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White House Jobs Math Accurate?; Afghan Election Talks Break Down
Aired October 30, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: the best political team on television on these stories.
Cold, hard statistics on jobs in America -- this hour, a new White House claim about how many people got work because of the economic stimulus. We're digging deeper, checking to see if there's any fuzzy math.
Also, Hillary Clinton says, move on already. The secretary of state in a CNN interview responds to new buzz about why she wasn't tapped as the vice president.
And behind closed doors in Congress, about 30 lawmakers now being looked at by to the super-secret Ethics Committee, a leak that's causing Halloween nightmares.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: But we begin with potentially very significant breaking news coming from Kabul, Afghanistan, sources telling CNN that talks between the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and his election opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister, have now broken down, this according to a Western source close to the Afghan leadership. He's been speaking with CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.
According to this source, Abdullah Abdullah will announce this weekend that he will boycott the runoff presidential election that's scheduled for November 7, a runoff that had been scheduled as a result -- as a result of intense arm-twisting by the United States and others -- Christiane Amanpour noting that in an interview she had on Thursday with the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, also the former U.S. U.N. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, he had predicted that the country would soon be governed under a power-sharing deal.
Khalilzad said: "I think there will be power-sharing. Both want power-sharing. The difference is that Karzai wanted to be first declared the winner and win the runoff election, and then offer something from a position of strength, while Abdullah Abdullah wanted to go to a second round, but have a power-sharing agreement without the vote."
All right, we're watching this story to see if in fact this runoff election on November 7 that the U.S. and the international community have been pressing President Hamid Karzai to go forward with, whether or not that now will take place and whether Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who came in second in the earlier election, whether or not he will boycott this election scheduled for November 7.
Lots of ramifications, all this coming at a sensitive moment right now, when President Obama is deciding whether to go forward with a dispatch of another 20,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. This is a significant story. Stand by. We will get more on the breaking news as it comes in.
Other news, though, we're following right now, it's a big number raising big questions. The White House now says 640,000 jobs were created because of the economic stimulus package. The new figure released today is getting lots of scrutiny, the White House saying those jobs were either created or saved. It's a crucial distinction.
The economy may be improving, but these still difficult times are very evident for so many Americans, especially those millions who have lost their jobs.
Our Tom Foreman is standing by, watching all of this unfold.
But let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, with more on the numbers being released by the White House.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, Republicans already jumped on it this morning and throughout the afternoon, saying these numbers simply do not add up, there have been errors in previous rounds of these statistics, and that it's really hard to put your finger on exactly how jobs have been saved because of the stimulus.
Vice President Joe Biden today at a public event saying that these numbers are not going to be completely accurate, that -- allowing that there might be some errors out there, and then in an exclusive interview with CNN, he also said, nevertheless, that he believes that this stimulus has had a dramatic impact in turning around the economy and in fact said something I have not heard from other top officials. He believes this economy has hit bottom and is starting to come back.
HENRY: And, so, do you think we have hit bottom?
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I -- I'm confident we have hit bottom.
The question -- look, we're not going to be satisfied, Ed, until we're able -- I'm able to sit in front of you and say, look, this month, we grew jobs. The net effect is growing jobs.
It doesn't say a lot to people to say, you know, there would have been a million more or 1.6 million more jobs lost but for this. My grandpop used to have an expression, Ed. We lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He said, you know when the guy in Dixon City, a suburb, is out of work, it's an economic slowdown. When your brother-in-law is out of work, it's a recession. When you're out of work, it's a depression.
And it's a depression for millions of people.
HENRY: The vice president was also blunt about saying there's a disconnect out there. A lot of people are not feeling this recovery, but, again, he's insisting that the stimulus is what showed positive economic growth in the last quarter. And he's confident that, down the road, it's going to take time, but down the road it's going to turn around the jobs picture, but obviously a lot of people impatient right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, stand by.
Tom Foreman has been tracking a lot of these numbers, how many jobs were saved or created, online.
Tom, what are you seeing?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is recovery.gov, Wolf. It's really worth looking at, because it's a fascinating Web site in a lot of ways.
This is the big number over here. This is one they like, 640,000-plus. The White House likes that, the number of jobs created or saved as reported by recipients. It says here data, data and more data. And it really does have it.
You go up and down here, you can see lots and lots of charts showing the tax benefits, how many jobs have completed, how many have not completed. For example, the green here is less than 50 percent complete. And then down here the top states are the jobs created or saved, California up top. There's New York, Washington.
But this is the part we want to look at, because this is what is bedeviling the White House right now as people try to break down these numbers. Look at this country here and all the -- where all the money went. Here's Colorado, where they have got more than $2 billion -- almost -- more than $2.5 billion of funds awarded there.
And we move in. It says they have 8,000 jobs created. This is where it starts getting a little bit tricky. We make this a little bit smaller and I'm going to go into Colorado proper here. All of these represent where this money is being spent in various ways. And we will go into just one here. This took me about four minutes to find when I went into the site here.
Here's one. It was a place called Wood Product Signs. They had a contract to create jobs -- to create signs for the Forest Service. Now, look at this. The total amount of the contract is about $23,000, a little bit over, and it created five jobs, five jobs created for $23,000. That puzzled me, so I called them, and I said, what are you talking about? What kind of jobs?
Well, the people there were very forthright about this. They said, they would have normally had to lay people off this summer because it's seasonal work. As it was, they were able to keep three of their regular employees and add two more, for a total of five employees for six weeks.
But that's all it was, Wolf. Now that's gone away. But the simple truth is, that's being counted as full jobs, five jobs counted there. Other jobs are different than that. But, in this example, this is precisely what the critics are seizing on and saying, this is the problem.
When people talk about jobs, Wolf, most people think they're talking about something a little more substantial that lasts a little longer, involves benefits, things like that, not necessarily, as this business owner said, a project that lasted for six weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I assume, when they talk about jobs, they mean permanent jobs that people are going to have for a while, not just a temporary job.
But that's a good point, indeed.
Stand by, Tom.
Kate Bolduan is here. She's also tracking some of these stimulus jobs.
Kate, what are you hearing?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.
Well, the question we have asked all along is, where is the money going and where are the jobs? Well, today, I spoke with the president of P. Flanigan & Sons, a Maryland contractor that was highlighted during the vice president's event today.
The company received a little over $22 million in stimulus funds for a highway resurfacing project and work at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Now, I think you can see some of that work right there. So, you can see recovery dollars at work right there. Pierce Flanigan says that they have created or saved between 100 and 150 jobs with the work.
Flanigan says there is no question in his mind that the stimulus has helped the overall construction market, but acknowledges the question of dollar spent and job created is not a simple issue. That's something watchdog groups say is a problem, when the ultimate goal is transparency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG JENNINGS, OMB WATCH: We're getting jobs numbers, this is a job, this isn't a job.
What we're not seeing, though, the quality of jobs. We don't know, for instance, who's being employed. We don't know if they're getting benefits. We don't know if it's a full-time job or a part- time job.
And it would be certainly interesting to know that -- if the Recovery Act is creating high-quality, high-paying jobs with benefits, that's an interesting I think aspect to figure out about this bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, Kate, when you take a look at all these jobs and I guess the bottom-line question is, how do they calculate a job?
BOLDUAN: In one aspect, it can be simple. If it's one -- one full-time job, that's -- you count it one job created or one job saved.
But when you're looking at temporary work, as Tom Foreman was talking about, that becomes more difficult. And you have to deal with this equation. This is the full-time equivalent. It's basically a calculation that came up to make -- to be able to calculate what temporary work would equal to a full-time job.
You take the total amount of recovery dollar -- recovery-funded hours worked. You divide that by the total workweek -- very confusing, but that's what they're working with.
To shorthand it, really, Wolf, what it comes down to it is, you have two full-time workers, those are full-time jobs. But then you have one person that is working half-days, they're going to count that and report that as 2.5 jobs, which is a little squishy.
BLITZER: All right, I guess I'm following it.
BOLDUAN: I'm not a mathematician.
Kate, thanks very much.
Tom Foreman, thanks to you, Ed Henry as well.
Let's go right to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Did you really follow that?
BLITZER: I'm trying, Jack. It's -- I'm not an economist. I know you were following it.
CAFFERTY: I have not a clue, not a clue. There's only one job I know about. It's this one.
Happy birthday do the Internet. The system that has revolutionized almost every part of our lives turns -- this is hard to believe -- turns 40 years old this week.
October 29, 1969, the first time that people sent a computer-to- computer message. It was in California, UCLA Professor Leonard Kleinrock successfully connecting the school's host computer to one up the way in Stanford University. The project had begun a few years earlier.
After Russia successfully launched Sputnik in the late '50s, U.S. leaders stepped up funding to enter a technology race with their old rivals in the Cold War. Well, fast-forward 40 years. It's pretty hard to imagine society without everything we're used to about the Internet these days, e-mail, online shopping, video games, Google, bloggers, YouTube, and, more recently, the social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which I read today Wolf has got like 110,000 Twitterers on his Twitter site.
The list goes on and on. Of course, there's also a dark side to this Internet, computer worms, viruses, the annoying e-mail spam, identity theft, online scams, fraud, child predators, pornography, not to mention the fact that the word privacy may never have the same meaning.
At a 40th birthday party for the Internet, Kleinrock, who sent that first message, talked about how it's a democratizing element and that everyone can have an equal voice. But he also says there's no way back at this point and that we can't turn it off. Leonard says, in the future, the Internet will be everywhere.
It kind of feels like it already is, doesn't it?
Here's the question. How would your life be different without the Internet? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. And we will read some of your comments in about 40 minutes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I wouldn't be tweeting during commercial breaks, Jack.
CAFFERTY: That's right.
BLITZER: You know that, right?
CAFFERTY: I do, whatever tweeting is. I'm not sure I understand that either. But...
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: I have got a lot of followers there on...
CAFFERTY: One hundred and eleven thousand, right?
BLITZER: Something like that. Yes, they're growing by leaps and -- just started a first weeks ago. WolfBlitzerCNN, that's the name on Twitter.com.
CAFFERTY: You're a very popular fellow.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Stand by. Don't go away.
November 3 could be independence day. This man is the independent candidate for governor of New Jersey. Why should you care? Because he could outright stop the Republican or the Democrat, for that matter, from winning the race. He thinks he himself could win the race. What's going on? We will talk with Chris Daggett and more after this.
BLITZER: We're going to get back to the breaking news shortly, what we reported right at the top of the hour. It could be a huge, huge snag in the scheduled November 7 runoff election in Afghanistan, if Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the challenger to the president, Hamid Karzai, decides to boycott this runoff election.
The ramifications for the U.S. right now, for President Obama and his decision-making process on whether to dispatch more troops could be significant. Christiane Amanpour will be joining us shortly. Peter Bergen is on the way to THE SITUATION ROOM as well. Stand by for all of that.
In the meantime, let's get back to politics right now.
Amid a very close and bitter governor's race in New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie was here last week. Democratic Governor Jon Corzine was also in THE SITUATION ROOM this week. Now the third man in the race, the independent candidate, Chris Daggett, he's here, together with our panel, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
Mr. Daggett, thanks very much for coming in.
CHRIS DAGGETT (I), NEW JERSEY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Glad to be here, Wolf. Thanks very much for having me.
BLITZER: There is a poll that just came out, the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, has Corzine at 39 percent, the Republican Chris Christie at 41 percent. You're down at 14 percent. A lot of people are suggesting -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that given these poll numbers a vote for you in effect could be a vote for Corzine and getting him reelected. What say you?
DAGGETT: I say vote for is a vote for me.
I think that whole issue about a vote for me is a vote for somebody else is nonsense. I can tell you this. People all over New Jersey are upset. They are tired of politics as usual. They don't believe that either political party solves the problems that face the state.
And they're ready for a change. In a recent Rutgers University-Eagleton poll, some 70 percent of the people said that they were interested in a strong alternative to either the Republicans or the Democrats. So, I think this election is still up for grabs.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is Gloria Borger here.
You have worked for establishment Republicans in the past, like former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean. Can you tell us where the Republican Party has let you down?
DAGGETT: Well, the Republican Party has let me down, just frankly, just like the Democratic Party has let me down, in that I have been in public and private life for some 30 years in New Jersey, been involved extensively in activities around the state.
And I would tell you that over the time that I have been involved, I have become disillusioned and disappointed by both parties, because neither one of the parties seems to be able to address the problems it faces. And it's not here just in New Jersey, as you know. It's across the country.
Just look at the way Congress operates now, a lot of talking back and forth, but little gets done.
BORGER: So, are you more Jesse Ventura then or Michael Bloomberg?
DAGGETT: No, I hope it's more like Michael Bloomberg, to be honest with you. I think he's done a terrific job in New York City as the mayor, and I would look to be able to do the same sorts of things that he's done there.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Daggett, it's Candy Crowley.
DAGGETT: Hi, Candy.
CROWLEY: How are you?
Third-party candidates or non-party candidates tend to run for one of two reasons, one, because they honestly believe they have a shot, and, two, to send a message. But, usually, I find that it's a combination of both.
Is this a shot across the bow at the two parties? Given the kind of money that you have and the polling that you're doing, is there a message here that will go beyond election night?
DAGGETT: Well, I certainly here there's an election that goes -- or a message that goes beyond election night, in that I think I'm on the edge of a wave across this country.
And you can see it -- "The Wall Street Journal" last week talked about the surge in independent registration across the country. In New Jersey, of all the registered voters, some 46 percent are not affiliated with either party -- 35 percent are Republicans and 19 -- excuse me -- 35 percent are Democrats and 19 percent are Republicans.
So, I am on the edge, I think, of something going on. I'm not trying to send a message, other than I honestly believe it's time to make a change in New Jersey and to do the things that are necessary to fix this state.
I have tried to -- I have staked actually my whole election on the idea that if you put forward very specific plans about how to fix and deal with the issues that face the state, voters will respond. And I think my movement in the polls, which has been up and up and up over the last four, five, six weeks, I think the message is starting to get through.
BLITZER: Chris Daggett is the third-party candidate, the independent candidate, running for the governor of New Jersey. The election is on Tuesday.
Mr. Daggett, thanks very much for coming in.
DAGGETT: Thanks very much, Wolf. Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Thank you.
I want to get back to the breaking news we're following right now, potentially a huge development in Afghanistan. They were getting ready for the runoff election on November 7.
Christiane Amanpour is joining us on the phone.
Christiane, tell our viewers what we know right now?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well we have been following very closely the developments leading up to this runoff on November the 7th.
And we have been talking both to leaders in Afghanistan and to diplomats and sources who are connected and have firsthand information. The latest we have been told by a source close to the Afghan leadership is that the talks, the negotiations between President Hamid Karzai and his main challenger, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, seem to have broken down, and that it is likely that Dr. Abdullah will announce over the weekend at some point that he will not take part in the runoff.
Now, that will leave, according to sources, a couple of options. Either the runoff doesn't happen, or the constitution apparently allows for the third-place candidate, in other words, the next candidate, to move up to second and take part in the runoff. And that's a man called Mr. Bashardost.
So, we're not entirely sure how this is going to work out, but, as I say, what we have been told is that negotiations have broken down, and this is likely to unfold over the weekend -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, Christiane, there was a hope, at least among some U.S. officials, if they didn't have the runoff election, maybe these two Afghan leaders, Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, could work together, form some kind of government, some sort of coalition, and work together.
I take it that's not looking very likely right now?
AMANPOUR: Well, clearly, that was the hope. And certainly even some U.S. officials have been in touch with both sides. And there was a feeling that there would be a power-sharing arrangement.
But that power-sharing arrangement, we're told, would have only come into effect if President Karzai would have been declared the winner, in other words, run in the runoff, declared the winner, and then offered Dr. Abdullah some kind of power-sharing arrangement.
It was never quite clear how sharing that power would be or whether in fact Hamid Karzai would simply offer some ministerial positions and the like.
In any event, in an interview that I did with Dr. Abdullah about a week ago, he also when I asked him this particular question said that there had been some talks over this, but that was not ongoing at that time. And then, when they did decide on a runoff, again these talks were started, again, these hopes were raised, but now it seems at least at this moment the power-sharing situation and the negotiations between the two seem to have broken down.
There's also the issue that Dr. Abdullah believed that the so- called Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan he believes is biased in favor of President Karzai.
So, that's another sticking point from Dr. Abdullah's side. So, as I say, from what we have been told, we believe that it's potentially likely that there will be this call, announcement by Dr. Abdullah that he will not enter the runoff or he will boycott it over the weekend.
CROWLEY: Christiane, it's Candy.
Let me ask you something. If Dr. Abdullah does indeed boycott these elections, doesn't that necessarily mean that the elections would then be delegitimized, at least in the eyes of the people, thus obviously complicating things here in the U.S. as the troop decision is made? But how is it likely to be taken on the ground among Afghan voters?
AMANPOUR: Well, to your first question, how is it likely to be taken on the ground, well, not very well.
There are several complicating factors here. First and foremost, the Afghan people themselves would put themselves at huge danger and risk to go to another round of elections. You have seen the direct targeting of U.N. workers who are election workers. And we know that there's been a huge amount of fear that the Taliban is stepping up its attacks on the election positions. So, that's one thing.
The second thing is that many Afghans were saying that, well, if the first round wasn't fair, how do we know the second round is going to be fair? So, there was a lot of dissatisfaction on the ground regarding whether the -- a second round could be fair.
And then -- then, in terms of the constitution on the other hand, apparently, the constitution allows for, even if somebody drops out, for the next person to move up and take part. So, there could actually be a runoff between Hamid Karzai and let's say, as I mentioned, the third person, a man called Bashardost from central Afghanistan.
And, indeed, we have been discussing this over the last several days. I had an interview yesterday with the former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. And he was saying that, yes, if there is a boycott, because these rumors had already started to surface yesterday, if there is a boycott, that that would possibly happen, that the third person would move up, and there would be a runoff between Karzai and the third person.
BLITZER: Well, the stakes, Christiane, as you know, are enormous right now, what happens in Afghanistan. It all comes at a very sensitive moment, the president meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier in the day.
Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much for that.
We will stay on top of the breaking news throughout this weekend, see what happens in Afghanistan.
Meantime, a nightmare leak for lawmakers, as the names are revealed of dozens of lawmakers being looked at by a secret Ethics Committee investigation.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Wolf. Well, Vice President Dick Cheney told the FBI that he had no idea who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. The FBI interview summary was released today to a watchdog group, but it does little to clear any unanswered questions about the episode. Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to the FBI.
A man is lucky to be alive after the steeple of a church crashed on to his car during storms in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was pulled out of the wreckage with broken bones. Another man was killed when his car hit a fallen tree. Officials say at least three tornadoes hit the area yesterday.
And the FBI says last week's explosion of a Puerto Rico fuel depot was caused by a vapor leak. It says no evidence was found that the massive blast was intentional. It sent tremors across San Juan and caused a fire that burned for two days. That's pretty spectacular.
BLITZER: Yes, a horrible, horrible fire, indeed. All right, Fred, thank you very much.
It's a stunning accidental leak, a confidential document listing more than 30 members of Congress being scrutinized by the House Ethics Committee.
"The Washington Post" reports that seven of those lawmakers are under the microscope for allegedly steering money to clients of the lobbying firm under investigation by the Justice Department.
Those seven lawmakers make up almost half of the subcommittee that oversees the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on defense. Our Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us now with more. What do we know, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a huge night for lawmakers, quite frankly, especially Democrats who, according to "The Washington Post," account for the five of the seven lawmakers singled out on this very powerful subcommittee that controls hundreds of billions of dollars spent on defense.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN, (D) CALIFORNIA: I regret to record that there was a cyber hacking incident of a confidential document of the committee.
KEILAR: The normally super-secretive operations of the Ethics Committee made public, splashed across the front pages of the "Washington Post."
Democratic leader Steny Hoyer said just because a lawmakers name is on the list doesn't mean he or she has done anything wrong.
Some of the names are on the defensive. Washington Democrat Norm Dicks said "I expect that when all the inquiries are concluded, I will be completely exonerated." A spokesman for Ohio Democrat Marcy Cather insisted "Marcy has nothing to hide," and Kansas Republican Todd Tiart said in the statement "We have no reason whatsoever to believe that we were subject to a House Ethics Committee investigation."
All stressed they are cooperating with investigators. But one watchdog group says the scope of the preliminary inquiries speaks to what's wrong with where Washington.
RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: They think this looks wrong, for lobbyists to come and say, hey, my client wants x, I'll give you some money, we'll help you raise some money for your reelection if you give that to my client.
KEILAR: And with the midterm election one year away, that perception could be a problem for Democrats who won a majority in 2006 campaigning on this promise.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: That you cannot advance the people's agenda unless you drain the swamp.
KEILAR: Now over and over, lawmakers that we have spoken with, members of their staffs that we have spoken with, have stressed that these are not formal ethics investigations.
And we did hear yesterday Congressman Zoey Laughlin, the chairwoman of the ethics committee, basically saying on the House floor that all it takes to start one of these preliminary investigations is the really illusion of perhaps a potential wrongdoing or unethical action, even one mention in a newspaper.
And so she said that there should be a presumption of innocence -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Still, it's a nightmare for a lot of those folks up there just to be mentioned in this. Thanks, Briana. You'll stay on top of this story.
And stay right here for more on the breaking news we're following this hour, the main challenger in the Afghan presidential runoff now likely to boycott the vote, the runoff election on November 7.
We're getting reaction, and we're covering the ramifications of all of this in Afghanistan and here in the U.S. as the president tries to decide whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Let's get to the best political team on television. Joining us now our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile, Terry Jeffries, the editor in chief of the conservative news website CNSnews.com, and our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. Peter, the breaking news we're following this hour, there could be a huge snag in this scheduled November 7 runoff election in Afghanistan if the number two guy who came in, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the main challenger to President Hamid Karzai, decides to boycott the election.
This comes as the president is now trying to decide what to do about sending more troops to Afghanistan. How will this affect his decision?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's not good news. Obviously this election will go ahead, but it won't be an election in the real sense. It won't be a race. Dr. Abdullah if the election had gone ahead wouldn't have won it anyway, so a cynic would say he's dropping out of a race that he probably wouldn't win.
And maybe this is some sort of negotiating ploy for some power- sharing agreement after the election. It's still very obscure what's going on here.
BLITZER: How much bad blood is there between Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah? They worked together earlier, years ago they worked together in the same government. Is it possible that these two rivals can now come together and forget about the election and form some sort of power-sharing government?
BERGEN: I think it's possible. But I -- you know, Dr. Abdullah used to work with Hamid Karzai several years ago. I think they have drifted apart, I think it would be fair to say. And so it's possible, but why would Karzai share power with somebody if he wins both elections?
BLITZER: Because the United States and a lot of the NATO allies would like to see that, right?
BERGEN: Well, presumably, but Karzai has proven to be a rather adept politician all along throughout this election process, sidelining rivals, co-opting potential rivals. And he seems to be doing pretty well here.
BLITZER: It's a complicated situation for the president of the United States, Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Very. And I think the whole issue here is they want Karzai to be recognized as legitimate. And if he is not -- and the runoff was their plan b. And if they don't have a plan b that's going to work, if there's no power- sharing arrangement, then what is their plan c?
I think inside the administration this might give more credence to those folks who are saying don't send more troops all at once, do it gradually, see what happens in Afghanistan. But this is very, very complicated. It's not good news.
BLITZER: It's a fluid situation, Candy, so let's be cautious? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And I think Peter hit on a very important point which we discussed earlier, that this could be a bargaining ploy, saying OK, I'm walking out, because they've been in negotiations about power-sharing, and it could very well say that Dr., Abdullah said I'm now going boycott, because it does undermine whatever credibility the second round of elections would have had.
If you take this kind of instability and you add it on top of the instability that we have seen with the increasing number of deaths, this administration is being pulled both ways. One is we need to get in there and we need to have more power there for the safety of U.S. troops, and we can't get in there because there's an unstable government.
BLITZER: Because Donna, a lot of Americans will see this and say you know what? We got to get out of there. This is none of our business and it's time for the United States after eight years to just leave.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think this will have any impact whatsoever on the president's timetable in terms of making a decision.
But it is a blow right now to the Karzai government's attempt to regain some legitimacy with the people of Afghanistan. And I would hope that Mr. Abdullah would try to find a way to at least compete. He may not win, but this is the constitution. It calls for a runoff. He should participate in the runoff.
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CNSNEWS.COM: You know, Wolf, I think it was a couple of weeks ago here on CNN that Secretary of State Clinton flat out predicted that Karzai was going to win this election.
I think it was obvious -- in the first election I think it was 28 percent for Mr. Abdullah. He represents a minority tribe. Karzai from the Pashtun tribe has 45 percent of the population in Afghanistan.
I think if you step back from this and take a longer view, this is an example why it is folly for the United States to have foreign policy that is designed in promoting democracy in places like Afghanistan.
Our focus should be singular. How in dealing with Afghanistan do we prevent that nation from being a launching base for terrorist attacks on the American people? That's the only thing that President Obama need to answer, period.
BORGER: He's states that very clearly that his mission is to make sure that he disrupts Al Qaeda.
JEFFREY: I think the idea that we have to micromanage the internal politics of Afghanistan is ridiculous. We can't do it. I think to the degree that President Bush embraced that idea he was wrong, to the degree that President Obama goes down that route he is wrong.
BLITZER: In the nation building, a lot of people have forgotten about that a long time ago.
CROWLEY: And this is the conservative argument at this point, which is more than just conservatives, which is this has nothing to do with government. This has to do with the pursuit of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, however you want to frame it.
So just because the government is unstable doesn't mean that we shouldn't be putting more troops in there for what our primary purpose is.
Obviously the flipside of that argument is we can't do it without a stable partner.
BRAZILE: The Taliban is recruiting people from the indigenous population. They're recruiting people because we have not provided services, we have not strengthened the Afghanistan government. That's why they're recruiting people, and they're now becoming the folks that we're fighting.
BLITZER: Peter, you were there not long ago. This notion of building some sort of stable, western-like democracy in Afghanistan, is that folly?
BERGEN: I'm suspicious of arguments that people aren't ready for democracy. We have heard that before in other places like Latin American. And it turns out that everybody wants democracy. That's a very common -- people polled in the Muslim world, that's actually something they want.
And in the last Afghan election in 2004, there was a 70 percent turnout. There hasn't been a 70 percent in an American election since 1900. So this is obviously not a process that has not gone particularly well. But that doesn't mean that Afghans themselves do not want democratic government.
BLITZER: Stand by guys. We're going to continue our coverage of the breaking news and a lot more.
Also, Hillary Clinton, the whole notion she could have been vice president of the United States, was that real, not so real? She's now reacting in an interview with CNN.
BLITZER: Just getting this in from our Pentagon producer, Mike Mullet (ph). He's saying the Pentagon is planning to offer the H1N1 vaccination to the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
The base has not yet received any of the vaccinations. Mike is reporting they do not know when they expect it to arrive, this according to a spokesperson for the joint task force at Guantanamo Bay. But eventually the few hundred detainees there will get the H1N1 vaccination.
Anybody got a problem with that here? Terry, you want them to get swine flu?
JEFFREY: This is a new and novel form of torture that might be outlawed by Attorney General Eric Holder.
Most people do not know that the Obama administration is giving away 10 percent of the 250 million doses of vaccine the United States is purchasing. They are going to give to WHO to give it away to foreign countries.
Abut a week ago Secretary Sebelius says once they get 40 million doses, they're going to give some of it away. They started to back away from that threshold.
But so far they have had trouble getting the vaccine. If they give it to some of the folks at Gitmo before American kids and people who are at risk...
CROWLEY: It does say they are high risk because obviously people in confined spaces in prisons, in detention centers, are more apt to get something contagious. So I don't know where high risk falls with young children or old people in hospitals.
But they would have a public relations disaster on their hands if the twins standing in line in Ohio don't get their H1N1 because they ran out, but the detainees do.
BLITZER: Yes, the timing is significant, right, Donna?
BRAZILE: I don't have a problem of humane treatment of prisoners.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Hillary Clinton. You all remember in this new book by David Plouffe, the Obama campaign adviser, he writes "Barack continued to be intrigued by Hillary. "I still think Hillary has a lot of what I am looking for in a VP, smarts, discipline, steadfastness.
I thing Bill may be too big a complication. If I picked her, my concern is that there would be more than two of us in the relationship." That was David Plouffe in his new book, "The Audacity to Win."
Here's what the secretary of state told our Jill Dougherty today in an interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I really am satisfied and happy to be doing what I'm doing, and I think Joe Biden is doing a great job as vice president.
I'm not somebody who looks backwards, I look forward. And I'm very, you know, very proud to be representing both president Obama and my country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Wolf, didn't Joe Biden say he would have picked Hillary too? Remember that during the campaign? I think it's interesting because it's what we were all saying during the campaign was that --
BLITZER: She was on the short list.
BORGER: And that Obama didn't want a third person there in the White House with him, and of course that would have been Bill Clinton.
CROWLEY: She was on a short list. She wasn't on the shortest list. As we all know. She wasn't vetted in the same way that Senator Biden was, Senator Bayh, Governor Kaine was.
To tell you the truth, I actually think that Hillary Clinton is a lot happier here as secretary of state than she would have been as vice president. She loves the wonky policy, here I am in Pakistan, she loves that. And she seems genuinely to be having genuinely to be having a good time.
BRAZILE: She's doing a fall job. But let me say this, Wolf, as someone who was in the room when former Vice President Gore solicited opinions, I never thought that somebody would put those internal deliberations out there in a book like that.
BLITZER: So you think David Plouffe shouldn't have written this?
BRAZILE: I think this is something the president himself should have revealed some years from now. I don't think some staff person should do it. That's my personal view.
I don't believe Bill Clinton had any role whatsoever in determining whether or not Hillary Clinton was on the short list or not on the short list.
BRAZILE: But that being said, I think she's doing a phenomenal job as secretary of state. She's on her way to the Middle East to meet with the Palestinian prime minister, she's going to meet with the Israeli prime minister. She is doing a great job.
BLITZER: Terry, a lot of conservatives are saying nice things about Hillary, aren't they?
JEFFREY: I think she has a better job right now, and quite frankly I think she has a better chance of being elected president someday being secretary of the state rather than being in the position of Joe Biden. Joe Biden is not going to be president.
But let me second what Donna said. The idea that a political consultant to give confidential advice to the president of the United States would go out and write a book that would reveal confidential conversations like this is ridiculous. It should not happen. He should not write these things.
BLITZER: I don't know if this happened, but what if the president said, go ahead and write the book and authorized him to do it?
BORGER: He might have cleared it.
JEFFREY: Maybe so. I don't know. But you just shouldn't do it. It's bad form. These ought to be confidential, they should remain confidential. Maybe 40 years from now the guy can write a memoir and talk about it.
These are the things that happen all the time in Washington. It's one of the reason people don't trust people in this town.
CROWLEY: And the other thing that's interesting in these excerpts we saw, Plouffe also talks about how the other ones, Bayh, for instance, he said we knew Bayh when we met with him, he wasn't going to color outside the lines. He talked about how Joe Biden didn't let them get a word in edgewise. They're soft shots but nonetheless...
BLITZER: I'm still waiting for Donna's book on the Gore campaign. You were the campaign manager. You didn't write a tell-all book, did you?
BRAZILE: I didn't have a lot to kiss and tell. The Supreme saw to it on that one.
But it's water under the bridge in terms of it was a hard-fought campaign. Secretary Clinton is doing a phenomenal job and president Obama is lucky to have her.
BLITZER: Guys, we'll leave it right there. Have a great, great weekend.
BRAZILE: Happy Halloween.
BLITZER: Better than Abdullah Abdullah's weekend.
BORGER: Or Hamid Karzai.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, a shakeup in California politics is coming up in "The Situation Room."
BLITZER: This just coming in to the political ticker. The San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has dropped his bid to become governor of California.
His campaign said Newsom wasn't able to devote the time needed to run effectively because of his duties at city hall and his young family. Some political observers say they saw this coming. Newsom badly trailed Democratic hopeful Jerry Brown in fundraising and he failed to find the same popularity across California that he enjoys in San Francisco.
Gavin Newsom out of the race.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty file -- Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Do you suppose Jerry Brown is going to be governor again?
BLITZER: He might be the oldest governor ever in California.
CAFFERTY: His dad was governor.
BLITZER: I know.
CAFFERTY: His dad was governor then he was governor. Then he went off and became the mayor of Oakland, and now he is going to become governor again, incredible.
This week is the 40th birthday of the Internet. We asked how would your life be different without it? Jasmine writes from Germany, "I'd have to go to books and libraries more. My phone bill would be a lot higher and I'd be at the post office more. Internet access is a life improvement. I also get to talk to you, Jack. Of course you don't talk back, but then that's a quality all good men should have."
Raymond writes, "I'd be writing letters by hand, talking with my neighbors, and spending more time outside playing with my kids. I'd still subscribe to the newspaper and read the funnies while lying on the couch. The world would look much bigger and I'd probably travel more."
Matthew in Spokane, "Were it not for the Internet I'd still be living in Austin, Texas, rather than Spokane. My parents met in an online chat room back in the days of AOL 2.0."
Michael writes, "I'd be skinnier." Patrick says, "I wouldn't be making $50,000 a year working out of my two bedroom apartment making leather fetish products."
Rory says, "Well, for one thing, I wouldn't be sending you this message, and I would be blissfully ignorant of the piano playing cat on YouTube." Terry in Michigan, "I wouldn't waste so much time sending you my wit that you never post."
And Buster in New York, "Nice costume, Jack. Are you supposed to be an angry old white guy? I like it. Anyways, super old dud, if I didn't have the Internet, how would you find YouTube videos of you back when you used to have '80s power hair, before your forehead rose out of your folically-challenged scalp like the planet Saturn?"
If you didn't see your email here, go to my blog. There's lots more there, most of them kinder than that last one.
Have a good weekend. I'll see you Monday. BLITZER: See you Monday, Jack. Thanks very much.
Hot shots coming up right after this.
BLITZER: Let's look at some hot shots -- in Turkey, workers spray disinfectant in a primary classroom. In the country of Georgia, troops perform immediate response exercises. In Vietnam, the torch is lit to kick off the Asian indoor games.
An din Afghanistan, a bird seller whistles to his birds while he waits for customers. Hot shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.
Don't forget tomorrow, Saturday, "The Situation Room" airs at 6:00 p.m. eastern. You'll want to see that before you go out Saturday night. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room."
Up next, "Lou Dobbs Tonight," Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty?