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Tense Visit, Tough Talk; Walking Across Afghanistan; President Obama's 3:00 A.M. Call; "It Was A Bloodbath"

Aired October 30, 2009 - 17:00   ET


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

Happening now, one-on-one with the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as she wraps up a controversial visit to Pakistan. Her tough talk made headlines. Now she explains what she meant by her controversial remarks about Al Qaeda and Pakistan.

Also, it's the dilemma facing millions of parents right now -- should they get their children vaccinated against swine flu.

And cameras in the cockpit -- some aviation experts like the idea, pilots don't.

Would the cameras create more problems than they would solve?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has wrapped up a sometimes tense three day visit to Pakistan, marked by tough talk that revealed strains between Washington and Islamabad over fighting terrorism. At one point, Secretary Clinton seemed to question Pakistan's commitment to rooting out Al Qaeda. She talked about that in a one-on-one interview with CNN foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, who's traveling with Secretary Clinton.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Let's talk about Pakistan, where we are right now. You were talking to some Pakistani journalists and you made some pretty strong comments about Al Qaeda: "It is hard to believe that your government" -- the Pakistani government -- "that nobody in that government knows where Al Qaeda is. They could get them if they wanted."

Are you actually saying that the government or someone in the government is complicit or not following through on getting Al Qaeda?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: No, no. What I was responding to is what I've been really doing on this trip, which is that there exists a trust deficit, certainly on the part of the Pakistanis, toward the United States -- toward our intentions and our actions. And yet we have so much in common. We face a common threat. We certainly have a common enemy in extremism and terrorism. And so part of what I've been doing is answering every single charge, every, you know, question.

I'm going to continue today to put myself in as many different settings as possible, because it's not adequate just to meet with government officials.

But trust is a two-way street. And I think it's important if we're going to have the kind of cooperative partnership that I think is in the best interests of both of our countries for me to express some of the questions that are on the minds of the American people. And I'm not prejudging the answer, but I'm asking the question.

DOUGHERTY: But isn't that your...


DOUGHERTY: ...question, your own personal question?

CLINTON: Well, I'm an American. And I think we have -- we have every reason to say, look, we are applauding the resolve you're showing in going after the Taliban extremists who threaten you. But let's not forget, they are now part of a terrorist syndicate that, in sort of classic syndicate terms, would be headed by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda provides direction and training and funding. And there is no doubt in anyone's mind that they are certainly encouraging these attacks on the Pakistani government, which are so tragic and which the Pakistani people are determined to beat back.

So even, given the success of the Pakistani military's operation, which has been extremely courageous in both Swat and now South Waziristan, success there is not sufficient. It is necessary because you have to take on these threats wherever they occur, but it's not sufficient to eliminate the threat that Pakistan faces.

As long as Al Qaeda can recruit and send forth suicide bombers -- as we've seen in our own country, with the arrest of Zazi, who clearly is connected to Al Qaeda, trained in an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. I just want to keep putting on the table that we have some concerns, as well. And I think that's -- and that's the kind of relationship I'm looking to build here.


BLITZER: Jill Dougherty also asked Secretary Clinton about the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who's expected to win the coming runoff election.

Does the Obama administration have faith in him or is it now moving to work around him and engage with regional leaders?


CLINTON: The very nature of Afghanistan as a country is that it's never had a strong central government. It's always had local control of one kind or another. So, of course, we're going to work with governors and district leaders and village elders and the like.

But there are certain functions that only a central government in Kabul can perform. One of our goals is to help stand up an effective Afghan national security force. Well, that has to come from Kabul. That has to come from the president, the minister of defense and others; to create more of a police force to deal with day to day crime and some of the challenges that people report to us about -- well, that requires, you know, the minister of interior and others to work.

So we're not -- I think in the past -- you know, and it's difficult to -- to go back. But I think there might have been too much emphasis on the central government and this idea that there could be some kind of nation building that would transform Afghanistan overnight. Well, we don't accept that. We don't think that that's going to happen.

But what we do believe is that we have to work with the president and the cabinet, the officials in Kabul and the officials at the local level. And that's going to be our approach.


BLITZER: The secretary of State speaking with Jill Dougherty in Pakistan today.

And, by the way, we're going to get a different perspective on what's going on in Afghanistan in just a few minutes. I'll speak with a man who walked across that entire country, 600 miles.

What are his thoughts on the war?

My interview with Rory Stewart -- that's coming up. I think you're going to want to see this.

Let's go back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack, the secretary of State not mincing any words. She's being pretty tough over there.

CAFFERTY: I'm very impressed with the way she's conducted herself. And you have you to remember, too, those are not cultures in which the opinions of women are exactly welcomed, if you know what I mean. And she's stood right in there and said, look, this is how we feel. And I think she's done a great job. I...

BLITZER: I think you're right. With the rank and file, you're definitely right, although in Pakistan, remember, Benazir Bhutto, she was the prime minister, so they did have a leader there who was a woman.

CAFFERTY: I understand that. But culturally speaking, the -- the women are not given equality in Pakistan or any of those other Middle Eastern countries.

BLITZER: You're right.

CAFFERTY: They may pay lip serve -- service to it and there may -- may be some people like Benazir Bhutto who are the exceptions. But overall, women are second class citizens in those places.

On to other things. Race relations have not improved as much as in the United States as a lot of people hoped they would when we elected our first African-American president. When Barack Obama was elected, we heard a lot of talk about all the good it might do for racial tensions. Well, maybe not.

Consider this -- 56 percent of Americans -- this is a Gallup Poll -- think a solution to this country's race relations problem will eventually be worked out. That's exactly the same percentage of people who felt exactly the same way when Gallup asked this same question 46 years ago in December of 1963. So despite all the progression -- progress we've presumably made in the last half century, not a whole lot has changed.

Gallup conducted a one night poll on November 5th of last year, right after President Obama won. On that night, 67 percent of those surveyed thought race relations would get better. They haven't.

Not surprisingly, blacks are much more pessimistic about this question than whites. Among blacks, optimism has decreased since last summer, from 50 percent to 42 percent.

Gallup also found 79 percent of Americans say blacks have equal employment opportunities to whites. That number is actually up since last summer.

But once again, among blacks overwhelming pessimism about those equal job opportunities.

And, lastly, the poll shows that 51 percent of those surveyed agree that there is widespread racism against blacks in the United States.

So here's the question -- why hasn't the nation's first African- American president had a greater impact on race relations?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's an excellent question, Jack.

And I don't know the answer, but it's a good question.

CAFFERTY: I -- I don't know the answer, either.

BLITZER: Yes. Thank you.

It was the subject of a Hillary Clinton campaign ad -- a fictional 3:00 a.m. phone call at the White House. Now some of the president's top aides are revealing details of a real middle of the night crisis. That interview with all three of them and that's coming up, at least a portion of it.

Also, Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, is slamming President Obama for publicly receiving the bodies of dead troops coming back from Afghanistan. Plus, new details emerging right now of a deadly battle -- soldiers recount a fierce battle as Taliban militants literally overran an American outpost.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At one point when I had men securing the first aid station or the aid station, was sounds that I don't ever want to hear again. It was basically -- inside that aid station, it was a bloodbath.



BLITZER: It's one of the more memorable TV ads of the last presidential campaign -- a spot for Hillary Clinton meant to underscore her experience and question Barack Obama's.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call.


BLITZER: So has the new president had any of those middle of the night crisis calls since taking office?

I asked his senior adviser, David Axelrod, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, and the communications director, Anita Dunn, in an exclusive joint interview.


BLITZER: Was there a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call for the president over the past year that you remember where there was some sort of international crisis and you had to call...

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We were out on the road when...



AXELROD: ...the Koreans launched.

GIBBS: For some reason, waking the president up from slumber falls unnecessarily on the press secretary at times.

AXELROD: The scary thing is the president has to wake Gibbs up.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: Not -- usually Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, should have that job.

GIBBS: You know, I'm going to give him that job the next time there's something -- I -- I -- we all were in a room in -- on the first foreign trip in -- in Prague in the Czech Republic when we were notified of -- of the North Koreans testing a long-range missile, something we had expected to happen over a certain amount of time. And I think it was about 4:00 in the morning. We were in there. And we then discussed that. And I went to wake him up. And he soon joined all of us in getting intelligence briefings from in the room, as well as back in DC.

AXELROD: Yes, we were kind of a mess. He came in there. He was...

GIBBS: Speak for yourself.

AXELROD: He was...


AXELROD: I was a bigger mess than you. I admit that.


AXELROD: But, I mean, physically (INAUDIBLE). But he came in and sat down, got a readout from the military people, got on the line with Secretary Gates.


AXELROD: General Cartwright I think. And then he -- he and he said, OK, here's what we're going to do -- bing, bing, bing.

DUNN: Yes.

BLITZER: Did he go back to sleep?

AXELROD: No, he went to the gym.

BLITZER: Really?

AXELROD: He said I'm going to go work out and I'll be up in 90 minutes.

BLITZER: He's more of a morning people than an evening person, is that right?

GIBBS: You know, he's a little bit of both.

DUNN: Yes.

AXELROD: A morning workout person, an evening reading person.

(CROSSTALK) AXELROD: He does a lot of heavy reading at night. He goes about two hours of homework every night...

GIBBS: A lot.

DUNN: Right.

AXELROD: And then he reads books and magazines after he's done with that. So he squeezes the day.


BLITZER: All right. Monday and Tuesday, by the way, you can see the rest of this interview with the president's top advisers, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, Anita Dunn. They're going to take us behind- the-scenes over at the White House, what has gone on over this past year since the president was elected, exactly coming up, the first anniversary, next week.

That interview Monday and Tuesday here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- it's hard to believe, Candy, it's been a year since election night, when the world learned that Barack Obama had been elected president.

And I guess -- I asked them and we'll hear the answer next week -- how he's changed over the years.

I assume you've seen some changes.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I've seen changes, only in so far as people do tend to grow into the presidency with every day -- especially when they make decisions that appear presidential that appear to be working out, they become more presidential. And I think certainly you can say that he came into this role looking the part. He has done this role playing the part.

In terms of how he makes decisions, this was pretty much how it appeared to be along the campaign trail, as well, that he's a pretty quick -- I mean he does sort of listen and then he goes, OK, let's do this, this, this and then goes off and exercises or does whatever he has to do that day.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, I think what we've seen, particularly in the process on deciding the troop level in Afghanistan, is that this is somebody, A, who still doesn't like a lot of drama in his meetings, but also is very deliberative, to the point of, you know, sending his generals back to find out which provinces can direct themselves and which need more international help as he decides on troop levels in Afghanistan.

What we don't know -- and it was an interesting column today by David Brooks in "The New York Times" -- what we don't know is how tenacious he will be once he makes a decision like sending more troops to Afghanistan, if he does do that, and makes more of a commitment to Afghanistan.


BORGER: That remains to be seen.

BLITZER: The whole notion of the way he's handled the health care reform legislation, really deferring, at least the beginning of it, to the House and the Senate, to the Democrats there, instead of doing what Bill Clinton did back in '93. It was almost as if I was going to do, saying the president, exactly the opposite of the way Bill and Hillary Clinton did it because it failed.

CROWLEY: Right. I think you absolutely hit on the strategy. I mean these are -- not just the president, but others in that White House learned from history. They saw exactly what happened and -- and determined that it was this sort of every little detail. They saw all those charts that got put up there and the humor about this goes to this place and -- and what really ended up destroying health care.

And they also saw the importance of getting people on board early on, albeit the insurance industry has left them at this point. But they brought in doctors and insurance companies to sort of, you know, try to draw some of the sting ahead of time.

BORGER: But it may be, in the end, when they look back on lessons learned, that that may be one of the lessons they learned a little too well...


BORGER: the sense that...

CROWLEY: ...(INAUDIBLE) the product is.

BORGER: the sense that they may have deferred to Congress...

BLITZER: We'll see what the outcome is.

BORGER: ...too much. We'll see.

BLITZER: Quickly, this criticism we're hearing now from Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, in which she's saying, you know, it was a P.R. stunt, really, for the president to go to Dover and to watch the -- the coffins come in.

I'll play you a little clip.


LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF DICK CHENEY: I think, you know, what President Bush used to do was to do it without the cameras. And -- and I don't understand sort of showing up with the White House press pool, with photographers, and asking family members if you can take pictures. I just -- that's really hard for me to -- to get my head around. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Those are pretty tough words from her.

BORGER: Yes. And -- and I think, first of all, George W. Bush did not go to Dover. There were no pictures allowed at Dover. A different -- different situation. I think it was perfectly appropriate and dignified. And so have lots of other Republicans said the same thing. So I think this may be more political than anything else.

CROWLEY: And here's the problem. When -- when President Bush did not allow the cameras, when he did not do these things in public, the political criticism was, well, he just doesn't want to remind people how many people are dying.

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: Now that it's President Obama, the critics are saying, well, he's just exploiting them.

I think there is -- no matter how good the motives of either of those presidents -- and I believe both of the motives in -- in dealing with the families of the dead were good motives -- it's going to be interpreted politically because that's how it works.

BLITZER: Because the environment is so politically charged right now, as well.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

BORGER: And -- and nothing a president does anymore is private. Nothing.




We'll speak to you guys later.


BLITZER: Don't go too far away.

A Navy destroyer in Poland opens fire on its host city. It was an accident, but a big diplomatic no-no nonetheless. We're going to tell you how it happened and what happened. Stand by.

And even after some highly publicized in-flight missteps, it's an idea still steeped in controversy. CNN's Brian Todd asks, what if there were cameras in commercial cockpits?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Let's check in with Fredericka Whitfield.

She's monitoring some of the other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?

WHITFIELD: Hello to you, Wolf.

Hello, everyone.

Well, two people are dead after an horrific small plane crash north of Atlanta this afternoon. The plane plunged into this home in Lawrenceville, setting it on fire, as you see right there. Gwinnett County officials say the lone male pilot, as well as a woman inside the house, were both killed. Her husband reportedly escaped. The cause of the crash is now under investigation.

And luckily, no one was wounded after a U.S. Navy destroyer fired on a Polish port by accident. A crew member was cleaning a machine gun on the destroyer when the weapon accidentally discharged three rounds. The Navy says Polish forces boarded to investigate and the crew fully cooperated.

And don't forget, you get to sleep in on Sunday. Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, so set your clocks back an hour before you go to bed on Saturday -- Wolf, just in time on this Halloween weekend.

BLITZER: Yes, Saturday night. I'll be watching the home opener for the Washington Wizards playing the New...

WHITFIELD: Of course you will be.

BLITZER: Playing New Jersey. So that will be -- it will give me a little extra time to celebrate, hopefully, a nice win.

WHITFIELD: To sleep in. That's right.

BLITZER: I said hopefully.

WHITFIELD: Fingers crossed.

BLITZER: Right now, the Wizards are still undefeated. They've only played one game, but they're undefeated.



WHITFIELD: Go Wizards.

BLITZER: She's a Washingtonian.

It was the mother of all battles -- U.S. troops in the Afghan mountains surrounded and in big trouble.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was non-stop. It was round after round. All rounds were accurate and very close to everybody that was running.


BLITZER: New details coming in today from inside that fierce and deadly fight.

And should the U.S. stay in Afghanistan or should it get out?

Just ahead, I'll get a unique perspective from the man who walked across Afghanistan and lived to write about it.

And he once had aspirations to be a pop star and even cut a record. Twenty years later, he's the prime minister and his song is climbing the charts.


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

Happening now, Vice President Biden firing back at Dick Cheney's accusation that the White House is dithering on Afghanistan. In an exclusive interview with CNN, the vice president opens up with some choice words of his own.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's public option throw-down -- he could be betting his political career on the all or nothing health care challenge.

And before he was prime minister, he was an aspiring pop singer. Now, Japan's leader is hearing a 20-year-old record on the radio.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


It's a remote U.S. outpost in Afghanistan where skirmishes with Taliban militants are routine. But one recent battle was extraordinary, both in the intensity and the loss of American life.

CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has details.


BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): On the morning of October 3rd the men serving at Combat Outpost Keating didn't know by sundown, so many lives would be changed, so many of their brothers in arms would fall.

The assault began suddenly.

1ST LT. ANDREW BUNDERMAN, U.S. ARMY: It was about 6:00 in the morning. I heard -- I heard the bang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I woke up, there was a boom. You could hear rounds hitting the top of our roof.

STARR: The 80 soldiers at Keating were pinned down -- victims to geography. Hundreds of insurgents attacking the post from high mountain ridges on all sides.

SGT. 1ST CLASS JONATHAN HILL, U.S. ARMY: They had very good sniper fire, machine gun nests that were well protected on the high ground on all sides of us.

STARR: The camp quickly caught fire. The fighting grew even more intense.

HILL: You could feel the concrete breaking off the buildings, but you just -- you let it go and kept moving.

BUNDERMAN: We were firing so many rounds, it was easier just to pick up another weapon that had a full clip of ammunition. You know, it was non-stop. It was round after round. All rounds were accurate and very close to everybody that was running.

STARR: As the firefight wore on for hours, the worst news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we got the initial reports that the enemy was in the wire, that was -- you know, that's not a report you ever want to get.

STARR: The Taliban were inside the base, trying to grab U.S. weapons and overrun the Americans.

CAPT. JAMES SIWICKI, U.S. AIR FORCE: I just went with my instinct, kind of do everything that I was talk and eliminated them.

STARR: Men of Keating called for air support. Air force pilots flying overhead tried to help by dropping bombs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were inside the wire and you actually know bad guys have reached your guys so it's real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At one point when I had men securing the first aid station or the aid station was sounds that I don't ever want to hear again. It was basically inside that aid station, it was a bloodbath.

STARR: By the time the U.S. troops regained control 12 hours later, eight soldiers killed, survivors never giving up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just thought about the stuff I seen, what happened? Just kind of put it behind me and I'm ready to go back out there and fight.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, the pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: My next guest has a unique perspective on Afghanistan. Rory Stewart literally walked across the country as part of a 6,000-mile journey from turkey to Bangladesh. He served as a coalition deputy governor in Iraq. He's now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy school of government. Rory Stewart is joining us now. Rory, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: The president's been meeting today, as you know, on what to do next in Afghanistan. We expect a decision soon. "The New York Times" columnist this week Tom Friedman suggested maybe it's time to start getting out of Afghanistan. Tom Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer says it's time to build up and give it some more time. You've suggested, correct me if I'm wrong, maybe it's one option would be to muddle through. What does that mean?

STEWART: Of course I don't say that we should muddle through. What I'm saying though is we need to see Afghanistan in a strategic context which means we need to treat it as a very long-term venture. We need to understand that we have to protect U.S. national security. We should be doing things for the Afghan people, but we should be doing it in affordable and realistic fashion because the major threat that we're really going to face in Afghanistan over the next five to ten years is going to be that people will get fed up and withdraw and that's such a fragile traumatized country that if you were suddenly to go from troop increases to withdrawal and from engagement to isolation you'd probably leave the situation much worse than you found it.

BLITZER: So if you're President Obama right now or one of his top advisers, what do you do in the short term? He's got to make a decision pretty soon.

STEWART: I'm afraid that President Obama faces a massive political problem. He has boxed himself in. If he didn't intend to send more troops, he should not have allowed General McChrystal to write that report. So probably for political reasons I think President Obama will feel forced to send those troops, so we now need to think two to three years into the future because those troops won't remain forever, and we need to define what a long-term strategy would look like, and I would say it would involve saying there is a terrorist threat from Afghanistan, and we need to keep a few troops there to deal with it. We do have obligations to the Afghan people and we should be generous with our development side, but more broadly we should realize that Afghanistan is not the be all and end all. There are many more important countries in the world and we should have a generous flexible attitude towards Afghanistan and should not put all our eggs in one basket.

BLITZER: You're hearing there are 68,000 U.S. troops, part of a bigger NATO operation in Afghanistan right now, but he should accept General McChrystal's recommendation for political reasons to dispatch another 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, is that what you're saying?

STEWART: If I was the president I would not be sending those troops because I don't think it's good for the United States, and I don't think it's good for Afghanistan, so I'm very much hoping that he's not going to send those troops, but I fear that for political reasons he may feel that he's forced to.

BLITZER: Here's what one of your critics Andrew Exum from the Center for New American Security who participated in General McChrystal's review said in the new republic in an article that was just published. "I think the first 22 pages of the McChrystal assessment of the war in Afghanistan were more grounded in evidence- based reality than Rory's was. That's not to say he's delusional, just that he has a very limited view of Afghanistan and operations there." I don't know if you know Andrew Exum but I wonder if you want to respond.

STEWART: Yeah. My response is that what we need to bear in mind, and I have lived in Afghanistan and I don't want to get into a fight with Andrew about this, but I have spent the last three and a half years living on the ground there and as you've said I've walked across the country but it's not about expertise, it's about trying to understand what our limits are. We need to be realistic about what the U.S. military, what the state department, what developing nations can do in a country as poor and fragile and as traumatized as Afghanistan. My guess is that we tend to overestimate our own capacity, overestimate our ability to transform other people's countries, and my guess is that if we're going to look back at this in 20 years time we will realize that we made a mistake, that we tried to do things that we couldn't do. The problem with Andrew's argument and with all these arguments is not that they are not trying to do good things. It would great if we could create a wonderfully stable legitimate effective state in Afghanistan and if we could defeat the Taliban. The problem with it is that we can't and we've got to be more realistic about our own power and our own capacity.

BLITZER: Explain how your walk across Afghanistan, that 600-mile journey that took place back in 2002 or 2003 I believe, but explain how that informed your current decision-making, your current thinking on what to do in Afghanistan.

STEWART: It's more of an intuitive thing, but what I discovered on that journey, of course, is -- and I was sleeping in village houses night after night staying with different families is that those communities are very isolated. They are probably more conservative, more anti-foreign than we like to acknowledge, and their priorities are such that they don't like the Taliban very much, but they certainly don't like the Afghan police and in many ways they don't like foreign soldiers either. We're really fighting for the imaginations of Afghans. We're trying to get them to believe in the Afghan government, and those things are moral, they are political. They are religious. They are not things connected with how many boots you've got on the ground directly and they are not really connected with how much money we spend. In fact, unfortunately, they are connected with things over which the United States and its allies have relatively little influence.

BLITZER: So basically you agree with Tom Friedman as opposed to Tom Ricks? STEWART: I believe we should keep a light long-term footprint in the country. I think it would be very dangerous to follow Tom Friedman's recommendations of leaving entirely. I think we need a light long-term sustainable footprint.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Rory Stewart, for coming in.

STEWART: Thank you for your time.

BLITZER: An airliner misses its destination, another lands by mistake on a taxiway. What would have happened if there were cameras in the cockpit? And critics of the idea say it doesn't really matter. We'll find out why they are so against it.

Plus, the former Vice President Dick Cheney accused the white house of dithering. His successor says the American people, quote, don't care what Cheney says. CNN's Ed Henry sits down with an exclusive interview with the vice president, Joe Biden.


BLITZER: The fallout is still being felt after the stunning mistake made by two Northwest pilots who flew their -- right past their destination by a mere 150 miles. Later explaining they were distracted working on their laptops. Thanks incident has added new fuel to a very heated debate. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the over-flight of that Northwest Airlines flight recently has again fueled an important debate in the aviation industry. What if there were cameras in the cockpit? It's been bandied about for at least ten years now when the NTSB first started pushing for it but the FAA has ruled that the cameras are not necessary in cockpits because flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders suffice in safety investigations.

Now we're joined by Peter Goelz, a former NTSB managing director who has investigated several of the major crashes in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

Peter, I want to start with one thing and I'm going to use a little bit of a prop here. We've got a dome camera that we often see in our workplaces that's fastened to a ceiling that can record images. Not quite 360 but it can be adjusted to record a lot of images. That can be installed in a cockpit. You've got a lipstick camera here that can be fastened to either a ceiling or something in a cockpit and record images. What are these going to be able to tell us about a pilot's movements in the cockpit that those recorders don't tell us?

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: There's been a number of accidents in the past decade in which there were questions raised and never fully answered about what was happening inside when the critical moment occurred, and this goes back. Egypt Air was certainly one in which the NTSB found that the pilot, the co-pilot had deliberately flown the plane into the ocean off of Nantucket. If we had had a video recorder, it would have confirmed that finding.

TODD: Okay. I'm going to put an image of the cockpit up here again and what the Airline Pilots Association, the pilots union says, is that these cameras are subjective. If they show an image of a pilot pressing a pedal or pulling on a lever, it -- it just shows that person kind of reaching for it. It doesn't actually tell you that what that person actually did it w it or whether the person actually pulled that lever. Isn't that a valid argument?

GOELZ: It is a valid argument, but one that does not disqualify the technology because today's modern cockpits like this one which is an airbus, the -- the data recorder records hundreds of parameters and the -- but what the cockpit camera does is it would confirm that, it would give views of how the pilots were reaching for the various controls. It shows what pedals were being pushed and why they -- and perhaps how much pressure was being pushed on it.

TODD: And it can also help to detect weather events.

GOELZ: It can see things externally to the cockpit as well so it is -- it is not a stand-alone safety tool, but it is a tool that needs -- it compliments the voice recorder and the data recorder.

TODD: I want to read part of an Airline Pilot's Association statement. They have come out with a long kind of argument against doing this and a valid one that they raise is the privacy argument. This is from the Airline Pilots Association. "Once out in the open, a video recording can be made available on the web from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, forever. As one pilot bluntly stated, 'I don't want my spouse and children and grandchildren and a millions strangers to be able to watch me die." Clearly a valid point.

GOELZ: There is no question that privacy rights, particularly in these tragic accidents, are critical, and the -- the voice recorder has been protected over the years. It hasn't been complete. Some courts have released the actual recordings, but the -- the voice recorder has been protected to a very high degree. I believe you could pass regulations and put penalties in place that would protect the distribution of any video that was ever taken in the cockpit.

TODD: You think we're going to see cameras in the cockpit any time soon?

GOELZ: I believe with the advances in technology, with the digital cameras that we have now, that it is a tool that is going to be in the cockpit in the near future.

TODD: All right. Peter Goelz, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Wolf, coming possibly soon to an airliner that you may use, that I may use, maybe one of these. Back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian. Good report indeed.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, as swine flu spreads parents make the call on behalf of their kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm absolutely not getting the children vaccinated, no. It's not -- the risk is not worth it.

BLITZER: That's one perspective. Still ahead, we'll ask both sides of a very tough dilemma.

And he's leader of one of the world's economic superpowers, but in his youth he was an aspiring singer. Now a new record has surfaced. Should Japan's prime minister keep his day job? What's going on?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Emergency rooms across the United States right now hustling to keep up with the H1N1 cases. Hospitals are creating alternative care sites to handle any patient overflow. Meantime, mothers are wrestling with the dilemma of whether or not to have their children vaccinated against the swine flu if they could even get the vaccine. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's been speaking to some moms out there who have very different views.

What are they saying, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, some very strong opinions about this, Wolf. The two mothers you're about to meet have this in common, they both want to do what's best for their kids and they are both paying close attention to the developments on the swine flu vaccine but they have both come to starkly different conclusions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to get a glass out or something.

SNOW: Laura Wellington says she does what she can to keep her 10-year-old daughter Izzy healthy along with the rest of her family but when it comes to the H1N1 vaccine --

LAURA WELLINGTON: I'm absolutely not getting the children vaccinated, no. It's not -- the risk is not worth it.

SNOW: Laura has four children and is pregnant with her fifth. She's not against vaccines in general and has paid close attention to information about swine flu and talked to her doctors.

Is your main concern side effects, the speed of the vaccine? What's the main concern?

WELLINGTON: It's side effects. It's side effects, its potential down the line. You put something new into your body, you know, people react very differently to different things that they put into their body, you know. One person it may be fine and for another person it may not. SNOW: And while Laura is not very worried about her kids getting the swine flu, Amy Pisani is. She's especially worried about her 9- year-old son Antonio who was hospitalized as a baby because of the flu.

AMY PISANI: I am really nervous.

SNOW: Because you have seen what happened when he had the flu before.

PISANI: I have seen what happened to him and I have seen what happens to other people. I do work with an advocacy group now, every child by two and I have met a lot of parents who have lost their children to just regular seasonal flu and I'm just so grateful that that didn't happen to us.

SNOW: Amy was able to get the H1N1 vaccine for her son Nicholas. But she's still anxiously awaiting to secure one for Nicholas.

PISANI: We have stuff all over the house. I constantly tell them to wash their hands and the antibacterial gels are on the kitchen table, on the counter, in the bathroom. It's a constant issue for us. We think about it all the time. My kids are pretty paranoid at this point.


SNOW: Very different stories, among parents concerned about the vaccine, one concern is potential side effects. They say there may be redness or soreness in the arm similar to the seasonal flu shot but the head of the CDC today said nothing they've seen so far is concerning. Wolf?

BLITZER: Marry Snow, thanks very much. Good report.

Where is the vaccine available? Long lines of people, several hour-long waits are being reported. Let's go to our internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She's taking a closer look at that.

What do we see, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: These are I-reports and from these you can see that there are plenty of parents more than willing to wait in line for hours to get a vaccine for their children. This is becoming the new normal. This is Xenia, Ohio where more than 2,000 people by William Chelsea's estimation, he was there yesterday in Ohio reporting on I-report, more than 2,000 people standing in line to get the vaccine yesterday. Starting at 9:00 a.m., even though they knew they couldn't even get the flu shot, the H1N1 shot until after 2:00 p.m. These were priority groups, health workers, pregnant women, young children and Chelsea said this went very smoothly even though it just took a very long time.

We can see these pictures being played out all across America, people waiting and waiting. These are all pictures that I have gathered this week from Twitter, people posting their long waits online, whether it's at a high school there in Casper, Wyoming or in a rainy parking lot in central Arkansas today. That's where I met Tom Dixon saying he spent three hours in line with his two and a half year old saying that's not much fun for his daughter, but all the parents he was talking to in line all agreed that this year this is just what you have to get used to.

BLITZER: We see a lot of these I-reports and these pictures coming in from all over?

TATTON: We have seen many I-reports from many states. Because when you're in line for a couple of hours, you haven't got much to do but inform people of how long they're going to be waiting when they join you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much Abbi for that. We'll stay on top of this story.

Let's check in with Jack for "the Cafferty file."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did you get the swine flu shot?

BLITZER: I'm not in that high risk category. I did get a seasonal flu shot.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I did too. They didn't have the swine flu here yet. I'll get it if it ever shows up but they don't have the vaccine yet.

Question this hour, why hasn't the nation's first African- American president had a greater impact on race relations? Gallup did a poll on this and showed contrary to all the optimism that followed Barack Obama's election, things haven't really changed that much.

B. writes from Georgia, "I am sorry but only white Americans would believe that race relations would improve because Barack Obama was elected president. Black folks know the deal. They don't see things according to polls and the like. They see things according to America's history and the reality of everyday living."

Patricia in Georgia writes, "I am a white older woman who thought when President Obama was elected that we as a nation had overcome the racist thing. However, upon watching tea party signs and comments by talk show hosts, it's clear to me that it was deeply hidden and has now surfaced because we have a black president, I'm sadly disappointed in us as a nation."

In Massachusetts, Q. writes, "It's because President Obama won't address it, he keeps as far away from the subject as he can or until he's pushed by the media to speak about it. Whatever happened to the great debate on race relations following that beer summit, how did I miss it?"

Derrick in Redondo Beach writes, "Because white people have never been interested in having a serious conversation about race and feel they bear no responsibility for any past transgressions by members of their race. Whites have no interest in general in rectifying the current effects of a racial biased government if it in any way inconveniences then. Whites tend to live in a world willfully blind to the black experience in America. Merely electing a black president changes none of that."

Pat in North Carolina, "Jack being a white 67-year-old woman from western North Carolina, I can tell you there is nothing President Obama can do to change the behavior or attitudes of bigots from this part of the country. It will take divine intervention."

And Keith in Ohio writes, "Martin Luther King he ain't, every opportunity he's had, he blew it, but it makes for great beer parties on the south lawn."

If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog,

BLITZER: Will do Jack. Thank you. Thanks very much.

An exclusive interview with the Vice President Joe Biden, he talks bluntly about the war, the economy, his predecessor Dick Cheney. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Japan is getting a blast from the past, the 20-year-old pops recordings surface, the singer is the current Japanese prime minister. The song is getting air play and it remains to be seen whether that's good or bad for his public image. Here's CNN's Kuyng Lah.


KUYNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Deejay Dave Fromm spins Tokyo's top rock. But today.

DAVE FROMM, INTERFM: The song is called "Take Heart." The artist is the --

LAH: He recorded the song in his younger days in 1988 before he was Japan's prime minister. We sat in Fromm's studio as it roared back to life on the radio.

FROMM: As soon as I played that, everybody in the studio is laughing. We got some reactions from our listeners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm anxious to hear.

FROMM: This person thinks maybe his, like, dad's generation would like this song. He doesn't want to hear the song.

LAH: Ever again?

FROMM: Will it help his approval rating? I'm not sure.

LAH: This man is tickled pink that his record label found the original, a self-produced record produce bid the young prime minister.

There's nothing to be embarrassed about, this prime minister can sing. Certainly more in tune that the former prime minister who also loved to sing. He busted out Elvis for President Bush. Japan is already accustomed to the quirks of the prime minister's wife, who on the talk show said she eats the sun. And in a book wrote that her soul traveled via UFO to venues. There will be a lot to talk about and do when Japan's first couple hosts the Obamas in their first visit to Japan in two weeks.

FROMM: He dances a little bit. We have seen his dance, it's not too bad. Maybe his wife.

LAH: You think his wife?

FROMM: Michelle seems like she might be a good singer.

LAH: As far as a singer himself, who is enjoying a 70 percent approval rating, song and all. "It's embarrassing," the prime minister told reporters. "I was young." Yet another reminder that especially in politics, you can't run away from your past.

Kuyng Lah, CNN, Tokyo.