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More U.S. Troops to Afghanistan?; John Edwards Still Faces Scandal

Aired September 21, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: a powerful appeal for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The top U.S. military commander warns the war could be lost if he doesn't get what he needs, and he needs it soon. This hour, new insight into the leaked report and the growing pressure on President Obama.

Plus, the evidence against three suspects in an unfolding terror investigation. As they headed into court in Colorado and here in New York, I spoke with one of their lawyers about allegations of a bombing plot.

And the sex scandal that simply won't go away. Former presidential candidate John Edwards still is being haunted by his extramarital affair. What could he learn from politicians who are able to put their affairs behind them?

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

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is drawing a bold line in the sand for the Obama administration. He says he needs more troops and a new strategy, or the eight-year war may end in failure. His warning in a confidential report that just got leaked.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He has details -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, General Stan McChrystal says the U.S. can still win in Afghanistan, but this leaked report certainly ratchets up the pressure on the Obama administration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): For U.S. troops, a sobering 66 pages meant to be confidential but leaked to "The Washington Post." In it the U.S. commander says the Afghan government is corrupt, insurgents have turned prisons into recruiting stations, and they contest or control a significant part of Afghanistan. General Stan McChrystal says he needs more troops and civilian advisers soon.

McChrystal doesn't spell out his specific needs but writes, "Time matters." The general says if he can't regain the initiative within a year, it might not be possible to defeat the insurgency."Any of these risks are likely to result in mission failure." McChrystal says there's no point adding troops if officials don't buy into a new strategy. McChrystal writes that his commanders have been more concerned with protecting their own forces than the Afghan people. In a significant change, he says American troops have to assume more risk and spend "... as little time as possible in armored vehicles or behind the walls of forward operating bases."

This leaked report puts more pressure on the Obama administration. Last week in Iraq, Vice President Biden told me they wanted to hold off on making an additional troop decision until all previously authorized troops arrive and the contested Afghan election is decided.

(on camera): Do you think that more troops are needed to win?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think that's premature.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): McChrystal says resources alone won't win the war, but under-resourcing could lose it.

President Obama told CNN's John King he won't decide on troop levels until the goals and strategy are clearly defined.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we have clarity on that, then the question is, OK, how do we resource it? And what I will say to the American public, it's not going to be driven by the politics of the moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Yes. And, again, what we want to tell you is that this counterinsurgency plan is a strategy, not necessarily the strategy. The vice president told me over and over again that the ultimate objective is not the Taliban, but al Qaeda, which is now predominantly based in Pakistan.

There is a line of thinking that a minimum number of NATO troops could keep al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, leaving the Taliban to do what it will as long as that doesn't include planning attacks abroad -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, thank you.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

David, the president clearly is in a box right now. Realistically speaking, can he say no to General McChrystal?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very hard, Wolf.

And the box I'm afraid is a little bit of his own making, after saying yesterday he was skeptical about sending more troops and then to have the leak that actually McChrystal is saying, if you don't send more troops, definitely, there's a real possibility you're going to lose the war.

That puts him in a box in this sense, Wolf. If he bows now to the general, he may well appear he's buckled to the military. But if he doesn't, if he goes the other way and says no to the general, then he's buckled to his left. And he will be accused of a sellout on a war that he said is a war we must win.

He's been making the argument that Afghanistan was that forgotten war. So, I was surprised at the rhetoric yesterday given the fact that this report was sitting in Washington and might leak at any time.

BLITZER: Yes. Usually these reports eventually wind up leaking.

GERGEN: They sure do.

BLITZER: It had been secret, classified for about three weeks until Bob Woodward got it and reported it in "The Washington Post" yesterday.

He's got only in recent days, what, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Carl Levin, the chairman of Armed Services Committee, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, all of them expressing grave doubt about sending more troops to Afghanistan. So, you're right. He has some political opposition, not from the Republicans, but from his fellow Democrats.

GERGEN: That's right. And either way he goes now, he's going to be accused of -- either by his own left -- or there's questions about, if you were skeptical, why are you embracing this, if it's not that you're afraid you can't do it, unless you -- in other words, the left is going to accuse him of sort of getting -- going down a slippery slope into a Vietnam-like situation, which is what they're very afraid of.

So this box is one I didn't think needed to exist. But I think it's there now. And can he find a way out? Well, you and I talked the other night, Wolf, about something else they're talking about in the White House and the report just emphasized. They think that, as the vice president said, this is about al Qaeda, not the Taliban.

And perhaps you can get al Qaeda through being -- through drone missiles and other kinds of special forces and that sort of thing. They do feel that they have taken out a number of significant al Qaeda leaders, not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but in Somalia, and even in the Queens deal, which we have now seen in New York is unfolding.

So, they do have a sense that maybe they could go to this alternative strategy. But for an awful lot of people who have heard him say, we have to win in Afghanistan and heard him say in the campaign, this is the neglected front, it's very important to us, it's going to seem, why did you change after you became president? What was it that led you to think it was no longer the war we had to win? BLITZER: Yes. And it's going to be a really strange situation if he does go ahead and accept General McChrystal's recommendations to send another 30,000 or 40,000 or maybe even more, 40,000 troops to Afghanistan on top of the 68,000 U.S. troops already there. He will have a lot of support among Republicans. But his political base, the Democrats, are going to be angry about that.

GERGEN: They will be. And it could play out in all sorts of unexpected ways when you cut against your base.

So, this is becoming a very, very tough decision. And, Wolf, and just think about it this way, too. This is the week that he really hoped to keep rolling on health care even as he was doing foreign policy. These foreign policy questions are going to quickly mushroom now in the next few days.

BLITZER: David Gergen, thanks very much.

Let's bring back Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Ready for another bailout? President Obama open to the idea, he says, of bailouts for the newspaper industry.

The president says, although he hasn't seen detailed proposals, he would be happy to look at bills before Congress meant to aid newspapers. One bill in the Senate is known as the Newspaper Revitalization Act. It would give tax breaks to newspapers if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.

In an interview with the editors of "The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" and ""The Toledo Blade," the president calls himself a -- quote -- "big newspaper junkie" and he says good journalism is critical to the health of our democracy.

He talks about the challenge of maintaining journalistic integrity and fact-based reporting in the light of a changing news landscape. Mr. Obama says he's concerned about the trend toward more blogs that have a lot of opinions, but not a lot of fact-checking.

And there's no question newspapers are a dying breed. Thousands of journalists have been laid off over the last several years. Newspapers are closing. The industry is reeling from the economic downturn, trying to find a way to hold on to readers, while newspapers lose advertising revenue to the Internet.

But the government propping up the newspaper industry could be a very slippery slope indeed, as it could easily put the press in bed with the very people they are charged with protecting the rest of us from. That would be the government.

Here's the question. Should the government bail out the newspaper industry? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog. BLITZER: Good points, Jack. It's not easy to see newspapers die. At the same time, none of us who are journalists want to see the government get involved and become the publisher of newspapers.

CAFFERTY: No. That would be a no.

BLITZER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: A son of the South about claims of racist rage against President Obama. Wait until you hear what Bill Clinton is telling CNN's Larry King about people opposing President Obama because he's African-American. What the former president is saying is stunning. Stand by.

Also, is the White House trying to push out the governor of New York State?

And John Edwards shocked the political world by admitting lies and an extramarital affair. Now what one paper is reporting is perhaps even more shocking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The New York governor, David Paterson, wants to be the Democratic candidate next year, but the White House reportedly is pressuring him to drop out of the race.

Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is here with more on this dilemma for the president.

Dan, what's going on here?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was no public sign today of any friction between the president and the governor. The governor did meet the president when he arrived in Upstate New York this morning. They shook hands. They hugged for a bit and had a short conversation.

And then later, before the president made his remarks at a community college, he had some warm words for the governor, calling him a -- quote -- "wonderful man."

Now, Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, was asked about this controversy. He did not answer directly whether or not the president had reached out to Mr. Paterson to try to get him to drop out of the race. He simply said that it's a difficult situation now, a political situation, going on, in New York.

And, Wolf, I did talk to another administration official who told me, listen, everyone clearly understands that the poll numbers don't look good. He's in the 20 percent when it comes to whether or not New Yorkers think he's doing a good job. So -- but they point out that at no time has the president actually reached out to him and told him to drop out of the race, that this is a decision that Governor Paterson has to make.

BLITZER: And yesterday the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, was on CBS. He suggested that race might be a factor here. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for reelection.

And it just raised a curious point for me. I think Paterson's -- Governor Paterson's numbers are about the same as Governor Corzine's numbers. Yet, the president was with Governor Corzine. And I don't know if there has been a request made of Governor Corzine to step down in New Jersey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Dan, is the White House reacting to Michael Steele?

LOTHIAN: They're not reacting at all, Wolf. And I should point out again that the White House is not saying that the president has reached out to him and told him to get out of the race.

But, again, when it comes to that whole race issue, you know how the president has been. He was asked about whether or not race is playing a role at all in some of the tone, the tenor and the tone that we have seen across the country. And he said he really doesn't see it as that. So this is a White House and a president who doesn't want to look at any of the issues going on around him through the glasses of race. And that's what they're doing in this case as well.

BLITZER: Good point, Dan. Thanks very much.

Another former president is now weighing in on this debate over racism and Barack Obama's presidency. Let's listen to what the former President Bill Clinton has just told our own Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Congressman Joe Wilson, he yells "You lie." Since then, President Carter says racism is at the bottom of all this uproar. What do you think? What do you think feel?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that some of the right-wing extremists which oppose President Obama are also racially prejudiced and would prefer not to have an African- American president.

But I don't believe that all the people that oppose him on health care and all the conservatives are racists. And I believe, if he were white, every single person who opposes him now would be opposing him then.

Therefore, while I have devoted my life to getting rid of racism, I think this is a fight that my president and our party, this is one we need to win on the merits.

And so I understand why it's frustrating because the congressman was from South Carolina. South Carolina's noted in the Republican Party for having Bob Jones University and...

KING: Dixie flag.

CLINTON: The Dixie flag, the messy primary with John McCain and President Bush in 2000.

But I really think that we should disaggregate lingering problems of discrimination from the attacks to which the president is subject. The ones that have an obvious racial overtone, you can see that's coming from an extreme right-winger who also has racial prejudice. But we have to win this health care fight on the merits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And, as you remember, last week, the former President Jimmy Carter says he believes racism is an issue for President Obama in trying to lead the country. President Obama himself has said he does not think racism is the overriding issue in the nation's debate on health care reform.

This important programming note: You can watch Bill Clinton's full interview on a wide range of topics on "LARRY KING LIVE." That airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Hearings for three men charged with lying to federal agents about an alleged U.S. terror plot. We are going to talk to the lawyer for one of them about claims his client was an informant.

Plus, new claims about that extramarital affair that is still haunting John Edwards. Other politicians have come back from cheating scandals, but can he?

And this Bud's for you, a woman's odd gift for the president as he continues his media campaign, late-night comedy shows included.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The first clips from President Obama's interview with David Letterman on "The Late Show," they're just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We are going to get them on the air for you first. That's coming up shortly.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get some more, though, on what's going on with all this flooding. We will turn to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, the rains turned Atlanta's highways, at least some of them, into a rush hour nightmare. What do the roads look like?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it looks like a commuting hell out there.

Take a look at this, some people leaving the office in the last hour and driving right into floodwater. This is a downtown connector here, absolutely submerged in this one section. Count three vehicles there that have driven into the floodwater. You can hear the sirens of the rescue vehicles going to help people in the water.

And you can see people backed up there as they're faced with the submerged section. If I can show you another view taken that was from an apartment block right there near Centennial Park, you can see how far it's backed up. Take a look at this, six lanes of a commuting nightmare right now.

But it looks like it's clearing up, that area there that was flooded. That's the picture an hour ago. And this is the picture from traffic cameras now. So, this is very, very much a moving situation, but definitely not a normal Monday evening rush hour out there in downtown Atlanta -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Normal, not, indeed. All right, thanks very much.

Prosecutors are making their case against the lead suspect in an alleged bombing plot here in the United States. Just ahead, I will press one of the defense attorneys in the case.

And there's new outrage over the way a convicted terrorist is being treated. Critics say the man known as the shoe bomber is getting a break, and they are blaming the Obama administration.

And the filmmaker Michael Moore is taking on the establishment again, this time, the entire capitalist system, and he's making some powerful allegations against Wall Street.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A judge today ordered the leading suspect in a federal terror probe to be held pending a hearing on Thursday. Prosecutors say Najibullah Zazi played a direct role in an alleged bomb plot that unraveled around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He and his father appeared in court in Denver today. A third suspect faced a judge here in New York.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he entered a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, 37-year-old Imam Ahmad Afzali smiled at his wife, father and brother sitting in the front row, later blowing them kisses.

Federal agents say the imam told Najibullah Zazi authorities were monitoring him, the imam asking Zazi whether any -- quote -- "evidence" -- unquote -- was in the rental car Zazi drove from Denver to New York which was impounded and searched by FBI agents near a Queens mosque. The imam told Zazi it was -- quote -- "a good sign" -- unquote -- that the authorities came to the imam asking what he knew.

RON KUBY, ATTORNEY FOR AFZALI: The authorities generally asked that the imam find out any way he can where Zazi is, where he's been, where he's going, and what he is up to. That's what they wanted to know. And that makes sense, because they thought he was coming to New York for the purpose of carrying out a terrorist attack.

FEYERICK: Defense lawyer Ron Kuby, known for taking on controversial terrorism cases, says FBI agents specifically asked the imam to reach out to Zazi to help gather information.

KUBY: They asked to take a DNA sample. He consents to a DNA sample. They ask him for more oral statements. He waives his Miranda rights. He gives an oral statement.

FEYERICK: Afzali and his family fled Afghanistan in 1981 following the Soviet-led invasion. He grew up in Flushing, Queens, and worked for several years at the Masjid Hazrat Abu Bakr Islamic Center, New York's largest Afghan mosque.

Several years ago, he left the mosque to open a funeral business that caters to Muslims. A longtime friend who spoke to Afzali in the days leading up to the raids on several Queens apartments says it would be completely out of character for Afzali to have any connection to terrorism.

I was shocked that they would do some time -- to go to such a level just to arrest people with no proof, nothing. So, as far as I know, how much I know him, that does not -- it does not match his character.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: So, the big question now, was the imam part of a larger terror plot to detonate bombs across the U.S., as authorities believe, or was he, in fact, trying to help investigators simply gather information as his lawyer maintains? -- Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, Ron Kuby. He's the attorney for the imam, Ahmad Afzali.

Ron, thanks very much for coming in. What happened inside that courtroom?

RON KUBY, AFZALI'S ATTORNEY: My -- my client was arraigned and I entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. The government said they are intending to detain him without bail. And we set a bail hearing for Thursday, where I -- I've demanded that the detective in charge of the Joint Terrorist Task Force show up and testify. This is the detective that the imam had been working with for well over a year.

BLITZER: Was -- was he an informant with the local task force -- the counterterrorism task force in New York City?

KUBY: He was a source in -- in the sense that he did exactly what the American people are always demanding that Islamic leaders do -- cooperate with the police. When they come to ask questions, answer those questions. Be a good member of the community. Show you care about America. And that's what he did.

And over a period of years, periodically, members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force would come to him with photographs -- do you know this person or have you heard anything about this particular subject?

Just being the kind of good member of the community we want people to be. And he was always cooperative. He was always helpful. He was always and consistently truthful.

On September 10th, they came to him again. And they were absolutely frantic. They were desperate to find out anything they could find out about Najibullah Zazi -- where he was, what he was doing, what he was with, where he was going. They were desperate. And the imam said, well, I haven't spoken to him in quite some time, but he had come to the mosque when he was a teenager, I'll try to find out.

And the imam made a series of calls and eventually was able to speak with Zazi himself.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Ron, because the accusation is -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong -- that he, in effect, was a double agent, because they are saying, the authorities, that he -- he tipped off Zazi, that the -- that the law enforcement was on his track. And he gave them that warning in order to preclude some sort of arrest, if you will.

All right. What -- what about what they have on tape?

KUBY: If you look at the beginning of the tape, if you listen to the beginning of the tape, when he first speaks to Zazi, Zazi himself says that he is under investigation, that he is under surveillance, that they're watching him. The FBI had already blown the investigation. They were already burnt on this investigation. Zazi knew he was being followed. Zazi knew, quite correctly, he was being tailed.

My client didn't tip him off. He was already tipped off. And now the FBI is looking for somebody to blame, because instead of smashing a terror plot on the scale of 9/11, they have three guys -- two of whom were accused of only making false statements.

BLITZER: And your client -- the imam is accused of lying to the FBI when they interrogated him, when they questioned him about those phone conversations with Zazi. KUBY: Right. At the end of the -- the first phone conversation, he says to Zazi, this -- this conversation is being monitored. The government claims that when my client was asked about that conversation, he denied telling Zazi about the investigation -- that he lied to the FBI.

But here's the problem, Wolf. My client knew that the conversation that he was having with Zazi was being taped by the FBI. The FBI wanted him to find out this information.

So why on Earth would he lie to the FBI about the contents of a conversation that he knew they had on tape?

It would be as if I just went on camera and said I didn't just say those things...

BLITZER: Because they say when he...

KUBY: That doesn't make any sense.

BLITZER: ...when he wrote his deposition -- when he wrote his report to law enforcement, he didn't include any of this. And they say that was a deliberate omission.

KUBY: He's not a stenographer. He was asked hundreds of questions by dozens of people over a frantic multi-day period. He wasn't told at any point that he had to record in writing every single word that he said to everybody every single time. That wasn't part of his obligation. That certainly isn't part of his training. He wrote out a general statement some seven pages in length detailing the various things that had happened. But it was never a -- a transcript -- a real time transcript of what had been taking place.

BLITZER: Did...

KUBY: You know, this is...

BLITZER: Based on what you know -- KUBY: This is (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: ...Ron, was Zazi affiliated with Al Qaeda?

Was he trained in explosives by Al Qaeda when he was in Pakistan?

KUBY: I have no information whatsoever about Zazi. I don't know him. I haven't met him. I'm not familiar with his case. I'm not representing him. And my client knew him only slightly when he was a young man going to the mosque.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note.

Ron Kuby is the attorney representing the imam, Ahmad Afzali.

Ron, thanks very much for coming in.

KUBY: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Angry critics say the Obama administration has made life too easy for one of the most well-known convicted terrorists. That would be Richard Reid, known as the airplane shoe bomber. The Justice Department quietly has eased severe restrictions on Reid's prison activities and communications.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's been looking into the story for us -- Brian, what's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a Justice Department official told me this was thoroughly reviewed, all security implications were considered and that Richard Reid is still under very severe restrictions. But some experts say the safeguards that were in place before should never have been lifted.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He sat beaten up and defeated after passengers and crew subdued him. But Richard Reid's failed plot terrified the public right after 9/11 and led to a measure we all have to deal with years later.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL: As a result of Richard Reid, we all now take our shoes off at airports throughout the country. Nothing could be more serious than the plot that he was accused of.

TODD: Seven years after pleading guilty to trying to blow up a transatlantic flight with explosives in his shoe, Richard Reid has had some restrictions lifted at the federal Supermax prison in Colorado. Since June, he's been able to correspond with his family by mail and can get news journals not long after they're published.

A Justice Department official says this decision came after a review by the counterterrorism section, the FBI and prosecutors. The official says the shoe bomber will still be in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and cannot physically interact with other inmates at that same prison -- inmates like convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui.

Asked about Reid's mail, the Justice official said in a statement: "This correspondence is reviewed," insisting everything will be strictly monitored.

Former New York City police commissioner Howard Safir, who now runs a private security consulting firm, is not comforted.

HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: The reality is that if a terrorist can communicate with his family, with other associates, even though it's monitored, he could use code. He could be directing other terrorist attacks.

TODD: A 2006 report by the Justice Department's inspector- general said three terrorists convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, who are housed in that same prison, wrote approximately 90 letters to Islamic extremists between 2002 and 2004. (END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: The Justice Department official we spoke with said there has been a considerable tightening of restrictions at that Supermax facility since that report came out. And it's also worth noting other terrorism experts are quoted as saying Richard Reid was no terrorist mastermind, no facilitator of communication. One expert from Harvard is quoted as saying Reid's I.Q. level was well below average and that officials probably feel there's not a threat of him indoctrinating other people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, I understand you had a chance to speak with a flight attendant who was actually there.

TODD: Yes, I did. I spoke with her on the phone. She's very upset. She says she was among the first crew members to encounter Reid as he tried to light his shoe up that day. She says he hit her and that she was injured; still dealing with her injuries there. She is very upset about this and says she feels a little bit like those relatives of those PanAm 103 victims after that Libyan operative was released from Scottish custody recently.

But, again, the Justice Department is saying Richard Reid still very isolated and nothing changes about his life sentence.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

The scandal hovering over John Edwards sparking up again. After admitting to an extramarital affair, what one paper is reporting about Edwards is perhaps right now more shocking. Stand by.

And the joke is on President Obama. He goes on with David Letterman -- what happened made for some unexpected laughs. The first clips of the taped show -- they're now coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. And you'll see them first right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Damning new allegations about John Edwards' extramarital affair are coming out. This time the claims could spell the end of Edwards' political career once and for all. But there's a tradition in American culture of forgiveness.

Let's go to CNN's national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin -- Jessica, is it possible for John Edwards to make a comeback?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you say, this country does have a tradition of forgiveness. If you're a famous politician, it seems you can do just about anything and have a comeback, as long as the offender apologizes and gets punished along the way, though there are a few exceptions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Remember when John Edwards admitted to having an affair with Rielle Hunter?

He did a mea culpa on ABC News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM AUGUST 8, 2008, COURTESY ABC)

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In 2006, two years ago, I made a very serious mistake -- a mistake that I am responsible for and no one else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: But now, he's getting front page "New York Times" treatment. The paper cites a book proposal from former Edwards' staffer Andrew Young, alleging that Edwards may not have told the full truth when asked if he fathered the mistress' new infant.

Here again on "Nightline".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "NIGHTLINE," AUGUST 8, 2008, COURTESY ABC)

EDWARDS: I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events. So I know it's not possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Whoops. The article alleges he's likely the dad. Another ugly charge -- that Edwards promised his mistress a wedding of Mrs. Edwards, who has cancer, passes.

PROF. LEONARD STEINHORN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think the wife's forgiveness is very important.

YELLIN: Culture watchers say if the allegations are true, Edwards could redeem himself if he follows the accepted script.

STEINHORN: He has to apologize. He has to repent. That's the Calvinist framework our society works on when crisis hits.

YELLIN: That worked for Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who's seeking re-election after a prostitute scandal; and for Nevada Senator John Ensign, who is still in office after an affair with a staffer/friend's wife.

Another model, there is Newt Gingrich, who had an affair while impeaching a president for the same -- or the former president himself. Both men moved on only after enduring public punishment.

But then why do other politicians fail to win forgiveness, like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who has apologized endlessly?

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to apologize to good friends.

YELLIN: Or New York's Eliot Spitzer, who had to leave office; and John Edwards, who has all but disappeared from the public stage? STEINHORN: There's an unseemly factor to what they did that sort of disgusts people, that makes people think that there's something fundamentally wrong with them. And I think that's why they may never recover fully the way, let's say, Bill Clinton did.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

YELLIN: And, Wolf, representatives for both John and Elizabeth Edwards declined CNN's request for an interview. John Edwards' spokeswoman also said the former candidate does not plan to issue any kind of a statement responding to that "The New York Times" article -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, thank you.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

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

Tonight, surge or fail -- the top man in charge of the war in Afghanistan now says we're at a crossroads -- without more troops and a new strategy, the war could be lost within a year.

And is it a new tax or isn't it -- President Obama says forcing people to buy health care coverage isn't a tax on the middle class. Not everyone agrees and Senator Max Baucus among them.

The United Nations with its hand out again and again -- it wants more American money to help the world combat swine flu, global warming and other projects.

Should we be paying and does it ever end with the U.N.?

And 564 and counting -- that is the number of amendments now to Senator Max Baucus' big health care proposal. I guess no one is happy with that plan.

And join us for all of that, all the day's news and a lot more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Lou.

See you in a few moments.

Late night laughs with the president of the United States -- Mr. Obama appearing on David Letterman's show, as he continues his media campaign. We're going to get you the clips that have just been released. There he is.

And reporters becoming a part of the news in a Moost Unusual way. We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The filmmaker, Michael Moore, made a name for himself going after the car industry in Detroit. Now, he's taking on a far bigger target -- the entire capitalist system.

CNN's Susan Lisovicz spoke to Moore about the new film. He says America's economic system can't be fixed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:

MOORE: As the unemployment rate has gone up here in the last few months, what has -- what has the Dow Jones done?

It's gone up, because it loves to see people thrown out of their jobs because it means more money. Because we have to pay less money to people, it means we might make more money. But that's such short- term thinking because, in the long run, by decimating the middle class who's left to buy the cars?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to hear more from the outspoken filmmaker on Thursday, when he joins me right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's bring in Jack Cafferty.

He joins me in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

CAFFERTY: Happy to be here.

The question this hour -- should the government bail out the newspaper industry?

President Obama said over the weekend that he'd be willing to listen to ideas to help the struggling newspapers in this country.

John in Fort Worth says: "Lord, no. Their time has come and gone. Never before has the term "yesterday's news" applied to anything the way it applies to newspapers today. That being said, I still love having them in my hands and reading them at my leisure."

Trish writes: "Did we bail out Linens 'n Things or Circuit City or the thousands of small businesses that went belly up? If we truly believe in the free market, then let it work. Businesses fail because of flawed business plans, including not adapting to current market conditions."

James in New York: "Allowing the newspapers to restructure to save themselves isn't exactly a bailout. It sounds to me as if the president's willing to listen to constructive proposals for saving responsible journalism as an institution essential to democracy. And anyway, if the economy has in trouble, why should journalism be denied the help other businesses got? Journalists are citizens, too."

Yes, we are.

We got this from Victor, who lives in the Ukraine: "Absolutely not. Here in Ukraine, lots of newspapers are owned by government structures and you know what? Nobody reads those newspapers."

Joel writes: "Newspapers are like a species confronted by massive change -- their choice is to evolve or die. It's rather Darwinian, survival of the fittest. News and information are still things that people want. What has to evolve is the delivery system. Paper newspapers are dinosaurs. They should have live or die on their own without outside intervention. The government has no business trying to preserve a status quo that no longer exists."

And Tzivia writes: "Jack, can you say obsolete? Why would we keep an outdated medium on life support? We don't need the news to come to us on paper anymore. The nimble should migrate to other news and the lame should retool."

That's what I'm going to do, retool, because I'm a little lame myself.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, check out the blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and maybe you'll find it there. Or maybe you won't.

BLITZER: I still read those little newspapers...

CAFFERTY: Did you tell the folks why you're in the big city tonight?

BLITZER: No.

CAFFERTY: Because we're nominated for an Emmy, right?

BLITZER: The Emmys are tonight (INAUDIBLE).

CAFFERTY: I mean -- not us, you are.

BLITZER: All of us here.

CAFFERTY: No, no. But I mean THE SITUATION ROOM was nominated for an Emmy.

BLITZER: We'll know soon enough.

CAFFERTY: I hope you win.

BLITZER: I'll Tweet if we win.

CAFFERTY: And there you go again with that word, Tweet.

BLITZER: Bye.

If you thought reporters had it easy covering events, you can check out this recent rally.

Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LISA DESJARDINS, CNN RADIO CORRESPONDENT: Right now, they're chanting, "Tell the Truth." They've been talking about what CNN should air.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN's Jeanne Moos is coming up with a close look at those occasions when reporters and the crowds they're reporting on don't mix.

Also, the first clips from David Letterman's interview with President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some Hot Shots.

In New York, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

In Maryland, President Obama meets Air Force One airmen and mechanics before heading to New York.

In India, girls wear traditional clothes as they pray.

And in Germany, check it out -- workers at a zoo feed a newborn rhino with a baby bottle.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Serious talk about issues and good-natured banter -- both are elements of President Obama's appearance later tonight on "The Late Show with David Letterman." At today's taping, Letterman asked for the president's take on the rancor at town hall meetings and former President Jimmy Carter's comments linking it to racism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, it's important to realize that I was actually black before the election so the...

(APPLAUSE)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Really?

OBAMA: It's true. This is true.

LETTERMAN: How long have you been a black man?

OBAMA: And so the American people, I think, gave me this extraordinary honor and -- and that tells you, I think, a lot about where the country is at. I actually think that -- that what's happened is that whenever a president tries to bring about significant changes, particularly during times of economic unease, then there is a certain segment of the population that gets very riled up. And -- and it happened -- FDR was called a socialist and a communist. You know, JFK -- there were all kinds of names hurled at him. Ronald Reagan, when he came into office, he was moving in a different direction and people were sure that he was bringing the country down.

And so this is not untypical. You know, one of the things you sign up for in politics is folks yell at you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: They certainly do. Letterman offered up the top 10 reasons the president returned to the show. And President Obama talked about his daughter's summer -- no fancy camps -- they just goofed off, something he couldn't do.

Reporters typically get on the air with little interference from the crowds around them. Not so at one recent event covered by national networks. It's the Moost Unusual, though, situation when the audience turns on the reporters.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They call it the Value Voters Summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARRIE PREJEAN, FORMER MISS CALIFORNIA: And God chose me for that moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But what we valued was how reporters from opposite political camps -- MSNBC and Fox -- both got hassled live.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MSNBC)

(CROSSTALK)

BRIAN MOOAR, MSNBC REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) you're invited guests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's too bad.

MOOAR: And we're doing television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're being rude. You can get out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS REPORTER: There's a gentleman who's trying to crowd into my live shot right now, trying to prevent us from continuing our work here. (CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Excuse me, sir. I am doing my job. I'm a reporter and we're actually showing your event on television.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: It happened almost simultaneously and it had nothing to do with ideology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MSNBC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you mind?

MOOAR: Ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is about the rudest thing you could do.

MOOAR: We're on live with MSNBC.

(CROSSTALK)

MOOAR: Please don't touch the microphone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you mind?

MOOAR: Tell us -- tell us what your thought is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My thought is that you are rude.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are being rude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

ROSEN: I'm doing my job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you stop?

ROSEN: Excuse me, sir. You're interrupting my work right now. Please...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're interrupting all of us.

ROSEN: Please. You're causing a disturbance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: The reporters were just reporting from where risers were set up for cameras shooting the event.

(on camera): Organizers say the problem was that more people showed up than expected, so they had to add chairs in the back and those seats encroached on the area already set up for the media.

(voice-over): So when the reporters spoke, the attendees couldn't hear the speakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MSNBC)

MOOAR: And you are?

LINDA PUTZ: I am Linda Putz (ph) and I paid to come here to listen, not to be disrupted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (on camera): Now, reporters are used to getting hassled, but usually we get pestered by idiots just jumping up and down in the background. That's my producer.

(voice-over): The other day, protesters at the Washington Tea Party chanted, "Tell the Truth!" and "No More Lies!" behind a CNN Radio reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: No more lies! No more lies!

DESJARDINS: Can I ask you guys something?

What do you think of Congressman Joe Wilson?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yes!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: At that same rally, a Fox News producer got nabbed revving up the crowd behind her reporter by waving her hands. Fox told the Huffington Post: "She is a young, relatively inexperienced associate producer who has been disciplined."

Back at the Values Summit, the man who scolded MSNBC's reporter was escorted out by security and organizers apologized to the press.

But there's nothing like looks that kill to liven up a live shot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MSNBC)

MOOAR: Well, it's great live television.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

ROSEN: You're causing a disturbance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jeanne Moos, thanks very much.

We'll see you back here tomorrow.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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