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Jobless Rate Soars; Suspect Arrested in Florida Office Shooting; Motive For Fort Hood Shooting?

Aired November 6, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A gunman opens fire in a high-rise office building, the victims all from one company in Orlando, the suspect now in custody. He cries out -- and I'm quoting him now -- "They left me to rot."

And shock and mourning over the shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, investigators now trying to figure out how one soldier allegedly killed so many of his comrades and why. We're learning more about the suspected shooter.

And the jobless rate soars into double digits, and President Obama acknowledges he has more work to do -- this hour the political backlash from the worst unemployment since the Reagan era.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Not even a full day after a massacre at the largest U.S. military base in the world, another gunman ignites a rampage, leaving more lives to be mourned. We're following the breaking news in Orlando, Florida.

Police say a gunman walked into his old job at an engineering firm and started shooting. Six people were shot. One person is dead. All of them worked for the company Reynolds Smith & Hills.

CNN's John Zarrella is on the phone for us. He's on the scene.

John, tell us what happened.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Wolf, this gentleman, Jason Rodriguez, a 40-year-old former employee of Reynolds Smith & Hills, an engineering and architectural firm with many offices -- one of them happens to be in the Orlando area -- walked into the office building this morning, a downtown Orlando high-rise office building, about 11:00 a.m., and began firing.

The -- immediately after, of course, the SWAT teams were called to the scene, a massive search under way in that building to make sure that they could find the shooter, if he was there, people being evacuated. He was not found there, but his car was spotted a couple of hours later at his mother's home, which is not too far away. He surrendered to police without incident. And, as he was being taken into custody and brought into the police station, he was asked by reporters there why he did this, why he shot those people. And he was saying that the -- they let me down, that they left me to rot.

Now he had been released from that company, Reynolds Smith & Hills, for reportedly just performance issues, Wolf, about two-and-a- half years ago, so, clearly, an indication that he was -- his actions were motivated perhaps by -- by what had transpired a couple of years ago.

But the good piece of news out of all of this is that he is in custody in -- in Orlando, in the Orlando Police Department -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, immediately, I think most people, when they heard about this shooting rampage in Orlando coming the day after the shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, the words copycat came to mind.

What are authorities saying, if anything, about this potentially being a copycat killing along the lines what have happened the day before?

ZARRELLA: You know, Wolf, nothing at this point. They have just, again, brought him in to be booked, and he will be questioned for the next several hours as to what his motivations were for all of this.

Certainly, it is very eerie that it comes right on the heels of the terrible tragedy out in -- out in Fort Hood, and the circumstances, people running and scrambling from the scene in Orlando from that office building, and SWAT teams poring through there, reminiscent, obviously, of what happened there yesterday as well, but no indication right now, Wolf, as to what his motivation was or if what happened yesterday had in any way triggered what he did today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John, John Zarrella, we will be checking back with you.

At Fort Hood, a movement silence for the 13 people killed in one of the worst massacres ever at a U.S. military base. Investigators are on the scene, and they are asking many of the same questions the rest of us are asking, perhaps the most important one: Why? Why?

Today, authorities raided the home of the alleged gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, now in custody and in a coma. A convenience store owner says that Hasan on this security camera just hours before the rampage was seen -- investigators are trying to confirm witnesses' -- witness claims that Hasan yelled, "Allahu akbar," "God is great," in Arabic, before he allegedly opened fire on fellow soldiers yesterday.

President Obama has ordered flags flown at half-staff at the White House and other federal buildings over the next five days, through Veterans Day.

Soldiers at Fort Hood never thought they would see so many bodies and so much blood outside a war zone.

Our Sean Callebs is on the scene for us in Fort Hood on this day after that horrible massacre.

What -- what happened today, Sean?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Wolf, you hit the nail on the head. That's -- that's perhaps the most difficult aspect of -- for the soldiers here to get their head around at this hour.

This morning, we were able to speak with a number of first- responders, the people who rushed to the scene, even many as they heard gunfire. We're hearing tremendous stories of heroism that are coming out from the soldiers here, some of the 40,000 troops at this post.

In fact, next door, when the shooting began, there was a graduation ceremony going on. A lot of the graduates in their caps and gowns ran in, began triage, began attending to those who were wounded. Another private came in with his pickup, loaded four of his buddies up, drove them to the hospital. They're all OK at this hour. They're all in the hospital, we do know.

The first-responders also said, when they found Hasan, he was unconscious at the time. And the civilian police officer, a lot of people talking about Kimberly Munley as well. She was the one who fired, brought down Hasan, the alleged gunman.

Yesterday, she was injured as well. We have heard from the secretary of the Army, as well as the Army chief of staff, a short while ago. They have not had a chance to speak with her, Wolf, but they said a massive investigation is going to go on. They are going to get to the bottom of this, everything from, did Hasan really -- was he harassed by fellow soldiers because he was a Muslim? What could have trigger this? Was it simply because he didn't want to go to Afghanistan, didn't want to be deployed overseas?

A lot of questions that still have to be answered -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to back to you, Sean. Thanks very much.

Sean is on the scene at Fort Hood.

The suspected gunman was born in the Washington, D.C., area. Major Nidal Malik Hasan pursued his career in psychiatry over at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington. And ,as a lifelong Muslim, he regularly prayed at a mosque north of here just in Silver Spring, Maryland. That's a suburb of Washington, D.C.

That's where Brian Todd is right now.

Brian, you're learning a lot more about Major Hasan.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, Wolf. We spoke to the imam of this mosque, as well as other leaders here and parishioners who say that Major Hasan worshipped here for about five years, was known as someone who kind of blended in, did not stand out in any particular way, said that he was not overzealous about his religion.

They did say that he helped out with charity applications, but otherwise didn't really stand out for his activities at this mosque. A former imam of the mosque says that Major Hasan had approached him in an effort to help him find a suitable wife, but he says that that effort was unsuccessful.

You know, otherwise, this is a man who kind of blended in here. But there are some interesting accounts from a doctor here who runs a clinic who is going to tell us about his interactions with Hasan and their shared experience together. Also, we are going to tell you a little bit later in the show about the comments from a former training director at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who gave us some comments about Hasan's record there.

That's coming up a little later -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will get back to you, Brian. thanks very much.

Let's go to Killeen, Texas, right outside of Fort Hood right now.

There's -- there's a news conference under way at a hospital there where so many of these 30 who are injured are being treated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respecting and honoring the confidentiality of the identity of our patients is of paramount importance. Therefore, the names of the patients in our care will not be shared.

BLITZER: Let's listen a little bit. Let's hear...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: However, our physicians who are here will answer questions about the care provided to the patients who were treated at Metroplex.

We thank you for being here. And I will turn it over to Dr. McAninch, our E.R. medical director.



We were in the midst of a typically busy emergency department day yesterday when we started hearing rumors about something happening over at Fort Hood, and nothing that we could really confirm, until we -- not too long after that, we began having EMS Reports of patients coming in with -- with pretty significant trauma.

The patients began coming in, in a very rapid, rapid fashion. And, immediately, we began to triage patients and -- and treat accordingly. Almost instantaneously, as the hospital's mass casualty plan came into effect, we had just an overwhelming amount of support from within the hospital, from all the services, multiple physicians coming down, people volunteering time, and also from outside the hospital, all of our pre-hospital resources became available.

And, you know, from that point, we began -- began treating the patients and deciding what -- what types of resources we -- we had available and where we -- where we would need to send patients if we didn't have the resources here.

Almost immediately, again, the -- a number of physicians that are here with us today began helping us. Dr. Lyon (ph) was the emergency physician who was on duty with me that day, followed by Dr. Kelly Matlock (ph), who came down from anesthesiology, and was -- it was paramount to have -- have her help in the -- in the resuscitation of these -- these multiple trauma patients.

While she was stabilizing in one area, it freed us up to be able to -- to provide definitive care in -- in other areas for -- for these patients.

I guess I can turn over the -- the podium at this time to -- to Dr. Berberich (ph), who was also -- also on scene and was -- was very important in providing definitive surgical care for -- for many of these patients.

BLITZER: And we wish all of these patients a speedy, speedy recovery. We hope they all recover. Thirty -- 30 troops were injured in this shooting spree, this massacre, at Fort Hood yesterday.

We will continue to monitor that news conference and await other developments.

But I want to check in with Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File."

Jack, it's shocking, what's going on.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Been a hell of a couple of days, hasn't it?

BLITZER: Yes, terrible.


All right, on to something considerably more mundane. When it comes to health care reform, it almost feels sometimes like President Obama doesn't want to get his hands dirty. House Democrats are planning to vote on their 2,000-page bill this weekend -- maybe -- and that's fine, but it's not going to mean anything unless the Senate acts, too.

And that's looking less likely and may not happen next year if at all. After losing governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, and after being told by Majority Leader Harry Reid that his health care reform is probably going to be put off until next year in the Senate, President Obama went out the day after the election and made a speech about education in Wisconsin.

What if he had made this speech instead? "All right. That's enough. I have tried to be bipartisan. I have tried to leave Congress alone to do its job. In general, I have tried to be a nice guy through it all, but it's not working. And before we lose any more governorships or Senate seats or congressional seats, here's what I have decided to do.

"I'm ordering the Congress to remain in session until both houses vote on a final version of health care reform. Pass it or don't, but you're not going to go home until you address it. And if that means you work through Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter and the Fourth of July, so be it. You were sent here to do the people's business. And you're not going to go on vacation until it's done."

The Constitution, by the way, gives him the power to do this, Article 2, section 3. The president -- quote -- "may on extraordinary occasions convene both houses or either of them" -- unquote. President Truman did it in 1947.

So, here's the question: Should President Obama keep Congress in session and force them to vote on health care reform? Go to, and give us your thoughts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I get a lot of e-mails from folks out there, Jack, who think he's just too nice of a guy.

CAFFERTY: And this thing has gone on too long. I mean, either do it or don't. We have got other stuff to tend to. Got a couple of wars. Got an economy that -- you know, got the jobless numbers today. I mean, there -- we got immigration reform hasn't been touched. There's a lot of stuff has to be done besides this, and this is just languishing.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

We're standing by to speak with two soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas. They were on the scene right after yesterday's shooting. We're going to talk to them in just a moment.

Also, we're digging deeper into Major Hasan's background, including his Islamic faith and the possible connection to the killings.

And double-digit unemployment, the worst in more than decades -- what, if anything, can the president do to create jobs and save Democrats' jobs in next-year elections?


BLITZER: Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas have all been trained for all kinds of battles, but they never saw this coming, a massacre at their home base.

We are joined now by Private 1st Class Marquest Smith and Private 1st Class Jeffrey Pearsall. Private Pearsall, where were you yesterday when this incident erupted?

PRIVATE 1ST CLASS JEFFREY PEARSALL, U.S. ARMY: I was actually in the parking lot of the SRP building waiting on Private 1st Class Smith to finish out for the day.

BLITZER: And where were you, Private Smith.

PRIVATE 1ST CLASS MARQUEST SMITH, U.S. ARMY: I was inside the SRP building.

BLITZER: And, so, what happened? Take us through the chain of events.

I will begin with you, Private Pearsall.

Take us through the chain of events when you heard -- I assume you heard gunshots.

PEARSALL: Well, at the time -- by the time I heard gunshots, I had already seen people running around, a -- a window busted out, and people calling through that window. There was -- I started to pull forward after seeing someone from my unit who was wounded.

And as he was coming out, I started yelling for him to get in my truck. I then saw Private 1st Class Smith come running around the corner. And he proceeded to help me get -- set the soldier inside the truck -- into the bed of the truck, actually.

And he -- he went to go get into the -- into the cab of the truck with me to take this guy to the hospital, and more wounded started coming out, and we started helping them get into the truck. And when I was getting ready to pull away, there were two of the soldiers from our unit who came out holding each other up, seriously wounded.

Thought I had gotten both of them in the truck, and as I was driving off, Private 1st Class Smith noticed that one of them didn't get into the back of the truck. And as I was going down the road, I slowed down to make a turn, and he jumped out of the truck, and did a dead sprint for about a mile to get this other soldier.

BLITZER: Quick -- quickly to you, Private Smith.

Were you ever concerned, as you were dealing with the wounded, for your own safety, because you obviously didn't know what was going on?

SMITH: I actually was worried about my own safety, but only one thing that was going through my head was to get my battle buddy first.

BLITZER: You were trying to get your buddies first; is that what you are saying?

SMITH: Yes, sir. BLITZER: And so then what happened? Pick up the story then. Did you have a clue -- when did you have a clue that a United States Army soldier, a major in this particular case, had opened fire on fellow soldiers?

SMITH: We actually didn't know that it was a major until we was at the hospital helping get wounded out of the paramedics trucks and out of the beds of other trucks after we dropped off the wounded we had already picked up, sir.

BLITZER: Were you guys among those gearing up to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, or are you at Fort Hood, at least for the time being, Private Pearsall?

PEARSALL: That's -- the process of SRP is for everything -- it's not even Iraq and Afghanistan that most of the people there are deploying to. It's also Korea and other parts of the world.

So, at any given time, there could be people in there deploying anywhere. And it's also the place, when they come back, they return to that place after deployment to -- to help get settled back into life back in the United States.

BLITZER: Private Smith, how is this incident going to affect you? I'm sure you have thought a lot over these past 24 hours about what happened.

SMITH: I mean, right now, it's affecting me as it should affect anybody. I mean, you should be hurt. I mean, I feared for my life when I was doing it, but, as long as I was to help other people, it was -- but I pretty much look at it as my job, because I'm a soldier. And to protect is something we do.

BLITZER: Private Pearsall, have there been any changes as far as security at Fort Hood you have noticed over the past 24 hours?

PEARSALL: There's -- since it happened, security has changed. I mean, it -- something like this happens, you would expect the security to change. I mean, it's -- it's just natural for it to happen.

BLITZER: And what are your -- your -- your comrades, Private Smith, telling you? How are they reacting? How are they dealing with this horrible tragedy?

SMITH: Most of them are trying to stay in good faith, but you can tell in their faces that it's affecting them, and as me, myself, it's affecting me harder, because I actually seen -- seen it firsthand.

BLITZER: When you say it's affected you really hard that way, give me an example.

SMITH: It's affecting me harder because I actually seen people getting shot. I was actually inside the building when the gunman was in the building shooting.

BLITZER: So, it's obviously had a lasting impact on you.

Any final thought you want to make, Private Pearsall, to our viewers about -- about the ramifications of this?

PEARSALL: It's -- it's just tragic that anything like this could ever happen on a military installation.

And I just pray for the families of the soldiers that were wounded and -- and severely -- severely wounded and killed. I just pray for their families that, you know, everything will be OK with them, and just hope that the soldiers that are wounded come back and get back in the fight with us.

BLITZER: We hope so as well.

Did you -- did you guys know any of the killed or injured personally?

Private Smith?

SMITH: As of the moment, I don't know any of the ones that was killed, but, wounded, I knew a couple of them, because they are my battle buddies, and I actually work with them.

BLITZER: And, Private Pearsall?

PEARSALL: I know -- I also work with Private 1st Class Smith, so I knew two of them that I work with. I don't know any of -- they haven't released any names of ones that were killed to us.

BLITZER: As far as -- as far as you know, are you guys staying at Fort Hood for the time being or about to be deployed somewhere else?

SMITH: Right of -- as of now, everything is still set up to -- for us to be deployed to Afghanistan some time in January, I guess.

BLITZER: So, the two of you are off to Afghanistan in January, is that right, Private Pearsall?

PEARSALL: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Well, we want to wish you guys the best of luck. Good luck. Be careful over there. And the nation thanks you for the service to our country. We appreciate your coming in to our SITUATION ROOM. Thank you very much.


SMITH: And you, too, sir.

BLITZER: And we're digging deeper into Major Hasan's background and talking to some of his colleagues in the military. Were there any warning signs?

And a fire at the Arizona home of the Iraqi man accused of running over his daughter for being too Westernized, we have new details coming in on that.


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

Happening now: Neighbors call her one tough woman. The police officer who ended the Fort Hood massacre by shooting the suspect, she's now hailed as a hero. Stand by.

And Muslims in the military, are they worried about a potential backlash against Muslims? I will talk to one of them.

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

Relatives of the alleged Fort Hood gunman are calling the massacre despicable and deplorable. Major Nidal Malik Hasan spent a good part of his life here in the Washington, D.C., area.

Let's go back to Brian Todd. He's over at the mosque where Major Hasan regularly prayed.

Tell us more about what you're learning, Brian.

TODD: Well, Wolf, we're getting -- just now getting information about the complexities of Major Hasan's life.

And to get a sample of them, we spoke to people who saw him where he lived, where he worked, and here, where he worshipped for about five years.


TODD (voice-over): Midday prayers at the Muslim Community Center, where Major Nidal Malik Hasan prayed at least once a week, helped review charity applications, but otherwise seemed to blend in.

(on camera): What were your impressions of him? Was he someone who was more devout than the average parishioner here? Was he -- was he fanatical at all?

IMAM MOHAMED ABDULLAHI, MUSLIM COMMUNITY CENTER: My impression was, he was a little calm. And I never seen him arguing with anybody. He was -- just used to pray and leave.

TODD (voice-over): Mohamed Abdullahi, the imam of this mosque, says Hasan did ask a former imam here to help him find a wife.

(on camera): Was that successful? Was there...

ABDULLAHI: No, he said he wasn't -- that was not successful.

TODD (voice-over): Dr. Asif Qadri ran a clinic at the mosque. He says he struck up an acquaintance with Hasan over their shared experience training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

(on camera): When you relayed to him how great your experience at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was, what was his response?

DR. ASIF QADRI, MUSLIM COMMUNITY CENTER: He concurred with me. He agreed with me. It was a very nice place to work. You know, I got the impression he was very happy what he was doing, you know. Then I hear that he had some problems there. I don't know what kind of problems he had.

TODD (voice-over): A retired Army psychiatrist who was a training director at Walter Reed when Hasan interned there tells CNN Hasan had difficulties at that hospital that required supervision. He didn't want to give details.

DR. THOMAS GRIEGER, MILITARY FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: It's not uncommon during internship that, you know, interns require periods of extra supervision. And, you know, he responded to the supervision that he received.

TODD: Dr. Tom Grieger told the Associated Press that Hasan's problems at Walter Reed stemmed from his interaction with patients.

Professionally, personally, the alleged Fort Hood gunman is portrayed as a man of complexities. His own family says that he had been taunted after 9/11 and had unsuccessfully tried to leave the military early. But a neighbor down the hall at an apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, echoed the sentiments of those who observed him at his place of worship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would never have believe that, because he seemed so calm. And, you know, he was never upset with anything whenever I saw him.


TODD: Now, as for those who still worship here, the imam of this mosque says he is concerned about possible public backlash at this facility, but a member of the board of directors says he is confident in the relations that they have built with the local community, relations that he says they have cultivated since 1976 -- Wolf?

BLITZER: What about security there at the mosque behind you? Are they taking precautionary measures?

TODD: Well, the head of the board of directors, a gentleman named Arshad Koreshi (ph), told me he's not planning to right now. He says he's that confident in the relationship that they have with the community here, but he says he will do something if something happens. He may contact police or try to beef up security, but you've just got to hope that nothing happens, and if it does, it's fairly minor by the time they get to that.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Brian Todd is over in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Our CNN contributor, the retired U.S. Army General, Russel Honore, served at Fort Hood back in the 1990s. He's back at Fort Hood right now. He's retired from the U.S. military.

We spoke yesterday, General Honore, and I know you finally made it back there. What's it like on this day after that massacre?

GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, security around the installation, throughout the post, to include the PXs, is enhanced and include going into the housing area, Wolf, with military police. And at the scene it's the scene of an investigation with a lot of yellow tape, as well as investigators on scene, to include those command vans that are in the vicinity of where the incident happened.

And today was a day of mourning and a day of silence as the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army came to pay their respect, and to honor the survivors and pay respect to those who lost their lives.

BLITZER: A lot of folks are asking me, General Honore, was security high enough, tough enough at this Fort Hood, at this Army base? Should there have been other precautions taken?

HONORE: Wolf, this is our sanctuary where soldiers stay with their families and live, and it's regularly patrolled. You cannot get on this installation without going through a checkpoint.

But we live in a free country where, as in this case, the major acquired the weapons from some place. And as you know, it's not hard to get handguns into an installation like Fort Hood in the trunk of your car or hidden in your car. And in that case, we missed this one, but the objective here is not to let this happen again.

And across the Army, as General Casey said today, they have enhanced security to reinforce the fact that the Army will take care of the families, they will have a safe and secure environment for our soldiers to train, and to make everyone know that the Army will get on about its business of preparing soldiers for combat while taking care of the wounded and the dead in honoring our heroes.

BLITZER: As you know, General Honore, there's a lot of stress for these soldiers, these young men and women either off to war or coming back from war to begin with, and this only adds to the stress. There's no doubt about that.

How are they dealing with it? You're there on the scene for us. I'm sure you've had a chance to speak with some of them.

HONORE: Yes. The entire post is basically open for business. They have flown in extra chaplains here today to ensure that they had additional counselors to deal with those soldiers that were directly involved as witnesses or those that might have been injured that are not in the hospital. So they have made a major effort.

And Wolf, it's not every day when something happens around the Army that the chief of staff and the secretary of the Army shows up. This reinforced to the Army family that everything that can be done will be done to take care of these soldiers and their families. BLITZER: Well, wish them the best of luck, General Honore. We're praying for all of them. I know that this is a rough, rough period, but I'm sure they will come through.

Thanks very much for helping us.

General Russel Honore, retired U.S. Army.

And stay with CNN for a primetime special, "Inside the Fort Hood Shootings." That's tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

In the nightmare unleashed at a U.S. military base, you've heard a lot about the alleged gunman. But what about the victims? We're going to tell you what we know about those who lost their lives and are injured at Fort Hood.

And one former Marine tells CNN many Muslims in the armed services are a little worried right now. After the shooting at Fort Hood, might active duty Muslims in the United States military face scrutiny or worse? Will there be a backlash?

And a fire at the Arizona home of that Iraqi man accused of running over his daughter for being too westernized. We have new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: President Obama spoke today about the tragedy at Fort Hood. That's coming up.

And double-digit unemployment, the worst in more than two decades. What, if anything, can the president do to create jobs and save Democrats' jobs in next year's election?


BLITZER: Never in 26 years has the nation's unemployment rate been this bad, 10.2 percent, according to the government. It's a sign of unyielding weakness in the labor market, although the economy grew somewhat last quarter. We also learned employers shed 190,000 jobs last month, but that was less than September's job loss number.

President Obama says he won't rest until Americans can find jobs. For those who can't, he's just signed a bill providing up to 20 extra weeks of jobless benefits. It also extends the $8,000 tax credit for new homebuyers into the middle of next year.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just signed into law a bill that will help grow our economy, save and create new jobs, and provide relief to struggling families and businesses. The need for such a measure was made clear by the jobs report that we received this morning. Although we lost fewer jobs than we did last month, our unemployment rate climbed to over 10 percent, a sobering number that underscores the economic challenges that lie ahead.


BLITZER: Despite those unemployment numbers, President Obama remains personally popular -- 54 percent job approval in our last number, 60 percent popularity. But how long can that last?

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, as you know, people still like the president personally.


BLITZER: But increasingly, they don't like a lot of his policies.

BORGER: That's right, Wolf. And we have a poll out today that shows that the economy, of course, is still the number one issue.

But when you ask people how the president is handling unemployment, here's the answer -- take a look at that -- 47 percent approve and 52 percent, Wolf, disapprove. So, it's clear that unemployment, which all know is a lagging indicator, is going to continue to be a problem for President Obama. I think we saw that in the elections on Tuesday where you saw two Republicans take governorships, and economic anxiety was clearly at the top of people's worries.

BLITZER: So is the American public losing its patience?

BORGER: Well, we really may be seeing the start of that. Lots of political experts I talk to are looking back to the year 1982 and Ronald Reagan.

He was also a very popular president, you'll recall, more popular than Barack Obama. He was at 67 percent popularity, but he was also dogged by the same kind of unemployment problems that President Obama has. And during the midterm elections in 1982, when he lost 26 seats in the House, unemployment was at 10.4 percent. Now, when he was re- elected, it went back down.

BLITZER: He was re-elected in '84 in a landslide.

BORGER: That's right, and unemployment was at 7.2 percent.

BLITZER: So, it had gone from '82 to '84?

BORGER: Right. And those midterms, unfortunately, for Ronald Reagan was the peak of the unemployment, and that's exactly what the folks at the White House are worried about.

BLITZER: So the bottom line is, if it's at 10 percent or so, or 9.5, or 10.5 during the midterm elections next year, the Democrats are probably going to be in trouble, but if it goes down by 2012, when he wants to get re-elected, then he might be able to survive.

BORGER: Absolutely. If Ronald Reagan is any guide. And again, he was more popular than Barack Obama, but lots of folks are saying there may be some similarities there.

BLITZER: Excellent. Thanks.

Gloria Borger will be back later.

A police officer is being called a hero after stopping the alleged Fort Hood gunman single-handedly. Just ahead, a profile of a woman who thought fast and acted bravely.

And the U.S. Army chief of staff goes to Fort Hood to help his troops make sense out of this tragedy.


GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: ... the sounds of the guns because they knew they would be wounded.



BLITZER: A moment of silence at Fort Hood, Texas, on this, the day after the rampage.

Top military officials are at Fort Hood, and they are reaching out to the troops caught off guard by the killings in their own back yard.

Listen to the U.S. Army chief of staff, General George Casey, just a little while ago.


CASEY: Unfortunately, over the past eight years, our Army has been no stranger to tragedy. But we are an Army that draws strength from adversity, and hearing the stories of courage and heroism that I heard today makes me proud to be the leader of this great Army.

I heard stories about medics who were sitting in a graduation in the building next door, hearing the gunfire and running to the sounds of the guns because they knew there would be wounded in their caps and gowns. I talked to a young private who was sitting in his pickup truck in the parking lot who heard gunshots, went back after his buddies, and with the help of others, dragged four individuals, badly wounded individuals, into the his pickup truck and drove them to the emergency room, saving their lives. And I talked to numerous soldiers who were wounded giving first aid to their fellow soldiers.

I'm very proud not only of the men and women here at Fort Hood, but of our whole Army. We take care of our own. We will grieve as a family, and we will remain -- we will maintain our focus on our missions around the world. And the secretary and I would be happy to take your questions. I will tell you up front that because of the ongoing investigation, we will not be able to give particulars on the suspect or on the crime scene.

So with that, Mr. Secretary, we'll take your questions.

QUESTION: General Casey, do you believe that this was a wake-up call to the nation that the Army is simply too small to carry out the tasks that it's been given? You've been having suicide rates that are off the charts. Your soldiers are under great stress from multiple deployments. Is this a signal that this Army is simply not big enough to do the job and it's got to become much bigger?

CASEY: I don't think so. I think it's way too early to make a judgment that is that pronounced.

There is no question that we are stretched, but you mentioned the size of the Army. We're 40,000 soldiers larger than we were two and a half years ago. We're 70,000 soldiers larger than we were five years ago. And the growth and the development of the Army that's taken place over the last five years, frankly, has put us in a much better position.

So, way too early to make a judgment as significant as you're suggesting.

QUESTION: General, in light of that, a lot of money has been earmarked for stress-related treatment and programs. Yet, several of those items aren't on line yet.

Is it time to accelerate? Will you go to Congress and say it has got to be accelerated? What's going to be done to move it faster?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have been trying very hard to understand the effects of stress, to understand the causes of everything from domestic violence to suicide, to other crimes and other fallings. Our problem is not so much the matter of resources as it is answers.

For example, the Army has just entered into a five-year longitudinal study on the causes of suicide with the National Institute of Mental Health. That's going to be an ongoing effort to better understand what drives people to do desperate things.

From my perspective, after 17 years in Congress and 17 years on the House Armed Services Committee, you're always concerned about resources. But for the moment, we're concerned about developing the answers that are necessary to apply those resources that are in an appropriate way to try to make a difference, and that's the challenge right now.


BLITZER: The military is now letting us know that the 12 soldiers who were killed, one U.S. Army civilian employee who was shot and killed yesterday at Fort Hood, Texas, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft will take the bodies tonight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where there will be autopsies performed on all 13 who were killed yesterday in the shooting spree at Fort Hood.

As of right now, the military says the families of the fallen Fort Hood servicemen have not authorized media coverage. Therefore, media access to Dover Air Force Base later tonight will be restricted. But we'll watch this, together with you, and see what happens.

A sad note indeed.

An Army base massacre may have been worse if not for those first on the scene. It could have been, in fact, much worse.

In the Fort Hood massacre, one female civilian police officer is being called a hero. You're going to be hearing a lot more about this amazing woman.

Also, are there any fears of a backlash against Muslims in the U.S. military? I'll ask a former Navy physician also with the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy. Stand by for that.

And Jack Cafferty is asking, should President Obama keep members of Congress in session and force them to vote on health care reform? Jack's back with your answers right after this.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: Should President Obama keep Congress in session and force them to vote on health care?

Frank writes, "Yes, yes, yes. I just heard your comments on TV, couldn't agree with you more. I voted for President Obama (just like all my family members did) exactly for this reason: that he would cut through red tape and get things done that have been ignored for years. I still strongly support the president, but we need some strong actions soon. Very soon."

Elena writes, "That was a beautiful speech, Jack. Too bad it came from you and not from the person it should, Mr. President."

Rick says, "No way. I'm against it. My health care coverage is fine."

"Medicare works for the most part. The poorest Americans get their health carefree. Just come up with a gap insurance for those stuck in the middle. Don't overhaul the whole system. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Jeff writes, "Jack, great idea. This has gone on long enough. Let's vote on this one way or the other and then move on to other important issues." Todd in New Jersey, "President Obama should definitely make Congress stay and televise every single day. That way, those arrogant elitists won't be able to hide and their constituents will know exactly what they stand for."

Elizabeth writes, "No, it ought to be well thought out and not rushed through without thinking."

Ian in Los Angeles, "Jack, I'm voting for you in 2012. And to answer your question: yes, he needs to put his foot down for once. This is getting ridiculous."

And Jon says, "Yes, it's time for the president to kick some ass."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog at

We got a ton of mail on this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure you did, Jack. It's going to be a big day tomorrow, too, if, in fact, the House goes ahead and votes on health care reform. It's still an "if," at least right now.

CAFFERTY: By the way, did you see where Nancy Pelosi is reneging on her pledge to post it online for 72 hours before a vote? She's not going to do it now

BLITZER: I missed that.

CAFFERTY: We're just here to help you out when we can.

BLITZER: Thank you. All right, Jack.

Jack Cafferty will be back in a few moments.

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

Happening now, the nation mourns the 13 people killed in the massacre at Fort Hood. And as investigators dig deeper into the suspect's background and mindset, the story of the woman who stopped the rampage is now emerging, and she's being called a hero.

Stand by.

Breaking news. A second deadly shooting rampage, this one inside a Florida office building. New details are emerging right now about the suspect and a possible motive.

And two American paratroopers missing in Afghanistan. We're learning more about the mission they were on the and the intense search for them under way right now.

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