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Hard Choices, Blunt Talk About Afghan War; Fallout From Ensign Affair

Aired October 6, 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, hard choices and blunt talk about the war in Afghanistan. Lawmakers of both parties are just emerging from a closed-door meeting with the president.

Right now we'll get a read on what happened from the House Republican whip, Eric Cantor, among others.

Plus, embattled Senator John Ensign admits he helped his ex- lover's husband land a lobbying job, but he tells CNN he did not break any ethics rules. Our Dana Bash catches up with the Republican for an exclusive interview.

And we're learning more about what David Letterman calls his "creepy behavior." New details on his past affairs, his alleged blackmailer and whether his job may be at risk.

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.

More than two dozen lawmakers have been meeting with the president of the United States. They are ringing in, trying to influence the president's decision, listening to what he has to say. They have been holding a bipartisan meeting over at the White House, Democrats and Republicans inside the top leadership of both bodies.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Henry. He's watching what's going on.

Ed, I take it they literally have just broken up and they are about to emerge.

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. They actually are just emerging.

In fact, first the Democrats came out. Steny Hoyer, the majority leader in the House of Representatives, talking to reporters. In a couple of moments, we're going to hear from John McCain, John Boehner, other top Republicans.

My producer, Erica Dimler (ph), was just there in a scrum with reporters with Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader. And he said that the news coming out of this meeting is that the president suggested he's making a decision within weeks, not months, and that there's going to be the word to these lawmakers, but then to the American people, a decision on whether to send up to 40,000 more U.S. troops, as the president has been advised by General Stanley McChrystal, his commander on the ground.

Very interesting in that room, because there were well more than a dozen top Democrats and Republicans. This is almost a reverse of the health care debate, where the president has a lot of Republicans like John McCain in that room pressing him to send more troops. And they are saying they could support him sending more troops, but a lot of the top Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, not too keen on sending more troops. A lot of concerns about whether the Democratic president is escalating the war.

BLITZER: Ed, hold on. Harry Reid, the majority leader, and the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, they are about to speak to reporters.

Let's listen in.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's very clear that the president's headed in the right direction -- strategy before resources. That was a discussion time after time in that meeting.

The meeting was good. It was thorough. Everyone participated. And the president was very resolute in making sure that everyone understood he was going to do this in a time frame that was necessary and a time frame that would give him the opportunity to make the -- be able to have discussions with everybody that had anything to offer.

He ended the meeting by saying, "If anybody has anything that didn't bring up here, call. I'll take the call personally."

We all realize the important decision the president has to make. Now, the eight soldiers killed on Sunday, one was from Reno, Nevada, Private First Class Kevin Johnson. And every time that you think about a Kevin Johnson, you think about how important the president's decision is. The president understands this.

I think that the meeting was very good. It was the longest meeting that I've had in a setting like this where absolutely everybody had a chance to participate.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr. Leader.

As you said, this was a very important meeting. Here we had the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States, calling in to meet with him the leadership of the House and the Senate, bicameral, bipartisan, chairs and ranking members of the committee that address our national security interests. The president made his statement which was a very strong one about how deliberative the process would be about making a decision, how respectful he was of the people in the room and welcomed their suggestions, both today and on an ongoing basis, as Leader Reid mentioned.

There are four areas that must be addressed as this decision goes forth. Some of them were addressed in the McChrystal report, some of them, the metrics put forth by the administration. Certainly the security issue, the governance issue, the reconstruction, or, as some say, the construction, because there was nothing there before in Afghanistan, and the diplomacy in the region. There's also the question of what the commitment is of our NATO allies. These and other subjects came up today. With the diversity in the room, needless to say, there was some agreement and there was some diversity of opinion as well. But I commend the president for having the meeting, for taking the time to listen to the wealth of knowledge, again, on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the House, on the subject of our national security.

Our first responsibility is to protect the American people. We all take this responsibility very seriously. The president has the ultimate responsibility to make a decision. And we all mourn the loss of those who make the supreme sacrifice.

And my condolences to your constituent, Leader Reid, in that regard.

QUESTION: Can you give us a spectrum of the diversity of opinion expressed in the meeting?

PELOSI: Well, basically, we were grateful to the president for having the meeting. We understood that it was a very serious matter, of course. That goes without saying.

The question that the Leader put forth at the beginning and General McChrystal said in his report, without a strategy we shouldn't resource the mission. So, the question is, how do we evaluate the tools at our disposal?

Do we have an able partner in President Karzai? Is the government capable of acting in a way that is not fraught with corruption? Those kinds of issues.

And so, it wasn't a question of difference of opinion. It was a question of having different evaluation of the strength of the different tools at our disposal, as the president goes forward and, again, as Congress plays its rightful role in all of this.

REID: Madam Speaker, the one thing that I think was interesting is that everyone, Democrats and Republicans, said whatever decision you make we'll support it, basically. So we'll see.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: So that means that if he wants 40,000 troops, that you would fund 40,000 troops?

REID: Well, I think there was a general discussion there. I hope people aren't talking in the abstract, saying whatever decision you make we'll support. That came from the minority. OK?

BLITZER: All right. The House -- excuse me, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, and the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, basically saying they were very, very pleased by this meeting.

Let's speak with a top Republican who was there. Eric Cantor is the minority whip in the House of Representatives. Congressman, you just came out of that meeting. What was your bottom-line assessment? How did it go?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MINORITY WHIP: Well, Wolf, you know, we were glad to come to the White House. I mean, obviously, this is a huge decision for this president.

A lot of us came out early spring when, in March, President Obama said he was committed to the mission in Afghanistan, to make sure that we dismantled al Qaeda and its extremists allies in the name of U.S. security. And so now what we're hearing is from the commanders in the field an urgent cry for additional troops, and everyone is concerned about the status quo as the situation grows more dangerous for our troops on the ground.

We were here to express our support for the president and his committing to the mission up front, and expressed our support to work with him if he makes the right decision, which is to listen to his commanders in the field who are asking desperately for more troops.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem with what Harry Reid just said, that strategy before resources -- in other words, let the president and his commanders come up with a strategy and then the issue of troops and other resources would be made? Is that a problem for you?

CANTOR: Well, you know, the position I believe that many of us are taking is based upon General McChrystal's report. That is the commander in the field. That is the essence of the recommendations that have worked their way up through the system. I believe that that strategy is on the table for the president to make the decision.

We came here in support of the president's -- president relying on his commanders so that we can execute on our mission, which is going to be a tough one, which is to stabilize that region of the world in the name of U.S. security.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say that the Republicans who were in that room, Congressman, urged the president to implement General McChrystal's recommendations?

CANTOR: I think it is a fair assessment right now that Republicans are committed to supporting this president if he says, yes, I will support our commanders on the ground.

BLITZER: What if he says, no, he says I want to come up with a different strategy, in effect reducing the number of troops? Some say Vice President Joe Biden advances such a strategy.

CANTOR: You know, Wolf, I think now all of us want what's best for this country, and we want to set politics aside and want to put U.S. security first. And I believe that the best move is to look to the commanders in the field.

None of us know better what's possible and what we can accomplish than the commander in the field, as is evidenced by General McChrystal's report. So, if the president chooses to go a different route, you know, it is obviously going to be tough for us, but we'll need to listen to what this president says about how we can succeed in our mission. It is about success in the mission.

BLITZER: Did he give you any indication of a time frame when he'll make up his mind?

CANTOR: There wasn't any definite commitment to a time frame. Obviously, there are many of us who feel that delay does signal uncertainty to the region. It does, I believe, signal uncertainty to the lives we've got on the ground.

This is why it is so urgent, I believe probably reflected in the voice of General McChrystal, who has had a lot of experience, as we know, Wolf, in Iraq with these types of operations, which is why we're here to say we'll support this president in responding to the request of General McChrystal.

BLITZER: What was the major point that you made? I assume you had a chance to say something to the president today, Congressman. Give us a tiny little synopsis of your major point.

CANTOR: I did, Wolf, and I said to the president, look, I mean, it is his decision as commander-in-chief, and obviously a tough one. And I spoke about the political will of this country and how no one likes war. And thank God we have men and women in uniform who will commit -- who will go on the front lines for us.

And I committed to the president to be supportive as possible in building a political case that it's necessary for us to have patience. It's necessary for us to support our commanders on the ground, to give him and his colleagues and the folks in the field what they need to secure their lives, as well as our interests.

BLITZER: Who made the case in that meeting, Congressman, not to send any more troops?

CANTOR: Well, I think it was fairly unanimous that no one wants to leave the region. I think history is fraught with examples of an attempt to try and change the nature of that region unsuccessfully, and then a disappearance of those forces. I don't think anyone wants to do that, but I do think now there are some who want to avoid perhaps the political risk that it's going to take to respond to General McChrystal's request.

BLITZER: All right. Congressman Eric Cantor, thanks very much for joining us.

CANTOR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's go back to the driveway outside the West Wing of the White House. John McCain is speaking to reporters.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: ... endorsed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should be given, obviously, additional weight because they were correct of the strategy -- in employing the strategy that succeeded in Iraq. That strategy adjusted to the different conditions in Afghanistan, can work in Afghanistan as well.

QUESTION: Senator McCain, do you see parallels to Vietnam here like some in the White House...

MCCAIN: I see much more parallels to Iraq, far more recent, far more applicable to the region and to the situation. In Vietnam, the fact is that the Vietnam fell to a conventional invasion from the North Korean military. There were no American troops left in Vietnam.

I'd be glad to revisit the whole war with you and how it was mismanaged, but the closest parallel to Afghanistan today is Iraq. They had the strategy that succeeded and the generals that succeeded.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: I don't know.

QUESTION: Did you ask the president whether McChrystal should testify...

MCCAIN: No, the issue was what we should do about Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Do you still think he should testify?

MCCAIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Senator McCain, do you still feel like there's a danger...

MCCAIN: What's that?

QUESTION: Do you still feel like there's a danger of al Qaeda getting a safe haven, that al Qaeda is the threat it was seven, eight years ago? Because that's a concern here.

MCCAIN: There's been this argument that the threat now is not al Qaeda, it's because some -- a lot of the al Qaeda have been eliminated. The fact is we all know if the Taliban come back, the al Qaeda will come back. And they will come back to Iraq -- excuse me, Afghanistan, and they will come back in Pakistan where they already are.

So, I don't think it's a proper reading of both history and the situation to somehow think that al Qaeda will not quickly emerge in Afghanistan if it falls to the Taliban, much less the moral dilemma we might have when the Taliban is again in power in Afghanistan with all the abuses and terrible behavior that they have exhibited in the past.

QUESTION: Senator McCain, do you believe McChrystal's analysis is correct?

MCCAIN: Yes, I do. Yes, I do.

I'm very convinced that General McChrystal's analysis is not only correct, but should be employed as quickly as possible. And I think that this discussion about whether he is right or not and whether they would have to come back for more troops in a year or so, General McChrystal and General Petraeus wouldn't be making the recommendations they would if they felt we would have to come back for more troops.

That is strategy and the resources that they believe are necessary to succeed. It's the president's final decision, but I certainly think that their recommendations should be given great weight given the success of their leadership in the past.

QUESTION: Does the American public have...

BLITZER: Senator John McCain making the case for a quick decision, supporting the recommendation from General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to get more troops there.

We heard that this meeting included a lot of discussion on strategy before resources. Whether or not there will be more troops depends on what the president signs off as far as a strategy in Afghanistan is concerned.

We'll continue to stay on top of this story, but let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: On to a slightly less weighty issue, Wolf, if you're known at the Tiffany Network, then having your late- night star admit he was fooling around with women who work for him on his program tends to take a little luster off the company reputation, if you know what I mean.

Dan Rather was summarily shown the door by CBS when it was revealed he made a mistake in a report about President George W. Bush. No tolerance at the network of Edward R. Murrow, even for the man who inherited the mantle of anchorman of the "CBS Evening News" from the most trusted man in America. That would have been Walter Cronkite.

Well, now they've got Dave Letterman going on his late-night talk show and admitting to the entire world that he had sex with women who work for him on his program. His sex life aside, this is hardly proper business behavior now, is it, in any office in the country in the year 2009?

We supposedly have gotten past the days when young women can be pressured into having sex with their bosses in order to get a promotion or a pay raise, but apparently not at "The Late Show With David Letterman."

Andrea Peyser wrote in a column in "The New York Post" where she quotes a former Letterman staffer describing a toxic atmosphere in Letterman's studio -- quoting here -- "Everyone inside the program knows what it takes to get ahead."

Letterman is a funny guy, but this isn't funny. This is insulting to women. Meanwhile, CBS reportedly has a policy that bosses need to disclose any sexual relationships with subordinates. But Letterman officially works for his own production company, Worldwide Pants, and they put out a statement saying that he didn't violate any of their rules. How convenient.

Here's the question: What should CBS do about Dave Letterman?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and give us your thoughts.

BLITZER: Get ready, Jack, because you're going to get a lot of thoughts in the next hour. Thanks very much.

Stand by for a CNN exclusive. An embattled United States senator confronted about the help he gave to the husband of his former mistress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Well, I never met with Doug Hampton about any of that staff.

TED BARRETT, CNN CONGRESSIONAL PRODUCER: Your staff did.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, why was it so important to get Doug Hampton those jobs?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our Dana Bash is chasing down the investigation of the Republican senator, John Ensign of Nevada.

Plus, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh throws a "Hail Mary" pass for a losing football team. We'll tell you what's going on.

And some illegal immigrants are being moved out of prison-like conditions. Are the feds showing compassion to women and children, or are they making it easier to escape?

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon weigh in on something involving video sales. It involves videos so graphic, we can't show all of them to you, and it's pitting animal cruelty against free speech.

Stand by.

And mixing jokes with serious allegations and scandalous confessions. David Letterman is walking on a tightrope on his show even as new details just keep coming out. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dark clouds hang over a senator mired in scandal. Republican John Ensign of Nevada, he recently admitted he cheated on his wife with the wife of his former chief of staff. Then we learned that the former chief of staff, Doug Hampton, got a lobbying job with Senator Ensign's help.

"The New York Times" reported the senator helped Hampton secure lobbying jobs for two Nevada-based companies, power company NV Energy and Nevada airline Allegiant Air. All this comes as The Times also reports that Hampton lobbied the senator on behalf of his clients.

Congressional ethics rules bar a former aide from lobbying a former boss for one year after employment. Now there's a serious question out there of whether or not the senator breached any ethics rules in the U.S. Senate.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and our producer, Ted Barrett, they found Senator Ensign earlier today. He spoke to them in an exclusive interview. It's the first time he's talking publicly since the explosive new allegations emerged.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSIGN: I said in the past, I recommended him for jobs, just like I've recommended a lot of people. But we absolutely did nothing except for comply exactly with what the ethics laws and the ethics rules of the Senate state. We were very careful in everything that we did, and you can see our statements on that.

BASH: Do you have any indication that the Justice Department is gong to investigate?

ENSIGN: We only plan on -- we are going to cooperate with any official inquiries. But as you all know, you can't comment on any of this stuff, on any of those kinds of things.

BASH: Well, you can tell us if you've gotten any calls from the Justice Department or your lawyer has.

ENSIGN: Let me state this very carefully. We will cooperate with any official inquiry. OK?

BARRETT: Senator, "The New York Times" shows e-mails in the documentation that you had meetings with Allegiant Air and NV Energy, and intervened on their behalf, on specific items that they needed help with. And Doug Hampton represented them. Now, do you deny that that is the case?

ENSIGN: All of these things will, you know, come out. All of these things will come out at their due time, but there's no question we complied --

BARRETT: Well, you had -- you had contact... ENSIGN: We complied with all of the ethics. Remember, just like, you know, we -- senators who leave, they have a two year, it doesn't mean that you don't talk to them. You can talk to anybody.

BARRETT: But not about clients and not about matters that they are lobbying for?

ENSIGN: Oh, I never met with Doug Hampton about any of that stuff.

BARRETT: But your staff did.

BASH: Senator, why was it so important to get Doug Hampton a job?

ENSIGN: Just look at our statement, look at our statement. It's very clear on that.

BASH: Is there any chance -- is there any chance -- are you considering resigning?

ENSIGN: I am focused on doing my work. I'm going to continue to focus on doing my work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Dana Bash. Dana, the charges are pretty significant, and he explained what he wanted to explain, but there's still lots of questions hovering out there.

BASH: Right, and still the central question that leads to potential ethical and potential criminal problems for Senator Ensign, Wolf, is the rules which are very, very strict now in banning staffers from lobbying their former bosses for one year. That's the so-called revolving door ban, which people up here for the most part take very, very seriously.

And the reason for that, Wolf, is because it's not just the Senate rule. It's also the law now. So as you heard the senator insist he complied with both the Senate rules and the law. He says he did nothing wrong, and he also strongly hinted there that he has not heard from the Justice Department on whether they are investigating him. We should tell you that the Justice Department will not comment either way.

BLITZER: Will the Republican colleagues of Senator Ensign comment either way?

BASH: No comment, Wolf, is what we heard over and over in the hallways today when Ted Barrett and I asked virtually every member of the Republican leadership about -- about this incident.

Now remember, Senator Ensign used to be a member of the Republican leadership before he resigned from that post after his affair became public. But Republican leaders, what they are doing now is they are using the Senate Ethics Committee investigation, which is ongoing as cover. They are saying we're going to let that panel do its work. And the Senate Republicans, they had their weekly lunch today. I talked to a couple of senators who were in that lunch, and they said that this issue did not come up.

BLITZER: What are the consequences if the Senate ethics panel decides there was wrongdoing?

BASH: They really run the gamut, Wolf. The Senate Ethics Committee, if they do decide to turn this preliminary investigation into a full-blown probe, they could just say that he did nothing wrong or they could also say that they are not going to recommend anything, or they could go all the way up to the top which is potentially recommending expulsion.

But I think it's important to remember what we have been told from several experts that we've talked to over the past several days about this that it really is a potential problem in terms of a criminal problem for Senator Ensign and whether or not the Justice Department is looking into this.

Several experts say, look, the Justice Department, they read the newspapers over there, and it just takes looking at something to potentially open a probe like this because they take this law so seriously. Again, the Justice Department, they will not say yay or nay or whether or not they are going ahead and doing that.

BLITZER: Dana Bash and our producer Ted Barrett catching up with Senator Ensign earlier in the day. Dana, thanks very much. Thank Ted as well.

BASH: I will.

BLITZER: Life and death choices in the debate over health care reform. Should illegal immigrants be left to die because their care is too expensive? We're going to meet one man who is living on borrowed time right now.

Plus, new information about David Letterman's affairs and his alleged blackmailer. I'll ask a famed criminal defense attorney whether there's enough evidence to bring this case to trial.

And an AWOL soldier reveals how post-traumatic stress syndrome drove him to take drastic action. We have an exclusive on the dark places of the war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, some tough questions about the U.S. government's crackdown on illegal immigrants. Should women and children get different treatment from some high-risk deportees and be allowed to live in hotels? Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have already started to get that treatment, Wolf. It could be a politically risky way to handle this but homeland security officials say the old system was broken and they have to find a more humane way to process illegal immigrants who are not criminals or flight risks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The Don Hutto detention center in central Texas, it resembles a prison with cells, open toilets. But until recently, the people staying in it were women and children, illegal immigrants waiting to be deported. Two years ago, a mother talked about the effect it had on her children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They had many changes, psychological, I don't know. They would always say I don't want to be in jail. Why are we in jail? What did we do?

TODD: Last month, illegal immigrant families were cleared out of Hutto. It now houses only women detainees awaiting deportation. It's part of a sweeping reform of immigration detention being undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is moving to house what it calls low-risk illegal immigrants, people without criminal records, people unlikely to flee in converted houses, nursing homes, hotels.

The idea is to not mix them with criminals, save money and get them better access to lawyers and medical care. How bad were the conditions of low-risk illegals?

VANITA GUPTA, ACLU: We've had over 90 detainee deaths since 2003. There's been a real crisis in the provision of medical care at these facilities.

TODD: I asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a key question about flight risk. Will there be security at those places, armed guards, fences to keep them from leaving or to keep others from getting to them?

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There will undoubtedly be security. The kind of security there will be will vary. But, again, the kinds of detainees that would go into that sort of a setting are going to be your lowest risk of fleeing. Why? Because they are here to adjudicate their ability to stay here.

TODD: Another DHS official told me there will be security perimeters and personnel at these facilities. That doesn't satisfy one advocate for tougher immigration standards.

MICHAEL CUTLER, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: They didn't discuss whether or not the people that would be doing it would be federal law enforcement officials or private guards and so forth. Within that vagueness comes much too much wiggle room.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Michael Cutler says in the past when some of these operations have been contracted out to private companies, they have been vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. Secretary Napolitano told me they will have to hire some private contractors, but they will also make sure that those contractors meet some very rigorous standards, and they are also doubling the personnel who will be overseeing these places, Wolf.

BLITZER: Have there been some hotels or nursing homes, for example, that already have been converted to these holding facilities?

TODD: There was one, according to a DHS official, who told me there was one in Pennsylvania that was converted from a nursing home and one in Broward County, Florida, that was converted from a hotel. This was done several years ago. This official said that at the Broward County facility there were people who walked away from it, but she said they were quickly picked up again.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much for that story. Illegal immigrants are also at the center of a debate right now over health care reform. Paying for their medical treatment is extremely costly, but the alternative costs lives. Now the story of one illegal immigrant whose days may be numbered. Here's our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a complicated situation for patients and hospitals alike. Should U.S. taxpayers pay to take care of illegal immigrants? It's expensive for taxpayers, but should immigrants be left to die?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN (voice-over): Ignacio Godinez is in the United States illegally and has been since he was 14-years-old. Three years ago, his kidneys failed for no apparent reason. He was grateful when Grady Hospital in Atlanta gave him free dialysis three days a week. Without dialysis, Godinez he would likely die in two weeks.

(on camera): A few months ago, you got a letter from Grady.

IGANCIO GODINEZ, DIALYSIS PATIENT: Yeah. I got a letter saying that they were going to be closing.

COHEN (voice-over): Grady told about 100 people, including about 60 illegal immigrants, that the dialysis clinic is closing. One solution Grady offered, a free plane ticket back home. Godinez told them no thanks.

(on camera): So if you showed up in Mexico, could you just get dialysis, do you think?

GODINEZ: No.

COHEN: Do you feel like they have given you some good options since they won't take you?

GODINEZ: No. Well, they just put us in the street like we're not humans.

COHEN (voice-over): Grady says 10 illegal immigrants said yes to the offer of a free trip home. The rest were offered for treatment at a private clinic paid for by Grady. The financially-staffed hospital, funded by taxpayers, said they had no choice but to kick these patients out. Their clinic is losing $3 million a year. Dr. Danielle Ofri, an internist who takes care of immigrants in New York, calls the situation at Grady heartbreaking, but not unexpected.

DANIELLE OFRI, AUTHOR: The reality is people are here and so when they come to the hospital, we can't not care for them. You can't turn them away when they are sick so we have this issue that's alive and well in our hospitals.

COHEN: There are 7 million undocumented and uninsured immigrants in the United States costing taxpayers about $1 billion a year. Health care reform won't help.

OBAMA: None of the bills that have been voted on in Congress and none of the proposals coming out of White House propose giving coverage to illegal immigrants, none of them. That has never been on the table.

COHEN (on camera): Some people would say you're not a U.S. citizen. Why should we give you free dialysis? We don't have enough money to take care of Americans.

(voice-over): To answer my question he showed me his pay stubs from the natural gas company where he started working at age 15.

GODINEZ: I pay taxes like everybody else, too.

COHEN: On Saturday, Godinez went in for his last dialysis treatment at the Grady Clinic. Then he learned about Grady's offer to pay for him to go to a private clinic for three months only. We went with him when he showed up at that clinic. They sent him away, refusing to give him dialysis.

(on camera): Are you scared?

GODINEZ: Yeah.

COHEN: What are you scared of?

GODINEZ: Well, to be really sick and then it's going to be the worst. I'm going to die.

COHEN: The clock is ticking for Ignacio. He has 11 days to get dialysis until he'll likely die. Grady Hospital says they'll pay for him to go to a private clinic later this week. We'll be following up with Godinez to see if they actually take him. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Elizabeth. Let us know how this works out. Thank you very much.

How can police spot potential terrorists at airports or even large crowds at a sporting event? Wait until you hear about some brand new technology being researched right now. Some say it offers new promise. Others say it could invade your privacy.

And Jack Cafferty is asking what should CBS do about David Letterman? Jack is back with your e-mail. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session." Joining us two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist James Carville and the Republican strategist Ed Rollins. I know it's a huge hypothetical, but just imagine the political fallout, James, if the president rejects General McChrystal's recommendation to deploy another 20 or 40,000 troops in Afghanistan and then General McChrystal were to resign in protest. The political fallout would be enormous, wouldn't it?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it could be, but it could be mitigated by a number of things. Suppose the Secretary of Defense said I advise the president to take this course of action, who was appointed by President Bush, a big Republican or General Jones or General Petraeus or any number of people.

We have to remember that we have a chain of command and everybody from the lowest private knows that, and remember that President Truman fired General MacArthur who was a lot big a deal at the time than General McChrystal was and he's done all right in history and he survived that fallout.

But if we don't have a system in this country where ultimate authority doesn't reside with the civilian leadership, then we're losing what our founding fathers dreamed this country should be about.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Ed, what surprises me is that this internal debate has become so public and everybody seems to know where all the key players stand right now. They should really be doing this behind closed doors.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They definitely should, and obviously the Bush administration was criticized for many things, but you couldn't criticize them for leaks. And I think to a certain extent when you're having these kinds of discussions with a very, very serious questions in which you've got your military on one side and your vice president and civilian people on the other side, it's very, very important the president be able to get the best counsel, make the tough decision that he has to make, and I think at the end of the day, you just need to do that in private and not in public.

BLITZER: It's a real disservice, James, to the president of the United States who, as point out, is the commander-in-chief.

CARVILLE: It is. I think, you know, to be fair, I think some criticism could be actually to put General McChrystal there. That was a choice that they fired the previous general and put him in there, and I don't -- you know, we don't know the whole story. People that have read the McChrystal report by the way said it's brilliant, that this guy is an absolutely brilliant general, a brilliant soldier and let's wait to see how this resolves out.

But most -- most of these high-ranking military men are very schooled in the chain of command. They adhere to it, to civilian authority very well, and I just find it hard to believe that there's some element of this story that we might not now. I just don't think General McChrystal, I don't know him, but I know the culture from which he comes from, and I find it really hard to believe he's being insubordinate. I don't want to believe that right now.

BLITZER: I don't believe that either, just the way things turned out given that leak to Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post," and that whole document. I don't know who leaked that but whoever did certainly put the general in an awkward position.

Let's move on to health care for a moment, Ed, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California, a man you know. He now says this. "I appreciate President Obama's partnership with the state and encourage our colleagues on both sides of the political aisle at the national level to move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people."

He's making it clear he wants Republicans and Democrats to support the president and come up with a reasonable proposal.

ROLLINS: He can't get Democrats and Republicans to sit down and pass his budget in California. Arnold, unfortunately, has no clout in the Republicans being involved in this bill and that's the House and the Senate Republicans. And I think the reality is that they are going to do what they are going to do. They made it very clear to Michael Steele they didn't want him getting involved in policy. And I think at the end of the day, Schwarzenegger can say whatever he wants but it is going to have no impact and I think to a certain extent that's the way it is.

BLITZER: It's not just Schwarzenegger. Other former Republican leaders, Bill Frist, the former majority leader, Bob Dole. They are saying things that are -- trying to say to fellow Republicans, look, let's work out some sort of reasonable compromise.

ROLLINS: I just don't think -- I have great respect for all three men and certainly the two former majority leaders, but neither of them at this point in time have votes, and the life of an ex- senator in Washington is about as far as it takes them to walk down to K Street and start lobbying for somebody else.

BLITZER: That's a good point, James, because as important as they are, Ed makes a good point. They don't have any votes.

CARVILLE: They don't, but, look, I think the White House strategy here is pretty good, and, remember, you've got a former governor Tommy Thompson, who is DHS secretary.

I think what they are trying to do is show that there are Republicans out there who think that this is a good idea to some extent. Understand, if they -- if they pick off two or three or one or two or three Republicans, that's enormous for them, and I think, you know, they are not going to get Jim DeMint and they're not going to get Tom Coburn but this will make some Republicans a little queasy, and I think the Republicans, you can see, you saw Senator Graham talking about Glenn Beck. You can see that some of them are trying to withdraw from some of this sort of talk radio crowd that's pretty far out there. So I think it's a good strategy. They don't have a vote, but it could be pretty good.

BLITZER: Speaking of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, James, currently he's among a team thinking of purchasing the St. Louis Rams in the NFL. All of us who are sport fans, our ears perked up when we heard that.

CARVILLE: You know, I don't -- the owner of the Saints, Mr. Tom Benson, who's a fine man, he's a big Republican in the state, that doesn't affect me one bit. I'm 1,000 percent for the Saints and, look, if Rush wants to -- he's an NFL fan.

I do know this. The NFL owners are really kind of queasy about sort of politics and it's one thing to say that you want to buy a team. It's another thing to get the money and to put up and another thing to have it approved.

BLITZER: It's impressive.

CARVILLE: If Rush Limbaugh bought the Saints, I'd still pull for them.

BLITZER: You'd still pull for the Saints. You like the Saints?

CARVILLE: I'd still pull for them. I love 'em, man.

BLITZER: You love New Orleans.

ROLLINS: Owners are a different breed anyways, and the key requirement is to have money.

BLITZER: All right.

ROLLINS: As visualized by both of us, being former Redskin fans by the gentleman that owns the Redskins today who walked in with a big checkbook.

BLITZER: Right.

ROLLINS: This was a team that was owned by a former dancer in Las Vegas who married well and inherited the team, so I don't think it's exactly the fact that Rush made his money entertaining is not something that's going to be used against him.

BLITZER: All of us were inspired by Brett Favre last night, there's no doubt about that.

ROLLINS: He was fabulous.

CARVILLE: Yeah, you know, I just say --

ROLLINS: For us old men especially.

BLITZER: All right.

CARVILLE: We're big Wizards fans and Mr. Pollin might be the finest owner to ever own a team anywhere in professional sports and we're thinking about you.

BLITZER: Abe Pollin, you're absolutely right. All right, guys, we've got to continue this conversation during the break. Stand by.

Save the last dance for Tom DeLay. We have new information about his future on the TV show "Dancing with the Stars." Plus, state of the art technology to help airport security screeners get inside your head.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. Check out Tom DeLay's latest turn on the dance floor. It may be his last. "People" magazine reporting the former House majority leader will announce tonight he's leaving "Dancing with the Stars." DeLay performed last night despite stress fractures in both of feet. His doctor and the producers urged him to call it quits but DeLay did the samba anyway. He wore a big GOP elephant on his back. His partner wore a donkey and they shimmied to the tune of "Why can't we be friends?"

All right. Tom Delay. Jack Cafferty. I set you up for "The Cafferty File" and I know you appreciate that.

CAFFERTY: I do, and I was just looking. It doesn't look to me like his partner had anything on her back, including a dress. Wasn't the back bare there? It looked like it was. Anyway, I hope this will be the last time -- it makes me uncomfortable watching that.

Question this hour. What should CBS do about Dave Letterman?

Nikki in North Carolina writes, "CBS shouldn't do anything at all. Or if they do, they ought to do it behind closed doors. It's not a rape case, it's an extortion case. And while what Letterman did was wrong, the fact that it is coming out now after years have passed since the incident ought to show that there was no harm done. Letterman sent his apologies. He's now having to deal with his wife. That's punishment enough."

Suresh says, "Fire him. I mean, cancel the contract with his production company and set an example that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated by CBS."

A female fan of Letterman writes, "CBS ought to treat Dave the same way they treat their CEO, Les Moonves, who married a CBS employee, Julie Chen."

Joanne writes, "Letterman gets high marks for doing the right thing by reporting the extortion immediately and for admitting his wrongdoing. As long as he is popular and his sponsors stay with him, CBS may do nothing."

Bob writes, "Why ask? Sex is natural and fun. Nobody has complained so leave the guy alone. Aren't we all adults here?"

Dan writes, "I like Letterman. I think he's funny, but I think he crossed the line and he should go. In any other business, he would have gone whether the sex was could be sensual or not. He's the boss. He's supposed to set the example. How hypocritical has he been with politicians who are guilty of the same things?"

David in Las Vegas writes, "so he took off his worldwide pants a few times. If there was no sexual harassment or threat of job loss, who cares besides his wife? He should ask these women onto his show and interview them saying, "What were you thinking?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile. There's a bit of investigative reporting is also up on CNN.com. We're getting a lot of mail. Actually a lot of people supporting Letterman. He's a popular guy and people are sort of willing to forgive him, I think.

BLITZER: A lot of people are indeed, Jack. Thank you.