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THE SITUATION ROOM

Sarah Palin's Sex Appeal; President Obama Visits China

Aired November 16, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the best political team on television on these stories.

President Obama's huge debt to communist China -- he's about to meet with top communist officials who are effectively becoming America's top bankers.

Plus, he's a heartbeat away from the presidency, but she's the one Americans see as more qualified for the job. What's Hillary Clinton doing right? Is Joe Biden doing something wrong?

And an unspoken secret to Sarah Palin's greatest successes and biggest controversies -- this hour, we're exploring her sex appeal.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama landed in the capital of China knowing he owes the communist leaders there big-time. Right now, he's about to dive into heavy talks with officials in Beijing. And you can bet this number is on his mind. America's debt to China was almost $800 billion -- billion -- as of August. According to one report, no other country has ever loaned another so much money.

Our senior international correspondent, John Vause, is in Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Next comes the hard part, U.S. President Barack Obama face to face with the three most powerful communists in China, President Hu, parliamentary leader Wu, and Premier Wen.

Most analysts believe U.S./China relations are good, but have shifted in the last 12 months, with global issues taking center stage, the economic crisis, climate change, nuclear proliferation.

KENNETH LIEBERTHAL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: So it isn't a matter of there being a lot of friction over them at this point. The issue is, we're figuring out whether we can work together on them. And there's a lot riding on that.

VAUSE: With the U.S. government continuing to run huge budget deficits, mostly financed by China, in a way, President Obama will be meeting with his bankers and will need to convince the Chinese government that their huge holdings of U.S. dollars and debt are both safe. But the U.S. wants China to allow its currency to gain in value, believing right now it's deliberately undervalued to give Chinese exporters an unfair competitive edge.

But there was no support for that at a weekend economic summit of 21 Asian leaders in Singapore. And then there is the issue of human rights.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the United States will never waver in speaking up for the fundamental values that we hold dear.

VAUSE: U.S. officials say it will be raised, even though Mr. Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama in Washington last month to avoid a backlash while visiting Beijing.

MIKE CHINOY, CHINA ANALYST: Obama has sought to put to the side a number of issues that were major irritants over the years, particularly human rights, Tibet, and so on. The calculation, I think, in Washington is that the previous approaches to these issues have been counterproductive.

VAUSE (on camera): And with both leaders dealing with such a long and complicated agenda, analysts say don't expect any hard outcomes from these few days. Instead, they say, this is more of an ongoing conversation.

John Vause, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Americans now see China as far more of an economic danger to the United States than a military one. Take a look at this. Our brand-new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows Americans are split on whether China is a military threat -- 51 percent say, yes -- 47 percent say, no. But a vast majority, 71 percent, agree that communist China is an economic threat to the U.S., arguably the center of capitalism around the world right now.

Now to a story causing lots of controversy, the Obama administration's decision to try confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others in a civilian court in New York City.

We're learning some new information about that controversial decision, as well as your thoughts on it.

Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

Jeanne, what are you learning?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Officials say Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four alleged co- conspirators aren't going to be moved to the United States anytime soon. The administration has to give congressional leaders and the governor of New York at least 45 days' notice. And they haven't started that clock. But that isn't the only consideration. A grand jury needs to return indictments against the men. Preparations need to be made for housing them. So it could take longer. Meanwhile, the furor continues about moving the detainees into a civilian court system, which will give them the same rights as any other defendant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX (R), FLORIDA: What happens if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, is acquitted on a technicality? Then what? What are we going to do with him? Are we going to release him? Are we going to let him off in the streets of New York? I don't think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jeanne, we have a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll that shows a lot of Americans agree with the senator.

MESERVE: That's right, Wolf. The poll shows almost two-thirds of Americans disagree with the Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian rather than military court.

However, 60 percent do say he should be tried in the United States, rather than in a facility in another country. By the way, a law enforcement source says it is likely that all the detainees going to New York will be moved at the same time. The route hasn't been set and no final determination has been made on where they will be held.

This source says Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will likely be kept in solitary confinement with more restrictions than at Guantanamo. According to a military official, he currently has his own cell in Camp 7, where the worst of the worst are held. But he is able to occasionally talk to some prisoners and has access to newspapers, TV, and sometimes a computer, though he can't use it to communicate or look at the Internet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see what kind of conditions he has in New York. Thanks very much, Jeanne Meserve, for that.

Let's go to Jack. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Still no decision, Wolf, from President Obama on Afghanistan, despite eight formal meetings that have consumed more than 20 hours. A lot of people are asking now, what's taking the president so long?

His own press corps used the first question on his Asia trip to ask what piece of information he's still waiting for to make the call on this war, which is now in its ninth year. The president got a little testy when he was asked that question, said the people involved in Afghanistan recognize the gravity of the situation, recognize the importance of us getting this right. He says the decision will come soon.

Well, the issue is beginning to make the president look weak and indecisive. Former Vice President Cheney has accused President Obama of dithering. What a word. Mitt Romney says Mr. Obama can't make up his mind. Meanwhile, with record violence in Afghanistan, the Army reports that morale among its troops has fallen, with a lot of soldiers now struggling with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress.

There's a shortage of mental health workers. There were only 43 of them in the whole country of Afghanistan at the time of this Army report. And, most sadly, the Army says the number of suicides among active-duty personnel is on track now to reach record levels this year. Is all of this lost on the commander in chief, do you suppose?

Here's the question. When it comes to Afghanistan, are you tired of waiting for a decision from President Obama? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog. We will read some of them in about 40 minutes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He's going to come back from his trip to Asia and, then, theoretically, he's going to be making a decision. But once he makes the decision, then comes the hard part, explaining it to a very skeptical American public.

CAFFERTY: Yes, and you wonder what the upside or downside of this delay is. Is it going to make it easier? Is the impression going to be created that he's given this great due diligence and studied it long and hard and been very careful in his assessment? Or is it going to be perceived as simply trying to put off having to make the tough call, being the community organizer, instead of the commander in chief? It will be interesting to see the polls show on this.

BLITZER: Yes, it doesn't get any harder than this. This is a tough one.

CAFFERTY: No, no.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

It may be the low point of President Obama's Asia trip -- just ahead, why his bow to the emperor of Japan is raising eyebrows, lots of controversy over that.

And what Hillary Clinton has that Sarah Palin doesn't -- the best political team on television is studying our new poll that could say a lot about her future campaigns for president, if in fact, she seriously is thinking of running for president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some surprising results in our brand-new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll -- more Americans feel that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president than Vice President Joe Biden. Only 28 percent feel Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.

What does it all mean? Let's turn to our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, now with the NewMajority.com, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

I will put on the screen, guys, the numbers, who's qualified to be president -- 67 percent believe Hillary Clinton's qualified -- 50 percent say Joe Biden's qualified, Mitt Romney, 47 percent, Mike Huckabee, 43 percent, Sarah Palin, 28 percent.

And a year ago, we asked a similar question. Is Palin qualified to serve as president? At that time, 43 percent thought she was qualified. So, her numbers have gone down.

So, give us some perspective, Gloria. What does all this mean?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's interesting that Hillary Clinton is so high, Wolf, at 67 percent. And I would have to say that's because of her performance as secretary of state.

Her problem, however, has never been her performance. She ran on experience, if you will recall. It's always been her likability and whether people trust her. And I think they may have gotten over that hump.

However, Sarah Palin numbers are no surprise. And when you pull them apart, they're very partisan, of course. Republicans believe that Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Democrats do.

BLITZER: I was surprised -- and, Donna, you tell me if you were -- that Hillary Clinton, 67 percent believe she's qualified to be president. That's better than Joe Biden, who's a heartbeat away from the presidency -- he's the vice president -- with 50 percent.

Were you surprised by that?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. She also polled very well during the 2008 presidential campaign. And I also think that people see her as a proven leader who can handle tough issues.

She's there with the president now on Asia. She's been helping the president on Middle East and -- and helping us with relations with our former allies. So, I think the American people understand that she's competent, that she's ready for prime time, and clearly she's still presidential.

BLITZER: With seven out of 10 Americans believing that Sarah Palin isn't qualified to be president, at least according to our latest poll -- she's got a new book -- we're going to be seeing and hearing a lot from her -- can she change that, if in fact she's interested in running for president?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: She could have changed it. Bill Clinton had a bad introduction to the American public in 1988 as well. And he then spent the next four years. He began by, within eight days, taking his number-one vulnerability, too boring and pompous to be president, he went on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, and he did a brilliant and convinced everybody he wasn't boring and pompous.

And then he spent the next four years being governor, giving speeches, meeting with serious people, and winning what a magazine at the time called the I.Q. primary.

Sarah Palin hasn't made that choice. She hasn't played the policy game and she hasn't countered her perceived deficiency in the way that Bill Clinton did.

BORGER: She quit her job. She quit her job as governor.

FRUM: And Bill Clinton won reelection one more time after 1988, too.

BLITZER: Can she fix that, the quitting allegation, that she quit her job, because that's going to be, at least for a lot of Republicans, a serious source of concern?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I will tell you, one of the things that I thought was interesting inside this poll looking at the numbers, that 44 percent of Republicans didn't think she was qualified. That's a huge number inside the Republican Party.

So, could she fix it? She could, I guess. But I think it was a big, huge changeover. And I remember listening to her the day she decided to quit. We thought maybe she would say that she wasn't going to run again for governor. But she decided, OK, I'm not going to be governor anymore.

I remember that day thinking, she's done with politics. It was such a kind of fatal political decision to make. And I think this book is another kind of fatal political decision. I think she will make a lot of cash on this, but it's not the kind of book -- there's not even an attempt to talk about how her policies -- how her views on policies were shaped.

Everybody does a book, but there's nothing in here -- there's a lot of, this happened in the campaign and that happened in the campaign. You can have that. But there does not seem to be a lot of attempt to explain where she came from and how she came to this or that.

BORGER: There's 13 pages on the future and over 100 pages on tit for tat in the campaign. So, what does that tell you about Sarah Palin?

BLITZER: But she does have, Donna, that star quality. She will bring out huge crowds. She will probably break all sorts of records for book sales. She's going to be on television a lot. She does have that star quality that a Mike Huckabee, let's say, or Mitt Romney, perhaps, doesn't have.

BRAZILE: Look, this is a defining moment for former Governor Palin to really show the American people that she is a woman of substance, that she can talk about difficult issues.

I would be interested to hear the kind of speech that she will give before she starts autographing her book to see if she will talk about some of the pressing issues of the day, or, rather, will she continue to focus on those narrow interests that just mobilize the base of the Republican Party?

FRUM: If I can mention competing polls, Gallup did a poll a little while ago in which they asked people, Americans, which of these candidates would you never consider voting for?

And it was interesting that although Republicans don't have a great brand right now, both Huckabee and Romney were within range. The number of -- they had a plurality of the American people were in both cases willing to consider voting for them. It was reachable for them. For Sarah Palin, it's not.

CROWLEY: And we should also note that even if she is not presidential material -- and we will see -- she is a catalyst. There is no way not to say that she doesn't move the debate by writing one little thing on her Facebook, death panels.

She can -- and she changed the -- her face changed New York 23, when she backed the Conservative over the Republican candidate. So, she is a catalyst...

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: ... if not necessarily who Republicans want to see as their leader.

BORGER: But, at a certain point, the Republican Party is going to have to decide whether they want to win a presidential election. And if you look at the -- how polarizing she is, I think that continues to be a problem.

I also think this book is, as Candy points out, not a lot about policy. This is all about making some money.

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM: Never underestimate how much pleasure Republicans take in annoying what they perceive to be a media consensus. So, even though they may inwardly say, probably not, but a lot of the rallying to her comes about -- the more she is criticized, the more people...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But there's a lot of conservative Republicans, David, who do not like Sarah Palin, correct?

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM: There are a lot who do, however. And there's a gap between the number who would seriously consider voting for her and the number who will defend her when she's criticized. (CROSSTALK)

FRUM: That's a great asset.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Thirty-seven governors up next year, many of them Republican, of course. They're meeting tomorrow in Austin, Texas. What governor is not there, or what former governor? Palin. I don't think that she's going to be helpful in the comeback, unless she can broaden her appeal.

BLITZER: But I will tell you this. Having interviewed her, right after the election at the national -- at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami that was going on, all the Republican governors were there, and all of the media followed her around, and all the other governors were sort of ignored.

And I suspect if she were to show up at one of these conventions, once again, she would get all that oxygen and others would be desperate for a little publicity.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: She was missing in action in both Virginia and New Jersey, where two Republicans took over those gubernatorial races.

FRUM: She was not invited.

BRAZILE: Well, that's the point.

BORGER: Well, there's the point, yes, exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by. We have more to talk about.

Some feel -- some feel that Senate Republicans are pulling a stall. But if Democrats control the Congress, why can't the president get the job done? Dana Bash is ready to report on this from Capitol Hill.

And he said, "I will be back," and, apparently, he meant it. Arnold Schwarzenegger goes back to Iraq to say thanks. That's only one of the stories on our "Political Ticker." That's all coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: A delegation of American lawmakers is in Israel making some strong statements, among those in the group, the Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and California Congressman Henry Waxman. Lieberman and others were staunchly against any Palestinian idea of unilaterally declaring a state of their own. They even hinted that hundreds of millions of dollars in annual American aid to the Palestinians could stop. Lieberman also said that a recently revealed nuclear site in Iran was to make weapons and not, as the Iranians claimed, for peaceful purposes.

Some critics of President Obama are asking, how low can he go? The bow in Japan that's causing quite a stir here at home.

And Sarah Palin's new book is going into overdrive. The launch, we're talking about. Is she proving the old adage that sex sells?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sarah Palin stepping up her publicity tour -- here's the book -- just hours before her memoir "Going Rogue" officially goes on sell. We did get a copy of this book now, a day before the official release.

How far would she go to sell her book to readers or herself to voters? We asked those questions to our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, who's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Good questions. I know you have the answers.

(LAUGHTER)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have some.

I raise more questions. Now that we're back to debating why Sarah Palin is just so polarizing for many people, can we finally acknowledge what's been unsaid? Yes, she's evaluated for her political views, for her campaigning experience -- her campaigning skills, her experience and her readiness. But there does seem to be another factor at play.

Look at this picture right here. And what do you see? Can't we just acknowledge it? Sarah Palin is sexy, and she doesn't seem to hide from it. She shows her gams. She openly embraces her femininity. And how many other successful female politics do the same? Not Secretaries Hillary Clinton or Janet Napolitano, not Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison or Dianne Feinstein, or even next- generation female leaders like Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan, or California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

Symbolically, all these female politicians have played by the old pantsuit rules of the workplace. They don't pretend to be men. Every so often, they acknowledge their feminine side, usually by talking about motherhood.

But, far more often, American female politicians have seemed to keep their femininity under wraps, so to speak. But it's different with Sarah Palin. And it strikes a chord.

Republican political analyst Leslie Sanchez has written a book about women politicians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What very few people will say publicly in Washington is that Sarah Palin is sexy. What they say privately in the blogosphere is -- is every -- is all the evidence to -- to support that. They like her looks, her smile, her clothes, her hair, her legs, her shoes. What she's going that's different and unique is she's embracing her femininity in a very strong and powerful way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now, that doesn't entirely account for why Palin is popular or polarizing or what her skills are. But it -- it is something new in American politics.

And, Wolf, the question is, isn't it at least -- at least worth acknowledging?

BLITZER: That she's good looking?

YELLIN: She's good looking.

BLITZER: Yes, because a male politician is handsome. We all acknowledge that.

YELLIN: Yes.

BLITZER: What's wrong with acknowledging that she's attractive -- a -- a beautiful woman?

YELLIN: That's right. That's right. It's an advantage for them.

BLITZER: What did women, in these new polls, say about their attitude toward Sarah Palin?

YELLIN: Well, it's interesting. Sarah Palin is -- tends to be less popular among women. And across the board, women are more likely to say Sarah Palin is unqualified than are men.

That's also true, interestingly, if you break it down and look only at Republicans. Our newest poll shows that a majority -- a significant majority of Republican men think she is qualified to be president. Fewer say she's unqualified. But Republican women are divided on the question. And a small -- a greater number, actually, say that she's unqualified.

So is it possible that Palin's public embrace of her femininity is part of that?

Several political analysts I talked to say, yes, they think so, but pollsters haven't gone there yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, thanks very much. A good, good report from Jessica.

Let's get back to the president's trip to Asia right now. This may be one of the most memorable moments -- some think, though, it's perhaps the lowest moment. People in the United States, indeed, many folks around the world are buzzing right now about the way Mr. Obama bowed to the emperor of Japan.

Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.

She's working this sensitive subject for us -- all right, Jill, what's going on?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.

Well, you know, you've been to Asia, Wolf. You know that this is the traditional greeting in Asia, a slight bow, your hands by your side.

But the unique form of President Obama's greeting is getting some disrespect back at home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): It wasn't just a nod of the head. President Obama meeting the Japanese emperor and empress bows deeply and shakes hands. The blogosphere explodes. "Ignorant and treasonous," one site thunders.

"How low will he go?," the "Los Angeles Times" blog asks.

The YouTube video is getting massive hits. Another site shows how other world leaders choreographed their meetings with the emperor. Conservative pundits say they're disgusted an American president would bow to anyone.

BRUCE KLINGER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Even within Japanese culture, it was an excessive bow. And it plays into the image of Obama being overly obsequious during his overseas trips.

DOUGHERTY: The State Department claims the president was simply following protocol.

IAN KELLY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Think it's a natural response of the president the first time he meets the -- the Japanese head of state to show a sign of respect.

DOUGHERTY: The emperor, once revered as nearly a God, now is just a figurehead, since Japan's surrender at the end of World War II. Critics point to how previous presidents did it -- George W. Bush, no bow; same for Vice President Dick Cheney; Richard Nixon, a slight bow.

Mr. Obama's body language got him in hot water previously when he appeared to make an awkward bow to the Saudi King. His press secretary had to do some tap dancing on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM April 9)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think he bent with both -- to shake -- with both hands to shake his hand. So I don't...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(VIDEO CLIP OF PRESIDENT OBAMA)

DOUGHERTY: Nevertheless, Barack Obama's popularity is boosting the U.S. image abroad, according to a July international poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Under George Bush, only 37 percent of respondents said the U.S. would do the right thing in world affairs. Seventy-four percent said it would under Barack Obama so far, though, no polls on whether bowing was the right thing to do.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DOUGHERTY: So we've been talking to the State Department about this and they do say -- on their Web site it says that staff from the Office of the Chief of Protocol do accompany the president when he goes on official trips internationally. But they're not saying whether -- how or whether anyone advised the president on this bow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Well, I'm sure the answers will come up eventually.

Thanks very much.

I'm sure the president will be asked at one point, as well.

The Constitution lays it out fairly clearly -- the president makes nominations to such positions as ambassadors, ministers and judges, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. There's certainly a lot of advice going around. But the Senate seems to have forgotten part of what consent means.

Let's go to our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

She's here with the story -- it's taking a lot of time, Dana, for many of these nominations to go forward.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, especially when it comes to the judiciary. The Senate will actually vote tomorrow to try to break a GOP filibuster on one of President Obama's judicial nominees.

Even with a huge majority in the Senate, Wolf -- Wolf, the Harvard educated lawyer is having a tough time putting his imprint on the federal bench.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE WEB CAST)

DAVID HAMILTON, JUDICIAL NOMINEE: I can think of...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH (voice-over): President Obama's very first judicial nominee, David Hamilton, sent to the Senate for confirmation eight months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE WEB CAST)

HAMILTON: In my work as a District judge...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: He has bipartisan backing from his home state senators in Indiana. The Democrat and Republican enthusiastically support him as a mainstream judge. But most Republicans have been blocking Hamilton's approval to the federal Court of Appeals in Chicago.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I think this judge is clearly a liberal activist. But we do have the responsibility to analyze and scrutinize the nominations.

BASH: That delay is one reason President Obama is poised to finish his first term in office with fewer judges confirmed than any president in recent history. The Supreme Court aside, so far only six Obama judicial nominees have been approved for the federal bench, compared to 28 judges confirmed in George W. Bush's first year in office, 27 for Bill Clinton and 42 during Ronald Reagan's first year.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: It's outrageous what is happening.

BASH: Senate Democrats accuse Republicans of obstructionism. GOP strategists call it a useful tactic for the Republican minority.

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The Senate Democrats did it, too, when they were in the minority. It's just a tool the minority uses to try to get more of what they want, because they don't control the agenda. And for them, it's very hard to be heard.

BASH: But it's not just the Republicans' fault that there are 99 vacancies on the federal bench. Part of the blame lies with President Obama, who has sent fewer judicial nominations to the Senate than his resent predecessors.

That has alarmed Obama supporters eager to reverse President Bush's efforts to fill the courts with conservatives. Senate Democrats call it Obama caution.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: The president has been more deliberative in sending forward nominations. That's absolutely correct. But if the Senate would have confirmed those nominees that have been approved by the committees, we'd be well ahead of schedule.

(END VIDEO TAPE) BASH: By this time in President Bush's first term, he had sent nearly 100 judicial nominees -- nominations to the Senate. President Obama has sent just 27. Now, Democrats admit the slow pace has a lot to do with vetting. You remember, Wolf, the president got burned early on, when some of his cabinet picks turned out to have tax issues. Well, the White House is now extremely cautious, both with their nominations for the administration and lifetime appointments for the federal bench -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember and a lot of our viewers remember, as well, Dana.

Thanks very much.

The Obama administration is now considering moving some of those Guantanamo Bay terror suspects to a virtually empty prison in Illinois. We're considering the implications. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Obama administration is considering moving some of those terror detainees from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Illinois -- a prison there, maximum security prison that's largely empty.

Good or bad idea?

Let's bring back Gloria, Donna, David and Candy -- David, I'll start with you, good idea or bad idea?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER, NEWMAJORITY.COM: A dreadful idea. The reason Guantanamo Bay was created was to draw a line to say that these detainees on foreign battlefields are not going to be introduced into American -- into the American court system. They are not going to be able to file habeas petitions. They're not going to be able to endlessly re-litigate not just their detention, but the conditions of their treatment.

Once you bring them onto American soil, that litigation commences and it never stops.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin says the Supreme Court has decided there basically is no difference between whether they're on American soil or at a military U.S. base in Guantanamo as opposed to being in Illinois, they have the same habeas corpus rights and everything else.

FRUM: They took -- they took jurisdiction of them in -- in Guantanamo Bay. This is making that problem much worse. Instead of solving that problem, instead of solving the loss of those lawsuits, which could have been solved through statutory means, through create -- through creating some kind of repatriation to other prisons, they are now going to be in the situation where these...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look...

FRUM: ...these people are going to end up like civilian criminals in American court. BORGER: Look, this is an administration that has promised to close Guantanamo. Lots of Republicans agree that you ought to close Guantanamo, the most prominent of who was John McCain. And if you're going to do that, you have to find some place for these people.

And there are prisons like the one in Illinois -- there's one in Montana -- that go unused, that are sitting and rotting and towns that could use the business, if you will. And -- and...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And -- and the -- and people there want it, right?

FRUM: Well...

BORGER: So maybe it is a solution. And you can't say that American prisons can't house these people.

FRUM: The solution is to draft a legal code governing the detention of terrorist detainees taken on foreign battlefields. That should have happened in the Bush years. It didn't. It should happen now. But -- but we should not be integrating -- we should not be integrating the war on terror into (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Let me let Donna weigh in.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all...

BLITZER: I'm curious to know how you feel about this.

BRAZILE: Well, personally, President Bush used the federal judicial system to try, indict and convict many of these terrorist suspects. So I don't see any problem with using our federal judicial system to expedite (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: What about sending them to Illinois?

BRAZILE: And if the people of Illinois, the governor and the senator and others and the people in that community would like to house these prisoners, it's their decision.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It also may help solve another problem, and that is that the Bush administration and now the Obama administration, have been trying to get some of these prisoners repatriated. And there was, you know, some arguments as to whether they showed back up on the battlefield.

But these countries went, well, wait a minute, you don't want them on your soil, but you want us to take them?

And this administration knows that they have to at least, you know, take some. And perhaps there are ways, then, to move others back into to their own countries.

BORGER: Farm them out.

BLITZER: Yes, because there was an election a year ago, you remember, David. And he...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ...he advanced, during the campaign, precisely what he wanted to do and he's trying to doing it, albeit he's not going to meet that January 22nd deadline for shutting down Guantanamo Bay.

FRUM: Well, he made -- he made a lot of rash commitments about this. And I think they were very much to appease big parts of his -- his base. He also -- but we are going to discover that a lot of the Bush policies -- many which are, in fact, Clinton policies, like rendition, are inescapable.

That there really are reasons why you want to treat this as a military problem.

And the question you have to ask is what are going to be the rules governing American soldiers on foreign battlefields when they detain people?

Are they expected to meet any of the requirements of police?

And if they're not -- and we hope they're not -- then it is illogical to treat the people they capture as prisoners with the rights of prisoners.

BLITZER: You know, there's -- there are a lot -- a lot of people are scared, maybe rightly or maybe wrongly, Donna, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and these four other terror detainees that are going to be moved to New York City to face trial in a federal courtroom, what if they're acquitted?

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, I have faith in our judicial system. And I -- I believe, at the end of the day, if the evidence is -- is strong enough -- and Eric Holder, who's a former prosecutor, a former judge, he understands the ramifications. And I'm sure that the attorney general would not have transferred this to federal court if he didn't know the evidence was solid.

BLITZER: All right. Well, it's one of those "what if" questions that we like to do here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, let's -- guys, thanks very much.

We have a lot more coming up. He says his thumbs are just too clumsy. We're talking about the president of the United States. He makes an admission about why he doesn't use a popular social networking service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All our differences, both our common humanity...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is, when it comes to Afghanistan, are you tired of waiting for a decision from President Obama?

Becky writes: "No. I'm most certainly not tired of waiting for President Obama to make a decision on Afghanistan. What I am tarried of is hearing all the B.S. about him supposedly dithering. Finally, we have a president who's willing to consider all reasonable options and insists on a plan with an exit strategy. For crying out loud, we've been there for eight years. Can't we wait a few more weeks?"

Jim in Illinois: "I'm not tired of waiting, but I bet the troops are. They deserve an answer more than anyone. Maybe Obama should ask the privates and corporals for their input, since they are the people at risk, not General McChrystal. The general is not walking point on combat patrol."

Chaney in Louisiana: "No, I'm not tired of waiting for Obama's decision on Afghanistan. He needs to think long and hard before we commit more money, which we don't have, and more of our fine men and women of the military, who are battle weary, for an enemy we can't see in a country where we have no friends."

O. writes: "Part of his campaign rhetoric was that Afghanistan is a war of necessity and that he would do everything needed to take down al Qaeda. Of course he sounds weak and indecisive, he is. And our poor soldiers are getting the raw end of this deal."

Lori writes: "Not yet. I still trust Obama's judgment. I believe he's weighing all the options, as well as gathering all pertinent information. The clock is ticking, though, and he needs to get our strategic direction defined."

And Chris says: "When it involves dying, deliberation is good, Jack. A lack of deliberation is what killed thousands of innocent people in Iraq and before that in Vietnam, where I spent 15 months."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can check my blog. You will find it at CNN.com/caffertyfile. It's a dandy address -- Mr. Blitzer.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Dandy, indeed.

All right.

CAFFERTY: Dandy, indeed.

BLITZER: That's the first time you've used that word, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I like dandy.

BLITZER: I like dandy, too.

All right, stand by.

We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Let's go to Jessica Yellin right now.

She's checking out our Political Ticker.

What are you seeing -- Jessica?

YELLIN: Wolf, Arnold Schwarzenegger is telling U.S. troops in Iraq they need to stay pumped up. California The governor revised his trademark line while visiting Camp Victory. He also passed out cigars, along with advice on body building and morale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I just wanted to let you know that how much we in the United States appreciate the work that you're doing. Now, I know that you're thinking many times, why am I here, what am I doing, I may not be making the kind of progress sometimes that you wish that they would make here. But don't ever get discouraged because there's no one that I know that doesn't sometimes ask themselves that question, why am I doing this? Is it worth it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now, the Governator also gave a clue about what he might not be doing, becoming the next commander-in-chief. Schwarzenegger reminded the troops he's not eligible for the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARZENEGGER: I, as an immigrant, that was not born in the United State -- otherwise, maybe I would be running for president or something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: It looks like he's got some fans.

OK. Let's switch gears to another governor whose poll numbers could use some pumping up. A new survey shows 79 percent of New Yorkers have a negative view of their governor, David Paterson. And that's pretty much the same as those polls showed last month. Now, Paterson has been running a multi-million dollar ad campaign to try to improve his image and reintroduce himself to voters. So we guess that's not going so well for him.

And finally, Wolf, a confession from President Obama in China that might disappoint some of his biggest followers online. Yes, I'm talking about all of you Twitter fans. Our Twitter master here at CNN tells me that the president has 2.7 million followers on his Twitter account with the name Barack Obama and another 1.4 million follow his administration account at the White House. But if you thought the president was acting as Tweeter-in-chief, guess again.

Let's roll the big confession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. I've noticed that young people, you know, they're very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: I don't get it. He's supposed to be the Blackberrier- in-chief, but he can't Twitter. I guess he has a ghost Twitterer.

BLITZER: If he -- if I can Tweet, he can certainly...

YELLIN: That's what I was going to ask you.

BLITZER: He is much more, you know, coordinated than I am, right?

YELLIN: You don't have a ghost Tweeter, do you, Wolf?

BLITZER: No. I Tweet. In fact, I'm going to tweet about that excellent piece you just did about Sarah Palin and her sexuality. It was really well done.

YELLIN: Thank you.

Thank you.

BLITZER: I think I'll tweet that right now.

BASH: I'll look for it.

BLITZER: Twitter -- wolfblitzercnn. You can always read my Tweets at Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn -- wolfblitzercnn all one word. I love Tweeting.

Remember, for the latest political news anytime, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com.

This week, everyone seems to have an opinion about Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Sarah Palin is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Goddess. No. Sarah Palin is a good mother. Whoo, she -- she tries hard. Sarah Palin tries hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jeanne Moos finds it all Moost Unusual.

Stand by.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some Hot Shots.

In London, an ice sculptor puts the finishing touches on an ice penguin.

In Afghanistan, a child receives a polio vaccine as part of an immunization campaign.

In China, before the arrival of President Obama, Chinese military honor guards have their uniforms inspected.

And in Germany, check it out. The brother of Pope Benedict sits next to a St. Bernard.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

A book, a magazine cover, high profile interviews -- Sarah Palin is certainly back in the spotlight right now. CNN's Jeanne Moos hits some of the highlights of former vice presidential nominee's Moost Unusual comeback.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOOS (voice-over): Release the balloons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW," COURTESY HARPO PRODUCTIONS)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: She's finally here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Though it feels like she never left. The Palinpalooza is on Web sites and on magazine covers. The "Newsweek" cover photo originally appeared in "Runner's World." TV interviews are being teased with questions that Sarah Palin must smile and wince her way through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "20/20," COURTESY ABC)

BARBARA WALTERS, HOST: Unnamed McCain aides calling you a diva, you know, there's a whack job, a narcissist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: She's even been compared to a balloon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WINFREY: Politics is a current example of the flat, Chinese flashing thing -- you know, the balloon boy.

MOOS: Palin's book is flying -- to the top of Amazon's best- seller list.

Comedy shows are taking aim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE," COURTESY ABC)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST (singing): Sarah take me hunting. You get a bullet and you get a bullet. Everybody gets a bullet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Barbara Walter's interview with Palin has been doled out in juicy morsels all week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "20/20," COURTESY ABC)

WALTERS: Finish the sentence for me. Sarah Palin is...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (on camera): OK, so maybe ABC is going to leave us hanging until they air their interview. But while we're waiting, we figured we'd go out and guarantee our own answers to the question.

(voice-over): Sarah Palin is...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A knucklehead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A strange breed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A good person. I like her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone who should keep her mouth shut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (on camera): Sarah Palin is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Goddess. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A good mother who loves America.

MOOS: Already, an MSNBC anchor has had to apologize to Sarah Palin for using PhotoShop pictures and a top ten list about why America is obsessed with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE," COURTESY ABC)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: She has family drama that makes you feel better about your own.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: Oops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MSNBC/TALKINGPOINTSMEMO.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was completely unacceptable. I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: A passage from her book, "knocking down divorce rumors," was read aloud like a romance novel.

I watched Todd -- tan, shirtless. Dang, I thought, divorce Todd?

Have you seen Todd?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Current TV got flak for showing an animated Sarah Palin Twittering with the screen name "Gun-Ho." Some are gung-ho about Sarah.

(on camera): Sarah Palin is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a strong woman.

MOOS: Sarah Palin is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Full of -- and you finish the rest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Confused. Sarah Palin is more than...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's more than confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than confused.

MOOS (voice-over): This is one book it's hard not to judge by its cover.

(on camera): Are you going to read her book?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to give her one penny. If it's in the library, then I'll read it.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."