my Tweets at Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn -- wolfblitzercnn all one word. Check it out -- Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn.
Jack Cafferty's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How often do you Tweet?
BLITZER: I've been Tweeting every few hours or so. I started yesterday. And there's a few, you know, just giving viewers a little background -- a little inside information.
CAFFERTY: Behind the scenes in THE SITUATION ROOM, right? BLITZER: Something like that.
CAFFERTY: An inside look...
BLITZER: You know, that's...
CAFFERTY: Go ahead.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm trying.
CAFFERTY: Do you Tweet during the program?
BLITZER: Yes, sometimes, if I -- if I sense that something is going to happen in the next hour that I -- I want to pay attention to or I just learned something, you know, can you only do 140 characters. It's not very long.
CAFFERTY: Do you know Rick Sanchez?
BLITZER: You know, he's the -- he's the gold standard in the -- in the world of Tweets.
CAFFERTY: That's -- the bar is set pretty high.
CAFFERTY: You've got something to live up to there.
All right. The House may be just about ready to formally criticize Joe Wilson. He's the congressman who yelled "You lie" at President Obama during that joint speech to -- at a speech, rather, in that joint session of Congress last week.
Just a few minutes ago, Democratic leaders brought a resolution of disapproval to the House floor. It calls Wilson's outburst, "A breach of decorum and degrading." And a vote is expected just about any time now.
Republicans say Wilson already apologized for his outburst and the president accepted. They say Democrats are wasting the taxpayers' time instead of focusing on issues like health care.
Wilson himself spoke just in the debate a few moments ago. He didn't apologize. He said all this does not help the country any.
And one top Democrat, Congressman Barney Frank, isn't sure the resolution is such a good idea, either. Frank says it sets a bad precedent to put lawmakers, "In charge of deciding whether people are jerks."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially said she didn't plan to take the issue any further. But Democrats argued that Wilson's behavior could not be ignored.
Meanwhile, some of Wilson's supporters say if the Democrats go forward with this thing, it will only help him back home in South Carolina, where he's up for re-election next year. They see it as yet another chance to raise money and rally the base behind him. Both Wilson and his Democratic challenger have raised more than $1 million each since he called the president a liar. So it's a lucrative business he's involved in, I guess.
So here's the question: What should the House do about Congressman Joe Wilson, who called President Obama a liar?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: While you were talking, Jack, the House of Representatives has called the roll call. They've got about 13, 14 minutes left now to determine whether or not he will formally be rebuked. So we'll watch that roll call.
CAFFERTY: It doesn't look like there's a lot of people in the -- in the chamber there.
BLITZER: Yes. They're coming in. You know, they do it automatically -- you know, they push a button yea or nay. So we'll see what's going on there.
CAFFERTY: Can they...
BLITZER: We're watching. There's 12 minutes and 28 seconds to go or something like that.
CAFFERTY: Can they Tweet their vote?
BLITZER: No. They've got to physically go into the House chamber.
CAFFERTY: Oh, they have to go into the chamber and do it?
BLITZER: Yes. They can't call...
BLITZER: They can't call it in.
BLITZER: Yes, they've got to do it.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: But it's not a formal roll call like in the Senate, where they read the names.
CAFFERTY: Right. Right.
BLITZER: They do it all automatically for the 435 members in the House.
CAFFERTY: I've got you. But the voting is underway now?
BLITZER: The voting is now underway.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: All right, Jack.
Thanks very much.
We'll stay on top of it.
BLITZER: A cemetery accused of digging up old graves to make way for new ones -- we've told you about the allegations. Now, a former worker reveals some disturbing details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATEO RUELAS GARCIA, FORMER EMPLOYEE: When the peoples go there, families around, you know, we stop, because they always say, stop, guys when you see somebody coming. No do nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's just the beginning of his gruesome description of grave desecration.
And cold cases possibly -- possibly heating up. Details of a new search at the home of the man charged with holding Jaycee Dugard for 18 years.
Plus, President Bush allegedly lobbing some insults at Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and even Sarah Palin. We take a closer look into a shocking new book.
BLITZER: We're watching the vote on the house of Representatives floor right now. The voting is underway -- a resolution of disapproval against the Republican congressman from South Carolina, Joe Wilson.
We're going to watch this. They still have some time left to vote, members of the House. We'll get to that shortly.
In the meantime, we have a dramatic follow-up to the story CNN's Special Investigations Unit broke on Friday about a large Jewish cemetery outside Los Angeles -- a lawsuit alleging that the cemetery desecrated existing graves to make room for new ones.
Now, a former cemetery worker is speaking out and offering very disturbing details.
Our Special Investigations Unit correspondent, Abbie Boudreau, is joining us more now live with more -- Abbie, you've been working this story for us.
What's he's saying?
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we talked to him just earlier today in We spoke to him today. Eden Memorial Park is at the center of a class action lawsuit that alleges workers broke up burial vaults to make room for new ones, as you mentioned.
And now, a former employee is talking exclusively to CNN, saying that he threw away human remains for years.
BOUDREAU: (voice-over): This longtime former employee, Mateo Ruelas Garcia, says he was told to break concrete burial vaults to make room for new ones at Eden Memorial Park. He tells CNN just what he would throw away.
GARCIA: Cement pieces, sometimes a little piece of bones -- bones, for the next person were in the dump and trash away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes skulls?
BOUDREAU: Garcia explains how a salesman would tell him to break the vaults in secret.
GARCIA: And he would go like this and look, and say, oh, break this piece, break this piece. And I'd tell him, you're we're not supposed to break. And he'd say, go ahead, nobody can see. Go ahead and do that.
BOUDREAU: Using a backhoe, Garcia says he and other workers would break through the cement vaults.
GARCIA: I just broke one piece for the cement -- for the person right there, just a piece of cement, the body inside. And we see the person then because we broke it.
BOUDREAU: Garcia says he would take the remains to a large dirt hole at the cemetery, where nobody could see what was going on.
GARCIA: When the peoples go there, families around, you know, we stop, because they always say stop, guys, when you see somebody coming. No do nothing.
BOUDREAU: Similar allegations are made in a lawsuit filed against Eden Memorial and its owner Service Corporation International. They include claims of secretly breaking and opening buried caskets, dumping human remains and selling burial plots without actually having the space -- all to make more money. Garcia says breaking up the burial plots was common practice for the last 10 of the 28 years he worked at Eden Memorial. He was fired in 2008. He says he wasn't given a reason.
A Service Corporation International spokesperson says he was fired for cause, but declined to give details. In a statement, the company says: "Allegations against Eden Memorial Park have surfaced as a result of a recently filed class action lawsuit. While very salacious, these allegations are just that -- allegations." It says: "Eden Memorial conducts extensive training with its employees and we support that with strict policies and procedures."
Garcia says he was only doing what he was told by supervisors.
GARCIA: No matter what happened in there, bones and everything, you guys go ahead and do the job. They pay me. I working. I do anything they told me.
BOUDREAU: Wolf, a spokesman for California's Cemetery and Funeral Bureau says the agency will look into the allegations raised in the lawsuit. The cemetery got a warning letter last year after the state found that five graves had been disturbed. But there was no evidence that it was done intentionally -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbie Boudreau working the story for us and continuing to work it.
Thanks very much for that report.
Once again, the House of Representatives -- they're voting right now on the floor of the House of Representatives on this resolution of disapproval against Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. They're getting ready to wrap it up. They still have about four minutes or so left to -- to go. We'll update you on that resolution. That's coming up.
Also, then President Bush allegedly insulting Barack Obama, saying he has no clue. That and other alleged insults detailed in a new book by a former Bush White House speechwriter.
BLITZER: They're wrapping up the roll call in the House of Representatives on the resolution of disapproval rebuking the Republican congressman from South Carolina, Joe Wilson. Only a little bit of time left for the members to go down there to the House floor and to vote.
Brianna Keilar is our Congressional correspondent -- Brianna, it looks like the Democrats, they have a lopsided majority. This should not be a problem for them to pass this resolution.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. If things keep going as they are going, Wolf, they are expected to pass this resolution. It will be the first time that the House of Representatives has admonished a member in this way, for yelling out at a president during an address to a session of Congress -- a joint session of Congress.
So you can see, though, at this point, there are still quite a few members who are not voting, although the way this breaks down is they only need -- Democrats only need a majority of those who are present in order to pass this. So right now we are waiting to see the gavel drop. That will mean that this is gaveled to a close, even though the time has run out on the clock. We're waiting, Wolf, to see exactly what the official vote is when the gavel drops. You'll see, possibly, that some of the numbers keep continuing to shift until that happens -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Right now, it seems pretty close. But as you point out, a lot of members still haven't voted and they have a little bit of time left. Officially, there's no time left, but they always give members a little extra leeway there to come up and vote.
Let's talk a little bit about this with our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and the Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos -- Alex, what do you think about this whole -- I don't know, should we call it a spectacle or episode, whatever it is?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It's hard to believe, but there's gambling in the casino and politics in Washington. If they're going to censure someone using the word "lie" to demean their political opponents on the House floor, then, clearly, they should censure President Obama, who actually did it a few minutes before Joe Wilson, right after he made an appeal to bipartisanship.
So this is politics. It's not a good day. There -- there is an economic meltdown. Perhaps Congress should deal with that.
BLITZER: Because a lot of people out there watching say, why are they wasting their time with this?
Why not deal with the substantive economic or health care or energy issues facing this country?
Isn't this a political sideshow?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the problem is the House has a proud tradition and Mr. Wilson violated that tradition. It wasn't the use of the word "lie," which Alex quite accurately says the president had just used. Pretty strong words. It's that he interrupted the president in the middle of an address to the joint session, which is an offense against the president, for which he apologized to the chief of staff of the White House. But it's also an offense against the White House.
Mr. Wilson should have -- look he -- he admitted what he did was wrong. He should have had the -- the guts to stand in front of his colleagues and say that. He could have ended this the very next day and then moved on to the kind of debate that Republicans claim that they want. But frankly, this is the town hall strategy -- shout down your opponent, interrupt your opponent, throw crazy charges out there -- anything but have an honest debate about the issues.
CASTELLANOS: This is important for the Democrats because they can't get the Democrats together on policy. The Democrats are having a revolt within their party. The Blue Dogs -- the moderate Democrats don't want to go for the government-run health care plan. But they can get Democrats together on politics -- look at what those Republicans did. So that's -- this is actually useful to the Democrats and to President Obama politically.
BEGALA: Yes. Yes.
How do you -- how do you unify a fragmented coalition?
By identifying external threats.
BEGALA: So Alex is absolutely right, what Mr. Wilson has done is helped to reunify the Democratic Party. And I think this actually could help pass the health care legislation that Mr. Wilson seems so offended by.
BLITZER: All right, guys, don't go away, because we're going to continue to watch the vote on the House floor.
We're also watching something else -- the uncivil U.S. Open -- the fallout, at least -- Serena Williams' angry outburst on the court. We asked her about that. The interview with Serena Williams here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.
And a speechwriter for George W. Bush has a new book that's out. In it, he alleges that the former president made some pretty insulting remarks about politicians.
What did he say?
We're going to show you what's going on.
And President Obama doing some dissing of his own with something that was said off the record, but ended up on Twitter.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Baghdad's Green Zone attack, as the vice president of the United States visits Iraq. Joe Biden went to meet with U.S. troops and Iraqi leaders. We'll go live to Baghdad for more on what's going on.
And Serena Williams in her own words -- we asked her about her U.S. Open meltdown and those angry words aimed at a line judge.
And fact or fiction -- is Free Masonry a secret sinister society? "Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown has centered his new novel around the fraternity. We're going to take you inside one of their buildings.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All right. It looks like the Democrats have prevailed on the floor of the House of Representatives. They have a majority -- a lopsided majority. And a resolution of disapproval against the -- the South Carolina Republican congressman has passed. Look at this -- 238-178. That's a majority in the House of Representatives.
Joe -- Joe Wilson has been rebuked, if you will. This resolution of disapproval, as expected, has been approved. It looks like seven Republicans actually voted yes, 12 Democrats voted nay. Interesting who those Republicans who voted with the Democrats are and who the Democrats who voted with the Republicans are.
But there's no time left. It's almost over. But it's -- it's obviously passing right now, this resolution of disapproval against Joe Wilson.
Meanwhile, a new book by a former speechwriter for then President George W. Bush alleges the ex-president made some mean-spirited and even insulting remarks about politicians, including Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Hilary Clinton and more.
CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this book -- Brian, what do we know about the book and the author?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know it's getting a lot of brush back from former top Bush aides who we've corresponded with today. They tell us the president described in this book is not the same man they know.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To give him a briefing about...
TODD: (voice-over): New portrayals of a president taking his plain-spoken vernacular to very personal levels. Matt Latimer, speechwriter for George W. Bush for the last two years of his presidency, writes in a new book that Mr. Bush made disparaging comments about several major political figures at the time. Excerpts from the book "Speech-Less" are posted on "GQ's" Web site.
Latimer writes that after then candidate Barack Obama gave a blistering speech against his administration, President Bush fumed, "This is a dangerous world, and this cat isn't remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you." Another quote, "If BS was currency, Joe Biden would be a billionaire."
We tried several times for a response from the president and vice president's press offices and got none. No one at President Bush's office responded to our repeated calls and e-mail.
Ed Gillespie, former counselor to President Bush who was one of Matt Latimer's bosses, tells us Latimer's recollections don't ring true to him.
ED GILLESPIE, FORMER BUSH COUNSELOR: It's possible he was in meetings with the President Bush that I wasn't in, but it's unlikely, and I just don't recall that. The fact is President Bush has been nothing but gracious towards President Obama and Vice President Biden.
TODD: Latimer says President Bush wasn't too impressed with the Republican ticket either. After Sarah Palin was tapped as John McCain's running mate Latimer writes Bush said, "I'm trying to remember if I've ever met her before. I'm sure I must have. His eyes twinkled, then he asked, what is she, the governor of Guam?"
GILLESPIE: The notion that he didn't -- you know, he didn't know who Sarah Palin was, I can tell you, flat out, is just not the case.
TODD: That sentiment echoed by former Bush aide Jason Recher who was loaned out to the Palin campaign. Recher said Latimer was not a significant figure at the White House. Quote, "You'd be hard pressed to pick him out of a lineup."
TODD: We tried to get a response to that from Matt Latimer's representative. She didn't respond directly to Recher's comments, just pointed us to some general praise of the book by various pundits. We were told Mr. Latimer would not do any interviews until his book is released next week -- Wolf?
BLITZER: I think he's going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM next week to talk about it. I understand, Brian, he also said something rather nasty about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then Senator Clinton.
TODD: That's right. Latimer writes that former President Bush always believed that Mrs. Clinton would be the Democratic nominee but quotes the president as saying, quote, "Wait till her fat keister is sitting at this desk." Except Latimer writes she didn't say the word keister.
A top aide to Mrs. Clinton at the State Department would not comment on that. A source close to President Bush told us that does not sound like something Mr. Bush would say.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. Let's continue to assess with our CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos.
Not the first time a former White House aide has written a book saying some stuff that perhaps shouldn't have been said on the outside, what was said in private on the inside. What do you make of this? CASTELLANOS: Well, I hope President Obama is spared this. I hope no one is taking notes on this now, because you need that sanctity of that office, too, to make some important decisions, and even to doubt yourself at times and now and then to let off a little steam, sense of humor.
Look, people do this for a couple of reasons. Right now the Bush administration is not the most popular thing. To sell a book, what do you do, you slam it? To get on the news, what do you do? You slam it.
So this is all about the kind of regaining some popular currency with some things that no one else can validate that are true, but, you know, whether you're a priest or a lawyer or a doctor, those are professions which you ought to give your clients your confidence, a speech writer, too.
BLITZER: When you worked in the Clinton White House, were you always nervous that your colleagues were taking notes and that they were going to leave the administration then write a book, and so you as a result had to couch, had to be very careful what you were saying even in the privacy of the oval office?
BEGALA: Yes, and, of course, some of them avoided the rush and instead of waiting to publish a book they'd run out to the lawn and leak it to you, Wolf, so...
I learned that if I had really, you know, candid advice I would have to give it in confidence alone with the president or maybe with just a very few people who I could really trust. And that's a shame and I think Alex is absolutely right.
Frankly, it sounds exactly like George W. Bush. Let's tell the truth, OK? But it's wrong for this guy, whoever he is, who would not be a blip on the radar screen professionally if it wasn't for George W. Bush to betray that confidence. I -- I've worked there. Alex is exactly right.
Presidents have to have a right to say silly or funny or even mean things or to be wrong or to challenge themselves. This is deeply wrong, and it's -- it's a serious problem for you future presidents.
BLITZER: You know, there's a really amazing video that's on YouTube right now. One of these town hall meetings on health care reform. Democratic congressman Pete Stark of California was confronted with this exchange. I'm going to play it because it underscores the passion that's clearly out there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Congressman, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) REP. PETE STARK (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you. I wouldn't dignify you if I peed on your leg. I don't -- I wouldn't be worth wasting the urine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I don't know if I even want to repeat that in case the audio quality wasn't that good, but that's pretty should I say stark?
CASTELLANOS: Stark. It's stark. Well, it's good to see that the congressman has overcome his shyness at last. He's very blunt about it, but I think what we're seeing here is part of a bigger picture and that is that there are a lot of Americans out there who are so frustrated with a Congress that has grown so out of touch, spend America into debt, and then tell people that they are just idiots to worry about it.
And that condescending elitist tone is what is antagonizing a public and congressman like Pete Stark are reacting as the elitist. Yes, well, you little people don't need to worry about those things. We'll decide for you later. There's going to be a big wave of that in the 2010 elections. That's what 2010 is going to be all about.
BLITZER: Somebody said to me the other day he hasn't seen a poisonous atmosphere in Washington since the battle days of the Vietnam War.
BEGALA: That may be. I'm not one to judge anybody else's civility, OK? I mean, I've said a whole lot worse so I'm not -- I said this about Joe Wilson, too. I'm not in a good position to judge him. I'm not in a good position to judge Pete Stark.
He is no elitist. Pete Stark is very much a man of the people and that's why he used such earthy language on there. I -- you know, I do think we all kind of need to calm down but those kinds of things, I mean, there's a great American tradition of taking on your congressman like that and if congressmen like Stark feel like they can get re-elected and challenge their constituents the same way, God bless them.
I mean I -- and I'd suspect that voters in Pete's district are going to re-elect him because he's in there fighting for their rights against the big insurance companies that the Republicans like Mr. Castellanos loves to defend.
BLITZER: All right. I just want to update...
BEGALA: They're the ones who's actually peeing on us, by the way, those big insurance companies. Not Congressman Stark.
BLITZER: The vote is now official on the floor of the House of Representatives. This resolution of disapproval against Republican congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. The final outcome of the vote is 240 in favor of the resolution, 179 opposed to the resolution. The resolution has passed, and for the first time in the long history of the Congress a resolution of disapproval against a United States congressman who uttered what he uttered to the president, "You lie," on the floor of the House of Representatives during a joint session of Congress, has been formally rebuked.
So that's the historic fact that we're watching right now. Guys, we've got to leave it right there. Thanks very much.
All right. She says she's moved on. Now tennis star Serena Williams is wondering why everyone else is still talking about her outburst against the line judge at the U.S. Open. She talks to CNN about the uproar. That's coming up next.
And how President Obama's off-the-record remark about Kanye West wound up on Twitter.
BLITZER: Serena Williams says she's trying to put her controversial U.S. Open outburst behind her. She's issued a second statement before she and sister Venus claimed the Women's Doubles title yesterday. In it she apologized for what she called her inappropriate outburst. In case you missed the tirade, here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERENA WILLIAMS, TENNIS CHAMPION: I swear to God, I'll (EXPLETIVE DELETED) take this ball and shove it down your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) throat! Do you hear me? I swear to God. You better be glad. You better be (EXPLETIVE DELETED) glad that I'm not, I swear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. Williams hasn't wanted to speak much about the incident but Christine Romans spoke to her just a little while ago.
Christine, tell us what she said about the pretty shocking meltdown.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She says, Wolf, that she was in the moment and now she just wants to put this behind her, but I said, Serena, what were you thinking, what happened out there?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Basically what happened I was involved in a tough much in the semifinals of the U.S. Open and, you know, defending champion and all that other stuff. And I was playing a great opponent Kim Clijsters who actually ended up winning the tournament and she had a wonderful comeback and just had a great tournament.
But I was -- it was a really tough point in the match and it was really close and got a really tough call that wasn't the correct call, and, you know, things got a little heated and I had a conversation with the line judge that didn't go so well, and that's basically what happened.
It was what it was and I feel like, you know, people are human. I'm not a robot and when I'm out there, any athlete, any competitor, anyone who really loves what they do and who has real passion for what they do, they really want to do their best at what they do in that moment, and if something isn't right or you get a bad judgment at a very critical point in the whole match and it can -- which could change the whole result of the ending is often very frustrating.
ROMANS: You said you were in the moment. I mean, now that you step back, do you wish you had done something differently and do you wish you had apologized sooner?
WILLIAMS: I actually did apologize before so..
ROMANS: True. So you thought you said I'm sorry and moved on from that?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Way before anything like that, so that was, first of all, first and foremost, and then second I -- so I couldn't apologized any sooner, and then also I -- I learned from my mistakes. I love -- I think it's important for everyone to make a mistake or make an error or make a bad judgment. Maybe it wasn't even a mistake, just make a bad judgment and then you can learn from it. No one is perfect, and everyone, is you know, doing things that -- that's not perfect.
ROMANS: Did you look -- did you see the tape yourself? I mean, have you watched the tape of the event? Or do you remember it from being in the moment?
WILLIAMS: Yes. No, I don't remember. Like, you know, I was talking to Michael Strahan earlier today and he said when he's out there, you know, you're so intense and you want -- you know, obviously, when things -- you get a bad call, it's like what's going on, and they are like well, what did you say, he's like I don't remember.
And so it's like when you're in the moment you are just there and you're in the moment. You don't really quite remember exactly what's going on.
ROMANS: What do you tell to your fans, your young fans, who believe in you as a real fighter, who have watched through controversy of the past few days, who want to move past it with you? You know, what do you tell those kids about being in the moment and being a competitor but also about the sportsmanship?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think pretty much those kids can probably just see that it's great to be a competitor. It's great to see how passionate someone is and just making, you know, the right decisions at the right time and realizing that, hey, everyone falls. Wow, she's human. She made a bad decision, a bad choice. Wow, OK. I can be like her for real now, you know, because it's like -- I'm not a robot. I have a heart and I bleed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Wolf, she bleeds. In fact, she's been fined $10,500 for her unsportsmanlike conduct, $10,000 for the outburst and $500 for smashing a racket during the same event. Now I asked her about Roger Federer's behavior last night where he actually cursed at a chair umpire on the tennis court and she said, no, no. She doesn't want to go there about how other people behave or comparing or contrasting her behavior to theirs. The long history of outbursts from other male tennis greats.
She said no, I can't talk about them, I can't out -- point a finger at anybody else. I can only talk about me. And I've apologized and I want to move past this.
There is still an investigation under way here and there could be more action from tennis authorities. We'll just have to wait and see. Wolf?
BLITZER: Christine Romans, good interview. Thanks very much for that.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
BLITZER: For that -- and to our viewers, by the way, you can see more of the interview, in fact the whole interview with Serena Williams right here on CNN's "YOUR MONEY" Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Good show.
And as you just heard, Serena Williams wasn't the only one cursing out there on the tennis court. Roger Federer got into it with an umpire as well before he was beaten in last night's U.S. Open final by Juan Martin del Potro.
During the match the stress showed clearly with Federer losing his cool over a challenged call. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Del Potro considering a challenge. It's too late now.
ROGER FEDERER, TENNIS CHAMPION: No, no, it's too late.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He shouldn't be allowed that much time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ball was called out.
FEDERER: Oh, come on. I wasn't allowed to challenge like after two seconds and the guy takes like 10. Every time. You can't allow that stuff to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That review reveals it. It was out.
FEDERER: Do you have any rules in there? Stop showing me your hands, OK? Don't tell me to be quiet, OK? When I want to talk, I'll talk. All right? I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) what he said. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Federer went on into the match the top seed, had won the last five U.S. Open titles, sixth seed, Del Potro was playing in his first grand slam final. He won. Federer lost.
It was off-the-record but it emerged on Twitter, President Obama calling Kanye West a, quote, "jackass" for his outburst during singer Taylor Swift's speech over at the MTV Video Music Awards but he didn't mean for everyone to hear it.
Let's bring in our Internet correspondent Abbi Tatton. Didn't mean for everyone to hear it, but a lot of people have, Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the tweet that went global, from ABC News "Nightline," co-anchor Terry Moran posted last night. "President Obama just called Kanye West a jackass for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now that's presidential."
That was quickly pulled when ABC realized that they had been tweeting prematurely. What they were listening to was a portion of an interview with President Obama that was off the record. It was not supposed to be reported, so they pulled this down, but when you've got more than a million followers like Terry Moran does these things tend to get out there, spreading like wildfire on Twitter and the Twitter Universe was absolutely delighted with this news.
Look at some of these. "President Obama just got my vote." "Obama called Kanye jackass. Hail to the Chief!" says this one. This one says, "Well, thumbs up to you, President. ABC need not apologize."
Well, ABC has apologized. They say that they are taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again. Wolf.
BLITZER: You know we can -- the audio actually is out there all over the Internet right now. I don't know if you could get that up. It's not been cleared. We could play that, Abbi, if you can call it up on your screen. If you can't, maybe we'll do it during the break and then we'll play it for our viewers. Maybe after the commercial.
TATTON: Why don't we do that when we come back so I can get it ready and then we'll bring it to viewers right afterwards.
BLITZER: All right. Yes, because it's about a minute of a little exchange that the president had during that interview, and we'll play it for our viewers. I think they'll be interested to hear specifically from the president what he had to said, Abbi. Stand by. We'll cue that up.
A resolution of disapproval. The House formally rebukes Republican congressman Joe Wilson for shouting "You lie" at the president. We're going live to Capitol Hill.
And a Free Mason's secrets, supposedly spilled by blockbuster author Dan Brown. We're going to take you inside the very room where he sets one of his shocking scenes in his brand new book.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Check in with Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File." Jack.
CAFFERTY: A few minutes ago the House passed a resolution of disapproval against Joe Wilson, the South Carolina congressman who shouted "You lie" during President Obama's speech to Congress last week. The vote was 240 to 179, mostly along party lines.
The question is: What should the House have done about Congressman Joe Wilson who called the president a liar.
Jeanie is a social worker in North Carolina writes: "Since Mr. Wilson's mother didn't teach him any manners, I guess strangers have to. It's time to call a jerk a jerk in public and let future jerks know that presidents should be given respect. He is a terrible role model for our youth and this kind of behavior encourages the violent among us."
Sue writes: "Absolutely nothing. He shouted out, he was wrong, he recognized it, apologized for it, and that should be that. Democrats are just angry it brought the issue of health care for illegal aliens to the forefront."
David writes: "Joe Wilson's uncivil, childish loud mouth are a symptom of a dysfunction that's taken hold of our congressional leaders and the American people are sick of it. Shame on Representative Wilson and shame on anyone who supports or condones his actions. Will Congressman Wilson take off his shoes and throw them at the president next time?"
Cary writes: "I'm glad you brought this point up. Wilson not only needs to apologize, he needs to retract his videos and comments from YouTube and his public signing of his photo during the outburst. His apology is two-faced, not an honest one. Sure, some people may disagree with the president, and that's fine. But respect is necessary at all times during a speech like this one."
And Kim in Atlanta writes: "No, we can't just move on as if it was an accident. This is the president and the first black president at that. Obama had to be gracious, I do not. It was disrespectful and it was a deliberate calculated attempt to demean our first black president in front of the whole world. Off with his head, I say."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, check my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Good point, Jack. Thanks very much for all of that.
Iraq's ultra secured green zone comes under attack during a surprise visit by Vice President Joe Biden with at least one round landing on U.S. embassy grounds. Plus, it's not just the 17 rooms and 6,000 square feet that make this home so remarkable, it the owner of the house next door, that would be President Obama. Details of a one-of-a kind house for sale.
BLITZER: Here's something you could have a chance to be President Obama's next door neighbor. The eight-bedroom house next door to his downtown Chicago residence is on the market right now. Abbi Tatton has the details.
Tell us about the house, Abbi.
TATTON: Wolf, to buy in house, you don't just have to go through a mortgage lender, you have to check in with Secret Service, as well. Just going on the market, this weekend here in downtown Chicago near the Hyde Park area, is a house that -- went on the market this weekend, 5040 Greenwood, on the right, next door to the first family's Chicago home. Making it the ultimate gated community.
At one end of the street here, you've got a police barricade. At the other end of the street, you've got another one, and in the middle you've got Secret Service. Now the listing agent says that this house had many great details on a 12,000-foot lot, but of course so many people are interested in who's next door, the porch, who's going to turn up on the porch of the front of the house, that porch just 20 feet away from this property. Wolf?
BLITZER: Abbi Tatton, thanks very much for that. We'll see what happens.
To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the House smacks Republican Joe Wilson with a punishment. Republicans say it smacks a political payback. What will happen to the health care debate now that Wilson has been punished for accusing the president of lying?
Vice President Joe Biden pulls off a surprise. It involves Iraq. But the headlines is marred by violence.
And he brought you "The Da Vinci Code". Now Dan Brown's new book illustrates the shocking ceremony, a person drinks wine from a human skull. The book features sights around Washington, D.C. and you'll go inside the actual room where the author casts this hair-raising scene.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first the breaking news, the House of Representatives have just smacked Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina with an historic punishment for screaming "You lie" at President Obama.
The House formally admonishes the Republican lawmaker. It's a resolution that passed by a vote of 240-179 mostly along party lines. This is the first time a member of Congress is rebuked for speaking out during a president address to a joint session of Congress.
Just before this vote, Congressman Wilson remained defiant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president says the time for games is over. I agree with the president. He graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over. However, this action today will have done nothing for the taxpayers to rein in the growing cost and size of the federal government. It will not help more Americans secure jobs, promote better education, ensure retirement or reform health insurance."
(END VIDEO CLIP)