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THE SITUATION ROOM
White House Declares Swine Flu Emergency; Deadly Day in Afghanistan
Aired October 26, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And is anything different now that the White House declared a swine flu emergency? The bottom line on the delays and the growing demand for the H1N1 vaccine. Taking a look at a live picture of extraordinary, long lines right now in Ohio.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's not the kind of thing most Americans want to see as the president decides whether to send more U.S. troops into a war zone. These students in Afghanistan are very angry at U.S. forces over an apparently false rumor that allied troops burned a copy of the Islamic holy book, the Koran.
There's growing resentment against the U.S. right now and a growing death toll as well -- 14 Americans were killed in two helicopter crashes in Afghanistan today. Also today, the commander in chief faced both his war council and the military rank-and-file in Florida. Listen to what the president told the troops just a short while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way. I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt, because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, and the defined goals, as well as the equipment and support that you need to get the job done.
We are not going to have a situation in which you are not fully supported back here at home. That is a promise that I will always make to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's go to the White House.
Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is standing by.
It sounded to me, Ed, like the president was directly responding to the former Vice President Dick Cheney and his accusation that Mr. Obama was -- quote -- "dithering" and potentially endangering U.S. troops.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think you're right, Wolf. The president obviously never mentioned former Vice President Cheney, but when you talk to senior officials here, they were really stung by what the former vice president had to say a few days back.
They insist that it's nonsense that the president is dithering. They look back to the debate that the Bush administration had over whether or not to surge troops in Iraq. That debate lasted about three or four months in late 2006 internally. And they say they're going through the same kind of deliberative process.
And from top officials who have been involved in these meetings and have been briefed on these meetings, they say it certainly seems like the president is leaning towards sending more troops to Afghanistan. The only real question is, does he send the up to 40,000 that General McChrystal has suggested or does he try to find a more middle ground, whether it's 20,000 or 30,000 U.S. troops -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The runoff elections in Afghanistan are scheduled for November 7. Do we expect to hear before then his decision?
HENRY: Last week, the indications here were that it was going to be after the runoff. There was a big row about that, obviously, and that's in part what sparked former Vice President Dick Cheney's remarks.
But it's interesting that today the new development was that Robert Gibbs, the White House so much, was saying, look, this decision could come at any moment and that it could actually be before the runoff that the president announces it.
So, I think they are still -- based on conversation with senior people here, they're still working out all the details. It's entirely possible it could be before the runoff on November 7 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, he's watching this for us at the White House.
More now on the growing resentment of the U.S. in Afghanistan. It's a very worrisome development. Amid all of this, the deadliest day for Americans in the country in more than four years.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence is in the war zone -- Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in one incident, two U.S. helicopters collided in midair in southern Afghanistan, bringing both of them to the ground and killing four American troops on board.
In a completely separate incident, a helicopter lifted off in western Afghanistan and went down, killing seven American troops and three DEA agents on board. That team had just finished raiding a compound where they believed that insurgents were trafficking drugs.
There's also concern, with 14 Americans injured in these crashes, that death toll could rise even higher. But U.S. commanders here tell us they do not believe insurgent attacks brought these helicopters down.
There was also anger for the second day, as protesters took to the streets protesting what we think is a rumor that American troops burned a copy of the Koran in retaliation for getting hit by an IED. U.S. commanders here in Afghanistan tell us they investigated, the Afghan police investigated, found no evidence that this ever happened.
In fact, the governor of the province where this occurred says he believes it's the Taliban spreading this rumor to undermine the Afghan government and stir up resentment of coalition troops -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence for us in Kabul.
Deafening bang, spilling blood in the streets of Iraq, what you just heard one of two car bombings in Baghdad yesterday. Together, they caused the deadliest attacks in Baghdad in more than two years. At least -- at least 160 people were killed, including at least 30 children, among the injured, 540 people.
Victims ran for their lives, some with blood streaming down their faces. The blasts were so powerful, they sent cars up in flames, tore out huge chunks of concrete from the buildings, all of the buildings. President Obama says extremists are trying to derail Iraq's progress -- a devastating, devastating blow.
Back here in the United States, potentially a turning point in the battle over health care reform, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, publicly announcing he wants to include a government-run health care option in the reform legislation. Still, he left many questions unanswered.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Some of those specifics, critical specifics, Dana, were left out.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of specifics were left out today, but what we did get from the Senate majority leader was a significant announcement in that he set the bar on this very important issue both in terms of policy and politics.
BASH (voice-over): For the Senate Democratic leader from Nevada, a Las Vegas-style gamble.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: A public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system.
BASH: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the Senate Democrats' health care bill will include a public option that allows states to opt out by the year 2014, rolling the dice that conservative Democrats wary of a government-run health care plan can be persuaded if states can choose not to participate. Democratic sources admit Reid does not yet have 60 votes locked down to bring this to the Senate floor.
When we asked, Reid said this:
REID: I believe we clearly will have the support of my caucus to move to this bill and start legislating.
BASH: One senator Reid clearly doesn't have support from is Olympia Snowe, the only Republican to back the Democratic proposal. She quickly said she is -- quote -- "deeply disappointed with the majority leader's decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation."
Several Democratic sources say the president and top aides are concerned about alienating Snowe and risking the chance to call health care bipartisan. And Reid?
REID: We will have to move forward on this. And there will come a time, I hope, where she sees the wisdom of supporting a health care bill.
BASH: Now, given the uncertainty of the votes, the strategy here is certainly risky for the Senate majority leader. Multiple Democratic sources tell CNN a big reason why he decided to push this is to appease an increasingly frustrated and even angry liberal base.
They're worried here in the Senate and in the House and frankly even at the White House that they would be disillusioned next year because they're not happy that they haven't pushed big priorities. And the public option has been one of them.
And, Wolf, it's worth remembering that for Reid, it is personal. He has a tough reelection battle ahead of him and there are already ads running by progressive groups in the state of Nevada challenging him to push this public option -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He doesn't want to wind up like Tom Daschle, another Senate Democratic leader who was voted out by the people in his state. He has got a tough reelection coming up next year.
Dana, thanks very much.
Looking for answers as you look for the swine flu vaccine. We have some live pictures coming in, people waiting in line in Delaware and Ohio. Well, look no further. We're going to tell you why it's taking so long to produce.
And in eight days, voters could tell the most powerful elected official in New Jersey, you're fired. But the governor, Jon Corzine, he is fighting to keep his job. He's here. He's answering his opponents' charges, explaining why he aired an ad featuring his opponent's waistline. We will have that and much more. Jon Corzine standing by live.
BLITZER: In eight days, many of you will be watching what happens in New Jersey. A long and bitter governor's race will end. The incumbent governor, Jon Corzine, the Democrat, could survive the political challenge or he could fall amid a tough economic environment.
Last week, Republican challenger Chris Christie, he was here in THE SITUATION ROOM, faced our panel. Today, it's Governor Jon Corzine's turn. He's joining us together with our own senior congressional -- senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, and our senior political analyst, David Gergen. They will join in the questioning.
Governor Corzine, thanks very much for coming in.
GOV. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: Why do you have to fight for your political survival right now, given the fact that New Jersey's usually a pretty reliable Democratic state? The president won by 16 points only a year ago. What's going on?
CORZINE: Well, Wolf, we are suffering from the deepest, longest recession since the 1930s. And it's a tough time for people. And people aren't happy. And I think I understand that.
A lot of people who want to be working are not. A lot of people have seen their income go down. A lot of people have seen the value of their homes go down. So, we have a tough economic situation caused by the same kinds of policies that my opponent would like to bring to New Jersey.
CORZINE: That is trickle-down economics, cutting taxes on the very wealthy and corporations and then hoping it trickles down to the middle class.
BLITZER: Because, when he was here last week, Chris Christie, he was blaming you for a lot of the economic distress in New Jersey. I will play a little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: He should talk about the important issues of why New Jersey is 50th in terms of affordability in taxes in the country. Why our unemployment is so high, why we have so little job creation in the state, worse than any state in the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, pretty tough words from him, Governor. CORZINE: Well, they are tough words, but they don't necessarily match the reality.
We also have the highest income in the region -- actually, the highest income in the country. I think you all know we have lost 725,000 jobs since the recession started in America, 180,000 of those in New Jersey.
I regret that any people in New Jersey or anywhere in the country are losing their jobs. But the fact is, we had failed economic policies that created this issue.
And on the tax climate, well, he uses the Tax Foundation, which everybody knows is a very, very conservative group, doesn't even look at the gas tax, which we have the lowest in the country, to factor in on what the tax burden is.
If you look at independent analysts, we're in the middle of the pack. Ernst & Young just came out with a study on this about six months ago. And so it just -- it's picking and choosing what he wants to talk about. That's politics. I understand that.
But the fact is that there's a lot of great things. We're one of the few state that saw the uninsured go down last year. He doesn't talk about that.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor, it's Candy Crowley.
CORZINE: Hey, Candy.
CROWLEY: How are you?
Listen, looking at the state of the economy in New Jersey, you're talking about the overall economic climate. But is there any anything -- unemployment is obviously up. You have had a poor growth rate. Is there anything that has happened to the state of New Jersey that you think you're responsible for?
CORZINE: Well, first, Candy, 20 out of 23 months during this recession, we have been lower than the national average on unemployment. So, I don't -- it just misses the point. New York City and Philadelphia, who are our closest neighbors of similar size, have much higher unemployment rates. It's just not accurate to say that we're not growing as well as those around us.
Do I worry that the public is concerned about property taxes, as they have been in New Jersey for the last 30, 40 years? Yes. And we have a very detailed program on how to deal with that, capping the growth of property taxes, putting more money into school aid, doing the things that actually make a difference. Mr. Christie has a plan that one of the leading newspapers, "The Star Ledger," says would increase middle-class property tax folks, because he wants to cut taxes on big business and insurance companies and the very wealthy, and then follow that trickle-down philosophy that has failed the country, and he wants to bring it to New Jersey. That's a failed policy.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Governor, this is David Gergen. It's good to see you again.
CORZINE: Good to see you.
GERGEN: Tough on Main Street. Let me ask you about Wall Street. You said last week that financial firms that had been bailed out by the government shouldn't have big bonuses. What about your old colleagues at Goldman Sachs who are sitting on a stack of money now? Should they use that money for bonuses or should they be very restrained and not use them for bonuses?
CORZINE: Well, I think they absolutely need to be restrained in how they do it. They need to restructure how compensation packages go. I saw one of Goldman's competitor, Morgan Stanley, talk about clawbacks or spreading out how they pay out compensation over a longer period of time, so that if there are changes in the circumstances of the performance over a period of time, as opposed to an accounting period, then it can be reflected in how those payouts go.
CORZINE: I think Goldman and other people ought to change their structures.
GERGEN: So, you would have very low bonuses coming out...
CORZINE: Well, I would have low bonuses for a payout in a given year, might accumulate to larger amounts over a longer period of time, which is not unlike how the partnership used to work at Goldman Sachs. You didn't get a lot of cash payments up front. You got paid because of your buildup of capital over time.
GERGEN: But should they also -- is this also because of the economic climate and the political climate, that -- do you think the government ought to step in if they don't show restraint? Because, after all, there's a lot of indications right now that they're going to pay out big bonuses.
CORZINE: Well, I think that it would be advisable for the private sector folks who are not now in the TARP and the other programs to understand that the system bailed out the system last year.
And those are -- the firms that came through that very well, like Goldman, I think, should understand that there was an insurance policy that was put out for everybody, for the system at large. And while they have gotten back on their feet, I think they ought to reflect that in their compensation. And, if it has to be, then I think maybe there should be talk about some way to bring that about on an authoritative basis. I think they will respond themselves.
BLITZER: Governor, your campaign ran a highly controversial ad against Christie in which you used the phrase, "Chris Christie threw his weight around."
And he -- we asked him about that, because it did generate a lot of buzz. Here's what he told us last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I will let all of your audience in on a little secret, Wolf. I'm overweight. And I have struggled with my weight for the last 30 years on and off. And that's the way it is.
And, so, I think there's a lot of people out in New Jersey who have the same kind of struggles. And I think that kind of stuff is just beneath the office the governor holds.
And the worst part of it is that he won't even admit that is what he's doing. You all just saw the ad. It's obvious what they're trying to do.
But, when confronted about it, the governor denies it and says that there's nothing -- nothing meant by those ads.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, you want to respond to what he just said?
CORZINE: Sure. I'm going to say the same thing I have said in each of the debates we have had. I don't give a hoot about his weight.
What I do care about and what that ad was about, how many people, Wolf, do you know that drive the wrong way down a one-way street, hit somebody on a motorcycle, that person ends up in the hospital for five or six days, and walk away without a ticket?
How many people can abuse their power, abuse their office by flashing their credentials, throw their weight around, however you want to say it? How many people do you know that are watching this could drive down a one-way street?
And if that were the only example, then maybe that would be an overstep, but didn't pay his taxes on a loan that he paid, didn't report it on his disclosure forms, claims that no-bid contracts are the source of all problems of the state of New Jersey, then gives out multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts to his buddies, like John Ashcroft and other folks, and then has the willingness to go in front of the public and say, well, I'm going to be a different kind of guy than what we know is a basic problem with a lot of office-holders in New Jersey, is that they abuse the power of their office.
BLITZER: But, if you had to do it over again, would you have used a different phrase than throw his weight around to make the same point?
CORZINE: As opposed to having that discussion divert away from the abuse of power in that office, I think that's probably a good idea.
BLITZER: Governor Corzine, we will stay in touch. Thanks very much for coming in.
CORZINE: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: The president of the United States, we're talking about President Obama, firing back at former Vice President Dick Cheney, who accuses the president of dithering on a decision to send more troops into Afghanistan. James Carville, he is getting ready to join the best political team on television.
BLITZER: James Carville, David Frum, they are standing by together with the best political team on television. We will get to them shortly.
BLITZER: The swine flu outbreak has officially been declared a state of emergency here in the United States. But is that helping to get vaccines to the public any faster? We're digging deeper into some of the reasons behind the delay.
BLITZER: The health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, says the swine flu vaccine is being distributed as fast as it comes off the production line. She adds it's unfortunate that supplies of the vaccine were not as large as predicted.
Why is the vaccine so little so late? What's going on?
We asked CNN's Mary Snow to take a closer look.
What do we know, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, health officials say really that the delay in production of the H1N1 vaccine really hinges on the way the vaccines are made.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SNOW (voice-over): With lines like this one in Salt Lake City, it's clear there's a demand for H1N1 vaccines. But where are they? Health officials say a delay in vaccine production comes down to a 50- year-old technology that relies on eggs.
REAR ADMIRAL DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, SCIENCE AND PUBLIC HEALTH PROGRAM, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: It's a tried- and-true method, but it's not perfectly predictable. Some viruses grow quickly in eggs. Some don't grow as well. And what happened with this year's H1N1 vaccine is that several of the manufacturers had challenges in getting a lot of the virus, the vaccine virus, out of those eggs. And, so, we have a delay.
SNOW: That delay doesn't surprise Dan Adams, who told us this back in July.
DAN ADAMS, CEO, PROTEIN SCIENCES: No matter what you think, the way that the major pharmaceutical companies make flu vaccines is not going to solve a real pandemic problem. It takes too long to get there.
SNOW: Adams is the CEO of biotech Protein Sciences and uses insect cells and not eggs to make vaccines. The company doesn't have yet a license to make H1N1 vaccines. But his company isn't the only one using different technologies.
ALAN SHAW, CEO, VAXINATE: This is the equivalent of about 100,000 eggs.
SNOW: Alan Shaw's biotech firm Vaxinate uses proteins and bacteria.
(On camera): Why is it so much faster?
SHAW: E. Coli double every 20 minutes. A hen will lay an egg once a day. Roughly.
SNOW (voice-over): This company is applying for federal money, but the government has already invested in others including Protein Sciences. As it seeks alternatives to using eggs, critics ask should the government have invested in alternative technologies earlier?
SCHUCHAT: We're optimistic that over the years ahead, some of these new technologies will bear fruit but none of them were ready for this pandemic. It's a -- it's just a sad truth that the pandemic came too early basically.
SNOW: Currently the government has contracts for H1N1 vaccines with five companies, all of which make the vaccine the same way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And since growing the virus in eggs is the only FDA-approved means of generating the vaccine, that really becomes our major stumbling block right now.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Now there is one exception. Vaccine maker MedImmune is having less difficulty producing its nasal spray vaccine but it's not for everyone. It's only approved for people age 2 to 49 who don't already have an underlying illness. It's not recommended, however, for pregnant women since it contains a live virus. Wolf?
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you.
Late Friday President Obama declared the H1N1 virus a national emergency. But what does that really mean? A national emergency declaration allows hospitals to reduce paperwork setting up medical tents near hospitals and makes it easier to transfer patients.
According to one administration official, in essence, medical professionals can spend more time treating patient, less time fighting red tape.
Recently the White House has made similar declarations for real and potential disasters. Some examples, hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustav, President Obama's presidential inauguration and this year's severe flooding in North Dakota.
Some very long lines are forming where the swine flu vaccine is available. Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She's working this part of the story for us.
Some of those lines are very long, Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, take a look at this one. This is Oakland County, Michigan over the weekend here. One of our iReporters was there with his pregnant wife, with his child as well. They took one look at this line and turned away.
Officials there at a community center was saying if you stand in line, we've got thousands of these vaccines, we will get to you. But so many people were just taking one look at this and saying, there's no way we're going to be waiting in that for hours, hours on end.
You can see why people are concerned from this map here. This is the widespread flu activity in the country. If it's dark flu, it's widespread flu activity. As you can see, all but four states.
I'm showing you all this on the newly re-launched CNN.com just when the re-launch happened in the last couple of days. Check it out. What we're trying to do here is bring all these elements together whether it's our iReporters, whether it's reports and packages from our correspondents, whether it's the information from the maps from the CDC.
It's all there in one place for a lot richer experience on a story like the H1N1 story, Wolf, that has so many people concerned.
BLITZER: We're getting great feedback on this new and improved Web site, CNN.com. I want everyone to check it out.
Republican critics are turning up the heat on President Obama as he weighs a request for tens of thousands of additional troops for Afghanistan. We're back with the best political team on television.
Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. Welcome back, Candy. James Carville who's our Democratic strategist and CNN contributor. He was an adviser in the recent presidential election in Afghanistan. Is that right, James?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's correct.
BLITZER: OK. Good. We're going to make sure we get our viewers that kind of information.
Former -- also our senior political analyst, David Gergen, he's here. And also the former Bush speechwriter David Frum. He's editor of Newmajority.com. That's a Web site. He's also a contributor to our new and improved CNN.com. In fact, you've got an excellent op-ed right on the front page of CNN.com.
DAVID FRUM, NEWMAJORITY.COM: Thank you.
BLITZER: David, that we're showcasing right now. Our viewers are interested.
Let's talk a little bit about what's going on in Afghanistan. First, the president says he will not rush into a decision that will affect the life and death of American troops. Anything wrong with that?
Well, it's the first of November almost. He's been president now for almost a year. This has been -- if H1N1 is an emergency, Afghanistan is an emergency. It was an emergency last November. It was an emergency when he visited the country last -- in the summer of 2008.
He's had a lot of time to make up his mind and the situation is getting worse and worse and worse. It's not waiting for him.
BLITZER: Because as you know, David, a lot of people are saying, you know what? Make up your mind but don't send any more troops, in fact, start bringing the troops who were there home.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are a lot of Democrats who probably like James who cheered this last weekend when the answer to Vice President Cheney saying there was dithering. They wish they dithered more in Iraq.
I think that was a very comeback. But it's also true, Wolf, that time is ticking away. The general in charge, General McChrystal, says time is of the essence. We've now -- there was a sense that after all that President Obama went through a strategic review this last spring.
He made a commitment to a new form of strategy back in May. Put in a new general there. So to revisit this now as I -- and take this number of weeks, I think, is causing among some significant people in the Pentagon, especially in the armed forces -- you know, is he really into this or not? And when he finally makes a decision, is he in or is he out? Does he really -- is he really -- if it's this hard to make the decision, is he really going to be convinced about what he's deciding?
BLITZER: Listen to what John Kyl, the Republican senator from Arizona, said yesterday, James.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KYL (R), ARIZONA: As General McChrystal said time matters. I'm afraid with every passing day we risk the future success of the mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, by mid next year this will be the longest war that America has fought in its entire history, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's eight years already. Yes.
CARVILLE: It will surpass Vietnam. I agree that it's a very difficult decision the president is making. I think they're waiting for the election. My point would be, why do they think Karzai is going to be any better the day after the election than he was the day before the election?
Why do you think the run-off is going to be conducted any more on the up and up than the first round of voting? I suspect it will be more closely watched.
Look, it's -- let he who has a really good answer go ahead and provide it. I mean, if General McChrystal has his report -- 99 times he mentioned the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Well, right now it doesn't look like they have much of a prospect to have a very good one. But hopefully that will change.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But one of the problems here is, and what you're hearing the critics say, is this is not about Karzai, this is not about the government. This is about the U.S. troops, 68,000 or so, that are there that need these extra troops in there to carry out this mission.
And I suspect that if you -- that the voices will grow louder if the injury and death toll begins to spike even more. We saw these awful helicopter crashes of which -- of unknown origin at this point. But I think as violence increases, if it does and we hope it doesn't, but if it does, that the dithering you're going to hear a lot more of. Because their argument is, you know, Karzai or not, we're there. You've got to do something.
CARVILLE: But the McChrystal plan depends on this, as I understand it. I'm not -- by and large it depends on having a sort of work (INAUDIBLE) out. I don't know that if the past is any indication...
CROWLEY: The question is, can it wait? (CROSSTALK)
FRUM: There's nothing about Karzai that we know today that we didn't know 18 months ago. And...
GERGEN: There's nothing we're going to know three weeks from now.
FRUM: And Obama made a commitment. And if the time -- the time to not dither but think was before he made the commitment. This is now the post-commitment universe. And is he going to honor it? And if he's not going to honor it, he owes the country one big explanation. And if he's going to honor it, do it fast.
GERGEN: Wolf, a very senior person in Homeland Security from the last administration made a point to me this afternoon, saying, you know, we've got to keep al Qaeda on the run. And what we finally got is Pakistan, the military, pushing al Qaeda from one side and if we can push them from the other side, we can bookend them, we can really squeeze them and we can really maybe put them out of business in that part of the world.
BLITZER: Yes, but here's the counter argument...
BLITZER: They'll move to Somalia, they'll move to Yemen. Is the U.S. then going to follow them to Yemen and Somalia?
GERGEN: This is like cancer cells. They're going to spread to other parts of the body and we're going to have to deal with them when they move there. But if you get Pakistan move them over and then you pull away in Afghanistan, then they go -- they stay on the offensive. That's the argument.
CARVILLE: A great British admiral Jackie Fisher said, essentially, that consistency was the stuff of fools. And if you say something in March and the facts change in November, then you've got to change your opinion. I mean Jackie Fisher would have changed his opinion in a (INAUDIBLE) what. I don't know what the president's (INAUDIBLE). I expect he's going to have to come up with something.
When he does obviously -- they criticized him for taking his wife to dinner. They criticized him for putting mustard on his hamburger. They're going to certainly -- and he expect him -- he should be expected to be criticized no matter what he decides. But this is not real easy stuff they're dealing with at all.
BLITZER: No. This is about as hard as it gets for a commander in chief. And just to be precise, when you've got involved in the Afghan elections, it wasn't for Karzai.
BLITZER: It wasn't for Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. It was for yet another candidate... CARVILLE: Yes.
BLITZER: ... who didn't do all..
CARVILLE: What I've done -- he wasn't underfunded. He was nonfunded but he would have been great...
He would have been a great president.
BLITZER: Even James Carville couldn't get him elected in Afghanistan. All right, guys, stand by. We've got another subject we want to tackle is, and here it is. Are liberals getting what they bargained for in President Obama? One well-known columnist says, no. Stand by. The best political team on television not going away.
BLITZER: Here's the cover of the new issue of "Newsweek," "Yes, He Can," but in parentheses, "But he sure hasn't yet." "A Liberal Survival Guide" by Anna Quindlen.
Let's talk about the president of the United States. We're back with the best political team on television. She writes this among other things, "Perhaps because of his race and his age, much of the electorate, especially those of us who are liberals, succumb to stereotype and assumed that he was by way of being -- that he was by way of being a firebrand. A year in, and we know that we deceived ourselves. He is methodical, thoughtful, cerebral, a believer in consensus and process. In an incremental system, President Obama is an incremental man."
Anna Quindlen writing strong words there. Obviously she's disappointed.
CROWLEY: I think the one thing that might disappoint liberals is the incremental part. They expected the big changes, which I think they will argue this health care is.
BLITZER: Especially with lopsided majorities in the House and Senate.
CROWLEY: Yes. But all of the other things he was before he got to be president. I mean I covered this man for two years. He was deliberative, he was cautious. We talked a lot. I mean he gives a great speech and he can really rouse passions. But he is, by nature, a very cautious guy that does look for some middle ground here.
But I think what is bothering the liberals at this point are specific issues that they wanted addressed. And she's right, there is time. But they don't want to run up too close to any elections at this point.
BLITZER: How frustrated are the liberals?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, in essence, consistent by any analogy the country voters, not the country who voted -- 40 percent conservative, self-described 40 percent moderate and 20 percent liberal. When you bring 20 percent to the table, you're not getting very much. I mean that's the...
And the people in Congress, everybody's kind of got that figured out here. They kind of know that going in. What Obama basically is, he's plenty bright enough. He's an incremental, establishment kind of guy. He's got the people around him, are not very -- are not particularly radical at all. But you know what? They're moving the ball and maybe moving the chains and...
CROWLEY: But he's incremental in a way -- remember, he wants to be Ronald Reagan in the sense of, he wants to have a huge change in the trajectory of the country. So I think he incrementally he's handled that way. That's what he like.
CARVILLE: Wolf, Anna Quindlen is a terrific writer this is a very interesting piece. When Barack Obama was in Massachusetts this last weekend for Deval Patrick, he said something about Patrick he's also said about himself. And that is, when you campaign, people read what they want to read into you and when you govern it gets different because you have to make choices.
I think he actually invited liberals to see him as a liberal and wanted moderates to see him as a moderate to get elected. And when he -- start making choices and inevitably people across the spectrum are -- you know they're saying, you know, that's not quite what I thought we were going to get because that's -- not what they wanted exactly.
The other point is, I think Anna Quindlen is making the argument that the system is one which encourages incrementalism. It's a decentralized system. It's not a strong presidency as in some countries. And it's hard to make bold changes in a non-parliamentary system.
BLITZER: Because David, if you'll remember, Bill Clinton when the liberals -- and James certainly remembers this, and so does David Gergen. When the liberals used to complain about him, he was happy. His guys were happy because he was positioning himself as a middle of the road kind of guy.
FRUM: Well, and Obama may be happy, too, with this cover. But look, he did one enormous thing as soon as he came into office. He did this gigantic stimulus. His bad luck was something he didn't especially want to do. So he used that one magic presidential wish early to get the thing he didn't want. And it's now gone when he wants to do the thing he really does want, which is health care.
And his terrible trap is, had it been a more normal economy, he would not have won as decisively as he did. But precisely because it was an abnormal economy, he wasn't able to use his decisive victory the way, I think, his course of orders would have liked.
GERGEN: But they're thinking now, David, I mean, he's not being as liberal as the senators want. And Harry Reid is going out beyond the White House -- there seems to be a mini rebellion going on with Harry Reid introducing a bill today on the public option that he doesn't have the vote for.
And there are reports that he had conflicts with Rahm Emanuel over the weekend. It sounds like the liberals are pushing farther than the White House really wants to go right now in the Senate.
CARVILLE: You know, you push to here knowing you're going to end up there. That's not exactly kind of a new legislative strategy in one sense. I think what the congressional -- the Senate Democrats are going to go to the president and say, well, we got 57, maybe 58. You've got to get the next two or three. I mean we're all in this thing together.
CARVILLE: And you know -- so here it is here, I think...
GERGEN: He's got a good chance of losing that, James.
CARVILLE: You know, if he loses, the consequences are that they're going to figure out a way to win.
CARVILLE: I don't think they're going to allow it to go down. They will figure a way to win this.
BLITZER: Well, if he loses this -- allowing the states to opt- out, which is what he's proposing...
BLITZER: Can he then come back and do what Olympia Snowe says we'll let the trigger go into effect?
GERGEN: Well, it gets harder now, doesn't it? I mean I think what the White House...
CROWLEY: It's harder...
GERGEN: ... wanted to do is take one shot at this, not take two or three shots. I think they are now taking a bit of a risk...
BLITZER: All right.
CARVILLE: If you look at what right now the most conservative bill -- Paul Begala pointed this out -- the Baucus bill is much more liberal than what Al Gore proposed in 2000. The health care...
BLITZER: All right, guys, hold your thoughts because you're coming back tomorrow. But we've got to end it right now. Much more to talk about, no doubt about that.
Drawing the battle lines. Is a deep divide brewing over the future of the Republican Party? Two GOP political heavyweights may be on opposite sides of the best candidates to send to Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: On our political ticker today, the tea party express is back on the road. The conservative demonstrators are wheels up for a nationwide tour. They plan to hold rallies in 38 cities across the country in just under three weeks. Their mission? Less government spending, less government involvement in health care and corporate bailouts.
The former House speaker Newt Gingrich has come under fire from tea party supporters who are endorsing New York congressional hopeful, Dede Scozzafava, over a more conservative candidate Doug Hoffman. Gingrich said the Republican Party cannot survive with a purely right wing majority but must accommodate those it disagrees with.
This has Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty -- he's the governor -- has become the first sitting Republican governor to back Hoffman one week after Sarah Palin's endorsement. Pawlenty says the GOP cannot send politicians to Washington who are Republican on the campaign trail then vote like Democrats.
Christie Vilsack has said she will not challenge Republican Charles Grassley for his Senate seat next year. The wife of President Obama's agriculture secretary and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack says she's flattered by requests to run and will remain active in Democratic politics but is not running.
Remember, for the latest political news anytime, you can always check out CNNpolitics.com. And we have a new way for you to follow what's going on in the SITUATION ROOM. Remember I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Twitter.com/WolfblitzerCNN, WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.
Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour. I love it when you smile, Lou, that I'm using the word tweets.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I do like that. There's something about Wolf Blitzer and tweet that goes together like any number of things. Anyway, thank you, Wolf.
Coming up at the top of the hour, wars gone bad. A massacre in Iraq, at least 160 killed in Baghdad, security questions again, jeopardizing success.
And in Afghanistan, helicopter crashes kill 14 Americans. The president today promising not to rush his decision over a troop surge. But how much time does he have? Are both wars now in trouble? And the pilots of the Northwest flight that missed the airport by a mere 150 miles now say they weren't sleeping, they weren't arguing, they were just distracted by their laptops. A violation the airline says is enough to fire them. Some say the pilots' story is hard to believe. So what should we believe?
And it's official, President Obama finally declaring the swine flu outbreak a national emergency. Does that mean more resources on the way? What took so long?
Also, we'll ask one of the country's foremost experts on the swine flu how to keep your family safe. Join us for all of that and a great deal more coming up at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: We'll see you then, Lou. Thanks very much.
A most unusual protest broke out at an insurance industry conference. Jeanne Moos is next.
BLITZER: A most unusual protest broke out at an insurance industry conference on Friday.
CNN's Jeanne Moos tuned in.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back then, there was the famous Annie, and today there's public option Annie. There's a name for the protest that took place at this insurance lobby conference.
MARCO CEGLIE, BILLIONAIRES FOR WEALTHCARE: It's technically called a guerilla musical.
MOOS: Suddenly audience members started singing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Singing) We're killing the public option and blocking any hopes of its adoption. Thank you, sir.
MOOS: They were members of the satirical group, Billionaires for Wealthcare.
(On camera): The group has clever little slogans like "Let them eat Advil".
GROUP: (Singing) If we get a public option, we can sniff out waste just like a Dachsund.
MOOS (voice-over): Unlike a Dachsund, security didn't sniff out the five singers and six camera people who infiltrated the insurance event.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Singing) When Olympia Snowe said no, it croaked. Right? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Singing) No, the option's not dead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or read.
CEGLIE: You know, anybody can go to a town hall and just yell and scream and throw a tantrum. But we are trying a new dynamic, a new paradigm with positive energy and to make people smile.
MOOS: A similar guerilla musical broke out last month at a Whole Foods store in Oakland, California. Protesters were mad at Whole Foods CEO John Mackey for questioning whether people should have an intrinsic right to health care, so they took the 1982 hit, "Mickey" and turned it into "Mackey".
But the guerilla musical that got rave reviews wasn't a protest. Imagine you're in the produce aisle when this production breaks out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Singing) We squish our fruits together. You've got a pineapple there, why not make them a pair, let's squish our fruits together.
MOOS: And now most shoppers were dumbfounded. At least one guy kept pawing through the broccoli. The group that staged this is called Improve Everywhere, most famous for the time over 200 participants simply froze in Grand Central Station, now frozen has given way to fresh fruits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fruits deserve the chance to mingle.
MOOS: When's the last time you heard applause in the produce aisle? Who cares about squeezing the charmin?
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Lou?