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Powerful Earthquake Strikes South Pacific; War Within Obama Administration; Air Traffic 'Video Game'

Aired September 29, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Happening now, the war within the Obama administration. The president kicks off a crucial series of talks on his Afghanistan strategy, new insights into the slow struggle to make a decision about a troop level.

A government-run health care option is shot down. A Senate panel buys into fears about "socialized medicine." This hour, a big loss for liberals and what comes next.

And new drama in Hollywood over director Roman Polanski's arrest. Some powerful filmmakers are demanding his release and defending the convicted child sex offender.

Is the entertainment industry simply out of touch?

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


All that coming up, but first some breaking news we're following.

A powerful earthquake strikes the South Pacific, and right now a tsunami alert is in effect for the region. Americans are among those in danger as we speak.

Our extreme weather expert, Chad Myers, is joining us with more.

All right, Chad. Walk us through what has just happened.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A very large earthquake, somewhere between 8.0 and 8.3, depending how you measure it, very close to American Somoa and Somoa. This land right along a subduction zone, which means this area here is going under this plate. Two plates crashing right here, and only about eight inches a year -- 237 millimeters a year -- only about eight inches will this thing move.

But all of a sudden, after all of that pressure is built up, that motion will release itself and pop back out. And that pop is what happened today, with an 8.0 to 8.2 magnitude quake.

Let's reset, kind of give you an idea of what we're talking about and where we are.

There's the U.S. We'll put it into play. There's Hawaii.

Hawaii, 3,000 miles from the earthquake. American Somoa here. Somoa, up here to the north of this.

A five-foot wave was generated at Somoa. Now, that's five feet up and also five feet down, so you might think of that almost as a 10- foot wave, but they don't count them that way. When you talk about tsunami, it's how high did the wave go?

We're understanding a little bit of wash came into Pago Pago. This would be part of American Somoa, about 20,000 people or so there in American Somoa.

But then where did the wave go after that? We believe that it went somewhere into, I believe, the South Pacific, which would be south of Somoa, maybe toward Papeete. And then south of Hawaii.

And if we keep flying it, if this wave keeps going, that, right there, Wolf, would be Peru. So, not really taking any aim on the U.S. whatsoever.

There's Mexico. There's Costa Rica and Panama, still very far away from the West Coast. And there are no advisories for the West Coast at all, but still a watch, a tsunami watch, for Hawaii until probably around 7:30 or so Eastern Time, 1:00 Hawaii time. And then we will see whether that can become a warning or does the wave just dissipate.

BLITZER: All right, Chad. I want to stay on top of this story for our viewers, so we're going to get back to you.

Just a few moments ago, I spoke with the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, and I asked her what she knows about the threat to American Somoa and Hawaii.


JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It was an 8.0- plus earthquake. We now have stood up an emergency operation center in American Somoa. There is a tsunami watch in Hawaii. We'll know over the next few hours what that looks like, and so we will be working with Somoa and with Hawaii, both in preparation and in recovery.


BLITZER: All right. We're going to have much more of this interview coming up with Janet Napolitano. We're going to get into the terrorism threat facing the United States right now as well.

Stand by for that.

We're going to go inside President Obama's war room though right now.

He received a vote of support today for his plan to fine-tune his strategy in Afghanistan before deciding whether to deploy thousands of additional troops. It came during a meeting with the secretary- general of NATO. The president is launching a series of high-level meetings on his war policy.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, for more.

Dan, what do we know?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, with the new reality on the ground in Afghanistan, the president is sitting down with his top generals and other principals, and according to a top aide, he really is happy to here the back-and- forth, but he is in no rush to make up his mind, and he says that this decision will not be based on politics.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Figuring out the way forward in Afghanistan is about more than troop numbers and strategy. At stake are the lives of real people like Jaahid Noori's family, who live in fear of the Taliban and al Qaeda extremists.

JAAHID NOORI, BUSINESS OWNER: My mother, when she went last year, she went to go visit -- she was going to a local grocery store, and the Taliban drove by and they shot, like, five people right in front of her. And it was pretty bad.

LOTHIAN: Other family members who live in Kabul full time say while some areas have stabilized, the Taliban is back. That sets the scene for a flurry of meetings at the White House this week.

Sitting down with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, President Obama insisted Afghanistan is not an American mission and vowed that NATO would be consulted every step of the way.

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We both agree that it is absolutely critical that we are successful in dismantling, disrupting, destroying the al Qaeda network, and that we are effectively working with the Afghan government to provide the security necessary for that country.

LOTHIAN: But the president has not yet said whether the answer lies in sending in more troops, as the General McChrystal report makes a case for, or pulling back and focusing instead on targeted strikes by Special Forces or predators, a plan advocated by Vice President Biden.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think obviously the president wants to ensure that we have a well-defined mission, that we all understand that we can't be there forever.

LOTHIAN: But Secretary-General Rasmussen suggested winning in Afghanistan may take a long time.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: And we will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to finish our job.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LOTHIAN: Now, Noori says he and other Afghans that he knows think that more troops will only be a temporary fix. But again, this is a decision that the president is considering very carefully.

And he has another high-level meeting here at the White House. Tomorrow, in the White House Situation Room, he'll be joined, we're told by the White House, by the secretary of state, secretary of defense, and also Generals McChrystal and Petraeus will also be there. Unclear if they will be there in person or via video -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dan Lothian.

Every year since 2005, more U.S. and coalition troops have died in Afghanistan. This year has been the worst, with 375 deaths so far. More than half of those deaths were caused by roadside bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices. Most of the rest were caused by some other kind of hostile fire.

Eleven percent died in accidents or from natural causes -- 1,412 U.S. and coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the war began back in 2001, right after 9/11.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, can the president really change the strategy in Afghanistan given all the very strong statements he made as a candidate and since becoming president?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Which he also made again today, Wolf. The mission will not change.

My sources in the administration say that the wording he used very carefully today is the same wording he used in a speech in March, "to disrupt, dismantle and defeat" al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What we could see change is the strategy, the tactics they use. And if that does occur, what they will say is that the situation now is different on the ground, and that al Qaeda is now in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan.

And, of course, you have the election of Hamid Karzai, which, really, his credibility is now in question because of that sort of shady election over there. So, now they have a question of our alley there.

BLITZER: Yes. I know you've been doing some reporting on what's going on in these internal deliberations. Take us inside these discussions.

BORGER: Well, I'm told that -- by sources who have been inside the room and who have been told about what's going on inside the room -- that these are very intense conversations. They are very open conversations, with the president grilling his advisers about their particular points of view.

And as Dan Lothian reported, there are divisions in the administration about how to proceed. But what was also told to me is kind of different -- interesting. One source said these are not ideological differences like you saw in the Bush administration between Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. These are just people who actually are trying to figure out the best way to get to the same goal.

BLITZER: Not an easy objective by any means.


BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Gloria.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, in what may be a risky political decision, President Obama is headed to Copenhagen, Denmark, this week to lobby to bring the 2016 summer Olympics to Chicago.

Still no health care reform. Still no jobs. Still no regulation of those worms on Wall Street. But the White House says the president decided that health care negotiations are "in a better place now," and they point out that bringing the games to Chicago could help the U.S. economy.

First lady Michelle Obama is going to go to Denmark, too. So is Oprah Winfrey. Mrs. Obama is vowing to take no prisoners and compares the lobbying effort to get the Olympic games to the presidential campaign.


Leaders from the other three contending countries, Brazil, Spain and Japan, are also expected to make appearances in Copenhagen, but this is a first for a U.S. president.

Here's the problem -- President Obama was just talking to world leaders at the G-20 Summit about the importance of doing something to curb global warming. What size carbon footprint does this little fieldtrip to Hans Christian Andersen leave, do you suppose?

Think about it. For the president to travel overnight to Europe Thursday and come back Friday, it will take not one, but two 747 airplanes, Air Force One and another one that looks just like it, plus a military transport plane to haul the bulletproof limousine and other presidential vehicles. Then their staff, Secret Service, VIPs traveling along. Then there's hotels, cars, food, et cetera, while in Europe.

All for something that could have been done on a video conference from the White House. It's just a thought.

Here's the question. How important is President Obama's trip to Denmark to lobby for the Olympics to come to Chicago?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

A double blow to liberals in the U.S. Senate. Is government-run health care as an option really dead? We'll ask the Democratic senator Jay Rockefeller, who is pushing for the public option.

And it's one of the biggest terrorism arrests on U.S. soil since 9/11. I'll speak with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. We'll talk about the case and the al Qaeda threat on U.S. soil right now.

And air traffic controllers are faking it. Critics say training on simulators is simply too risky with so many passengers' lives on the line.


BLITZER: Check out this flight tracker. It shows all the commercial airlines in the skies over the United States right now. Thousands of lives in the hands of air traffic controllers, and there's a new controversy over the way some of them are being trained.

Here's CNN's national correspondent, Jason Carroll.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calling heavy triple 7 short final...

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rated one of the most stressful jobs in America: air traffic controller. They're the ones in the towers like this one at New York's JFK Airport, tracking each plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Route 118, continue straight ahead on gravel ground point nine.

CARROLL: Not easy, considering the crowded skies. Each triangle on radar is a plane, so many flying on a typical afternoon the entire country looks red. Controllers and those who train them, like John Kubic, know the stakes.

JOHN KUBIC, AIR CONTROL TRAINER: A mistake on my part can cause somebody to die. It's just that simple.

CARROLL: Kubic, a former controller, now has new high-tech tool to train his students - a high-tech stimulator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foxy (ph) left bravo to Julia (ph).

CARROLL: It's a digital reproduction of the view from an airport tower, and it looks remarkably accurate. David Jennings helped create it.

How is this different from how you were trained in the very beginning?

DAVID JENNINGS, ADACEL: Light years different.

CARROLL: The simulator's circular structure modified for any weather condition or airport.

JENNINGS: The student goes upstairs with more knowledge, better skills and level of confidence.

CARROLL: Students like Asif Ali say the simulator has helped his training.

ASIF ALI, TRAINING ON SIMULATOR: With the simulator, it's - you can practice before you actually get on - go into the tower.

CARROLL: The simulation training - not easy.

JENNINGS: When he pops up like this, he hit this call sign, check with (ph) 741, Kennedy ground, taxi two, runway three, one left, but we want him to go that way to your right alpha, then gulf pendulum (ph).

CARROLL: You want me to say all that?


CARROLL: Not everyone likes the idea of training on a simulator. Stephen Abraham represents the Air Traffic Controllers Union in New York.

STEPHEN ABRAHAM, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: You don't teach people to drive a car with a video game, and I don't think you should teach people how to work air traffic with a video game.

CARROLL: Abraham says the traditional method of on-the-job training, where students train alongside experienced controllers in the tower is best. Randy Babbitt, the head of the FAA says the simulator won't be instead of on-the-job training, it will be in addition to.

RANDY BABBITT, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: We're giving them quality training as opposed to quantity. So we are giving them a higher quality of exposure and experience training to help them in their future decision making. So it's a very effective tool.

CARROLL (on camera): FAA officials say the system should speed up training time by some 30 percent and this is key because more than half of the air traffic controllers now working are actually scheduled to retire by 2017.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: They are among the boldest terror charges since 9/11. A man enters a plea today after being accused of wanting to detonate weapons of mass destruction right here in the United States. What details does the government have on this case?

The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, is here. I'll ask her about this very disturbing terror case.




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

Happening now, fear of a bold new terror tactic. Could a terrorist smuggle explosives past airport security by stuffing them inside a body cavity? Wait until you hear what happened in one recent high-profile attack.

And if you own a gun and ride Amtrak, should you be allowed to take your gun on the train? It's an issue pitting the right to bear arms against the need for public safety.

And Hollywood stands with a fugitive who admittedly had sex with a minor. Some celebrities want Roman Polanski set free. Wait until you see what they are doing about that.

Our CNN legal analysts, Lisa Bloom and Jeffrey Toobin, they are here for analysis.

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

Just a short while ago, a one-two punch to the idea of a government-run health care option could signal its death. The Senate Finance Committee voted down two versions of the so-called public option. Moderate Democrats and Republicans carried both votes. They disputed liberals' claims that government involvement would create competition and bring costs down.


SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: This is a slippery slope for us to go down. The public option is exactly what we believe, most of us do on this side, that will lead to a government single-payer system in the future as we take over -- the government takes over more and more of our health care system.



SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: What they're doing is they are trying to do this in increments. If they can't do it directly, they will do it in increments until they finally get us to the point where you're going to have socialized medicine. And if that happens, the greatest country in the world, with what I consider to be the greatest health care system in the world, is going to be deeply, deeply harmed.


BLITZER: Let's discuss what's going on with Senator Jay Rockefeller. He's a Democrat of West Virginia. He's a key member of the Finance Committee, was the author of one of the amendments defeated today.

Senator, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Is the public option dead?

ROCKEFELLER: No. And actually, the big story coming out of today is that I got eight votes and Chuck Schumer got 10 votes, and, in effect, that's like getting all the Democrats to vote for it. It's -- or most the Democrats to vote for it.

The public option is a very simple concept. In most places in this country there's very little private health insurance competition. In some places there is, but most places there's just one insurance company, two insurance companies, maybe three.

And do they compete? No. They collude, they merge, they grow bigger so that they don't have to -- you know, they can get their way.

BLITZER: Well, you know, one of the arguments that the other side makes is, why not allow health insurance companies to compete nationally, not just within a state, open up the borders and then you get more competition?

ROCKEFELLER: You wouldn't. They'd just merge in different ways. But let me come to the point.

Private health insurance profits have increased 400 percent in the last several years, while premiums for average American families and people, like we all represent here in the Senate, have gone up by 200 percent.

That's not right. And the reason that the profits go up from the for-profit insurance institutions is that there is no non-profit competition.

BLITZER: It -- it seems...

ROCKEFELLER: The public option...

BLITZER: It seems to me, Senator -- excuse me for interrupting -- but, given the math in the United States Senate -- and you know this as well as anyone -- you really need 60 votes to break a filibuster. And the Republicans say they will filibuster.

And given the conservative or moderate Democrats who themselves say they oppose a public option, where do you get 60 votes?

ROCKEFELLER: Well, Wolf, I'm -- I'm sorry to come back at you like this, but you also know how the -- the Congress works. And it shifts as the debate is better known, as the public option is seen for what it is.

BLITZER: It would really require the president to get in there and fight with all of his being...


BLITZER: ... for the public option, when I don't see the White House doing that.

ROCKEFELLER: Well, that may be the case.

But what -- what -- what has to be said is that the public option is a concept which is right for the American families, is right for my people in West Virginia, is right for the people of California. It's right.

The competition is right. It does not exist. As a result, health insurance, private health insurance companies are cutting people off. They are making up excuses. They call it purging, just to get rid of people who are high risk, so they don't have to insure them. That's a very bad thing in something that's -- it's in 16 percent of the American economy.

BLITZER: If it's not included in the final version of the language, the public option, which would create a government-run health insurance company to compete with the private health insurance companies, if it's not there, will you still vote for it?

ROCKEFELLER: Let's -- let's wait on that. I care very strongly about it, obviously. We had the -- we had five hours of debate on my amendment. That's the longest debate that's ever been held that I can remember.

But the point is, it -- it's going to change. We have to negotiate with the Health Committee, Teddy Kennedy's former committee. They have a public option in their bill. That's in the Senate. All the House committees have a public option in their bills.

And, so, there's conferences. There's all kinds of things that happen between now and what you say, the point at which I will either vote yes or no.

BLITZER: Are you disappointed the president has not been more aggressive in saying, this is a sine qua non; this is absolutely essential for any piece of legislation?

ROCKEFELLER: A little bit. A little bit, I'm disappointed.

I mean, I know he's strongly for it, and I know that his tactic has been to let the Congress do its work, and then he will come in when the crunch really counts.

What I'm saying is that the crunch is really beginning to count now, and I think he's -- I know he's for it, and he said so publicly. He campaigned on it. So, I think it's important that he come in at this point strongly. BLITZER: Help me understand West Virginia for a moment. You know the state as well as anyone. There are only a few major health in -- private health insurance companies that operate in West Virginia; is that right?

ROCKEFELLER: That is correct.

BLITZER: Now, what if -- if they allowed every -- there's 1,000 private health insurance companies across the United States -- what if you broke down the state barriers, and you said, all 1,000 or more, come in and try to get -- try to get the people to subscribe to your health insurance company? Why wouldn't that create greater competition and bring down costs?

ROCKEFELLER: It would create vast, monumental confusion, because they all have the way of selling their products. Most of their products are explained in -- in papers that are too small to be read and language which nobody can understand.

So, just enlarging the number of insurance companies competing, they are all in the same game: Cut covering people, increase making money. And I'm sorry to put it so baldly, but that's exactly what it is.

We had a -- a top executive of Cigna come in to the Commerce Committee and tell us that. He said people are paid...

BLITZER: If you feel that strongly about that, Senator...

ROCKEFELLER: ... people are paid, Wolf, to cut people off.

BLITZER: I understand what you're saying, but, if you feel that strongly, why not just go for what Senator Bernie Sanders wants, of Vermont, which is a single-payer option, which is what they have in Canada or in England or in France, where the -- the government provides health insurance for everyone?

ROCKEFELLER: Well, the government does provide a lot of health insurance for everybody through Medicaid and Medicare, the VA, and a lot of other things.

And, you know, the Republicans praise that. But then they don't want government involved in competition in the private health insurance market. No, we're not -- we're not at the point of a -- a single-payer system.

But what I said in my closing remarks was that the Republicans are doing the best job possible to drive us to exactly the point they don't want us to go, which is a single-payer system, because, by constantly saying, no, we're against this, we're against that, no, no, no, no, they -- they are just saying the status quo works for the American people, when the American people, at the rate of about 67 percent, know it doesn't, and want the public option.

So, there's obviously very fertile ground to be tilled out there. That's part of my responsibility. BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: A congressman calls President Obama "an enemy of humanity" -- a direct quote -- "an enemy of humanity." Was it a slip of the tongue or an unacceptable slap at the commander in chief? Stand by for a discussion in our "Strategy Session."

And the federal government is going to new lengths to stop you from texting while driving. I will ask the NTSB chairman about the danger for all of us on the roads rights now.


BLITZER: The government says he wanted to blast weapons of mass destruction in the United States, allegedly involved in a plan to bomb a target in New York City. How worried should we be?


BLITZER: And joining us now from the North Lawn of the White House, the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.

Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Let's talk about terrorism, though, right now. This arrest of this Najibullah Zazi, it sounds like a -- a big deal, because this was not part of a sting operation, an FBI insider operation. It sounds, at least according to the allegations, as if he was trained by al Qaeda, was -- was -- was preparing some sort of major attack here in the united states.

Was it?

NAPOLITANO: Well, without commenting specifically to the case, I think what it shows -- or may show -- assuming the allegations are proven, is that there are individuals within the United States who have now been trained, are -- are operational and who ascribe to al Qaeda or al Qaeda-type beliefs.

BLITZER: Does this appear to be the biggest al Qaeda-related arrest on U.S. soil since 9/11?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, I don't think they can be rated like that.

I think the -- the case will continue. It's been a multi-agency investigation over the past weeks involving both city and federal agencies. And there no doubt will be other investigations, both in the coming weeks and the coming years.

BLITZER: I know you're limited what you can tell us given the nature of the -- the sensitivity in what's going on, but there have been a lot of reports that there are three other -- at least three other suspects at large right now connected to this Najibullah Zazi. Is that true?

NAPOLITANO: Look, I -- I really don't want to comment right now. This is an ongoing investigation. The investigative process needs to take priority.

BLITZER: What about the -- overall, the bigger picture? What does this say about al Qaeda and its intentions on U.S. soil?

NAPOLITANO: Well, as I said earlier, what it says is that there are individuals in the United States who ascribe to al Qaeda, al Qaeda-type beliefs, and who may indeed have been trained by al Qaeda.

Bush, beyond that, I -- I think we shouldn't speculate. And, again, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, working jointly with state and locals, our job is to make sure that we are pursuing investigative leads, not just in this case, but in other cases as well, and nailing them down to prevent any danger to Americans.

BLITZER: That homeland security bulletin or alert that you released the last week warning of potential threats to stadiums or to luxury hotels, was that related to this recent wave of arrests that we have seen?

NAPOLITANO: What it was, was telling state and local officials to watch out for targets that have been used by al Qaeda or al Qaeda- like organizations in -- in other countries and in other operations, so that we were on alert. Everybody is watching. Everyone is being vigilant. That is the way you prepare and that is the way you prevent.

BLITZER: We hear about all these drills taking place all across the country, what-if kinds of drills. I guess the bottom-line question a lot of Americans are asking, is the country ready, God forbid, for another massive attack?

NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, God forbid is right, but the plain fact of the matter is, is that we are much better prepared than we were prior to 9/11.

We practice. We do these exercises so that we are prepared. And, if you're prepared, you don't have to react in fear. You act out of a sense of control of the -- and -- and what you need to do to respond and to recover.

BLITZER: It sounds as if you're saying, better prepared, but not as perfect as we should be. There's still plenty of work to do; is that right?

NAPOLITANO: I would agree. I think this is something that you never say -- step back and say, well, we're done now.

This is an ever-changing threat environment, and it can affect big cities and rural areas alike. They all have different ways of conducting law enforcement, different emergency response capabilities.

Our job at the Department of Homeland Security is to work with all of them, so that there is this sense of shared responsibility and shared preparedness.

BLITZER: You have got a huge plate in front of you, a huge agenda, including the H1N1, the so-called swine flu.

People are getting ready for the vaccines that should be beginning over the next week or two. How confident are you that anyone getting this vaccine for the H1N1 will not become sick as a result of the vaccine?

NAPOLITANO: Well, that's probably a question better addressed to the CDC. But, given the testing, it would -- the -- the vaccine obviously is safe, or they wouldn't be asking millions of Americans, particularly American children, to get vaccinated.

BLITZER: Because a lot of parents are clearly going to be nervous about giving this brand-new vaccine to their kids.

NAPOLITANO: Well, the vaccines have been tested, and, again, approved through the process that's used, albeit somewhat more quickly than normal. Why? Because the circumstances command so.

But, again, I think that the vaccine would not be being prescribed if it were not safe.

BLITZER: Are you, the secretary of homeland security, ready to get the vaccine?

NAPOLITANO: I will get it, but I won't be in the first group. So, the first groups will be those that are more susceptible to the virus, and that will be school-aged children, including college age, and also some particular groups, such as pregnant women.

BLITZER: Finally, if there's a major outbreak across the country over the coming weeks or months, are the hospitals ready for, potentially, this kind of situation?

NAPOLITANO: You know, the hospitals have been preparing throughout the summer months.

You know, we saw the spring outbreak. We had a respite while the -- the -- while the virus circulated in the Southern Hemisphere. And the hospitals had some time to prepare. So, I think they are as prepared as they can be.

But, again, when the -- this is something that we will have to be flexible about. Certain areas of the country, undoubtedly, will be hit harder than other areas. And so we're going to have to be able to -- to be flexible there as well.


BLITZER: Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security. Coming up: It's simply outrageous. Facebook members are asked in a poll if President Obama should be killed, killed. Since anybody can post just about anything on the Internet, will Secret Service agents have their hands full if they go after Internet posts like these?


BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. You know, it's one thing to get crazy people way out there on the fringes saying sort of ridiculous things.


BLITZER: It's another thing when...


BLITZER: It's another thing when a Republican congressman from Arizona says this. Let's just listen first. This is Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona.


REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: Obama's first act as president of any consequence in the middle of a financial meltdown was to send taxpayers' money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries.

Now, I have got to tell you, a president who will do that, there's almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that. You should -- we shouldn't be shocked that he does all these other insane things. A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can't do that right, then he has no place in any station in government, and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity.



BLITZER: Wow, an "enemy of humanity" because of his opposition to -- because he supports abortion rights for women.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's unfortunate. You know, history will little note, nor remember what Congressman Franks thinks about anything, quite candidly.

But what's more instructive is the thundering silence from Republican leaders. You know, this is the problem. You know, every moment has its eccentrics, to say the least. And -- and everybody in public life is going to say something unfortunate from time to time.

The question is, when someone does, leaders need to step in and say, that's wrong. So, when this -- there's this clown -- I don't know if you have ever heard of him -- his name is Glenn Beck. He's a circus clown, but doesn't wear the funny nose. He said the president of the United States was a racist.

Republican leaders didn't say: That's wrong. We disavow it.

So, when people say these hateful or ridiculous things, it's going to happen. But you need to step forward and say: That was a mistake. That was wrong.

And when the left has done it, when CODEPINK interrupted hearings, Democratic congressmen like Barney Frank, Ike Skelton, they stepped in and said, no, that left-wing group was wrong. When Kanye West said that George W. Bush doesn't care about black people, Democrats, Donna Brazile on our network, others, said, no, that's wrong.

BLITZER: All right.

BEGALA: So, that is what I'm looking for.

BLITZER: All right.

BEGALA: Where is the Republican who is going to say, this guy is wrong?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, but I don't remember an outpouring of Democratic, you know, obsessive behavior when -- when the majority leader of the United States Senate called George W. Bush a liar -- I don't know remember that -- while the president...



GALEN: ... overseas, to a bunch of high school students.

So, I mean, this kind of stuff goes on all time. And people...

BEGALA: He was a liar.



BEGALA: I mean, you know, he lied.

GALEN: Right. Well, that's wrong. He did not lie.

But, in terms of this particular activity, he was -- he was -- it was in the context of pro -- anti-abortion. As I understand it, shortly or immediately thereafter, he -- he wished he hadn't said -- it didn't come out the way he said it. BLITZER: Well, let me tell you, his spokeswoman, Bethany Haley, did say that the congressman was referring to unborn humanity, and should have clarified his statements.

She also said that Franks meant to say that "Obama's-related abortion politics have no place in government, rather than Obama himself has no place in government."

GALEN: And I think that's a fair backup as -- you know, as quickly as you can -- you can get that thing in reverse and set the backup.


BLITZER: But what does it say, Rich, about the tone of this dialogue that's happening around...

GALEN: Oh, I don't think there's any question...


BLITZER: It -- it sounds almost poisonous, what's going on in the country right now.

GALEN: Yes. I -- I think that's right.

And I think it's -- I think it's poisonous on both sides.

I mean, you can look at another well-known cable network and listen to the prime-time chatter there, and you get the other side of it, which I think is OK, as long -- as long as both sides get to have their crazy people on the air.

But -- but it -- it -- I'm not sure if it's poisonous yet, but I think, to -- to agree with my friend Paul Begala, I think, at some point, adults have to stop in and say, you know what, this is getting us nowhere. It's not good for the process. It's not good for America.


BLITZER: Because...


BLITZER: Hold on a second.


BLITZER: Hold on one second. Hold on one second, because it goes one step further.


BLITZER: Here's something that's really poisonous. There was a Facebook poll. GALEN: Yes.


BLITZER: And it asked the question, should Obama be killed? Yes, maybe, if he cuts my health care, or no.

I mean, they have pulled that since then. But this kind of stuff is out there.

BEGALA: And I think that is the difference.

Coming back to Rich's point, when Democrats have spoken out and been wrong or been too far excessive, when Jimmy Carter said much of the opposition to Obama is racist, even the president said, no, that's wrong. I'm still waiting for a Republican to stand up and say, that's wrong.

GALEN: OK. We have already had this discussion.


BEGALA: There is an undercurrent of violence, though, that this Facebook thing, I think, illuminates that is probably different.

There were terrible things said about George W. Bush, it's true. Worse things said about Bill Clinton, it's true. But this undertone of violence -- and look at the actions out there, right? Some right- wing Nazi went into the Holocaust Museum and murdered a guard. It was a right-wing man in Pittsburgh who murdered three police officers, allegedly, because he didn't like President Obama's position on gun control.

There was a right-winger who went into a church in Tennessee and murdered a bunch of people at the Unitarian Universal Church in Knoxville.

BLITZER: All right.

BEGALA: No, but the -- the guy who killed the abortion doctor in Kansas was a right-winger.

GALEN: All right. All right. All right.


GALEN: Enough. Enough.

BEGALA: Right-wingers are committing violence in this country. Domestic terrorism is going on. And responsible Republicans are saying nothing.


BEGALA: That's not true. The -- the -- the answer to your question, which Paul chose to go off on one of his rants about, the -- the answer to your question is, yes, this kind of -- this kind of stuff has to stop.

And, by the way, whoever put that up there, I don't know -- I don't know if it's against the law. If it's not...


BLITZER: To threaten the life of the president is against the law.

GALEN: Well, the -- but I do think that that kind of activity, where it cheapens -- it cheapens the -- the ability to make threats, it makes it easier to make threats, I think that has to be stopped. I think it's very dangerous.

And I hope whoever did it in fact ends up in the slammer.

BLITZER: And let's leave it on that note, guys. Thanks very much for that.

Up next: a terrifying new technique for a suicide bomber. We're told the explosive was hidden inside his body.


BLITZER: In today's "Political Ticker": He raised lots of money to Democrats, gave money to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, their presidential campaigns.

Now he's been convicted in federal court of campaign fraud. Norman Hsu is sentenced to over 24 years in prison, as he faced four counts, one for each year from 2004 to 2007. He was accused of running a massive scheme regarding the invest -- his investment companies. A judge said he funded his fraud with -- quote -- "conniving use of the political process."

And remember the tango, the dance of love? Well, maybe, but it was indeed a tango that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay performed on last night's "Dancing With the Stars." One of the judges said he looked distinguished and determined, which sounds a lot better for a majority leader than a ballroom dancer. Unfortunately, for Tom DeLay, did not do very well right at the very, very end.

Let me get Jack Cafferty's assessment of Tom DeLay, "Dancing With the Stars."

We -- we wanted to set you up with that little performance, Jack, knowing how interested you are in this story.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Not in the least.

BLITZER: I know. I know.

(LAUGHTER) CAFFERTY: Watching him do anything is disturbing. Watching him on "Dancing With the Stars" is just horrible. I would rather watch you on, what's her name, Ellen's program.



CAFFERTY: And you weren't very good.

BLITZER: No, I wasn't very good.


BLITZER: But you know what? He wasn't bad.


BLITZER: He slipped at the end, but he wasn't that bad.

CAFFERTY: He slipped at the end?

BLITZER: At the end, he -- he did not finish well.

CAFFERTY: Come on.




CAFFERTY: The question is, how important is President Obama's trip to Denmark to lobby for the 2016 Olympic Games to come to Chicago?

Chuck writes: "Not at all important to me. Having voted Democrat in the last three elections, I'm sensing it's time for a change. Apparently, the potential for a nuclear confrontation with Iran, nationwide double-digit unemployment, the prospect that the ranks of uninsured may be doubling or tripling because of pandering to the health insurance companies, and two failing wars are not enough to keep this guy focused -- another self-important politician who has already run his course with me and I suspect a good number like me. 2016 Olympics? I'm not sure the country will last that long.

Esther in Ohio: "Jack, after the beating of that child in Chicago, I wouldn't want the Olympics to come to that city. Sorry, but I would be afraid for the foreigners who come to this country that the punks in that city would attack them and ruin what little dignity we have left. We have turned our eyes off this for far too long. The crime rate in Chicago is horrible. And the children that are running in the streets make me afraid to ever want to visit Chicago again."

Aaron writes: "Exceptionally important. Returning the Olympics to America would hold special meaning for us, in a diplomatic sense, if we could host a worldwide event within our borders and show that we are team players again. Sending our president, one of the most powerful men in the world, to personally make that appeal says that we're serious about rejoining the rest of the world in the spirit of fellowship. After the last eight years, it's certainly a boost we could use."

Ken writes: "Think of all the jobs that would be created years ahead of those Olympics, American jobs, you know, building things. How about the billions in tourist dollars spent in America? As for a carbon footprint, the Olympics create a Sasquatch-sized footprint with all the tourists and athletes that travel for the Games. Seeing these people are going to travel anyway, why not have them come here?"

And Mike in Syracuse writes: "How about a take-no-prisoners approach with Iran and North Korea? What this president seems to consider important baffles the mind. We have lost three million jobs since he took office. The commanding general in Afghanistan says he needs 40,000 more troops, and President Obama is worried about who gets to sell T-shirts at the Olympics."

If you didn't see your e-mail here go, you can to my blog at Look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.