Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Blasts Iran Over Nuclear Program; White House Buckling to Conservative Pressure?
Aired September 25, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: another chance for the president to blast Iran over a nuclear site just revealed to the world. We're standing by for a news conference by the president of the United States this hour.
Also, New Yorkers say goodbye and good riddance to Moammar Gadhafi. The Libyan leader now reveals to CNN he had a stunning encounter with at least one, maybe two relatives of Lockerbie bombing victims.
And new questions about whether the Obama White House is buckling under pressure from conservative pundits -- a little-known spokesman's exit raising some eyebrows.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news and extraordinary reports from around the world.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're standing by right now for President Obama to answer reporters' questions. And the day's bombshell about Iran is sure to be a hot topic.
This hour, the president will meet with reporters. We will carry that news conference from Pittsburgh live. Stand by. It's coming up.
And just hours after the United States, France and Britain revealed that Iran has a second uranium enrichment facility, the president is getting ready, as I said, to answer questions. Sources say the U.S. has known about this secret site for years, but information about the facility in north central Iran is coming to light in a big way, and new -- and a new confrontation between Iran and the West appears to be brewing.
Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is standing by. He's been covering the president's summit over at the G20 in Pittsburgh.
Dramatic and tough talk today, Ed, from these three world leaders about Iran.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The news was supposed to be that the G20 was going to be changing the rules today, so that, basically, it would start eclipsing the G8 as the premier body, sort of serving as a board of directors, shaping global economic policy, a bigger group, so they could get more of the smaller powers at the table.
But, instead, today, front and center were those three heads of state from some of the traditional powers, pressuring Iran.
HENRY (voice-over): With a little help from his friends, President Obama took center stage, and turned a sleepy G20 summit about the financial crisis into a showdown over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions, or be held accountable to international standards and international law.
HENRY: The president revealed that, Thursday in Vienna, the U.S., United Kingdom and France provided detailed intelligence to the International Atomic Energy Agency showing Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility for several years.
OBAMA: The existence of this facility underscores Iran's continuing unwillingness to meet its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions and IAEA requirements. We expect the IAEA to immediately investigate this disturbing information.
HENRY: French President Nicolas Sarkozy was even blunter, demanding that Iran put everything on the table at a pivotal meeting in Geneva on October 1, or else.
NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): If, by December, there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken.
HENRY: The key to passing tough new sanctions at the United Nations will hinge on whether there's buy-in from China and Russia.
That's why Mr. Obama quietly started building his case, sharing the sensitive new intelligence with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in a one-on-one meeting earlier this week, according to senior U.S. officials, who say their diplomatic effort is starting to bear fruit, because Russia's long skepticism over sanctions is beginning to evaporate.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia's position is very simple. Sanctions rarely lead to productive results. But, in some cases, sanctions are inevitable.
HENRY: Mr. Obama was also spotted engaging in a long chat with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday. And when asked about China's long resistance to sanctions, a top U.S. official said stay tuned, because the Chinese are just starting to absorb the new intelligence.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY: Now, fascinating how this went down behind the scenes. We're told by senior U.S. officials that, very recently, Iran realized that the U.S. knew about this underground nuclear facility that was no longer a secret, so Iran tried to defuse the controversy by going to the IAEA itself and just revealing the broad brush of the facility.
That's why the U.S. moved so quickly with its allies, pounced in the last 24 hours, to give the full store to the IAEA, so they can really start to try and build their case around the world that there needs to be tough new sanctions against Iran -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, and, Ed, I -- I thought what was impressive is the way these three leaders, they coordinated their statements, President Obama basically laying out the charge against Iran, Sarkozy saying they have a December deadline, and then Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Iran's nuclear program is the most urgent proliferation challenge that the world faces today. As President Obama and President Sarkozy have just said, the level of deception by the Iranian government and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments will shock and anger the whole international community, and it will harden our resolve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And then he said he was drawing a line in the sand.
Now, those are words with enormous and very serious ramifications, clearly coordinated by these three leaders, Ed.
HENRY: It is.
And what's significant, as well, is that, on the sideline, sort of behind the scenes, there's been a lot of chatter in the last couple of days, especially back in Britain, that maybe the U.S. president has been snubbing the British prime minister.
Bringing him in like this, showing publicly how they were coordinating that statement, as you say, tries to put some of that to rest, number one. Number two, this is a big test now for President Obama on the world stage. Given what happened with the intelligence failures in the Bush administration, for him to now go public to the world and say, we have irrefutable evidence of this, he's going to obviously have to back this up in the days ahead.
And, secondly, he's also going to have to eventually, it looks like, go to the U.N. and build this case for sanctions. If it really is irrefutable evidence, and he doesn't get sanctions, it's obviously going to be a big failure for this administration. So, it's very pivotal, how he builds this case.
I mean, that's why he brought together the allies. He can't necessarily do it alone. He is going to need these allies with him making that case -- Wolf.
All right, Ed, don't go away.
We're standing by for the president's news conference in Pittsburgh. We will have live coverage of that. That begins later this hour.
Iran's president clearly wasn't expecting Western leaders to go public with that information about the uranium enrichment plant, the second, secret one. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got word of the announcement this morning during an exclusive interview with "TIME" magazine's Richard Stengel.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Even as we speak right now, President Obama in Pittsburgh will be giving a speech accusing Iran of building a secret nuclear plant, previously undisclosed.
A, why did you not reveal the existence of this nuclear facility before? And, two, will you allow immediate international inspectors to go to the facility?
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Mr. Obama is about to say these?
STENGEL: This morning at 8:30.
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): So, is all the information that Mr. Obama receives of the same nature?
STENGEL: That's -- that's my understanding. And, according to the press reports this morning, it's -- it's President Obama, Mr. Sarkozy, and Mr. Brown who are collectively making this announcement.
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): If I were Mr. Obama's adviser, I would definitely ask him to refrain from making this statement, because it is definitively a mistake. We have no secrecy. And we work within the framework of the IAEA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in Richard Stengel, the magazine's managing editor, "TIME" magazine's managing editor.
Richard, thanks very much for doing this.
Pretty amazing, the timing of your opportunity -- Joe Klein, I saw, from "TIME" magazine was with you -- to have this opportunity to question Ahmadinejad just as this bombshell was unfolding.
STENGEL: Yes. In fact, just as we arrived, there were the first press reports about what President Obama was going to say. And, Wolf, as you saw, when I asked him about it, he seemed unprepared and -- and a bit taken aback. He wasn't sure that it was happening. He wasn't sure that what -- what President Obama was going to say.
And, at the same time, I think he was unprepared to talk about this facility, because it's something that he might not have been aware of. He might not have been aware of the IAEA's presentation earlier in the week.
So, he was -- he was pretty much dumbfounded by it.
BLITZER: What else did he tell you that really struck -- struck a chord?
STENGEL: Well, he -- it's interesting. He talks about how they cooperate with the IAEA. He talks about how there's not everything that goes on in Iran has to come to the attention of President Obama. He said that: We have secrets, just like any other country does.
You know, he, again, talks about how these domestic issues of Iran are nobody else's business but Iran.
BLITZER: And, you know, as I noted with Ed, it looked like the statements from President Obama and President Sarkozy and Gordon Brown were pretty well-coordinated.
There was some really tough talk in there. And, then, later, the Russians came out with a statement saying the Iranians better come clean as well. It looks like the pressure is really building.
STENGEL: Yes, I think so.
I was a little surprised myself about how stern and harsh it was. I mean, there was a lot of language that we hadn't heard since before the invasion of Iraq, the -- you know, the use of the term drawing a line in the sand. I think the -- the West and the Security Council has basically made a decision that -- that what is going to go forward with Iran is going to be confrontational.
The meeting that they have next week, you know, ain't going to be a honeymoon at all. They are going to be accusing Iran and Ahmadinejad of covering up potential nuclear facilities.
BLITZER: And, since your interview earlier this morning, he's had another photo opportunity, another session with some reporters in New York.
And he says that President Obama will regret his statements on enrichment facilities. So, he -- he doesn't seem to be backing down right now, in the face of what I -- what I, like you, saw as really a ratcheting up of the rhetoric against Iran.
STENGEL: Yes. I think he's -- he's meeting it -- he's meeting that ratcheting up at every station along the ladder. And I think, you know, that doesn't bode very well for the -- for the talks next week.
BLITZER: How does this play inside Iran, where we saw enormous opposition develop over the past couple months, since the election? And there are a lot of angry people back in Iran right now. How do you think this plays out with -- with the appearance, at least, of Ahmadinejad standing up to the West?
Wolf, as you know, I mean, he comes to New York for the General Assembly every year. And -- and, like so many world leaders, he has multiple audiences.
One of the -- one of his audiences is back home, and one of them is here in the West. And I think he's often playing to the audience at home by saying -- by -- by confronting the West, by not backing down, by -- by saying, it's none of your business.
So, I assume among his own cohort of voters back in Iran, that's playing well. You know, at the same time, how it's playing with the protest movement of people who think the election was misguided, I don't know. It's probably making them even more rested than they were already.
BLITZER: Yes, good point, indeed. Excellent work. Thanks very much, Rick Stengel, of our sister publication "TIME" magazine and his own team doing some excellent work getting this interview with Ahmadinejad.
Appreciate it very much.
STENGEL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of big interviews right here on CNN as well.
Bill Clinton, he speaks to our Anderson Cooper on "A.C. 360" tonight. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. He's making some news, by the way, on same-sex marriage. We're going to have details of what the former president now says about same-sex marriage. You might be surprised to hear Bill Clinton on this sensitive subject.
Also, stand by for some of Fareed Zakaria's exclusive interview with Moammar Gadhafi. The Libya leader talks about meeting relatives of victims in Pan Am -- in the Pan Am 103 bombing. We're going to have that for you as well. That's coming up.
And the defense secretary, Robert Gates, he goes one-on-one with our own John King, as the administration consideration a major troop buildup in Afghanistan. Just ahead, John will give us a preview of that interview that will be airing on Sunday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
We're -- also want to remind you we're awaiting President Obama's news conference this hour. He is going to be answering reporters' questions. You're looking at a live picture coming in from the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. We will go there live as soon as the president shows up.
Right now, by the way, protesters are still on the march in Pittsburgh. Our Brian Todd will have the latest on the demonstrations a day after he was caught in the middle of a pretty violent situation. Got hit by a chemical agent.
And a top U.S. commander in Afghanistan takes part in a secret meeting about future troop deployments. We will talk about the options on the table.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Just a reminder, an important one: We're standing by for President Obama. He is about ready to hold a news conference in Pittsburgh this hour,amid new questions about Iran's nuclear ambitions -- Western leaders coming forward today to reveal that Iran has a second -- a second uranium enrichment facility. We're going to carry the president's news conference in Pittsburgh live. Stand by for that.
Outside the G20 summit talks, riot police are lining the route of a large anti-globalization march. Demonstrations turned violent yesterday, leading to dozens of arrests.
CNN's Brian Todd is there -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a completely different atmosphere so far today from Thursday. The march is much bigger. We're told this is the biggest march in Pittsburgh since the 1970s, estimated at least a few thousand people.
But it is much more peaceful, less confrontational, very, very diverse group of protesters here, everyone from people protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet, to women's rights groups, to anti- capitalists.
I'm here with organizer Pete Shell.
PETE SHELL, MARCH ORGANIZER: Yes.
TODD: ... one of the components of today that people were worried about was the presence of some of the anarchists who took part in Thursday's marches. How concerned were you about that going into it?
SHELL: I wasn't that concerned about it, because, actually, they have marched with us in the past, and they have been peaceful. They have -- they have agreed to respect the peaceful, legal nature of our march.
TODD: All right. Thank you very much, Pete. Appreciate it.
Wolf, another striking difference here is the police presence. It is very heavy, not nearly as confrontational as Thursday, long stretches of this march where the police were not visible. You can see them lining this route. They're a pretty heavy presence right now. The big difference, these organizers had a permit to march. Yesterday's did not. It has seemingly made a very, very big difference -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, on the scene for us -- we will check back with him later -- thank you.
Officials in Bedford, New York, meanwhile are welcoming news that the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, is leaving the country today. And a controversial tent set up in his honor has been packed up and removed. The tent had been set up by Libyan officials on a Bedford estate rented from the real estate tycoon Donald Trump during Gadhafi's attendance at the United Nations General Assembly meetings this week.
The Libyan leader says he spent some of his time in the United States with family members of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
He spoke to CNN's Fareed Zakaria very late last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS")
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: I gather from your aides that you have met with the victims of the Lockerbie bombing. Tell me about that.
MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Yes, I met some of them. It was a friendly meeting, friendly encounter. And I offered my condolences for the relatives who lost them. They also expressed their condolences for my daughter who was killed during the American raid in '86.
ZAKARIA: The 1986 raid?
GADHAFI (through translator): It was very -- very sentimental and very touched, the meeting.
ZAKARIA: So you understand the grief of these -- these people?
GADHAFI (through translator): It is a tragedy. It is a catastrophe.
ZAKARIA: And -- and do you regret any possible role that officials of the Libyan government might have played?
GADHAFI (through translator): No one -- no one would support an action like that on -- would not be touched and moved by such a tragedy. Whether it is Lockerbie or whether it is the '86 raid against Libya, we are all families of the victims, because resorting to violence, because the result violence is the result of terror.
Terror, in all its forms, is a common enemy to all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And later in THE SITUATION ROOM, I will be speaking to a family member of Flight 103, one of the victims' family members who met with Gadhafi. I will also speak with someone, another victim's family member who didn't meet with Gadhafi, very different views. That's coming in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.
And you can see more of Fareed Zakaria's interview with the controversial Libyan leader this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS.
Stunning news today about a new Iranian nuclear facility. It's the -- the breaking news we have been reporting. And we have new information on how Tehran tries to protect its nuclear sites. They may be -- repeat -- maybe bomb-proof.
Also, partisan politics in the classroom? New Jersey's education commissioner orders a review of one school's controversial Black History Month celebration that caused a stir on YouTube.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
An H1N1 vaccine could be at your doctor's office as early as October 5. And the CDC says the first batches will protect six million to seven million people. The shipments will go to doctors, clinics, and other providers designated by each state. In time, the government actually expects to have 250 million doses available in the U.S.
And former Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins is dead. She succumbed to brain cancer last night at the Central California Women's Facility at Chowchilla. Atkins admitted that she took part in seven murders over a two-day period in 1969, with the help of other Manson family members. Among her victims, actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just got out of the hospital, but a spokesman for the court says she is wasting no time going back to work today, despite calls from her family and colleagues to slow down. She showed signs of fatigue and lightheadedness when she was admitted yesterday. Sources close to Ginsburg say she is feeling better. She underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer back in February -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We wish her only -- only the best. Thanks very much for that, Fred.
We expect to be hearing momentarily, in the next 15, 20 minutes, we're told, from the president of the United States. He's going to be answering reporters' questions at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. We're going to go there live. A lot of those questions presumably will deal with the top story of the day, the confrontation between the West and Iran over its nuclear program.
Remember, we will have live coverage of the news conference. That's coming up.
And we will also tell you how the West tracked down Iran's latest secret nuclear facility. Our Barbara Starr has the inside story on what she describes as a cat-and-mouse game.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: As talk of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan grows, CNN's John King goes one-on-one with the defense secretary, Robert Gates. Stand by.
And you don't see them very often together, at least publicly. The former President Bill Clinton and his wife, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, they are on the same stage today talking public service and also sharing a public kiss.
And the Massachusetts situation moving on -- Ted Kennedy's temporary replacement in the United States Senate is now sworn in.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Returning now to our top story, stunning news today that Iran has a second uranium enrichment facility. Sources say the United States has known about the secret site for years.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's joining us. The -- the Iranians, Barbara, they -- they have designed these facilities clearly with -- intended to make sure they could survive some sort of military attack; is that right?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
You know, the Iranians are trying to do everything they can to keep the U.S. from being able to target their nuclear program.
STARR (voice-over): This is the new ground zero in the U.S. fight with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Here, 20 miles north of the holy city of Qom, is where President Obama says the regime has built a secret underground nuclear fuel plant.
It's been an intelligence cat-and-mouse game to track Iran's latest secret nuclear sites. Satellites have watched overhead for signs of dirt or vehicle movement. But how can you know what's going on underground?
DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE & INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: That could have been through human intelligence. It could have been through penetration of their, let's say, the computer systems. It could have been through some mistake Iran made and accidentally told somebody what was going on. So, there's many ways.
STARR: Add this to two other major worries for the U.S.: another enrichment facility at Natanz and a major nuclear center at Isfahan, part of Iran's plans to build the nuclear program across the country and bury facilities underground.
Putting part of its nuclear crown jewels underground could make it tough for the U.S. or Israel to effectively bomb these sites. And it's tough to know if any attempt to destroy them is successful.
ALBRIGHT: Now, centrifuges are sensitive, if you really whack them out hard with very hard -- or a very high level of explosives, you may be able to cause damage through the vibrations and the shockwaves that go in, but, in general it's very hard to destroy something buried in a mountain.
STARR: Could Iran be right in betting the U.S. can't destroy its underground facilities? The U.S. has been trying for years to build a penetrating bomb that can punch through hard rock to destroy deeply buried weapon sites.
STARR: Wolf, consider this.
One idea that's been on the books for years, a 30,000-pound bomb dropped from a B-2 bomber. But, again, for these sites that are so deeply buried, no guarantees they would be destroyed. This site in particular of concern because it is near the Iranian holy city of Qom, and nobody wants to risk bombing religious sites inadvertently -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it may have been one reason, Barbara, why that's they where placed this facility; is that right?
STARR: Absolutely. I think that what the U.S. intelligence community sees right now is Iran hedging its bets everywhere, putting sites underground, putting them in sensitive areas, and dispersing them across the country.
Each one of these steps would make it much more difficult, not impossible, but difficult, for either the U.S. or Israel to engage in an airstrike campaign -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you. Good point. Remember, we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. You're looking at live pictures there from Pittsburgh at the G20 summit. He's getting ready for a news conference, will be answering reporters' questions. Once it begins, you will see the whole thing live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But let's get to our security watch right now. Federal marshals are taking a terror suspect from Colorado to New York, where he's been indicted in a bombing plot. Prosecutors say Najibullah Zazi intended to blow up a target in New York City on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
We're getting new information this week about a number of terrorism investigations across the United States.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is looking into that.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: One question, Wolf, is whether the recent spate of terrorism cases is a coincidence or a trend.
(voice-over): Bomb plots allegedly targeting New York, Dallas, Texas, and Springfield, Illinois, all unfolding in the same week.
Although the FBI coordinated the stings in Springfield and Dallas, authorities say none of these cases is related. Some experts say it is pure coincidence that they broke almost simultaneously, but others say the calendar is a factor.
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI NEGOTIATOR: It is in the vicinity of the anniversary of September 11. It's also at the same time -- Ramadan was just over, so there are a variety of reasons that have heightened the fervor, if you will, of the people that would like to do these things.
MESERVE: This week also brought new charges in connection with an alleged plot to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. That case and the alleged bomb plot in Springfield involved American converts to Islam, proverbial homegrown terrorists who are often hard to detect.
CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I don't think that this recent spate of incidents necessarily, in and of itself, indicates that homegrown terrorism is a greater threat today than it was a couple of weeks ago.
MESERVE: But at least one analyst disagrees. He thinks this could signal that the domestic terror threat is growing in size and severity.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There are a constellation of cases which, taken together, suggest that some of the kind of maybe self-congratulation we had that this was not really such a problem as it is, let's say, in Britain, you know, maybe we need to reexamine that proposition.
MESERVE (on camera): Some experts believe we should expect more domestic terrorist cases, that the situation will only get worse, not better. But they are encouraged that all of these alleged plots were short-circuited by law enforcement before they could be carried out -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Jeanne, thanks very much.
Once again, we're awaiting President Obama. He is getting ready to answer reporters' questions in Pittsburgh. Once he gets there -- we understand he's running a few minutes late -- we will go there live. We will bring you the entire Q&A session, the president at a news conference in Pittsburgh on this G20 summit day.
And, later, Bill Clinton changes his mind about same-sex marriage, and he's talking about it to CNN's Anderson Cooper.
And she was -- she was face to face with Moammar Gadhafi. I will talk to a relative of a Lockerbie bombing victim who met with the Libyan leader today. She will reveal the surprising thing that was never said.
BLITZER: Once again, I want to remind our viewers we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. President Obama will be going before reporters in Pittsburgh soon, wrapping up the G20 summit there, a big huge week, I must say, on the international stage for the American president.
Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's joining us from Pittsburgh. Here in Washington, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger and our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.
Ed, you know, a lot of focus in recent weeks on health care, domestic issues. This week, it was almost all international issues, Iran, Afghanistan. This president certainly has a lot on his international plate right now.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He does have a lot on his international plate.
I mean, first of all, this will be time for reporters to ask him questions since the McChrystal report leaked, where, essentially, the commanding general on the ground in Afghanistan said, look, unless you send more troops, this mission will fail. That's obviously a very big, important topic for this president.
Secondly, at the U.N. earlier this week, the president really tried to lay out a sharp departure from the Bush administration, their approach to the world, that there was a new day from the United States, specifically on the diplomatic front. And now, with this news from Iran today, this is a big test for this president, to test out his new approach on diplomacy. If there is irrefutable intelligence that Iran has another underground nuclear facility, it's certainly incumbent upon this to make the case, as he's starting to today, that sanctions before the U.N. need to -- need to happen, and that Russia and China, others, need to get on board.
So, this will be a big test for him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, what are you hearing about General McChrystal? He's been having intense meetings on -- on his recommendation. We expect he's going to ask for another 30,000 or 40,000 U.S. troops to help him in Afghanistan.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
That's a huge decision, Wolf. It involves a lot of American troops, a lot of American families. CNN has learned that General David Petraeus, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, flew to Ramstein, Germany, to meet with General Stanley McChrystal in person face to face at a secure military base there.
Basically, they want to get a better understanding of exactly what troops and equipment that General McChrystal says he's going to need in order to carry out this counterinsurgency strategy there in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: This is a hugely complex issue, Gloria...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: ... and, politically, very, very sensitive. Look at this latest "USA Today"/Gallup poll. The question is, do you favor or oppose a decision by President Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan? Forty-one percent say they favor it. Fifty percent oppose, 9 percent no opinion. More oppose than favor.
The president is going to have a tough decision to make.
BORGER: He does.
And I think what we're seeing, Wolf, is, there's an awful lot of confusion out there. I mean, you have a president who, when he was campaigning for president, called the war in Afghanistan a war of necessity, not a war of choice.
He added more troops in Afghanistan when he first became president. And now, suddenly, the public is seeing a president saying, hold on. Wait a minute. I'm not so sure I'm going to agree with the generals about adding more troops. Maybe there needs to be a change of mission here.
So, again, this is a president, we have seen him all over this week, who is going to have to -- when he decides what he wants to do, he's going to have to be out there selling it to the American people, particularly if it differs from what he campaigned on. BLITZER: You know, Gloria, there's another poll -- there's another question in that -- in a separate poll, the "New York Times/CBS News poll, which asks this question: Should President Obama's -- do you support -- do you believe President Obama's public appearances and speeches are -- are too many, 35 percent, too few, 4 percent, the right -- just about right -- right number, 58 percent, and don't know, 3 percent.
That's -- that's pretty impressive, that 58 percent think that that's just about right...
BLITZER: ... the times hearing from the president of the United States. I suspect, of the 35 percent who say it's too few -- too many, that is, it's a lot of Republicans who would just as soon not hear so much from the president.
BORGER: Right. And it -- Right. If you talk to folks at the White House, they will say, look, he's our best spokesman, and we want to keep putting him out there.
When they put him out there on health care, Wolf, he raised the numbers after his address to a joint session of Congress. I think the only question that's really out there is, will the American public begin to believe that he is spread way too thin, that, one minute, he's at the United Nations, the next minute, he's talking about health care, the next minute, he's talking about education?
And they may say, wait a minute. Don't you need some other spokesmen out there to help the president out?
BLITZER: Well, he is a good spokesman, Ed. And -- and I'm sure his aides at the White House think he's the best one they have.
HENRY: They certainly do. And, I mean, take a look at Iran today. Could have put out Secretary of State Clinton. Could have put out the national security adviser, General Jim Jones.
And, as -- as Gloria points out, in upper levels of the White House, they still believe this president is their best spokesman, their chief salesman on a whole range of issues. There certainly will be a question in the days ahead, as he continues to be that salesperson, whether he is spread too thin, as Gloria notes, but they believe right now that he's not and they believe that, on an issue of this great issue like Iran, he needs to be front and center -- Wolf.
BLITZER: When they make those tough threats, Chris Lawrence -- you're our Pentagon correspondent -- when we hear the president of the United States, the president of France, the prime minister of Britain issue these, in effect, ultimatums to the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, Sarkozy saying you have until December, make up your mind, and then we hear from Gordon Brown this is a line in the sand that we're drawing, I assume, over at the Pentagon -- I used to cover that building myself -- there are military options that the generals are considering right now. LAWRENCE: Certainly there are, but there are none that they will ever publicly admit to or even talk -- or even say that they are on the table.
But, of course, there always are military options in case diplomatic relations do break down and the diplomacy route doesn't take hold, but it -- there are some real, real challenges there. You know, at the present time you're talking about a facility that could be deep, deep underground. Yes, you could bomb that mountain.
Yes, could you probably take out the entrances and the exits to that facility, but could you actually damage the facility itself? It would be hard to determine how much damage you actually caused to it. So, yes, there are options. I would say probably most people would look at it and say, none of them are perfect.
BLITZER: I -- I assume, Gloria, that Ahmadinejad must have been shaken by this show of force...
BLITZER: ... from the U.S., France and U.K. And then the Russians came in and basically agreed the Iranians have to come clean. And the tough words that were uttered in those carefully choreographed statements, Ahmadinejad, I assume, was shaken by that...
BLITZER: ... remembering what happened to Saddam Hussein not that long ago when similarly tough words were uttered leading up to the U.S. invasion.
I think it was really a show of force, and I -- and I think the choreography was very, very much on purpose, because you had, not President Obama of the United States alone, but President Obama flanked by allies, allies who were setting a deadline, and saying, OK, you have got two months, buddy.
And then you have the Russian president coming out also saying, you know what, sometimes sanctions are inevitable. Well, you know, he hasn't ever said that before, and now it seems in fact that sanctions are inevitable.
BLITZER: Guys, stand by, because we're going to continue this discussion.
We're awaiting the president of the United States. He's getting ready to hold a news conference wrapping up the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. You're looking at live pictures. Once the president is there, starts his opening statement, and then takes questions, we're going to go there. You going to see the whole thing right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. So, stand by -- by for that.
Meanwhile, another of President Obama's appointees is now out of a job, stepping down after being hammered by some conservative pundits. We are going to tell you who it is, and we will look at whether the White House is caving too quickly to conservative pressure.
And Bill and Hillary Clinton publicly intimate once again -- they were together on the stage today. We're going to tell what you happened, what led to their public display of affection, a kiss, and more -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The most powerful leaders in the world tackle the worst global financial crisis seen in recent history, leading the charge, President Obama. He's hosting the heads of 19 nations and the European Union at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. We're standing by, by the way, to hear from the president of the United States. He's getting ready to hold a news conference. We will have live coverage as soon as he shows up.
Meanwhile, leaders are trying to chart a course for the global economy in Pittsburgh. One thing they have decided on, from now on, the G20 will be the primary body for coordinating global economic policy.
What they decide there will affect so many people around the world. So, some protesters say you should be privy to the discussions as well.
Let's bring in once again CNN's Brian Todd. He's on the scene for us -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some of those protesters are actually winding down their latest march today. They are crossing the Seventh Street Bridge going home. This was a peaceful day of protests.
Now, as is often the case with these economic summits, this one has been a real study in contrasts, between the decisions made at the very high-level meetings in that Convention Centers and the realities in the city itself.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Tell me what democracy looks like!
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: This is what democracy looks like!
TODD (voice-over): Less than two miles from the summit meeting, audible frustration on the streets by people who feel powerless over what they see as backroom deals made by a powerful few.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: South Korea, we're here to march on the -- on the summit where they makes decisions about the economy of the world behind closed doors.
TODD: There's another type of frustration in Pittsburgh roughly 30 years in the making: frustration over lost manufacturing jobs.
Leo Gerard, head of the United Steelworkers union, tells us some 500,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in the greater Pittsburgh area over that period. He blames the exodus of jobs to competitive economies like China, and says last year's economic crisis blunted a modest comeback.
LEO GERARD, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS UNION: In every sector that we represent, tire and rubber, glass, aluminum, mining, steel, and a number of other sectors, all of them went flat or in -- in decline after the economic collapse last September. None of them are back to the levels they were at before.
TODD: That's in part because of the way this city reinvented itself after the steel mills started to shut down in the late '70s.
(on camera): This is the flip side of the globalization debate, the headquarters of the Lanxess Corporation here in Findlay Township, just outside of Pittsburgh. This is a German-owned chemical company. They say they have created about 1,000 jobs in the United States since they were established five years ago, including about 300 jobs just in the Pittsburgh area.
CEO Randy Dearth gives us an inside look at one of their application labs.
RANDY DEARTH, CEO, LANXESS CORPORATION: We're bringing our biocide technology and trying to simulate what a metalworking fluid bed would be like.
TODD: Here, they test chemicals used to make synthetic rubber for tires, chemicals to purify water and protect plastic.
DEARTH: We live in a global environment today. Business is done globally. That's why here, for instance, at Lanxess, I have people from China, from India, from Germany, of course, from Nigeria, from Brazil. And they all come here to help us better understand their markets, and then we send Americans elsewhere around the world.
TODD: Now, when I asked Randy Dearth just how much of a percentage of his own work force is American, he said about 95 percent of the people that his firm has hired over the past few years has been Americans.
Pittsburgh's mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, told us that the city has also brought in high-tech health care, other types of jobs. They have tried to create a very diverse economy. They have not abandoned the steel industry. But he says they have had to inject some diversity in here in Pittsburgh. And their success in doing that is the reason why the summit is here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And they are trying to highlight their unemployment rate to sort of shake some of that earlier image.
TODD: That's right.
I mean, Pittsburgh has always had the image for decades now of a city that's been depressed, that has had jobs leave it. The Pittsburgh mayor has told us that -- we have heard it from business leaders -- their unemployment rate is 2 percent below the national average. They have really been pounding that message this week.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, on the scene for us in Pittsburgh, thank you.
The defense secretary speaking out about Iran's nuclear ambitions and U.S. military options -- Robert Gates, he goes one-on-one with our own John King. John will be along to tell us what we have just learned. Stand by.
And bill and Hillary Clinton's love fest. He very publicly sings her praises today and kisses her, to boot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Bye, Madam Secretary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bill Clinton is publicly talking for the first time about changing his position on same-sex marriage.
The former president of the United States sat down for an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": You said you recently changed your mind on same-sex marriage. I'm wondering what you mean by that. Do you now believe that gay people should have full rights to civil marriage nationwide?
CLINTON: I do. I think that -- well, let me get back to the last point, the last word.
I believe, historically, for 200-and-some years, marriage has been a question left to the states and the religious institutions. I still think that's where it belongs.
That is, I -- I was against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide. And I still think that the American people should be able to play this out in debates.
But me, Bill Clinton, personally, I have changed my position. I -- I am no longer opposed to that. I think, if people want to make commitments that last a lifetime, they ought to be able to do it. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And can you hear a lot more from Bill Clinton later tonight on "A.C. 360." That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, right here on CNN.