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Lab Tech Charged in Yale Murder; Hofstra Rape Accuser Recants; Carter: Racist Attitude Against President; President Scraps Bush Missile Plan

Aired September 17, 2009 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, relief mixed with shock at Yale University as a school employees is arrested and charged with the brutal murder of graduate student Annie Le. We're live on the campus this hour.

Charges of racism at the heart of some of the most bitter attacks on President Obama. The Reverend Al Sharpton is here this hour.

Does he agree with the former president?

An exclusive interview with Vice President Joe Biden -- why he's optimistic Congress will pass a health care reform bill.

But will there be any, any Republican support?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

They were the same age. Each was engaged to be married. She was a promising Yale graduate student. He was a technician in the campus lab where she did her research. Now, Raymond Clark is charged with the murder of Annie Le. Police say DNA evidence links him to the crime scene and he's being held on $3 million bail.

CNN's Mary Snow has been following this story from the beginning.

She's joining us now live from New Haven with more.

What are you hearing -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Raymond Clark is now behind bars. And while he has been the focus of a police investigation for several days now, it didn't lessen the shock in the Yale community that someone so close to them could now be charged in this horrific murder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: (voice-over): With his head bowed, ankles in shackles, 24-year-old Raymond Clark III was brought before a judge and charged with the strangling murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le. Their paths crossed at this Yale laboratory -- he a technician in charge of cleaning mice cages, she a Ph.D. student. And while New Haven's police chief declined to publicly reveal more details of the sealed arrest warrant, he did say there was no romantic relationship.

CHIEF JAMES LEWIS, NEW HAVEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is not about urban crime. It's not about university crime. It's not about domestic crime, but an issue of workplace violence, which has become a growing concern around the country.

SNOW: Forensic evidence, surveillance video and more than 150 interviews with people led to the arrest, said the chief. The FBI's polygraph unit and its behavioral analysis unit out of Quantico was brought in. Yale says there was nothing in Clark's five years working at the university that raised red flags and the university's president moved to assure people the campus was safe.

RICHARD LEVIN, PRESIDENT, YALE UNIVERSITY: It says more about the dark side of the human soul than it does about anything else.

SNOW: New Haven's police chief wouldn't comment on a report in the "Hartford Current" that investigators traced Clark and Le's movements through computerized swipe cards inside the lab. Le's body was found Sunday hidden behind a wall. The discovery came five days after she disappeared and it came on the day she was to have been married.

(on camera): This is the building where Annie Le was murdered. It's been reopened after being sealed off for several days as a crime scene and news of the arrest brought some relief.

SEKKUNA THIM: I think that her family could have some closure and that the healing process could begin.

MADDY STOHL, YALE SOPHOMORE: And a lot of people feel a lot better, because now at least there's been some closure made toward having it a little bit more safer on campus. But otherwise, it's still a little unsettling.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: And, Wolf, at his court appearance today, Clark was not required to enter a plea. He's being held on $3 million bond. We did reach out to public defenders who were with him in court, but we have not gotten a response -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Mary Snow in New Haven.

Let's get to another stunning case right now -- an about-face in an alleged rape scandal that shocked Hofstra University. We reported on this story yesterday. But now an 18-year-old student who accused several men of gang raping her is admitting she made it up.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is following developments for us -- Deborah, the accuser now could face charges of her own.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. That's what prosecutors are now trying to determine. They have not released her name, but describe her as a troubled young woman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: (voice-over): Falsely accused of raping an 18-year- old college student, four young men were set free and charges dropped hours after their accuser changed her story about being forcibly tied up and sexually assaulted in a dormitory bathroom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY NEWSDAY/MCT/LANDOV)

KATHLEEN RICE, NASSAU COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The young woman admitted that each of the encounters with the men were consensual.

FEYERICK: (voice-over): Twenty-year-old Kevin Taveras and his stepbrother, 19-year-old Stalin Felipe, in red, say they had never been to jail before and never plan to go back.

KEVIN TAVERAS, FALSELY ACCUSED: We didn't do it. We were there thinking that we were going to do a long bid, 25 years.

And I'm not even that old, you know. It's -- it was just a scary, a scary place.

STALIN FELIPE, FALSELY ACCUSED: The things that they said with the rope, come on. Like, that's disgusting. And that's what we were looked at, as disgusting men. And that's just not a good name to have.

FEYERICK: Prosecutors say the woman recanted soon after they told her the incident was recorded by cell phone.

RICE: When she was asked whether the videotape that we believed could be out there would corroborate her story, that was when she began to tell the truth.

FEYERICK: Only one of the four wrongly accused was a Hofstra student. He has been allowed to return to campus and resume classes. As for students on the Long Island, New York campus, there was a sense of relief and disbelief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It went from being just shocked that it happened in the first place to being even more shocked that it's been a big lie.

FEYERICK: Sexual crime experts say the big problem with false accusations is real victims may not step forward and those who do may have a harder time being believed.

JACLYN FRIEDMAN, EDITOR, "YES MEANS YES": This young woman has already gotten 20 times more attention than most rape victims on campuses.

(END VIDEO TAPE) FEYERICK: Now, prosecutors say it does not appear the young woman had been drinking. And while they don't know what motivated her to lie, she called police after returning to her dorm and speaking to her boyfriend. She has been suspended pending university hearings. The four men plan to sue the woman, their lawyers saying, "morality aside, there was no criminal activity." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story that is.

All right, Deb Feyerick, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Homeland security ought to be embarrassed by the way it's spending the stimulus money, with the administration even coming under fire from fellow Democrats now on this. It turns out they're not following their own internal priority lists when deciding which border checkpoints get money for renovations. Instead, they're using a secretive process potentially influenced by politics.

What do you mean potentially?

Just like President Obama promised us during the campaign, right -- openness, transparency, all that.

This translates to spending millions of dollars at tiny checkpoints -- border crossings -- and skipping over busier, high priority areas.

Here's an example. A $15 million project in White Tail, Montana on the border, where three people cross per day -- three. This is insane.

President Obama continues to promise transparency when it comes to the spending of economic stimulus dollars. But this is far from the openness the American people were promised and deserve. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota says the Department of Homeland Security is treating the stimulus plan like "a bottomless pit of taxpayer money" and that with the country deep in debt, "This is not a smart investment."

Now, of course, since all of this came out, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is promising not to start any new border construction projects and review how the projects were chosen. She says once the review is done, she will make, "all information not involving national security concerns public." Well, it's kind of late for that and here's why. Even if she releases some information, it won't change much because the Department has already signed many of the construction contracts, like the $15 million one in Montana. Napolitano should be fired.

Here's the question -- what does it say about transparency when Homeland Security has secretly approved $15 million for a border checkpoint where exactly three people a day cross -- and the border is with Canada?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good -- good work, Jack.

Thanks very much.

And to our viewers, by the way, we have another way for you to follow what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm now on Twitter. You can get my Tweets at Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn -- wolfblitzercnn all one word.

President Obama tosses out the Bush plan for a missile defense system in Europe for his own plan.

Is it any better?

We have a reality check coming up.

Also, a high profile shopper drops into the newest farmers market here in the nation's capital. That would be the first lady, Michelle Obama. And the former president, Jimmy Carter, sparks an uproar by alleging what he calls a racist attitude against President Obama. Al Sharpton is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be talking about that and a lot more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As you know by now, former President Jimmy Carter certainly made headlines, suggesting that some of the most bitter criticism of President Obama stems from racism. And now he's expanding on that, talking at length about what he calls a racist attitude driving attacks against the president.

Let's talk about that and more with the Reverend Al Sharpton. He's the founder and president of the National Action Network.

Reverend Sharpton, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: He went further at Emory University last night than he did earlier in that interview with NBC News.

Listen to what he said. Among other things, he said policy disputes are fine, but there's a difference between policy disputes and this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SEPTEMBER 16, 2009)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States of America as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolph Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that say we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kind of things are beyond the bounds of the way presidents have ever been accepted, even with people who disagree.

And I think people that are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African-American. It's a racist attitude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with Jimmy Carter?

SHARPTON: I think that when he said that there's a fringe group out there that has been hateful, there's no question about that. I think, though, we've got to be very careful that we not project that we are saying that everyone that criticizes the president is a racist. That's just not true, any more than it's untrue to say that everyone that is criticizing him is not a racist. I think there is a distinct minority that may have this feeling.

BLITZER: But would you say it's a tiny fringe element?

SHARPTON: I mean, I think it's not a majority. I think there are people that have some policy differences. They ought to be respected and regarded.

I think the worst thing that can happen is that we reduce the health care fight to a black/white issue. It is not that at all. There are millions of Americans -- white, black, Asian, Latino -- that have no insurance or that are underinsured. And I think we play into some of the hands of the right-wing that has been blocking this if we can make this a black/white issue. This is not about black and white, this is about insuring Americans.

BLITZER: Well, I think you agree, then, with Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party.

Listen to what he said to me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: When you go down this road and you start just willy-nilly, as I believe President Carter has, throwing race out there, you diminish real instances of race that -- racism that needs to be addressed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, I think that the problem is that I don't know of any incident of racism that the Republican Party wants to address. I think that you have to give President Carter credit for raising the issue as a white Southerner. I think he said it was a small fringe group. I think the press has blown it way up beyond where he said it. And I think the problems with the Republicans is that they say, well, you can't minimize when there is a racist incident. And I would say to them, well, tell me when is the last time the Republican Party called anything racial.

BLITZER: You don't think that Michael Steele, the first African- American to lead the Republican Party, wants to deal with racism?

SHARPTON: No. I -- I didn't say that. I said that he and his party has not dealt with it. Whether he wants to or not -- I mean I could say some of the attacks that Republicans launched against Steele could be interpreted as racist, though I wouldn't say that the majority of them were. Maybe it was a minority. Steele himself, I think, has been depicted in some ways...

BLITZER: Because Steele says he wants to go out and recruit and bring in more African-Americans and Latinos, into the Republican Party. He knows he has a tough mission ahead of him.

SHARPTON: Well, I think the way you recruit any group is to deal with the interests of their group. And I think the problem the Republicans have in recruiting blacks is the problems they are having with recruiting Americans, period. They are not talking about health care for everyone. They are not talking about dealing with educational equality. They are not talking about an economic recovery that does not give tremendous tax breaks to the wealthy. So their problems with blacks are their problems with Americans.

BLITZER: Will you support President Obama's health care initiative if he abandons what's called the public option -- government run-insurance -- an insurance company that would compete with the private sector?

SHARPTON: I support public option. I think we need public option.

BLITZER: If he abandons it, will you support him?

SHARPTON: I support it. I think that if he abandons it and we have a bill that is the best bill we could get, I would support it because we have no bill.

BLITZER: So something is better than nothing?

SHARPTON: I think something is better than nothing, but we need to fight as hard as we can to keep as much in there, including public options, that we can. But let's remember, there are people suffering. This is real on the ground stuff. And I don't think we can afford to be hopelessly inflexible. But we've got to fight for all that we can get.

BLITZER: You're here in Washington to promote -- and I'm not misspeaking right now -- the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich.

Is that right?

SHARPTON: No. I'm here to join -- he and Secretary Duncan and I are going to go on an education tour.

BLITZER: But tonight.

What are you going do with him?

SHARPTON: Tonight he's showing a film and I've come to (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: So you're here to promote...

SHARPTON: No, well...

BLITZER: You're here to promote that film?

SHARPTON: No, well, you asked me about it. I came to it to anymore than when he came to my video he wasn't promoting me.

But we're going on a tour. We're going to do five cities that came out as a result of our meeting with President Obama. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett had brought this unusual trio together. And we're going on the road to talk about the need to go across party lines and deal with the question of education. This is the kind of unified this president has been, which is why I don't want us to get sidetracked.

In fact, we just agreed today we're also going to go to Alabama together, where a lot of the civil rights battles were...

BLITZER: The three of you?

SHARPTON: The three of us, because we're showing America, if you can bring a Newt Gingrich and an Al Sharpton together to say we've got to do something about the quality of education, maybe they'll get it.

So I think that one of the dramatic ways of doing things is not only to confront when we disagree, but to cooperate where we agree.

BLITZER: Do you think he's going to run for the Republican presidential nomination?

SHARPTON: That's where we will have to confront him if he does.

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: He and I will be talking about that on the road, I'm sure.

BLITZER: I'm sure you'll have a good discussion.

SHARPTON: I -- I'm sure. But right now, let's save American education together.

BLITZER: The three amigos heading out to promote education.

Good luck.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: We know how her garden grows. Now, the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, is checking out the fruit and vegetables of other gardeners.

We're going to catch up with her at Washington's newest farmers market.

And the House made famous in Ferris Bueller's day off -- an architectural landmark now in danger of being torn down.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

BALDWIN: Wolf, we want to first take you to Germany for this story. An 18-year-old student armed with knives, Molotov cocktails and an ax stormed into a high school today in the town of Anspach. Now, even though fire bombs were thrown in a classroom and several students did suffer severe head wounds, none of the approximately 700 students in that school was killed. Police did shoot the student five times before arresting him. That student, though, is expected to recover.

And how about this -- Michael Jackson's three children -- they're getting by on a mere $60,000 a month. That is according to court records released today. His mother, Katherine Jackson, you know. She's the children's guardian. She is getting an additional stipend of almost $27,000 a month. The grand total of $315,000 going every year to pay for housekeepers, drivers, assistants, other staff members and $160,000 set aside for just entertainment.

That's one for you to Tweet about.

All right, you think you're tall, check out this guy. Look at the picture. Look at -- look at how tall he is. That is the tallest man in the world. Look at his hand, it's like the size of my head. According to the World -- "The Guinness Book of World Records," Sultan Kosen is his name. He's from Turkey. He is eight feet, one inch tall. However, the Associated Press is reporting that a Ukrainian man may actually be taller, but he doesn't want to be measured because he says he's sick of all the publicity.

But how about this?

Kosen here, on the other hand, he wants to be on TV, he wants all this publicity because, apparently, he's looking for love -- Wolf, he wants a girlfriend, so -- I'm 5'9" and I don't even know where I'd come up to him...

BLITZER: No.

BALDWIN: Maybe like his waist.

Who knows?

That's tall.

BLITZER: And you're tall.

BALDWIN: I am.

BLITZER: I know. He's a tall, tall guy.

Good luck in his search for a little...

BALDWIN: Yes.

BLITZER: ...a little girlfriend.

Thanks very much.

A CNN exclusive coming up -- one-on-one with the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. He's warning about the fate of the middle class in America if health care reform doesn't pass -- why he says its failure could doom the economic recovery.

And the Obama White House shelves part of former President Bush's missile defense plan in Europe.

So what's left and is America secure?

We're taking a closer look.

And an Al Qaeda terror probe stretches from New York to Colorado. The man at the center of the investigation says he's innocent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the FBI wants to know if Al Qaeda is plotting its acts in the United States on a scale not seen since 9/11.

Does a man at the center of the probe hold the answer?

We have the latest on the investigation's new turn. Stand by.

More of my exclusive interview with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. I'm asking him if it's time for the U.S. to get its troops out of country or time for more U.S. troops to head in.

And it seems like everyone has something to say about Kanye West dissing Taylor Swift, even the former president, Jimmy Carter -- why he says that West got -- Kanye West got what he deserved courtesy of Jay Leno.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama is scrapping Bush administration plans for a controversial missile defense shield in Europe -- one that Russia vehemently opposed. The president now says new intelligence calls for a new design that can tackle the most imminent threat -- short and medium range missiles from Iran.

CNN's Brian Todd has been talking to experts about all of this -- Brian, what are you hearing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Obama team says this tactical shift had nothing to do with Russia's concerns, only that the missile threat from Iran had changed and they're adapting to it.

So we asked an expert about the new threat and the new plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: (voice-over): The top brass insists America is not scrapping missile defense in Europe. Instead, they say, the new plan would give them more flexible defenses sooner against what they say is the biggest threat from Iran right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DEFENSE DEPARTMENT)

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The threat from Iran's short and medium range ballistic missiles, such as the Shahab-3, is developing more rapidly than previously projected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: We mapped out the Iranian missile threat and the first phase of the Obama team's new plan to counter it with weapons expert, John Pike of the analysis firm, GlobalSecurity.org.

(on camera): Iran currently has the Shahab missiles, which can reach Israel, it can reach U.S. bases in the Middle East. The Ashura missile, under development, could conceivably go into Eastern Europe in the not too distant future.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: That's right.

TODD: The current plan, by 2011, the U.S. wants to have long- range-3 interceptors on aegis Cruisers in the Eastern Mediterranean, possibly in the Black Sea...

PIKE: Right.

TODD: -- and possibly in the North Sea, way up there...

PIKE: Right.

TODD: -- with transportable radars in and around Turkey.

PIKE: Right.

TODD: Is that going to be enough to stop these Shahab and Ashura missiles?

PIKE: It depends on how many of these ships are deployed. If there are only a few ships, the problem is that the missile might be able to fly between the ships, that they can't fire the interceptors very far side to side and that the Iranian missiles would just fly between them.

TODD: (voice-over): U.S. military officials say between now and 2011, they only plan to send three Aegis cruisers with those interceptors to patrol the seas at a time, but could add more. And, they say, right now there are Patriot missile batteries to fill some gaps and they'll later have land-based interceptors.

How does it compare to the now scrap heaped Bush missile defense plan that would have been deployed later in the decade?

(on camera): Under the old Bush plan, you'd have fixed, much bigger interceptors in Poland; you'd have radar systems in the Czech Republic.

Is that as effective, less effective than the Obama plan in countering these missiles?

PIKE: They're completely different threats. The Bush plan was to deal with long-range missiles aimed at the United States. The Obama plan was to deal with medium range missiles that might be able to hit Western Europe.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Now that's a threat the U.S. now takes much more seriously than Iran's long-range threat. We're going to show it to you here -- ballistic missiles possibly capable of hitting America. U.S. officials say Iran's capabilities there are moving much more slowly than they expected -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, do they have an estimate when Iran would have a long-range missile?

TODD: Well, John Pike says that he believes Iran is going to have a long-range missile in place and ready to deeply before 2020. That's actually about the time that the Obama team's plans under the current plan will -- will deploy their capability to stop that Iranian threat, also. So that -- that's a concern right there.

Also, John Pikes says that SM-3 that they're using to shoot down these missiles may not be the right interceptor. He thinks that they need a much bigger missile to shoot down Iran's long-range missiles.

BLITZER: All right. Lots at stake here. Brian, thanks very much for that.

We're going to get exclusive in-depth reaction from Russia this Sunday. CNN's Fareed Zakaria is there. He's speaking with the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev on the tense state of relations between Moscow and Washington.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. The worldwide leader in news.

A military build-up by Venezuela has Washington worried about the potential for an arms race in this region. Add to that Hugo Chavez's deepening relationship with Iran.

CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty has been looking into this for us.

Jill, what are officials saying about ties between these two countries?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, to put it poetically, Wolf, Iran and Venezuela, their relationship began blossoming four years ago. And now U.S. officials say it's a full- blown romance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Joined in what they themselves call an axis of unity against the United States.

LARRY BURNS, DIR., COUNCIL ON HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS: They had a common ingredient which was they were outsiders in the world diplomatic system.

DOUGHERTY: This burgeoning relationship is making Washington nervous. Senior administration and intelligence officials tell CNN it goes beyond rhetoric. They point to a web of relations across the board between Iran and Venezuela. Military, diplomatic, financial.

And they warn this friendship between two avowed enemies of the United States could create opportunities for terrorist activity against U.S. interests.

Ahmadinejad is a frequent visitor to Venezuela. And earlier this month in Tehran, Chavez boasted that Iran will help him build a nuclear village in Venezuela.

U.S. officials tell CNN they do not know the full extent of the two leaders' nuclear cooperation. But Venezuela does have uranium reserves. The raw material used in nuclear reactors and in nuclear bombs. And those officials find the possibility that Iran could mine that uranium troubling.

IAN KELLY, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We are following any kind of links between Venezuela and Iran very seriously.

DOUGHERTY: What's more, they say, the Venezuelan president is building up his military. Just this week, Russia gave him more than $2 billion worth of credits to buy arms and advanced weapons systems.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: They outpace all other countries in South America. And certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region.

DOUGHERTY: Venezuela is helping Iran to expand its presence in Latin America. And it's promising to sell Iran gasoline. Something that would help Tehran undermine potential international sanctions. The U.S. already has sanctioned an Iranian bank in Venezuela for trying to skirt existing sanctions.

Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau is building a case.

ROBERT MORGENTHAU, MORGENTHAU DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We suspect that Iran is now using Venezuelan banks to transfer money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: Venezuelan officials call those accusations baseless. They say their relations with Iran including arms purchases are transparent and in accordance with international law. And what's more, they say, Venezuela has the right to pursue relations with any country it wants. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much for that.

An exclusive interview with the Vice President Joe Biden. He has a very candid assessment of efforts to overhaul national health care in the United States.

Plus, terror raids in New York and Denver. And now the FBI is questioning an Afghan man at the center of both operations. The latest on a story raising new fears of a possible al Qaeda attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system are at a critical point right now. But the Vice President Joe Biden says he's confident Congress eventually will pass a bill.

The vice president has been in Iraq, and while there he sat down with our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, for an exclusive and wide ranging interview that included health care reform and allegations that some of the most bitter opposition is a result of racism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: While we've obviously been here in Iraq, the debate has been ongoing back in Washington over the health care bill.

Senator Max Baucus finally produced a health care bill, albeit one with not one Republican supporter. If -- what would it mean to you personally if health reform was ultimately passed with no Republican support?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you what it would mean if we don't pass health reform. It will mean that the ability of us to gain control of our financial house, our fiscal house, get that in order, is -- will be made close to impossible because of the exponential rise in the cost of health care. Number one.

Number two, it'll mean that a number of Americans, the vast number of Americans who now have health care who wonder or are secure in having that health care and are confident in their -- being able to retain that health care will be diminished. And it will mean that an awful lot of people who have access should have access to health care will be denied that probability of being able to get it.

So that would be a terrible, terrible outcome for the American people and, quite frankly, for our fiscal situation. I have not given up on the prospect.

Look, we've gone further -- I was a United States senator for 36 years. I got there when I was 29 years old. We have never been in a place where every major committee having jurisdiction over health care or any aspect of health care has either passed a bill out of their committee or laid down a bill.

I think that this is one of those cases where the reports of the demise of a health care compromise are premature. It's like George Mitchell's famous phrase about his negotiations with Ireland. He said we're 700 days of failure followed by one day of success. That's how the process works.

The process is intrigue. I'm confident before the end of the year we will get a health care bill that enhances the security of those who have it and also provides access for those who don't have it.

And how we get there, what Republicans are along remains to be seen. The president has incorporated some significant Republican ideas within his health care plan. As I understand it, while I've been away, Senator Baucus has incorporated significant portions of Republican suggestions.

Whether Republicans come along or not remains to be seen. But we will get a health care bill.

LAWRENCE: You know, former president Jimmy Carter has voiced some opinions of his that he feels some of these oppositions to President Obama is racially motivated. Do you believe that to be the case?

BIDEN: Neither the president or I believe that. We think, look, there is a very, very healthy debate. The way I phrase it to people when we talk about some of the issues that are generating these kinds of outbursts, I point out no matter who we had as president and no matter how strong the economy was, this would be an incredibly contentious fight on health care, regardless.

I mean, we could have an economy growing at 8 percent GDP. This is an incredibly controversial issue that has divided Republicans and Democrats and Democrats and Democrats and Republicans and Republicans since Harry Truman first proposed it.

So it is not surprising to me that emotions are running very high on something that has been talked about for generations. Two generations. And not accomplished. And we're coming very, very, very close to accomplishing it.

And it always -- as you approach the resolution of an incredibly controversial issue, ideologically, politically, and every other way, usually you found excesses grow from that. But the president does not believe, nor do I believe it's racially based.

LAWRENCE: Thank you for your time.

BIDEN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about this with our Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile and Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, former counselor of President Bush.

You agree with Joe Biden and President Obama -- they disagree with Jimmy Carter clearly that a lot of this criticism is race based?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, I think President Carter was trying to essentially tell the American people to tone it down. He wasn't smearing the -- all of the opponents of President Obama's policies. But he was trying to say that we can have a civil conversation without having all of these incendiary remarks made and these terrible signs.

And I think -- I know Jimmy Carter. He's a decent man. And he spent much of his life fighting for racial reconciliation. The last thing he would do was fan any racial animosity out there.

BLITZER: Ed?

ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think if that's what President Carter meant, that's what he should have said. I think this has been a very counterproductive thing for President Carter to say.

Look, people, as Vice President Biden said, feel strongly about their health care. It is an emotional, personal issue. This is a little different from, you know, bridges and stimulus and things. This is, you know, my children's care and my doctor's relationship. So emotions are going to run high.

I agree with Donna. Everybody can be civil in the debate. But I think we should avoid, you know, smearing the motives of people who have legitimate concerns over how much money is being cut from Medicare, what the effect is on my care, am I going to be put into a public option. And -- those are legitimate questions.

BLITZER: Do you think in the end the president will get something along the lines of what he wants on health care reform?

GILLESPIE: I don't know that he'll get something along the lines of what he wants. I have always felt that at the end of the day, there will be a bill that gets to his desk and it will have health care reform in the title. And that he will sign it. And that I've felt for some time that that would likely to have some bipartisan support.

I'm a little skeptical of that right now. It seems the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate and the administration are orienting themselves toward a Democrat only approach which I think would not be in their best interest or in the country's. But I think if they went a bipartisan route they could probably get a bill.

BRAZILE: Reconciliation was never a dirty word or term when the Republicans used it to pass tax cuts.

BLITZER: Let's just be clear. What you referred to when you talk about reconciliation. You say a 51 majority vote in the Senate as opposed to breaking a filibuster with 60 votes which is usually needed if something important is going to go through the Senate.

BRAZILE: Absolutely, Wolf. And again, it wasn't a dirty word when Republicans used reconciliation time and time again during the Bush years. But, look, the -- President Obama is 80 percent there. The Democrats are coming together. The fifth committee, the -- Senator Baucus' committee is now ready to go.

BLITZER: Let me be precise, Donna. You think they can get 51 votes in the Senate but they can't get 60?

BRAZILE: I hope they can get 60 because I think that's what the Democrats would like, to have 60 votes. But the Republicans keep moving the goal post. First they said they wanted interstate competition. That's what Max Baucus just gave them. They said that they wanted verification for citizenship. Max Baucus gave them that. So stop moving the goal posts. Let's work together. We have some strong bills.

BLITZER: Donna makes a good point. Several important pieces of legislation that President Bush wanted passed was passed with reconciliation, as it's called, a 51 vote margin in the U.S. Senate as opposed to 60.

GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, those were tax cuts as Donna rightly noted. But tax cuts have always been used in the reconciliation process. Both President Clinton rejected the notion of doing health care reform through reconciliation and President Bush rejected the notion of doing health care reform, specifically the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which would have been a lot easier to get done through the Senate with 51 votes.

But, again, that had not been used for health care reform in the past, shouldn't set the precedent now. I think it's a complete abrogation of the civility and bipartisanship which the Senate is known for.

BRAZILE: Well, Max Baucus also came in with a bill that is under $1 trillion over the next 10 years that would save $50 billion. So I think the Republicans should either put forward their bills or to just get out the rump. The Democrats have accepted the Republicans' amendments in the House, 20 amendments in the Senate, over 160 amendments.

At some point they need to either support health care reform or just tell the American people they're going to try to kill it.

BLITZER: Do you think any Republicans, when the dust settles, will support this legislation?

GILLESPIE: It doesn't seem likely at this point, Wolf. And Republicans do support health care reform. They have a number of proposals and have fought for health care reform in the past. Were blocked by Democrats during the previous Congress and the previous administration.

So it's not a question of who's for reform and who's not. It's a question of what kind of reform are you for. And look, you know, to say we're going to take some Republican amendments or some Republican ideas and put them in a bill and pass them with Democrat only votes but we're going to call it bipartisan because we incorporated some of those Democrat ideas, that's a pretty novel approach to, you know, bipartisanship. I done think it's going to fly.

BRAZILE: Well, and Max Baucus take out the public option, something every -- most Democrats would like to see in the bill, and then the Republicans still say this bill is not good enough. At some point if it's never going to be good enough, then basically just tell them to try to kill it. The Democrats will move forward a strong bill.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note and see what happens, guys. Thanks for coming in.

All right. Tough talk from Hamid Karzai. We'll have much more of my exclusive interview with the Afghan president, that's coming up. I'm asking him why his country is still so dependent on U.S. troops and what can be done to stop the Taliban once and for all.

Plus, where would Ferris Bueller go now? The palatial pad featured in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," one of the great movies of all time, may be, get this, destroyed. Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Will the house in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" be demolished? That's what one group is warning in an effort to save the Illinois pop culture landmark.

We bring in our Abbi Tatton. Abbi, which house specifically are we referring to?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: It's the rose house in the architectural world. This is a significant property in '80s pop culture. It is legendary because of this scene in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when Cameron's dad's Ferrari plunges through a glass wall and down a ravine.

It's the exact moment we were hoping to show you but I'm sure you've all seen it at some point. But now this house is potential endangered, at least according to the historic preservation group Landmark Illinois which placed it on a Chicago watch list of properties under threat.

You see the house has been on the market since May and they worry that about several inquiries that have come in asking about substantially altering the property or even demolishing it. The real estate agent who I talked to today said it is still on the market and while it's still on the market, she's talking to some serious buyers right now. She says that they are not talking about tearing it down so not so fast.

BLITZER: It doesn't look...

TATTON: Nothing to be worried about right now.

BLITZER: It doesn't look like a teardown. What's the price tag?

TATTON: $2.3 million. So you've got to be a pretty serious fan to be buying this one.

BLITZER: $2.3 million. Thanks very much. Good movie. Let's go Jack Cafferty. He's got the "Cafferty File." Did you see "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: No. But I'm just thinking -- I mean that would be a true national tragedy, wouldn't it, if the house where they shot "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was torn down?

(LAUGHTER)

Would the country be able to recover?

BLITZER: It would be hard.

CAFFERTY: It would be a huge (INAUDIBLE) on the national psyche.

The question this hour, what does it say about transparency when Homeland Security has secretly approved $15 million in renovations for a border checkpoint in Montana where three people cross a day?

Phil in Ontario, "As a Canadian, it tells me the U.S. is looking at the wrong border. There are vast areas between our countries where if you don't mind rugged terrain you can virtually walk into the United States. Yet there has been a flood of refugees and despite what was believed after 9/11, no flood of terrorists either. Spend the 15 million on the other border, the one to the south."

Linda writes, "Oh transparency, is it? You don't get it, Jack. Transparency was just something Obama talked about during the campaign. It's gone away of the Dodo bird now. You know, like ending torture, restoring civil liberties, closing Guantanamo, broadcasting congressional negotiations on C-SPAN and others. Please try to keep up."

John writes, "It appears we need a border cross czar." Ed in Twin Bridges, Montana, "A better question might be what did Senators Baucus and Tester trade for this border crossing project? And this isn't the only pork here. We have been run over by every little public safety unit running scenario drills in every little town around here costing who knows how many dollars to fund.

"Did we get any more snowplows or winter equipment, you know, stuff we could actually use? No. Because they don't fall under the Homeland Security project guidelines. No, Twin Bridges didn't do it right in this drill, but we did get $1.5 million for a pedestrian walkway that, as far as I know, none of the 120 residence of Twin Bridges plan to use."

Rufus from California says, "Did I hear you correctly, Jack? $15 million for three border crossers a day? Since the federal government spends our tax money like drunken sailors, why not each time one of these three lucky border crossers approaches the check point, they should pass go and collect $200? The process of passing through the border in White Tail, Montana can be referred to then as Cash for Crossers."

And Graham writes, "Jack, I don't know what it says about transparency, but if Wolf tells me that one more he's on Twitter I'm going to head for the border myself."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here, too bad. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: As somebody wrote, I'm on Twitter, replying to me, if I say the word tweet one more time, another little kitty cat will die.

CAFFERTY: You know what? It detracts greatly from your masculinity.

BLITZER: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Tweet, I mean, it's just an effeminate word that a guy of your stature shouldn't be saying.

BLITZER: Yes, well, you got to move ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

We're on Twitter and we tweet. All right. Thank you.

All right. We got more news coming up. Serious news including fears of a massive new al Qaeda attack prompting terror raids in two cities as the FBI questions an Afghan man. We're live in Denver with the latest.

Also more of my exclusive interview with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai. He says his relationship with President Obama is different from his relationship with President Bush.

Plus Michelle Obama throwing her support behind a growing green movement. We're going to hear from the first lady in her own words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: D.C.'s newest farmers market has a world famous fan. Michelle Obama. The first lady was at today's opening of Fresh Farm Market just the two blocks from the White House. Mrs. Obama has been behind the plan to close a busy nearby street at the height of the rush hour so people can get to the market more easily. She's a big proponent of fresh foods, even setting up her own White House garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: You know, when we decided to plant the White House garden, we thought it'd be a great way to educate kids about eating more healthy, right, kids? Vegetables? Yay for vegetables. But as it turned out, the garden has turned into so much more than we could have ever expected and it's a really fun thing to do as well. This has been one of the greatest things that I've done in my life so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The first lady. Meanwhile happening now, breaking news, a new round of questioning in an unfolding terror investigation. The man at the center of the investigation is grilled again by federal agents about possible links to al Qaeda. We're going to tell you what we're learning about this case right now.

Plus, President Obama's defense. Now that he's scrapped Bush era plans for a missile defense shield. Republicans' theory sending a dangerous message to America's adversaries and to its allies.

And my exclusive interview with the president of Afghanistan. Is he pressuring the U.S. to send more troops to his country? I'll ask him about talk of tension with President Obama.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center.