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Democrats Rebuke Republican Congressman; President Obama Takes Reform Message on the Road

Aired September 15, 2009 - 18:00   ET



REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It will not help more Americans secure jobs, promote better education, ensure retirement or reform health insurance.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go straight to our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's up on Capitol Hill.

Pretty much as expected, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was almost totally along party lines. There were seven -- or -- pardon me -- 12 Democrats and seven Democrats who defected.

But, Wolf, Republicans alleging this was a partisan stunt and they said that it distracted from the real issue at hand, which is health care. That is what Minority Leader John Boehner said. Now, to counter, the number-three Democrat in the House, Jim Clyburn, said this is not a partisan stunt; this is about maintaining order in the House. And if you don't maintain order in the House, you can't get to a civil discussion of those important issues.

What was really interesting here was House Democratic leaders made clearly a deliberate decision to not get in to a tit for tat with Republicans. Steny Hoyer, the number-two Democrat in the House, introduced this bill, spoke about this bill, and then handed off the discussion to Congressman Clyburn, and then we heard from every member basically of the House Republican leadership as well as from some other Republican members.

But we only heard from those two Democrats. And so, we didn't hear some of the really extreme views that we had heard earlier in the House, just talking to people on the -- coming out of meetings today, Wolf, some people talking about how racism had come into the issue. We didn't hear any of that on the floor, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, where was the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi?

KEILAR: She was noticeably absent. And you will recall, Wolf, last week, she initially said it was time to move on. Congressman Wilson had apologized, and it was time to get on to issues.

But, yes, she wasn't there today. And when you spoke with her office today, she was clearly distancing herself. She wanted to talk about health care, not about this vote, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit more about what happened today.

Gloria Borger is our senior political analyst.

Gloria, what might the White House think about all of this activity in the House of Representatives?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Let's just say the White House is hanging back on this, Wolf.

It's clearly a fight within the House of Representatives. You heard what the president had to say immediately after. He said Congressman Wilson apologized and he wanted to get beyond it. The White House clearly, Wolf, wants to get back to the business of the day. And that's health care, and every day the House is arguing about something else is a day they're not talking -- they're not on their message.

BLITZER: And they have got a lot of work ahead of them, the White House right now, because and it looks right now like that health care legislation that the Senate Finance Committee was going to put forward is not going to necessarily have any Republican support.

BORGER: That's right. And the last thing they want to do, quite frankly, is inflame an already partisan environment that exists. And this probably isn't going to make it any worse, but it isn't going to make it any better.

BLITZER: That's right. All right, good point, Gloria. Thank you.

Meanwhile, stay tuned. Today could be full of some other political surprises, as well, including what happened to the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden.

He made a secret trip to Iraq. He visited Baghdad to meet with U.S. troops and to meet with Iraqi leaders, but the headline of his surprise visit is marred by some violence.

We have an exclusive report from CNN's Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence. He's in Baghdad.

Chris, tell us how this surprise visit came about.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when we got on a plane leaving Andrews Air Force Base, we didn't know exactly where we were going, what country or when we would get there.

We later of course found out it was Iraq, the president here to speak with Iraqi and officials from the Kurdish regional government, trying to bridge their political differences.

But this evening, a U.S. military official now confirms that four mortars did hit the Green Zone in Baghdad. Two of them did explode. They're still investigating whether there were any possible injuries at all.

We don't know exactly where the vice president was. We wouldn't reveal that location, even if we did. But we are told he was not in that area, that he was not in any danger.

I can tell you, I was in a room with several other reporters getting a briefing by the U.S. commander in Iraq, when, all of a sudden, we heard the sirens blaring over the loudspeaker, duck and cover, duck and cover. Get away from the windows. This is still a danger from indirect fire.

But the military officials in the room remained very calm. It was a secure building. They obviously felt that were not threatened in any way. And so the briefing just continued. They would pause every time these alerts would come on every few minutes. But after that, after about a half-hour, we got the all-clear sign. And it was, as they say, safe to go.

BLITZER: When are you going to sit down and have your interview with the vice president, Chris?

LAWRENCE: Still to be determined, Wolf, but some time in the next few days somewhere here in Iraq, we will get a chance to speak one on one with Vice President Biden to address some of the issues that are still very, very relevant both for Iraq and the United States here.

BLITZER: And our viewers will be able to see that interview right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right, Chris, thanks very much. Be careful over there traveling with the vice president in Iraq.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: These days, it seems like some of our so-called celebrities are acting like third graders than the role models that many people think they're supposed to be.

At the top of the list is this hip-hop clown Kanye West, who was a grade A jerk at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday when he jumped up on the stage and tore the microphone away from teenager Taylor Swift, saying Beyonce should have won.

West has apologized since then, but he ruined a young girl's moment in the spotlight. And even President Obama called Kanye West a jackass. In sports, the tennis star Serena Williams cursed out a line judge one-third her size in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, saying she would -- quote -- "that this F'ing ball and shove it down your F'ing throat" -- unquote.

This happened after an earlier temper tantrum, where Williams slammed her racket on the court and broke it. And in the very same tournament, Roger Federer swore at the chair umpire, saying -- quote -- "Don't tell me to be quiet, OK? When I want to talk, I talk. I don't give a 'blank' what he said" -- unquote.

Meanwhile, a recent YouTube video apparently caught golf great Tiger Woods throwing his club in anger into the weeds after missing a shot. Some of our politicians are acting like pigs as well, Congressman Joe Wilson calling the president a liar on the floor of the House during a joint session of Congress. Democratic Congressman Pete Stark of California told a constituent during a town hall meeting, someone who showed up to get some information about health care reform, Stark said he wouldn't -- quote -- "waste the urine to pee on the man's leg" -- unquote.

It's not hard to figure out why some of our kids don't respect their parents, their teachers, the police, or any other authority figures in society.

So, the question is this: Do celebrities behaving badly tell us something about the rest of us? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty.

You know, Jack, have I told you today that I'm now on Twitter?

CAFFERTY: I believed you mentioned it once or twice, yes. I'm excited.


BLITZER: I just want to make sure you go check it out. Go to It's all one word, WolfBlitzerCNN. People can start tweeting with me if they want.

CAFFERTY: Well, that's -- I think that's exciting. Can I tweet with you too?

BLITZER: We can tweet.

CAFFERTY: I don't know how to do that, but I'm going to learn.

BLITZER: I know you are. It's not that hard. I have learned. And you can do it. I know you can, Jack.


BLITZER: Thanks. We will tweet. All of us will tweet on Twitter, -- WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.

President Obama trying to regain some momentum right now, taking his economic and health care message on the road. So, how is it being received?

And the so-called gang of six said to be on the verge of a monumental split. Sources telling us of a major health reform move coming tomorrow.

Plus, a new search at the house of horrors where Jaycee Dugard was held for 18 years, will it yield new clues about other young girls who disappeared decades ago?

And we're going to be playing for you President Obama in his own words what he thinks about Kanye West's mike-grabbing moment.

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


BLITZER: President Obama is kicking it into high gear once again for his economic full-court press.

He took his message on recovery and health care reform to the Rust Belt today -- two stops in Ohio, two more in Pennsylvania.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is traveling with the president right now.

Ed, based on what you can see, how are folks out there reacting to him?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he was received very well out here in the heartland, because, look, let's face it, these were his kinds of crowds, sort of union pro-Obama crowds, first at a GM auto plant in Youngstown, Ohio, that area, then the AFL-CIO convention here in Pittsburgh.

A sharp contrast to yesterday, when the president was on Wall Street, and really got tepid applause from bankers who are not too keen on financial reform. In contrast, these labor crowds very much want reform on health care, the economy. They were fired up. And so was the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I refuse to let America go back to the culture of irresponsibility and greed that made it possible...


... back to an economy with soaring CEO salaries and shrinking middle-class incomes, back to the days when banks made reckless decisions that hurt Wall Street and Main Street alike.


OBAMA: We're not going to go back to those days. It would be bad for unions, bad for the middle class and bad for the United States of America. We're not turning back! We're moving forward!



HENRY: Now, when you talk to top White House aides, they say the president is firing up the base for a number of reasons. Partly, these are sort of the foot solders in the labor community trying to help him pass health care, but also on the economy, you had the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, today saying he thinks the recession may be over.

But the fact is people here in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Ohio, they're not feeling the recovery yet. The president making clear today he's not going to rest until this economy turns around.

And, Wolf, I'm not going to rest until I can follow you on Twitter, WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word, right?

BLITZER: WolfBlitzerCNN, that's it.


BLITZER: Don't rest. We don't want you to rest. You have got to work really hard.


BLITZER: Ed Henry on the scene for us in Pittsburgh.

The Obama administration says it favors extending three provisions of the controversial Patriot Act. The Justice Department has sent a letter to Congress saying it supports post-9/11 authority to access business records, monitor so-called lone wolf terrorists and conduct roving wiretaps. It says it is willing to consider adding additional privacy protections.

All three provisions implemented by the Bush administration are to expire at the end of the year.

On the backdrop of President Obama's trip today to an Ohio auto plant, the administration has unveiled a plan for new regulations governing gas mileage and auto emissions standards. The new standards would require the auto industry to produce cars and trucks that average 35.5 miles per gallon by the year 2016.

The EPA says the new rules would have the effect of removing 42 million cars from the road. They are a follow-up, by the way, President Obama's announcement in May that government regulations would link emissions and fuel economy standards.

High political drama unfolding among U.S. senators, looming on the horizon, a major move on health care that could gravely potentially hurt chances at bipartisanship.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is outside the room where the negotiations have been going on.

And when I say high drama, Dana, I mean it.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: High drama, indeed, because tomorrow the Senate Finance chairman, Max Baucus, is going to unveil the health care proposal he has been working on for some time. And CNN has learned that, barring some unforeseen change, the three Republicans he's talking to as we speak in there are not going to be supportive of this, at least not yet. We're talking about three Republicans, Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Olympia Snowe of the state of Maine.

Now, Senate Republican sources close to all of these senators say that they simply still have concerns, concerns ranging from the cost of the plan, to affordability, to concerns about prohibiting illegal immigrants from being involved in this and so forth.

So, those are the reasons why they are not signing on to this right now. They emphasize, though, Wolf, they are not walking away. They are going to continue to negotiate. They will offer some amendments when the vote starts next week, but right now, as of tomorrow, we're going to see Senator Max Baucus unveil his proposal, and it's going to happen without this Republican support.

BLITZER: So, one major headache for the Democrats and for the president over at the White House, who would like to see some bipartisanship. It doesn't look like it's happening in the House or the Senate now.

But there's been a significant development involving a key Democrat in the Senate as well, Dana.

BASH: That's right. A Democratic senator on this Finance Committee, Jay Rockefeller, he told our Ted Barrett that he simply cannot support this proposal that we're going to see tomorrow. And the reason, he says, is because it will have an idea for nonprofit cooperatives instead of what many Democrats want, which is a government-run health care option.

And he was pretty blunt in the fact that believes the Senate Finance chairman has compromised too much.


SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: It's not about what's the best plan. It's how can I get at least a Republican vote, or two Republican votes, which is not the way you go at a serious public health policy.


BASH: Now, most of the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee we talked to, and we talked to many of them today, they say they're going to probably bite the bullet and go for something without a public option.

But just hearing from Senator Rockefeller, Wolf, it just shows that there still is a Democratic divide to bridge, never mind trying to get support from these Republicans.

BLITZER: Good point. Dana, thanks very much. Getting protected against the swine flu, we have some new important information about the new H1N1 vaccine and the latest on when you may be able to get it.

Plus, Democratic lawmakers sound concerned as public opinion drops for the war in Afghanistan. What exactly are the goals for that war? We're taking a closer look at that and more.

Plus, runaway bus on fire. We're going to tell you what happened to the people who were inside.



BLITZER: A twist to a disturbing crime case that involves the man accused of kidnapping and keeping a girl for 18 years. Is he connected to the kidnapping of two other girls? You're going to see what the police did today.

And a Republican says it's a matter of life and death playing out on Capitol Hill, debates over whether or not to send more troops to the war in Afghanistan.

And Prince Harry gets a very costly birthday gift. It comes with a very big reminder of the loss he and his brother, Prince William, endured.


BLITZER: In news around the world, here are some stories we're watching right now.

In Moscow, Russia's President, Dmitri Medvedev, accusing the United States of blocking his country's long-running bid to join the World Trade Organization. Russia has been negotiating joining the WTO since 1993. Its entry has been held up by various issues, including disagreements over enforcement of copyright laws and meat exports.

In Hidalgo, Mexico, dozens of police officers and state officials were arrested on suspicion of links to a ruthless drug cartel. Mexican officials say Hidalgo's state security chief is among the 124 people taken into custody. A U.S. DEA official says the cartel they're believed to work for is the number-one organization for homicides, kidnappings and extortions in Mexico.

In China, an out-of-control bus rolled down a highway on fire. An amateur cameraman caught it all. There was nobody on board at the time, as everyone had managed to get off safely. A policeman was slightly injured when he tried to use his patrol car to stop the bus.

In London, Prince Harry celebrates his birthday by becoming a multimillion. His mother Diana's fortune was split equally between him and older brother, William. According to a former royal aide, the fortune amounts to more than $10 million each. Harry will have access to any interest earned on the money. Buckingham Palace wouldn't confirm the figure. The prince spent his big day doing pilot training in the Royal Air Force.

It was supposed to be a hearing on confirming the Joint Chiefs chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, to a second term, but the war in Afghanistan was certainly topic number one in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the depth of division is startling.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is joining us now with more.

Jill, what happened?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's true, President Obama's Afghan strategy is facing a lot of really major problems. You have an aggressive insurgency, political crisis in the Afghan government, dwindling support among NATO allies, and that division here at home over whether to commit more troops.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): The national debate over how not to lose in Afghanistan plays out on Capitol Hill. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs says more U.S. troops.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces.

DOUGHERTY: A leading Republican claims it's a matter of life or death.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Every day we delay in implementing this strategy and increasing the number of troops there, which we all know is vitally needed, puts more and more young Americans who are already there lives in danger.

DOUGHERTY: But the powerful Democratic chair of the committee wants to beef up the Afghan army and police first.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I believe these steps should be urgently implemented before we consider a further increase in U.S. ground combat troops.

DOUGHERTY: The commanding general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, is expected to ask President Barack Obama for more troops, part of his assessment of what's needed militarily to push back the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Aides to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tell CNN she is open to the idea of putting in more troops, but only after the plan to win is more clearly defined.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are in the midst of reviewing the strategy and the status of our efforts in Afghanistan. That will continue for some time.


DOUGHERTY: Admiral Mullen says that General McChrystal will make his troop request to President Obama very soon.

And, meanwhile, on the ground in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says that U.S. troops don't have enough men or equipment to protect themselves against roadside bombs. And the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, is preparing to send more forces to provide that protection -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dramatic stuff, indeed.

Thanks, Jill.

Public support for the war, by the way, are -- by the way, is sliding. Take a look at the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. Only 39 percent of those asked now favor the war. That's down from 42 percent last month, 50 percent in May and 53 percent in April. That's a steady deterioration.

Meanwhile, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is warning his colleagues against making any decision on more troops for Afghanistan until they see the actual recommendation from the U.S. military commanders.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Let's hear from McChrystal. Remember, his boss is Petraeus. We'll hear from both of them. And we'll hear from the commander-in-chief. Until then, I think we're better off just evaluating the proposals that we will get, not what we have now.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen, right now -- David, it looks like this support for the war is quickly fading and that's going to have a dramatic impact on politicians, as you know.


The -- the administration, especially commanders, did anticipate that the support for the war would go down at the end of the summer, because they were going to go on the offensive -- or the U.S. was going to go on the offensive. They knew we would take more casualties. But I don't think they anticipated it would go down this much -- this sharply. And they certainly didn't anticipate that the Karzai government would run an election that would be so widely seen as fraudulent.

And that means the window is closing on them very rapidly on Afghanistan, just when the president has to make some very critical decisions about troop levels.

BLITZER: You've been speaking with people here in Washington today. And this -- are there signs that the offensive, specifically against Al Qaeda right now, is actually working? GERGEN: That's the interesting thing, Wolf. The other interesting strand which we have not been talking about much in the press, is that, in conversations today with the administration, including the White House, there are those on the national security side who say -- who are saying, look, we're actually making much more -- the real objective here in Afghanistan is to get Al Qaeda so it doesn't -- it can't get us and that we're making much more progress against the top operatives.

You know, we've hit -- we've taken out the Number 18 top operative, the Number Nine top operative. We've been hitting them in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia. And it's even related to this bust up here in -- just outside -- in Queens, New York. Much more cooperation between Homeland Security and federal and state -- state and local officials.

So they're in -- encouraged about that. And the question that's being raised in some circles of the administration is do we really have to go to the big troop increase?

Could we do this by going after Al Qaeda more aggressively?

Could we -- could we achieve many of the same ends?

And that -- the -- the president would like to know the answer to that question, as would others. I don't think they've resolved it. But it's interesting the questions coming out.

BLITZER: It's a fascinating question.

David, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And this important programming note for our viewers. I'll be speaking with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, on Thursday. You're going to see this exclusive interview right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lots at stake, indeed.

There are cases dating back decades -- will a new service of this house of horrors reveal any new clues?

We're following new developments in the case of Jaycee Dugard's 18 year kidnapping ordeal.

And it's like "The Da Vinci Code," only this thriller takes place right here in Washington, D.C.

What secrets does the author, Dan Brown, say are hidden in the city's landmarks?

And President Obama's reaction to Kanye West's MTV surprise -- he didn't mean for you to hear it, but we're going to play the audio for you. It's out there. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Police investigating the disappearance as -- disappearances, I should say, of two girls 20 or more years ago are now poring over the Northern California home of Phillip Garrido. He's the man accused of kidnapping 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years.

CNN's Dan Simon is joining us now from the scene.

He's got the latest in this very, very bizarre case.

What are the cops looking for -- Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, when this case first broke late last month, police said they were going to look at Phillip and Nancy Garrido as possible suspects in other high profile crimes in this area, including other kidnappings. Well, today, police are back out at the house looking for possible evidence that might tie the Garridos to two high profile kidnappings in this case. As you said, they took place about 20 years ago.

The first case involving Ilene Misheloff. She was 13 years old when she disappeared while walking home from school. The other case, Michaela Garecht, who was nine years old when she was abducted outside of a supermarket in 1988. That particular case has gotten a lot of attention for a couple of reasons. First of all, police say that Garrett looks similar in appearance to Jaycee Dugard. They looked similar at the time -- about the same age, both having blond hair and blue eyes.

Police also say that the composite sketch of the suspect in that case bears a striking resemblance to Phillip Garrido back when that crime occurred.

I want you to listen now to what police said a bit earlier today.


LT. CHRIS ORREY, HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA POLICE: On August 27th, along with the rest of the world, we learned about the break in the Jaycee Dugard abduction. As we learned more about that case, we saw more and more similarities to our own abduction in 1988. The similarities included the physical appearance in ages of the victims the manner of the abduction, in that they were taken in a very brazen manner in broad daylight in a public place.


SIMON: Authorities say they're going to be here at the house for at least the rest of the week, looking for possible evidence. They have brought in some specialized equipment to look beneath the soil, which, Wolf, would suggest that they're looking for bodies.

BLITZER: Very gruesome stuff.

All right, thanks very much for that, Dan.

The man who brought you "The Da Vinci Code" has a controversial new book out. This time, he writes about the secretive Freemasons.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is over in a Washington location featured in one of the book's more shocking scenes -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the building in Northwest Washington that's the setting for the opening scene in Dan Brown's new book. It's the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern jurisdiction of the U.S. and we got a chance to take a look inside.


QUIJANO: (voice-over): This is the actual room and the ceremonially later where the startling ritual in the opening scene of Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol," takes place. A secret initiation ceremony inside a building that Freemasons of the Scottish Rite call the House of the Temple.

But grand historian Arturo de Hoyos says, in this case, truth is definitely more boring than fiction.

ARTURO DE HOYOS, GRAND HISTORIAN, SCOTTISH RITE FREEMASONRY: He has his candidate drinking wine out of a human skull.

QUIJANO: (on camera): That doesn't take place here?

DE HOYOS: I've never seen it.

QUIJANO: Any wine drinking at all?

DE HOYOS: Not that I'm familiar with.

QUIJANO: (voice-over): De Hoyos says this is a formal meeting room where ceremonies do take place. But he explains Freemasonry is not a secret, sinister society.

DE HOYOS: Freemasonry is simply the world's oldest and largest fraternity.

QUIJANO: After all, George Washington, the most famous Freemason, was wearing the ceremonial apron when laying the cornerstone of the Capitol.

Still, in a town where conspiracy theories flourish, even the book's arrival was shrouded in some mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty serious stuff. State secrets.

QUIJANO: Washington's Tourism Bureau is fully embracing the novel and all the attention, even partnering with the publisher to market the book and city with this video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Discover powerful connections as a D.C. insider. Plan your trip to the nation's capital at (END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Elliott Ferguson is president of Destination DC.

ELLIOT FERGUSON, DESTINATION D.C.: I think the book exposes its readers to a different perspective of Washington, D.C. Going into the -- into the neighborhoods itself; also, exposing them to the U.S. Botanical Gardens and the Temple on 16th Street.

QUIJANO: As for the Scottish Rite, Arturo De Hoyos is still reading the novel, but says so far, no harm, no foul.

DE HOYOS: As long as people understand that it's a work of fiction, I think everybody will enjoy it.

QUIJANO: (on camera): As for tourism, a local trolley company is now considering a special tour based on the book. And officials here at the Masonic Temple, which gets thousands of visitors each year, say they wouldn't be surprised if the number of tourists jumped now that the book is out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I wouldn't be surprised, either.

Thanks, Elaine.

Let's bring in our own Abbi Tatton right now -- Abbi, what other D.C. Landmarks does Dan Brown discuss in this new book?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is going to have us all looking at these different D.C. buildings a little bit differently, doing a bit of a double take, because this is a Washington of secret codes and hidden messages. And Dan Brown takes us all around.

It starts in the U.S. Capitol -- or actually right underneath it, a hidden room that's been unlocked for decades with secrets that sets them on this journey all around the city.

Without giving too much away, a couple of hidden corridors later and they're at the Library of Congress. Then they're going to move up to Northwest to Freedom Plaza. And this is going to have tourists visiting Washington looking under their feet, because this map -- the original plane from Lan Franc (ph) is mentioned in the book.

The National Cathedral is in there, the U.S. Botanical Gardens are in there; the Washington Monument, the top and the bottom of it. I don't want to reveal too much at this point, but I think this is all going to have us searching for hidden passageways and secret staircases, maybe even under CNN -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Maybe it has a scene in THE SITUATION ROOM for all I know.

All right. Thanks very much for that.

Town hall potty talk -- CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look at the health care reform debate -- has it hit a new level?

Plus, President Obama -- he's heading to late night TV and we have the details.


BLITZER: A special guest in THE SITUATION ROOM today. That would be Lou Dobbs. He's here to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Welcome to Washington -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, thank you very much, Wolf.

And it's a delight to be here.

Coming up at the top of the hour, we're going to have the latest on the president's doubling down on health care reform efforts. He says he has lots of fight left in him. Unfortunately for him, so do his opponents and critics. And unfortunately for him, the polls show precisely that and a further erosion.

Also tonight, Congressman Joe Wilson formally reprimanded by Congress, as you know, for calling the president a liar. Congressman Wilson is defiant. He refuses to offer up another apology. And we're going to be telling you what the House of Representatives will permit in the way of language in its august venue.

And, also, we'll be telling you about the tragic story of another kid brutally beaten on a school bus while others were cheering on his assailant. We'll have that for you.

And ACORN remains under fire. That question tonight is, why is the federal government not investigating ACORN and demanding a full accounting from the activist left-wing organization?

All of that coming up at the top of the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good to have you in Washington, Lou.

DOBBS: Great to be with you, partner.

BLITZER: Always a pleasure.

Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's in New York.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, do celebrities behaving badly tell us something about the rest of us? Nikki writes from Winston-Salem, North Carolina: "Yes. It shows that as a society, unruly behavior is OK. Gone are the days where our parents taught us manners. Now, everybody wants to act like a jackass just to get their 15 minutes of fame on YouTube."

Lee writes: "I never thought I'd see the day when we could draw ethical parallels between rap stars and a U.S. congressman. It appears the difference between the two is that a rap star, Kanye West, can give an apology in earnest, while Congressman Wilson's unyielding arrogance prevents him from doing so. Wow!"

Linda in Laguna Niguel, California: "Yes, we're losing the underpinnings of decorum, civility and common courtesy in this country. In essence, we are becoming less civilized. It's pervasive and scary."

Steve writes from Butte, Montana: "Kanye West just proved what a jerk he really is. He did nothing but steal this girl's limelight. What a racist punk."

Mike writes: "Of course it tells us something about ourselves. In each of these cases, we have, through our dollars or votes, supported the infrastructure that puts these people in the position they're in. Refuse to buy Kanye West for a year. See how his actions change. Don't buy Serena or Federer endorsed gear for a year. Don't vote for Pete Stark. It's that easy. Yet as a society, we continue to support them."

N. writes: "Society as a whole is swiftly sliding downhill. At the same time, there are just so many more cameras around, mikes are more sensitive and a sound bite can travel the world within seconds of being uttered."

And Joan writes: "You keep asking questions like this, I'll take this blankety blank mouse and shove it down your blankety blank throat."

If you didn't...


CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here -- calm down, Joan -- can go to my blog at

I'm going to go home and read your Tweets.

BLITZER: When are you going to start Tweeting -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Somebody told me I'm on the Twitter -- I have like a Twitter page. But I don't know anything about it. I think it's something CNN started.

BLITZER: I think pro -- protectively, they're getting it ready. When you make the big decision to do what I have now done, start Tweeting on Twitter.

CAFFERTY: Well, do me a favor and tell management to hold their collective breath, will you?

BLITZER: Let me tell them right now they can hold their collective breath.


BLITZER: All right. If people want to read what I'm Tweeting, they can go to -- all one word -- wolfblitzercnn.

CAFFERTY: The -- the names are just wonderful, Twitter and Tweeting.

BLITZER: I know.

CAFFERTY: It's just horrible.

BLITZER: But you know what, millions of people.


That's what it is.

BLITZER: It is what it is.

CAFFERTY: Technology.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

CAFFERTY: See you tomorrow.

BLITZER: On our Political Ticker right now, a massive infusion of GOP cash into the Virginia governor's race. The Republican National Committee says it's spending more than $7 million on the campaign, including $400,000 given directly to the candidate, Bob McDonnell, and $2 million already handed over to the state GOP Victory Committee. That leaves Virginia Republicans with roughly $5 million to spend, with only under 50 days left in this race.

Bill Clinton is weighing in on the California gubernatorial contest. An aide tells CNN that the former president will endorse the San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, over the attorney general, Jerry Brown. Brown was among the Democratic hopefuls that Clinton beat out for the party's 1992 presidential nomination. Newsom campaigned extensively for Hilary Clinton during her presidential bid.

A special Senate honor for members of a beloved political clan. The historic Senate Caucus Room is now known as the Kennedy Caucus Room. The name change honors the only three brothers ever to individually serve in the U.S. Senate -- John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and, of course, most recently, Ted Kennedy. Senators perform important work in the room and it's the actual room -- place where John and Robert announced their presidential bids.

And late night with President Obama -- the White House confirms the president will appear on "The Late Show with David Letterman." That will air Monday night.

Remember, for all the latest news anytime, you can always check out

Constituents have been feisty over health care this summer, to say the least. But a town hall meeting in California sank to some new lows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Coxburn (ph), don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.


BLITZER: Wait until you hear what the congressman's retort was. CNN's Jeanne Moos is ahead with a Moost Unusual look at the lagging decorum at the nation's Tea Parties and more.

An investors expresses himself on the Stock Exchange -- just one image coming up in our Hot Shots.


BLITZER: Here's some other news we're following.

It might not be the most common defense weapon, but a Johns Hopkins student used a samurai sword to fend off an alleged burglar this morning in Baltimore. Police say the student killed the man after discovering him in his garage. Police did not release the name of the suspect, who had a long criminal history, or the name of the student.

Nine American employees -- American Airlines employees are among those arrested today on suspicion of aiding a smuggling ring that shipped cocaine from Puerto Rico's main airport to the United States mainland. The DEA says 22 people have been arrested. American Airlines say it's working closely with law enforcement authorities to aid the investigation.

It was off the record, but posted on Twitter -- President Obama calling Kanye West a jackass -- quote, "jackass" -- for his outburst during singer Taylor Swift's speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. We now have the audio recording.

Let's bring in our Internet correspondent, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, tell us how this got out and -- and play the audio for us.

TATTON: Wolf, it was off the record, mistakenly posted to Twitter by ABC News, taken down. But it was already out there and so it was probably just a matter of time until it got onto TMZ.

Take a listen.

Were your girls as hacked off as mine were that Kanye gave Taylor Swift the Joe Wilson treatment?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought that was really inappropriate, you know? I mean it's like she's getting an award, what are you -- what are you butting in there?

I -- I hear you. I agree with you. I would -- I hope...


QUESTION: So does that count as the first question?

OBAMA: That...



OBAMA: The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person. She's getting her award.

What's he doing up there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, why would he do that?

OBAMA: He's a jackass.


TATTON: Wolf, if you listen -- listen on to that a bit, you can hear the president starts getting a little bit worried that that audio might get out there. It did. But he can -- he can be sure that people on Twitter are kind of happy that it happened. He has got all sorts of people saying the president now has my vote, "Hail to the Chief" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I -- I think a lot of people are going to agree with the president, there's no doubt about that.

All right. Thanks very much.

They may have been boisterous, but this summer's town hall meetings on health care reform have at least had a little decorum. But not so much at one unusual meeting in California, where the exchange got -- shall we say -- nasty.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If this health care gets passed...

JEANNE Congressman Stark, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Normally, the folks going to town...


Congressman Stark: the town halls have been the citizens.


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: You're welcome to go. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute.


Congressman Stark: And when push comes to shove, it's been the politicians begging for better manners.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I don't understand this rudeness.

What is this?


Congressman Stark: But now, the alleged rudeness is on the other foot -- make that leg, though you can't say Democratic Congressman Pete Stark of California wasn't provoked at the feisty meeting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you lying then or are you lying now?


Congressman Stark: The pow was added by the self-described conservative Tea Partier who put the tape on YouTube. But there were no punches, just punch lines. An irate gentleman had been lecturing the congressman.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mucked up everything you got your hands on (INAUDIBLE).


Congressman Stark: The man ended his remarks with this zinger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Congressman, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.


Congressman Stark: To which Congressman Stark replied.


REP. PETE STARK (D), CALIFORNIA: And I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg. I know it wouldn't be worth wasting the urine but...


Congressman Stark (on camera): These town hall meetings really are getting sort of hissy.

(voice-over): Even dogs don't like going on their own legs and will go to great lengths to avoid it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a peeing dog right there, you all.


Congressman Stark (voice-over): Though dogs don't seem to mind going on our legs, as liberal commentator Jeneane Garofalo discovered.


JEANEANE GAROFALO: I started doing the standup...


GAROFALO: Oh. Oh my god.


GAROFALO: He just peed on me.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what's his name?


Congressman Stark: And though these two flung bodily fluid insults...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.


Congressman Stark: least they didn't fling actual bodily fluids.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And look (INAUDIBLE) where it's facing the urine.


Congressman Stark: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Ouch, indeed. Pretty rough stuff.

I just want to remind you, as of today, I'm on Twitter. If you want to follow my Tweets, here's what you do. You go to Wolfblitzercnn all one word. I'll take you inside THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.