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Taliban Suicide Attack; Feingold Warns Obama of "Great Error"

Aired October 8, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: A suicide attack that could have far reaching implications for the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban unleashing a deadly bombing today and claiming a raw political nerve.

For some, it maybe a life or death decision. Millions of Americans say they won't get the swine flu. Now, the government is doing everything it can to change their minds.

And bombing the moon. What NASA hopes to learn from an unprecedented mission that you might be able to see for yourself.

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


BLITZER: We're following significant developments in the Afghan capital right now, where a suicide bombing by the Taliban has killed at least 17 people and injured more than 60. But the shockwaves are threatening to spread far beyond Kabul, the target was the embassy of India, a long-time rival to neighboring Pakistan, and the complex ties between these two countries could have a huge impact on the Afghan war.

CNN's Atia Abawi is in Kabul with the latest.


ATIA ABAWI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The aftermath of another brazen attack in Afghanistan's capital. Scores of people killed and injured. And the Taliban again claiming responsibility for what became the fifth suicide bombing in this fortified city in the past two months.

This time, the bomber targeted the Indian embassy -- the same location where another vehicle-borne explosive device killed 58 people in July of 2008.

"A Toyota Corolla was parked in front of the Indian embassy," Habib says. "It was rush hour, about 10 minutes after I arrived in the office was when we heard the explosion. There were lots of workers cleaning the canals; most of them have been killed."

With the Taliban's historic ties to Pakistan, the recent explosions have prompted fears that Pakistan and India are using Afghanistan as a pawn in their decades-long rivalry. Shop owner Ahmad Zakir was afraid this kind of attack might happen again, saying the neighborhood wasn't safe because of the presence of the Indian embassy.

"They were after them," he says. "The other time there was a suicide bombing in front of their embassy. This time it was at the same place."

The Taliban have ramped up their efforts in the last few months, sending a bloody message to Washington as President Obama decides whether to send more troops.

But frustrated Afghans, like Haji Jamil, have lost faith in just what the international community can do here. He moved back to Afghanistan in 2001 after decades of being a refugee. He blames the coalition for Afghanistan's misery.

"If they would have wanted to fix it, they would have fixed it in the last seven years," he says. "What have they done in these last seven years? It's gone from bad to worse. It hasn't gotten better."

The capital was once considered one of the safest cities in Afghanistan. But with more frequent and deadly attacks, it seems that haven may be in jeopardy.


BLITZER: That was Atia Abawi reporting for us from Kabul.

As President Obama weighs what to do next in Afghanistan, some lawmakers are speaking out about sending additional troops there. They're calling for a time line to drawdown the existing force.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin.

Senator, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: The U.S. wants to fight al Qaeda. How does that translate into action right now, from your perspective, as far as this debate over Afghanistan is concerned?

FEINGOLD: Well, the problem with the debate is that it's really about Afghanistan and whether to put more troops in Afghanistan. This is an international struggle against al Qaeda. And the idea of increasing troops at this time, in a situation that doesn't even involve the leadership of al Qaeda, to the exclusion of putting those kind of resources and help all over the world, where facing al Qaeda doesn't make any sense to me at all.

BLITZER: What would you do?

FEINGOLD: Well, I'll tell you, Richard Engel of one of your competitors is a guy that certainly is not shied away from talking about the need for military action. He said today in an interview that it is time, honestly, to start thinking about leaving Afghanistan.

And the way I think we ought to do it is to say to people, "Look, we're not going to leave right away." But there's going to be a flexible timetable that indicates to the Afghan people and the American people that we're not going to be there indefinitely -- because the idea of being there indefinitely is counterproductive. It helps unify the Taliban. It helps drive the Taliban into the hands of coordination with al Qaeda, not only so much in Afghanistan but particularly in Pakistan.

So, it's really the opposite of what we need to do. It does not make sense and it's a very serious error if you want to be serious about going after al Qaeda internationally.

BLITZER: Because those on the other side, Senator, say if the U.S. were to do that, the potential for a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan would be significant. The al Qaeda could then move back in, they're aligned with the Taliban. We'd be back to where we were on the eve of 9/11.

FEINGOLD: And, Wolf, that's exactly the simplistic kind of argument that passes for real debate about this issue. We talked about this yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I asked the Dr. Sageman what about that argument. And he said it's wrong.

The idea that the Taliban would be able -- and al Qaeda would be able to reconstitute themselves in Afghanistan the way they were before doesn't make sense. They're in a hiding mode. They're trying to avoid getting caught.

They're trying to avoid the kind of stuffs that I believe in is targeting them and getting them where they are, the idea of somehow thinking they're going to come back and be able to set this all up in Afghanistan again really is not proven. And why wouldn't they do it somewhere else? Why wouldn't they do it in Somalia? Why wouldn't they do it in Yemen?

What are you going to accomplish by getting further stuck in Afghanistan and not dealing with the fact that not only al Qaeda's leaders are in Pakistan but that the leadership of the Taliban is in Pakistan. It's not the only place where al Qaeda is. In fact, generally speaking, the belief is that al Qaeda isn't particularly in Afghanistan and we should be going after al Qaeda.


FEINGOLD: Not trying to redo every village in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: So, how do you do that in Pakistan beyond what the U.S. is already doing, launching Predator drones, these pilotless aircraft that's trying to kill as many of them as they can find?

FEINGOLD: The Pakistani military and government is trying to step up to the plate with our support. You know, they -- we were able to eliminate from various efforts a person that was responsible for killing Benazir Bhutto. They have taken a more aggressive stance, the Pakistani military, of stabilizing the Swat Region.

So, working with us and others, principally on their own, of course, that country is indicating that it wants to step up to the plate. That's how you deal with it. I don't think we're going to have a foreign policy, an anti-al Qaeda strategy of simply invading every country where al Qaeda is. That's not what we do when we get somebody in Somalia. This is not the way to win this battle.

BLITZER: It sounds like you have confidence in the Pakistani government. Do you have confidence in the government of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan that he and his people are doing the right thing?

FEINGOLD: I don't have particular confidence in any of these governments. What I do have confidence in is they're both, with regard to Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as many other countries, that al Qaeda is their enemy as well. And that we can find common ground to work with them, as we're doing all over the world, to find and kill those who are trying to kill us.

We did this recently in Somalia. We were able to find one of these guys. We were able to get rid of him. And we didn't have to invade Somalia.

So, you don't have to have complete confidence in another country's government. You just have to work together with them to try to find these criminals and understand that that's the best way to deal with this. Not having an endless ground war in Afghanistan that really isn't the central focus of this battle now anyway.

BLITZER: So, if the president accepts General Stanley McChrystal, his commander in Afghanistan, his recommendation to deploy perhaps another 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, beyond the 68,000 U.S. troops who are already either there or are on their way to Afghanistan, would you vote to deny funding for those additional troops in Afghanistan?

FEINGOLD: It would be a very serious error for the president to go along with the recommendation to greatly increase these troops. And I would take whatever appropriate steps are necessary to try to persuade him not to do it, including using my vote.

BLITZER: Have you told the president that?

FEINGOLD: I told the president several weeks ago that I thought it was time to look at a flexible timetable, and he's listening to a lot of ideas. But I don't think he's really listening to that idea. And I think it's time he should.

BLITZER: And if he accepts this sort of middle road, not 40,000 but maybe half that, that would be unacceptable to you as well?

FEINGOLD: I think that's muddling -- I think that's muddling through. I think -- I think there ought to be a recognition here. As Mr. Engel said today, that it's time to start thinking about how we disengage from this situation, how we put it back in appropriate context of an international fight against al Qaeda rather than an attempt to create nation-building.

And I certainly don't think we can do it by adding 40,000 troops. I certainly don't think we can do it by splitting it in half, as apparently the president and others are looking at. It has to be a real strategy.

And the appropriate strategy is to drawdown in Afghanistan and use our resources internationally with others in the world who want to stop al Qaeda to go after al Qaeda. That is our enemy. Not the people of Afghanistan.

BLITZER: You and I are old enough to remember Vietnam. Are you concerned the president could find himself in a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?

FEINGOLD: I try to stay away from the Vietnam analogies or even the Iraq analogies. Let's -- let's look at each thing as it is. This is a situation where we know there are operatives around the world. We have strategies that are effective and frankly have been more effectively used under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration to get al Qaeda operatives. Let's do that.

Let's not have a big, unending commitment that bleeds our military and resources. Let's just work on al Qaeda.

BLITZER: Senator Feingold, thanks very much for coming in.

FEINGOLD: My pleasure.


BLITZER: Senator Feingold's a key member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got the "Cafferty File."

He's a smart guy, Russ Feingold.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I was just listening to the interview and he impressed me the same way. It sounds like he's thought this stuff through and he speaks in coherent sentences. And that's refreshing.

Yesterday, it was Republican Senator John Ensign.

Today, we have a worm from the other side of the aisle, Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel. Republicans tried unsuccessfully again to remove Rangel from the chairmanship of the powerful ways and means committee. They introduced a motion that would have forced him to step down during the ongoing ethics investigation into his finances and other activities.

But House Democrats wouldn't hear of it. They effectively killed the resolution by voting to shut down the debate and send it off to the House Ethics Committee, where the matter has already sat for a year.

Just today, that same committee announced it's expanding its investigation into Rangel's financial statements. But it really doesn't matter, does it? The phrase "House Ethics Committee" is an oxymoron. They do nothing.

Rangel has been under investigation for a lot of reasons: hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of assets that he allegedly didn't claim on financial disclosure forms. He's admitted to not paying taxes on $75,000 in income from a rental property he owns in the Dominican Republic. He's accused of breaking New York City laws by keeping several rent-controlled apartments, including one that he used for a campaign office. There's more. I just don't have time to list it all.

But despite all of this, this weasel remains the head of the powerful House committee that writes our tax laws. And judging by the actions of his fellow Democrats yesterday, well, it's all just fine with them. What it is is disgusting.

Charlie Rangel says he's a victim of a smear campaign by some in the media. He whines and whines that other chairmen usually get to keep their leadership posts when they're under ethics investigations.

What the hell kind of government do we have?

Here's the question, "Why do House Democrats continue to support Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel?" Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Fervent backlash against the swine flu vaccine -- millions of Americans now say they don't want it. Can the government persuade them to get it?

Also, a growing price tag and a looming showdown over the president's helicopters -- the old price was troubling, the new cost estimate shocking.

And my interview, part two of the interview with the comedian Lewis Black. His take on David Letterman's affairs and why Black says Americans are like kids when it comes to sex.


BLITZER: The long-awaited swine flu vaccine is beginning to arrive, but people aren't exactly rushing to get it. Many parents say they're convinced it's safe for their kids. Our Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is looking into this story.

It's got enormous ramifications, Jeanne. What's going on? JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the government message about H1N1 vaccine is running into some serious static.


MESERVE (voice-over): Radio host Rush Limbaugh has a new pet peeve, the H



MESERVE: Obviously we're having a few technical problems there.

Rush Limbaugh voiced his opposition. Has several times in the last several days, saying that Kathleen Sebelius has ordered the -- the secretary of Health and Human Services has ordered people to take this vaccine and he won't do it. Sebelius told us that, no, it's not mandatory as far as the federal government's concerned. But the government clearly is putting on a push, trying to persuade Americans that this vaccine is safe.

Now, we talked to some parents. They were of mixed opinions. Some said they were ready to take it. Others said, no, they weren't. There is a poll that's been done; this, by the Associated Press and another group. It says 38 percent of parents polled do not plan to get their children vaccinated against H1N1.

And perhaps even more strikingly, another poll of health care workers showed that 27 percent of them said that they were not going to get vaccinated. Another 35 percent said they were not sure.

We asked Sebelius what the consequences of that might be. She said a lot of people will get sick, some very seriously. She does point out, however, that more people are planning to get H1N1 vaccine than usually get the seasonal flu vaccine. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Can't blame people for being nervous. But the government says get it, because you need it. Thanks very much, Jeanne, for that.

An old controversy is roaring back to life and the potential cost to American taxpayers is higher than ever, as Congress and the Pentagon consider a new fleet of helicopters for the president of the United States. Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr. She's looking into this story for us.

Barbara, what is going on?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, the president of the United States needs a new helicopter. The only question now, how much is it going to cost the American taxpayer?


STARR (voice-over): Marine One, the president's helicopter, for months the Pentagon and Congress have bickered over building a new fleet of presidential choppers with onboard missile defenses, the most advanced communications gear, and a hardened hull. All considered essential in today's age of terrorist attacks.

But when the price tag reached $13 billion earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the program and ordered the Defense Department to start over. The president tried to be fiscally sensitive.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me. Of course, I've never had a helicopter before, so, you know, maybe -- maybe I've been deprived and I didn't know it.

STARR: The Navy now has estimates for an entirely new program. But that $13 billion price tag has jumped to over $20 billion. Congressman Maurice Hinchey represents the Upstate New York district where a Lockheed Martin plant cut 600 jobs after the initial cancellation. He wants to keep the canceled program on the books.

REP. MAURICE HINCHEY, (D) NEW YORK: The fact is that in addition to being very expensive, the new helicopter program wouldn't come into existence, it wouldn't be usable until about 2024.

STARR: A watchdog group says Gates was right to cancel the over- budget program but says the Pentagon needs to get the new program under control.

MANDY SMITHBERGER, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: While contractors have been held accountable by canceling the program, the culture at the Pentagon has not yet changed.

STARR: The president has already threatened to veto any restart of the old program.


STARR: Now, the Navy would not comment on the new cost figures, but Congressman Hinchey says when all is said and done, the government could wind up spending three times more than it originally planned, Wolf.

BLITZER: Why can't they just keep building the same helicopter they've been using for these last several years if it's good enough, as the president says, for him?

STARR: Well, they are going to do what they call a life extension on this helicopter that everyone is so familiar seeing lift off the South Lawn of the White House. They're going to keep it going. Defense Secretary Gates has said several times, if it was not perfectly safe for the president of the United States, the Secret Service would not allow him to step foot on it. So they will keep it going for some years. But eventually it's going to wear out and they are going to need a new helicopter, they say, with even more protective measures than they have right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

It's something you'd never see on U.S. television today. And it prompted one well-known American singer to lecture an Australian audience. Details of the Jackson Five parody that Harry Connick, Jr. found so offensive. Stand by.

And a mission to the moon unlike any other. Why NASA is set to crash two spacecraft into the lunar surface.


BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what's going on?


Well, gold reaches another all-time high. The precious metal rallied to its third straight record today amid concerns about the dollar and inflation. Declines of more than $1,062 an ounce before settling at $1,056.70. Analysts say the price could top $1,100 an ounce by the end of the year.

A neighborly gesture from Iran. The first of planned regular shipments of drinking water arrived in Iraq courtesy of Iran. An Iraqi official said the Iranian government agreed to provide the water to southern Iraq, which is facing severe drought and a loss of water from Turkish dams, as well as sea water pushing into the rivers.

And the French Spiderman has struck again. Using his bare hands and without help, the daredevil climber this time managed to make it to the top of a 33-floor Paris skyscraper. In less than an hour, as you see right there, is the building. Police took him into custody after he climbed back down, but no formal charges have been filed. Last month he was held after scaling Malaysia's 88-story Petronas Towers.

As you can see, it doesn't seem to make any difference to these kids. But these zebras right here, they don't know it, are actually fakes. They're real life animals, but they're not really zebras. The real zebras that once lived in this zoo in Gaza died during fierce fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. These are actually white donkeys carefully striped. And those kids get a chance to ride the donkeys. You know that wouldn't happen if they were really zebras anyway, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, they're adorable.

WHITFIELD: But they're happy.

BLITZER: Very cute and the kids are happy. So, let them enjoy it. Nothing wrong with that.

WHITFIELD: Right. Don't tell them.

BLITZER: I'm not saying a word. Thanks, Fred, very much.

My exclusive interview with the Dalai Lama. That's coming up. I'll ask the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader about not being welcomed over at the White House right now. Why didn't the president want to see him while he's in Washington? And I'll also ask him if and when he expects to meet with President Obama.

Plus, Lewis Black on the troubles his fellow comedian David Letterman is facing right now. Plus why he thinks the world is Tweeting way too much.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, does the Dalai Lama feel snubbed by the president of the United States? And what would he most want to say to President Obama if and when he does sit down with the U.S. leader? My exclusive interview with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. That's coming up.

Earmarks and big campaign contributions. Are there side benefits to lawmakers' expensive pet projects? We're taking a closer look at that for you.

A closely watched gubernatorial contest. What's going on in New Jersey's tight race between Governor Jon Corzine and his Republican rival, Chris Christie. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Comedian Lewis Black's new film "Stark Raving Black" hits movie theaters today. We caught up with him during his visit to Washington this week. Yesterday we had part one of the interview. Today, part two. He spoke his mind certainly about a whole lot of issues including some that have been very, very sensitive, including some sex scandals.


BLITZER: Let's talk about some other people in the news right now. Like David Letterman. He's in the news right now.


BLITZER: Do you know him personally?

BLACK: No, I don't know how many people really do. I know -- I know a lot of the writers around him and I've certainly been on the show. I thought it was a non-story because we -the real story -this is an editorial -- more than a story was the fact that I wonder when the country will finally mature in terms of dealing with sexuality.

We have the -- we're like 9-year-olds. We really are, I mean, when it comes to sex. It's like somebody has sex and it's always like, ooh, somebody had sex. And everybody's like pointing, somebody had sex. You know, it's like -- we've put it -- it's put in a category or in a place that it's like on a pedestal or something. You know? BLITZER: So the French are more mature when it comes to dealing with politicians and sex?

BLACK: It's sex. Yes. I mean, it's, you know, mutually consenting adults getting into a bedroom for, you know, an hour and a half, or maybe 15 minutes, depending. You know, that's the...

BLITZER: If you had your way, we wouldn't even care if a John Ensign or a Mark Sanford of South Carolina or a Bill Clinton, you know, whatever they want to do in their personal sexual lives, that's their business?

BLACK: I think it's their business. However, when you've got -- you know, when you've got Mark Sanford running around saying I'm on the Appalachian Trail, then you create the mess. You know, as far as I'm concerned. Or the guy who...

BLITZER: As they say the cover-up is usually worse than the crime.

BLACK: And it is. Or Ensign in terms of his lobbyists.

BLITZER: But there is a different kind of sex involving Roman Polanski. That's a whole different story. He was in his 40s. She was 13 years old. And that brings it to a whole different level. I assume you agree on that?

BLACK: Yes -- no, I totally agree on that.


BLACK: That's -- what's weird to me, though, is it took so long to catch him. You know what I mean? That they...

BLITZER: 30-plus years.

BLACK: Yes, I mean, really. It makes you wonder about the LAPD. But you do wonder why -- why now? What's the deal? I mean, because, see, he's had this house in Switzerland forever. They say, well, we knew where he was going to be. I'm sure, you know, you could have tracked him.

It's -- you know, it had to be done. And it has to be done in the sense that, you know -- the one thing, you know, in the midst of all this our dealing with sexuality, as adults we don't know how to deal with it. And in a sense you almost have to remind people, one of the reasons you arrest him and bring him back, is you go hey, guess what, no, here's one of the no-noes. You know?

BLITZER: Because you know all those Hollywood types who -- are out there defending him right now?

BLACK: Yes, which just makes -- I don't get it. You can't make the defense. The fact is people have to be reminded, especially in light of what -- the way, you know, the access and through the Internet and everything that is potentially out there now, you know, 13 is not the age. You know?


BLACK: You can make arguments for whatever you want in terms of where that age should be now. But 13, no.

BLITZER: Swine flu. Are you going to get a swine flu shot?

BLACK: I'm getting as many shots as I can. As a matter of fact, I'm buying a swine just to have around.


BLITZER: Bloodlust little swine.

BLACK: Just a couple of porkers.

BLITZER: A lot of people are nervous about getting the H1N1 swine flu.

BLACK: Yes. I'm going to get it because I -- I shake so many hands that there's no telling. You know, there's no telling. I take a shot for everything with the amount that I shake hands. It's either that or I'm rubbing -- I'm washing my hands.

BLITZER: So you do the Purell?

BLACK: I don't do it.

BLITZER: You don't?

BLACK: No. Because I'd be doing it 24 hours a day.

BLITZER: Because you're walking around all the time. People are coming up to you.

BLACK: Yes. And you know, you don't want to go that whole thing let's bump fists.

BLITZER: I know. Yes.

BLACK: It's like, no. So I get -- people are always kind of shocked that I get the regular flu shot. But what I always found with the regular flu shot which was good is that it gives you a cold.

BLITZER: A little.

BLACK: A little. But for the entire flu season. So you never get the flu because you've always got a cold.

BLITZER: I get that flu shot, too. Next week I'm going to go.

BLACK: It's good. Maybe we can do it together.

BLITZER: Let's have a party.


I watched the trailer for your new film. "Stark Raving Black." And you're sort of sad that you don't have President Bush around anymore, aren't you?

BLACK: No, not really.

BLITZER: He was good material.

BLACK: He was -- yes. He was good in the sense I considered him kind of the profession from Dan Quayle who was spectacular. And no one will ever be better. I actually did a 45-minute video about Dan Quayle. I had in my act an hour that that man had created verbally.

And Bush gave him a run. Bush had his moments. But I always -- I always felt that just because George Bush left office, I knew that that didn't mean that stupidity had fled the country. You know. It's almost...

BLITZER: So you point out that people elected him in part because they thought he would be a good guy to have a drink with.

BLACK: Yes. And a good guy to have a drink with. And if you're going to vote for somebody because you want to have a drink with him, you be sure that the person's still drinking.

BLITZER: Twitter. Do you tweet?

BLACK: First off, don't you ever say that to me again.


And -- but, no, I don't tweet. Do you?

BLITZER: Yes. I just started. I got a lot of followers.

BLACK: So you have this little...

BLITZER: I got a tweeter and a Twitter and the whole nine yards.


BLACK: I got a lot of followers. It's wrong. It's just not right. How much information can we sell?

BLITZER: I've been tweeting about you. I've been telling our viewers that you're going to be in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLACK: Well, that's very nice.


BLACK: But twittering and saying that you're buying shoes, any time -- these people -- too many people are twittering.

BLITZER: Yes. BLACK: How did certain people get to the ego point where they think that their life is that interesting?

BLITZER: Some people are tweeting even more personal items about what they're doing right now.

BLACK: It's unbelievable. And if you're actually tweeting, which I can't believe I'm saying it, which is a bad word, tweeting, I can't say the other words. But I can say tweet. Come on. That these people are -- if you're describing something, if you're describing what you're doing, then you're not doing it, are you?

Here's the bombshell. Where's our fact checkers? Where are the fact checkers?

BLITZER: We need some...


BLACK: The -- my agent called yesterday and said...

BLITZER: Actual telephone. Not just e-mail? Actual talking.

BLACK: Actual talking. And said to me that I could get paid to tweet. Did you know this?

BLITZER: No. Who would pay you?

BLACK: CNN should be paying you. CNN should be paying.

BLITZER: Who would want to pay you to tweet? Twitter? Twitter?

BLACK: I was told -- I don't know if it's Twitter. I have to do the research. I thought there would be fact checkers here. I thought...

BLITZER: We can work on it. We have some fact checker. Are we talking real money or...

BLACK: Yes. Real money.

BLITZER: Really?

BLACK: And I said I can't do it because I've been standing -- I've been running around for weeks now telling -- you know screaming at kids about this. And I can't -- I don't see how I can do it. They said, you know, you give money to charity. You know that's true. OK. And then you could hire somebody who does your twittering.


BLACK: And then just -- and that would be wonderful. But, you know, if that's a way to get people -- Kendra, whose name I shouldn't really know except that she lived with Hugh Hefner and was in some show on another network, you know, VH1 or whatever, she's like a bunny who's now become famous for reasons that -- for poking. She got famous for poking. She gets $2.5 million.

BLITZER: To tweet?



BLACK: You are -- as far as I'm concerned, you are pissing your tweets away.

BLITZER: I didn't know that.

BLACK: You are pissing them away.

BLITZER: I do it because I sort of like it. You know. It's nice.

BLACK: What do you like? Do you have...

BLITZER: I do it myself. I don't have anybody.

BLACK: No. But do you do it on that little keyboard?

BLITZER: You can do it on your BlackBerry.


BLITZER: Do you have a BlackBerry?

BLACK: No. I have the iPhone.

BLITZER: Yes. So you're high-tech.

BLACK: Oh, boy. I was in the iPhone store. Here's a group of geniuses. First off, the iPhone stores are the -- the Apple stores were designed obviously by aliens. Because you go in there and it feels like -- there's a room somewhere where there's a pod and these people are being produced.

I'm standing there looking at phones. The guy says to me, no exaggeration, you're interested in the iPhone? I said I have an iPhone. He goes what kind of apps you got? I go -- applications. I go, I don't have any applications. He said, what do you use it for? And I pulled it out of my pocket and said, it's a phone! That's what I use it for.

BLITZER: To talk to people.

BLACK: To talk to people.

BLITZER: We got a new app, by the way, CNN.

BLACK: Oh no, I know.

BLITZER: The CNN app. Under $2. $1.99.

BLACK: I thought it was supposed to be free. Hook me up.

BLITZER: Less than $2.

BLACK: Hook me up.

BLITZER: OK. "Stark Raving Black." That's the new film.


BLITZER: We're going to go see that. You're doing the entertaining of the troops, USO. You got a lot going on. You are on tour as you always are.

BLACK: And I've got a book coming.

BLITZER: When's the book coming out?

BLACK: The book will come out Christmas next year.

BLITZER: 2010.

BLACK: It's my Christmas book.


BLITZER: Lewis Black. By the way, I just tweeted about that interview. If you're interested go to, wolfblitzerCNN, wolfblitzerCNN. All one word. You can read all of my tweets on Twitter if you want to. You don't have to. But if you want to.

The singer Harry Connick Jr. sees red over a black faced parody of the Jackson Five and explains to Australians why Americans think it's totally offensive.

Plus, two space probes are hurling themselves into the moon. What NASA hopes to learn from this unprecedented mission.


BLITZER: All right, this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We've been bringing you some reports of outrageous changes in credit cards rates and rules ahead of new laws designed to regulate them. Now there's a brand-new development. A major credit card company is, in fact, backing down. A direct result of CNN's reporting.

CNN's national political correspondent Jessica Yellin has been working this story for us.

Jessica, they're responding to what you are discovering?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're responding to what we're doing, what Congress is doing. In this letter obtained by CNN, Discover Card, one of the nation's major credit cards, says that it is not going to raise interest rates on their credit cards as they prepare for the new credit card bill to kick in. Now this, of course, comes after our reports about credit cards jacking up rates ahead of the new law. And it is great news, Wolf, for any of the tens of millions of people who hold the Discover Card.

BLITZER: What's the back story here?

YELLIN: The back story is -- OK, is that we first reported on Monday that credit card companies are raising rates, jacking up payments in ways that will not be allowed when this new law takes effect on February 22nd of next year.

Well, freshman congresswoman Betsy Markey saw our story. She was outraged. She and 17 other members sent letters to all the major banks and card issuers asking them to freeze their rates. Well, Discover responded saying yes, they'll do it. They'll freeze their rates. And she has given us a statement saying that Discover is doing the right thing.

BLITZER: What are other -- some of these other credit card companies doing about all of this?

YELLIN: Well, first of all, Bank of America was the very first to say they will freeze their rates. They really did lead the way in this. Chase, which was the bank featured in our story, says, no, it is not following suit. Wells Fargo, they're actually raising their interest rates three percent.

Now we're going to keep checking in with these companies, calling on them and seeing if they want to step up with Discover and Bank of America.

BLITZER: So why is Discover doing this?

YELLIN: Well, here -- this might be the real reason. Members of Congress are outraged about all these rate hikes. So even today they held a hearing about the possibility of moving up the date when these new rules go into effect. So they could happen in December instead of late February.

The card companies, they don't want the law to kick in so fast. In this letter actually Discover says they need the time to modify computers and operations to meet the new rules. So the theory here is, if they play nice maybe Congress won't move up the phase and date on them. Either way if they make these changes, it's good for the consumers.

BLITZER: For millions of them who are deeply worried about these interest rates and what they have to spend every hard during these hard times. Thanks, Jessica, for that good reporting.

An Australian performance that simply went way too far. Entertainer and guest judge Harry Connick Jr. was among those deeply offended by a TV show skit in which performers put on black faces and wigs to impersonate the Jackson Five.

Amelia Adams of Australia's Nine Network has the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMELIA ADAMS, NINE NETWORK REPORTER: The Jackson Jive performed the tribute that won (INAUDIBLE) 20 years ago. But the only thing guest judge Harry Connick Jr. was feeling was shock.

HARRY CONNICK, JR., ENTERTAINER: Man, if they'd turned up looking like that in the United States.


CONNICK: Hey, hey. There's no more show.

ADAMS: Host Daryl Somers apologized.

CONNICK: But, you know, we've spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart.

ADAMS: Today Jackson Jive front man, Dr. Anand Deva, defended the group, all prominent Sidney doctors.

DR. ANAND DEVA: I want to say on behalf of all of us that this was really not intended, if anything, (INAUDIBLE).

DARYL SOMERS, HOST: It was a tribute to Michael Jackson. And I think from an Australian audience point of view they'd see the lightness of it.

ADAMS: But overseas a very different reaction. With news Web sites describing the skit as racist and tacky given the recent death of Michael Jackson.

STEPAN KERKYASHRIAN, COMMUNITY RELATIONS COMMISSIONER: I thought that it would be offensive to someone of African-American background. I thought it was something that belonged to the past.

CONNICK: So it's not like people down here aren't aware of the social stigma that's associated with black face.

ADAMS: Connick himself has come to criticism for this skit, accused of hypocrisy for mimicking a preacher. But Connick insists he wasn't pretending to be African-American.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh right. Brother, I feel like I have to read my mind.

CONNICK: Oh break it down for me now.

ADAMS: The "Hey, Hey" skit also offended a national icon.

KAMAHL, ENTERTAINER: It's low, you know? It's low. It's not clever. It's cheap.

ADAMS: But it hasn't changed this superstar's passion for the show. CONNICK: I'm going to call the prime minister and try to get the show back on the air. It's funny. How can you not like a talking ostrich?

SOMERS: I think I need to (INAUDIBLE) lie down after all of that, but certainly we'll talk about maybe what could happen next year.


BLITZER: That was Amelia Adams reporting from Australia.

A bombing of the moon. NASA plans to smash a rocket into the moon on purpose. You'll be surprised what they hope to find.

And why did President Obama refuse to meet the Dalai Lama while he was here in Washington and what did the president promise the Tibetan leader? We'll ask the Dalai Lama in an exclusive interview. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Tomorrow, a NASA rocket will smash into the moon. Minutes later, a second spacecraft will do the same thing. You might think this is a mistake, but guess what, it is not.

CNN's John Zarrella explains -- John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it should be a spectacular show on the lunar surface at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. A satellite called Lacrosse and its spent rocket booster are going to be sent on a collision course with the moon's south pole.

First, the rocket booster will impact, sending up a huge cloud of dust and debris followed four minutes later by the satellite, the Lacrosse satellite. And as it descends toward its collision with the moon, it will begin registering and recording data, all in an effort to find water ice.


NOAH PETRO, NASA: One of the things that we like to be able to do is have sustained presence to on the moon and actually live off the land, to be able to use the resources, the hydrogen at the poles to actually enable our extended stay on the surface of the moon.


ZARRELLA: This is the first step toward NASA's laid out plan of sending astronauts back to the moon in about 20 to 25 years. And interestingly enough, the Lacrosse scientists on this mission had chosen one site for this lunar impact and then changed to a second crater on the south pole, saying it provided a better opportunity for them to find, hopefully find water ice.

Now there should be some really spectacular images of this impact, from both cameras on the spacecraft and from some of those giant earth-based telescopes. So we could very well see some very cool impact pictures from what's being called the bombing of the moon. Wolf?

BLITZER: John Zarrella watching the story. We'll all watch it with you. So, what are the next steps in the space program? In 2004, NASA developed a constellation program, scheduled to put humans back on the moon and then to Mars and beyond. Later this month, we will see a test launch of the ARES-1, that's the first of two new rockets NASA is developing.

The goal is to fly astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2015 and then onto the moon as early as 20. This is, of course, all subject to congressional budget approval. It may turn out that flying to the moon is the easy part.

The Dalai Lama snubbed by the White House, I get his reaction in an exclusive one-on-one interview.

And the White House takes on the news media, going on the offensive with a tough new strategy.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some hotshots coming from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your papers tomorrow.

In Romania, a torah scroll is carried during the opening of the Holocaust Memorial. In West Virginia, a demonstrator against mountain top removal mining stands outside the state capitol.

In India, children play outside of a flood relief camp. And in Philadelphia, the Phillies' manager shares a laugh with the batting coach prior to game two of the National League Division Series.

Hotshots, pictures worth 1,000 words.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now, he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: The Phillies were -- they won that first game, right?

BLITZER: Phillies are the champions, you know, they are the champions from last year.

CAFFERTY: But they -- no, no.

BLITZER: Didn't they win the World Series?


CAFFERTY: Yes. I thought it was the Red Sox. Maybe that was the year before. I am so old.

(LAUGHTER) The question: Why do House Democrats continue to support Ways and Means committee chairman Charlie Rangel?

Ann writes from New Jersey: "The good old boys club is still alive and kicking with Rangel reining as the president. He's been there a long time and can probably dish a lot of dirt. If he goes down there are a lot of other weasels that he will likely snitch on that will go down with him. He must be basking in the sunshine of all that power."

Emma writes: "Charlie Rangel is an accused man, not convicted or even tried. What message would it send to this country to remove him without the benefit of due process? Where is the administration of justice that this country's foundation is grounded upon?"

Jeff in Denver: "The Democrats don't have the courage to cross the Congressional Black Caucus so the question should be narrowed. Why does the Congressional Black Caucus still support Charlie Rangel?"

O writes: "It's simple, Pelosi and most of the Democrats are hypocrites. Let's put forth a resolution for Joe Wilson for yelling "You lie" when it was actually true but let's not investigate this known crook. What a double standard."

Steve in Buffalo writes: "Because Rangel is a good guy. He's not using his power to screw the public. He needs to fire his business managers and they are probably -- who are probably good friends or family members."

Roy in Tennessee says: "I think the answer is simple. People that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. If any of these guys, Republican or Democrats, started throwing stones, everybody in Washington would have to wear steel-toed boots for all of the broken glass."

And Roger writes: "I think it was LBJ who commented on a fellow Democrat, yes, he is an SOB, but he is our SOB. Same philosophy still applies. Some progress after 45 years."

If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to my blog, And find out who won the World Series last years. Was it the Phillies?


CAFFERTY: The Phillies. All right. My producer tells me it was the Phillies. So you were right. It was the Red Sox who won before, not last.

BLITZER: Phillies are good. All right. Thanks very much, Jack, for that.