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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama Criticizes Iran Over Nuclear Program; Gadhafi Meets With Lockerbie Families

Aired September 25, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Secretary Clinton was at the Clinton Global Initiative conference to unveil a new State Department initiative on food security, and she said in part, it's an idea that she developed by seeing the kinds of partnerships her husband's Global Initiative has produced -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jill, thank you.

And happening now: President Obama says Iran must come clean about its nuclear ambitions or else. You heard him live on CNN just a short while ago. This hour, the nuclear site Iran had been keeping secret.

We're also going to take you inside Moammar Gadhafi's stunning meeting, what the Libya leader said and didn't say to relatives of Lockerbie bombing victims. Some family members are now speaking out.

And it's a YouTube moment, a video of students being taught to sing President Obama's praises. The best political team on television considers what if anything is wrong with that.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama says Iran is now on notice. It can stop pursuing nuclear weapons or it can face a confrontation from the West. At issue, the revelation that Iran has a second Iranian uranium enrichment facility, the secret site a major focus at the close of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. Mr. Obama speaking out just a short while for the second time today accusing Iran of breaking the rules and deception.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry is, joining from now from Pittsburgh with more.

Pretty tough talk from the president today, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And to give you an idea of the magnitude of this, the stakes that are involved, just a few moments ago, very interesting that the president when asked about this would not take the military action against Iran off the table, a possible military strike against Iran. He did stress, however, that he wants to solve this diplomatically, and today he began making that case to the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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, there's also always the possibility of Israel launching a preemptive strike against Iran. That's why people close to the situation are saying that this case that the president is starting to make for sanctions is so pivotal, so critical right now to try to avoid any potential military strikes, and instead deal with this diplomatically -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tough talk, though, indeed. All right, Ed, thanks very much.

And the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, took a very tough line against what he calls Iran's serial deception. Listen carefully to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: 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. Confronted by the serial deception of many years, the international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sounds very familiar to the -- some of the rhetoric leading up to the war in Iraq. Shock and anger, he uses that phrase, shock and awe, as all of us remember the phrase of the war in Iraq. Line in the sand, similar language, very tough talk, indeed.

This hour, some question about whether the Iranian president is taking these warnings from President Obama and the other allies all that seriously. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sat down for an interview with CNN's Larry King just a short while ago. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: It must be difficult to have so many people up in arms about you. President Sarkozy of France accuses Iran of taking an international community -- taking the international community on a dangerous path. British Prime Minister Brown says that due to the serious deception -- the serial deception of many years, the international community has not a choice but to draw a line in the sand.

Now, that's France, Britain, the United States. How do you react? All three are attacking you.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Well, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Brown's statements really lack any legal credibility. And from our standpoint, what they say is not of much value. If they have the guts, they might as well resolve these problems that face them in France and in Britain.

Who exactly are they to decide about others around the world? What Mr. Obama says does matter.

KING: Because?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): We did not expect Mr. Obama, within less than 48 years -- 48 hours -- to basically violate the commitment that he spoke of at the United Nations. KING: Are you saying you're disappointed in the president of the United States?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): We simply didn't expect him to say something that was...

KING: All right. President Sarkozy...

(CROSSTALK)

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): ... baseless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And we're going to have much more from the Iranian president later on tonight in a prime-time exclusive. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he is on "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific, only here on CNN. I think you're going to want to see this interview.

Meanwhile, sources say the United States has known about Iran's secret site for years.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She is joining us.

Barbara, the Iranians clearly are worried about a potential military strike. And they have taken action to try and deal with that.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

As you just said, the prime minister of Great Britain talking about a line in the sand, that is military talk that has not escaped Iran's notice. It's a big factor in what they're doing right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

In an interview to air Sunday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said any military option would only delay, not end, Iran's nuclear program.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The reality is, there's no military option that does anything more than buy time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Putting sites all over the country, burying them deep underground, and putting them near a holy Shia city like Qom, these are all part of the Iranian strategy to make it very difficult for that military option to really be an effective one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

And just to remind our viewers, as Barbara just mentioned, our chief national correspondent, John King, did discuss the Iran situation and potential military options with the defense secretary, Robert Gates. You just saw that. You can see the full interview when it airs on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." That's this Sunday morning 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

The leader of the free world command s the world's attention, President Obama hosting leaders over at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. For a man criticized as having too little foreign policy experience during the presidential campaign, how is the president doing right now?

And would-be terrorists allegedly targeting New York, Dallas, and Springfield, Illinois, alleged terror plots unfolding in the same week. At least one expert says there's a disturbing reason why.

And Pittsburgh sees the biggest show of public anger since back in the 1970s. Protesters take to the streets amid the G20 summit. What exactly do they want?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Major decision coming out of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh this week -- the G20 will now eclipse the G8 as the group responsible for steering the global economy.

The move gives some of the world's largest economies, like China, India, and Brazil a new role in the economic decision-making process. The White House says it will also help build a more balanced world economy, reform the financial system, and improve the lives of the poor.

Wrapping up the talks just a little while ago, President Obama said international coordination has helped avert an economic disaster around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It's worth recalling the situation we faced six months ago: a contracting economy, skyrocketing unemployment, stagnant trade, and a financial system that was nearly frozen. Some were warning of a second Great Depression.

But because of the bold and coordinated action that we took, millions of jobs have been saved or created, the decline in output has been stopped, financial markets have come back to life, and we stopped the crisis from spreading further to the developing world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Not everyone agrees with the president that the global economy is heading in the right direction. There have been large, sometimes raucous demonstrations outside the talks in Pittsburgh this week.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's been covering them for us.

Brian, how did it go today?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was a much different tone today from Thursday. It was a much larger gathering today. We estimated the crowds at anywhere really between 3,000 to 5,000 people, much more kind of upbeat, spirited, much less confrontational than Thursday's violence.

There was -- you know, they -- the agendas reached here were anywhere from anti-globalization, anti-capitalism to protesters demonstrating against the Chinese occupation of Tibet, women's rights groups, anti-war groups. They all turned out in force today, much more orderly than yesterday.

I did ask the march organizer about possible spillover effects from Thursday's violence and about one group in particular.

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?

PETE SHELL, MARCH ORGANIZER: 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.

And Pete Shell said this was still the largest demonstration he believes in Pittsburgh since the 1970s.

The police presence was kind of a striking contrast as well. They lined the streets in several stretches, but there were also several stretches where they faded back and they were almost invisible. The big difference, this march had a permit; Thursday's march did not -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

All right, this just coming in. Let's get to our security watch. The lead suspect in a terror plot arrives in New York from Colorado just moments ago. Prosecutors say Najibullah Zazi intended to blow up a target in New York City on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He was taken to the Brooklyn Detention Center just a little while ago and will face arraignment.

We have been getting new information this week about a number of terrorism investigations across the country.

Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne Meserve watching this very worrisome story.

Sitting down with the Libyan leader -- Americans who lost loves one in the Lockerbie bombing meet with Moammar Gadhafi. We're going to talk to one of them about what was said during that meeting. We will also speak with a relative of a Lockerbie victim who was not at that meeting.

Plus, former President Bill Clinton changes his position on same- sex marriage. You're going to see what he's saying now.

And some G20 glamour -- the first lady, Michelle Obama, hosts an event for summit spouses.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: It's an CNN exclusive. The Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, talks about his meeting with relatives of the Lockerbie bombing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Do you regret any possible role that officials of the Libyan government might have played?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Just ahead, I will speak with one Lockerbie family member who was in the room and another who was against meeting with Moammar Gadhafi.

And students learn a song praising President Obama. It's a YouTube video moment. Is it an outrage or is it no big deal?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, was in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly meeting. And now the Libyan leader says he spent some of his time in the United States with family members of the victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

He spoke exclusively to CNN's Fareed Zakaria late last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: 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. Then they also -- they also -- yes, they also expressed their condolences for my daughter who was killed during the American raid in '86.

ZAKARIA: The 1986 raid?

GADHAFI (through translator): Yes. It was very -- it was very sentimental and very touched, the -- the -- the meeting.

ZAKARIA: So you understand the grief of these -- these people?

GADHAFI: Of course. Of course. It is a tragedy. It is a catastrophe.

ZAKARIA: And do you regret any possible role that officials of the Libyan government might have played?

GADHAFI: No one -- no one would support an action like that or 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 -- relatives of the victims, because resorting to violence, because, as a result of violence, as a result of terror -- terror in all its forms is a common enemy to all of us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Lisa Gibson's brother was killed in the Lockerbie bombing. She was one of two family members of victims who met with Moammar Gadhafi in New York this week.

Brian Flynn -- Flynn, whose brother was also killed in the bombing, did not meet with Moammar Gadhafi.

Lisa, why did you decide to meet with him? LISA GIBSON, BROTHER KILLED IN LOCKERBIE BOMBING: Well, I've actually been working on building a bridge of reconciliation since there was a conviction and the acceptance of responsibility with Libya. I started an NGO that has been building bridges with the Libyan government and looking at ways to build bridges of what we call people to people diplomacy, looking at ways to -- to, hopefully, see positive change happen in that country.

And so this was kind of the next step in that process. I first went to Libya on a personal reconciliation trip in January of 2005 and I had hoped to meet with him on that trip. It did not come together. But I did, in fact, meet with some of his senior cabinet officials and essentially just told them -- I said, you know, as a Christian, I needed to come here so I could forgive and begin to see the Libyan people differently than I've seen them for the last 17 years.

And so as I built this relationship with the Libyan government, I've been doing some humanitarian education projects there, I thought would this -- this would be the next natural step...

BLITZER: Do you believe, Lisa...

GIBSON: ...is to have a face-to-face meeting.

BLITZER: Do you believe that the Libyan government was responsible for killing your brother and the others -- 270 people who died over Lockerbie?

GIBSON: You know, I have watched the criminal trial. I participated in the -- in the process. I saw that there was a lot of evidence. And I believe that there was a conviction, ultimately. I've always known that there's been some question. And so the posture I've always taken is to say, with the Libyans and even with Megrahi himself, who I wrote a letter of forgiveness to, is to say only God knows if you're really responsible.

BLITZER: Were you invited to any such meeting, Brian?

Did -- did anyone ask you to come over and meet with the Libyan leader?

FLYNN: No. No one invited us to meet with them. And I find that meeting with Moammar Gadhafi condones and legitimizes his regime of terror. And I admire Lisa's adherence to her true beliefs. And I -- and I -- and I, in fact think, it's probably quite gratifying to find comfort in forgiving people.

But for some of us to do that, we would have to turn our backs on the thousands of people whose lives have been ruined by Moammar Gadhafi. And I'm not just talking about my brother or Lisa's brother, I'm talking about the thousands of people that live in Libya -- Libya today -- unfree and under the torture of the Gadhafi regime.

BLITZER: Did -- what did he say to you about the Lockerbie -- the PanAm 103 flight today, Lisa?

I'm talking about Gadhafi.

GIBSON: You know, we -- we didn't focus as much on the -- the PanAm 1 discussion. I focused more on sharing with him about the projects I'm doing in Libya to help the Libyan people, to find a way to build a bridge of -- of friendship and, actually, to see lasting change happen in that country.

So we didn't have a lot of conversation about that in particular. They've -- they've always given me their condolences. But I know consistently that they've always said that they were not responsible.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem with this meeting, Brian, that Lisa had with Gadhafi today?

FLYNN: I don't have a problem with the meeting because I think Lisa, thankfully, lives in America, not in Libya, therefore, she is free to say what she wants and to visit who -- with whom she wants. And, in fact, I want to express my condolences to Lisa, because she and I share a very similar experience -- our brothers were killed at the same time.

However, I -- I do think that if you -- if you think about the Libyan regime and you think about what they've done and to go there and not discuss Lockerbie when your brother was killed by that regime, I find that troubling. And I think that if we really cared about the Libyan people, we would, in fact, do more to undermine Moammar Gadhafi, rather than elevate and legitimize him.

BLITZER: Are you concerned, Lisa, as some of your critics are, that you're being used by Libya for propaganda purposes?

GIBSON: Well, I need to -- to make known that I requested the interview and the meeting with Gadhafi, not the other way around. And so my intentions have all along been more about peace and reconciliation building with the country of Libya, which primarily is about the people themselves.

I -- I'm serving there. I've done projects to help kids in Libya with AIDS. I've done training for English teachers. It's all about people and he is just one person in that process who makes the decisions that helps to make that possible.

FLYNN: However, Wolf, I would -- I would respond to that by saying that in a country that has $60 billion in oil revenue and 20 percent of the country that is controlled by Gadhafi and 20 percent of the population lives in abject poverty, I can't see how we're helping the people of Libya by legitimizing and elevating his regime.

If we really want to help the children of Libya and help those who are suffering, then I think we have to take a stronger stance against Gadhafi and hold him accountable for what he does -- has done and continues to do.

I mean just this -- this week, Human Rights Watch produced a report -- when Gadhafi was here trying to pitch a tent -- produced a report about the horrendous treatment of Libyan migrants and asylum seekers. It's not as if the regime has changed or there's been any sort of repentance. This man is an unrepentant murderer. And I think that it's our responsibility -- our moral obligation to do something about it.

BLITZER: You want to respond to that, Lisa?

GIBSON: You know, I think that the -- the abuses that he's talking about are legitimate. I've heard the stories. I've had the privilege of going to Libya three times and meeting with the people face-to-face. I've heard their stories. I know what their lives are like and actually have done what I think is the most tangible thing I can do, is to reach out and find a way to improve their lives.

The purpose of my mission of peace and prosperity is to help the country move forward, to help them become move developed, to help them become a more progressive in its foreign policy. My heart is to prevent terrorism in the future by focusing on issues that cause that.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Brian, if you would have met with Gadhafi while he was in New York, give me a sentence or two of what you would have said to him.

FLYNN: I want to know who was behind it besides Megrahi and I want to know who's going to take responsibility and I want to know when he's stepping down from his regime.

BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it.

Brian Flynn, Lisa Gibson, thanks to both of you for coming in.

FLYNN: Thank you.

GIBSON: Thank you for having us.

BLITZER: President Obama's foreign policy skills -- is he up to handling the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, dealing with Iran, North Korea?

The best political team on television is standing by.

And New Jersey students singing the praises of the president. Now, some parents and others are outraged.

Is it bringing politics into the classroom?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our lead story, the revelations about a second Iranian nuclear facility -- an enrichment facility for uranium. When President Obama answered questions by reporters just a short while ago. We heard a lot about Iran's nuclear ambitions and we heard a lot about the war in Afghanistan.

What about health care reform?

What about the economy? We didn't hear much at this news conference on that.

Let's discuss what's going on with three members of the best political team on television -- our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and our two political contributors, Democratic strategist, James Carville, and Republican strategist, Ed Rollins.

There's little doubt, James, that national security, at least right now, seems to be sucking up all of the oxygen. We didn't hear anything, virtually, this week about what's going on in health care reform or in other domestic issues.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Yes. Well, you know, when you have a bunch of terrorist arrests and you have an expanded nuclear program in Iran, that will -- that will dominate the news for you pretty quickly. And then you've got the U.N. and -- in New York and you've got Ahmadinejad on "LARRY KING" and you've got Gadhafi on -- on "FAREED." And, yes, it's going to -- it's going to happen. There's no doubt about it. There's a lot of foreign policy stories out there right now.

BLITZER: Yes, between Iran and...

CARVILLE: And we cover them.

BLITZER: Between Iran and Afghanistan...

CARVILLE: Yes.

BLITZER: ...huge national security questions for the president.

During the campaign, Ed, you remember a lot of people were wondering, did Barack Obama have the national security expertise -- the readiness to be commander-in-chief?

How does it look to you right now?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I -- I think this was not a great week for him. I think he -- he found out how difficult it is, whether it was sitting down with the Israelis and the Palestinians or whether it's basically -- trying to basically, as he chaired this meeting yesterday to get rid of nuclear weapons and the first people who say they're not going to get rid of nuclear weapons are the Russians. Well, I can promise you, the Pakistanis aren't going giving them up. The Indians aren't going to give them up. The Israelis, who say they don't have them, aren't going to give them up.

We're -- if we give them up, then I think we're in a very precarious position.

I think the critical thing on whether he's a good commander-in- chief or not is going to come out in these decisions he makes in the next few weeks on -- on Afghanistan.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He...

BLITZER: Just to be precise...

BORGER: He...

BLITZER: ...the Israelis don't say they say they don't have them, they say they won't be the first to use them, something along those lines.

BORGER: You know, though...

BLITZER: But they...

BORGER: I want to...

BLITZER: ...they...

BORGER: ...I want to disagree a little bit with what Ed said, because, you know, today you saw the president standing there with the leaders of other nations saying that their intelligence all showed about the Iranian nuclear enhancement. He didn't do it alone. He did it with other nations. You had the Russian president come out and say, gee, maybe sanctions against Iran are inevitable. You know, that's something we haven't heard before and I would...

ROLLINS: That's over interpreted.

BORGER: Well, that remains to...

ROLLINS: That's really over interpreted.

BORGER: Well, that remains to be seen, don't you think?

ROLLINS: Well, we'll see.

BORGER: Yes.

ROLLINS: We'll see.

CARVILLE: Yes.

BLITZER: Yes, it was impressive, James, to see not only President Obama, but flanked by the leaders of Britain and France come out and saying they were speaking, also, for Angela Merkel. She's got an election coming up in Germany. She couldn't be there. And then getting these statements from the Chinese and the Russians. It seems like they're pretty much on the same page.

CARVILLE: Yes, I thought -- actually, yes, I do. I thought he had a -- I thought he had a good day today. France was taking the lead. I mean they doubled and triple checked the intelligence. I mean, you know...

BORGER: Well, we've heard that.

CARVILLE: -- you get the sense that -- that they're proceeding here.

ROLLINS: There's nothing...

CARVILLE: And the problem with the Iranians, I would -- I wouldn't -- come December, I suspect that -- that they're going to drop a hammer on them if they don't do something. I don't think the Iranian hand is that good right now. If I was them, I wouldn't be feeling too good. And I think they're working pretty hard here.

But I mean we can't -- you know, we can't tell.

BORGER: Right.

CARVILLE: It seems like the economic situation might be improving a little bit more than what we thought six months ago. But if you look at Afghanistan, maybe it's not as good as we thought.

ROLLINS: The critics...

CARVILLE: I mean the world changes.

ROLLINS: The critical thing here -- and, obviously, Bush did this; obviously, France and Britain have been our allies. This is a very critical decision. If we don't stop the Iranians -- and, obviously, their word means nothing. And we've seen that for years and years and years. It's -- and sanctions alone may not do it. I mean I agree with you that by December, we'll certainly know. But these are -- these are crazy people. These aren't rational people.

BORGER: Right.

ROLLINS: And I think at the end of the day, we've put lots of sanctions on lots of different places...

CARVILLE: But you know...

ROLLINS: ...and it hasn't worked (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: But what's interesting...

CARVILLE: But we know...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: We know this...

BLITZER: Hold on. One at a time.

CARVILLE: I just want to make a point. We know this -- Iraq was crazy, sanctions worked. We know that. We have -- we have some proof -- direct proof that -- that sanctions stopped Iraq from -- from having a nuclear program. They had one before...

BORGER: Right.

CARVILLE: -- we had tough sanctions. They did work.

BORGER: But what's interesting here, also, today is that they set a deadline. You know, they said two months, put up or shut up here and we're -- we're setting a deadline. And if -- if you don't change your ways or admit to what you're doing or change what you're doing, then we can get sanctions that actually have more bite than we would have gotten otherwise.

BLITZER: Gloria makes a good point, James. The -- Sarkozy says the Iranians have -- Ahmadinejad has until December to come clean. We hear words from Gordon Brown about a line in the sand. He uses the phrase "shock and anger." The president volunteers all options are on the table and speaks of a looming confrontation. But then the Defense secretary, Robert Gates says you know what, the military option really wouldn't work much. It might delay them for a year or three.

What's the point of trying to scare the Iranians if the Defense secretary is then going to say a military option probably isn't going to work that well?

CARVILLE: Well, a couple of things. Number one is, remember Seymour Hersh -- I guess it was two or three years ago -- reported in "The New Yorker" that the military was not very keen on -- on bombing Iran at all. And there are a lot of -- a lot of measures that one can take that are short of a military option.

But a military option, obviously, (INAUDIBLE), everything sort of remains on the table and to -- and how they do it in conjunction with who.

But they have the ability to really squeeze these people pretty hard. And I think they're going to find out just how hard they can get squeezed. And my guess is -- you asked me earlier, Wolf, and I think Ed was on the show, if I thought the president needed to get a little tougher with some of these domestic -- yes, at home and abroad. And I answered yes. And I think this is an op -- I wouldn't be surprised to see them take this opportunity.

BLITZER: Let's hold off for a moment. Don't go away, guys. We have a lot more to talk about.

Here's a question -- is it a case of politics in the classroom?

Parents and others are outraged -- at least some of them -- over a song some children are singing about the president.

We have the story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you very much.

Iran admits to building a secret nuclear facility. It turns out we knew about it all along.

Why didn't the president say anything about it while he was at the United States -- the United Nations and what should the consequences be for Iran?

And considering a surge in Afghanistan, as things take a turn for the worse, five more of our troops have been killed. New decisions must be made.

Also, political propaganda infiltrating the classrooms in this country -- questions about a leftist video played in schools nationwide, full of bald-faced lies. We'll have that special report.

Join us for all of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Lou.

This group of schoolchildren certainly looks cute singing a song, hitting some moves. But in today's politically charged environment, some critics claim what was happening was far more sinister than simply song and dance. And this involves President Obama.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow.

What's going on -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a video that is seven months old, but it's only gaining widespread attention now, following reaction from conservative critics. It's become a lightning rod for one New Jersey town.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GINA PRONCHIK, PARENT: That's my son right there.

SNOW: (voice-over): Gina Pronchik says she was shocked to find her son Jimmy and his classmates singing about President Obama to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of The Republic." It's gone viral after being posted on YouTube and it's set off a firestorm of emotions.

(VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW (on camera): Your thoughts watching that again?

G. PRONCHIK: The chanting is what upsets me.

SNOW: Gina and her husband James say they had no idea their son's class last school year even sang the song.

G. PRONCHIK: I feel like they were brainwashing my child rather than teaching him. They were pushing their pol -- their political views rather than educating him. So I just think they overstepped.

JAMES PRONCHIK, PARENT: Right. And I think the groundswell has to do with people that don't want politics mixed with school.

SNOW: (voice-over): Brenda Morrison's daughter was also in the video and doesn't see a problem. She says the kids are adorable.

(on camera): What do you say to critics who say that this song about Barack Obama was indoctrinating kids?

BRENDA MORRISON, PARENT: It's -- it's just laughable. You know, it's ridiculous.

SNOW: (voice-over): But difference of opinion has spread far beyond Burlington, New Jersey's B. Bernice Young Elementary School, becoming front page headlines and a hot topic on the blogosphere. Police were added outside the school after the superintendent e-mailed parents saying it did receive harassing calls. Our repeated request to speak with school officials were denied. The district, in a statement, explained the song, saying: "The activity took place during Black History Month in 2009" and it says the recording was unauthorized.

But the state's education commissioner is now reviewing what happened to "ensure students can celebrate the achievements of African-Americans during Black History Month without inappropriate partisan politics."

Dejarmy Duckett lives in the area and is stunned by all the attention.

DEJARMY DUCKETT, PARENT: To me, the -- the biggest issue is all of the anger and -- and where is that coming from?

SNOW: Parent Leslie Gibson says attention on the video is justified.

LESLIE GIBSON, PARENT: A lot of people are saying they want the media gone, they want the media gone. I'm glad you guys are here, because they're trying to sweep this under the rug.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, one thing that's unclear is who made the video.

It was performed when the author of the children's book, "I Am Barack Obama," visited the school. Author Charisse Carney-Nunes said in a statement tonight she didn't write the song and she didn't teach it. And she calls it unfortunate that the children's event has became political fodder -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you.

Let's get some reaction.

We'll go back to the best political team on television.

James Carville, first to you.

What do you think about this?

CARVILLE: This is one -- this was seven months ago in one classroom in one school. I thought it was some kind of April Fool thing or something. I mean we're spending all this time on this and -- I mean -- maybe I'm too old, I don't get it. I mean it probably was a mistake. But as I understand our report, this is one classroom in one school seven months ago. And somebody points out that they had kids on the Gulf Coast singing the praises of Bush and FEMA.

I mean it just seems to me this is kind of absurd.

BLITZER: Well, what...

CARVILLE: I mean it -- it might have been an unfortunate thing, it's hardly an international scandal or a national scandal or anything.

BLITZER: Ed -- Ed Rollins.

ROLLINS: I'm a great believer that parents ought to basically have a lot of interface with their teachers.

And if this is objectionable to parents, then they should do something about it. At the end of the day, I don't find anything wrong with kids praising our president or singing about your president. Their politics may change. But to say good things about your president is an honorable thing.

It's safer to stick to my country 'tis of thee instead of singing about any particular president.

Let's not get overwrought over this.

One incidence in one school.

But, James, if they'd been taught a song about George W. Bush when he was president, would that have irritated you?

CARVILLE: He -- you know, if it was in -- if it was in one school and it was seven months ago and, actually, like I say, there were some reports, I would have probably been irritated about it. But of all the things that irritate me...

BORGER: You think?

CARVILLE: -- in the world, it would have been very, very low on the pecking order. I've got to -- if it was a big school board policy or the state board of education did this or something, yes, it would be an absolute outrage.

BLITZER: But...

BORGER: Right.

CARVILLE: This is one school in one classroom. It's not even one school.

BLITZER: But it says something about...

CARVILLE: It's one classroom.

BLITZER: It says something about the current political environment, Ed, that this is now causing some real consternation on the right.

ROLLINS: Well, I think the right is worked up. I think they've had some victories of late. You know, they thought they were dead and gone last November. And I think things are energizing. And -- and they're becoming more proactive on lots of different fronts.

BLITZER: They certainly are.

All right, guys, thanks very much, all three of you. Have a great, great weekend.

ROLLINS: Great.

BORGER: You, too.

BLITZER: Preparations for the pope -- Czech workers are wheeling chairs into a massive open air arena for one of the pope's appearances. That's one of today's Hot Shots.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's a beautiful night in the nation's capital. I love it here in Washington, DC. Check it out.

Let's get to some of the "Hot Shots" -- pictures coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

Let's go Nepal. Soldiers fire a canon to celebrate during a festival.

In Pakistan, a roadside vendor sells freshly squeezed oranges.

In Singapore, take a look at this -- ZZ Top performs at a concert.

And in the Czech Republic, a worker wheels in chairs for the pope's upcoming visit and open air mass.

Good luck to everyone there.

"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister; and Michael Moore. They're all in THE SITUATION ROOM, 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, our weekend edition.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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