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President Obama Meets With Chinese Leader; Interview With Illinois Senator Richard Durbin

Aired November 17, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And she's a soldier and a mother, and she failed to show up to fight a war. We're taking a closer look at the charges she could face and the problems of single parents in uniform. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a mind-boggling number. This is how much the United States of America is now in debt. It's now climbed to above $12 -- trillion -- trillion. And you can bet Republicans are blaming Democrats for pushing that figure into the stratosphere.

Check out this statement from Republican Senator Judd Gregg, the man who came close to becoming President Obama's treasury -- commerce secretary at one point -- quoting now -- "It took the United States 230 years to amass $10 trillion in debt, reached September 30, 2008. But under the Democratic majority," he says, "it's taken only 14 months to add another $2 trillion."

These are shocking numbers, indeed, America's debt on the rise while President Obama visits the country that has more invested in the United States right now than any other. That would be China -- Mr. Obama holding his first full-blown summit with the Chinese president, Hu Jintao.

He essentially said, thank, thanks very much for the communist country's financial support. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So far, China's partnership has proved critical in our effort to pull ourselves out of the worst recession in generations.


BLITZER: The president also raised one of the biggest thorns in the U.S. government's relationship with China. That would be human rights.


OBAMA: We do not believe these principles are unique to America, but rather they are universal rights and that they should be available to all peoples, to all ethnic and religious minorities.


BLITZER: Mr. Obama is also reaching out to China on a common concern, North Korea's nuclear program.


OBAMA: North Korea has a choice: It can continue down the path of confrontation and provocation that has led to less security, less prosperity, and more isolation from the global community, or it can choose to become a full member of the international community, which will give a better life to its people by living up to international obligations and foregoing nuclear weapons.


BLITZER: Let's go straight to Beijing right now.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is traveling with the president. He's there.

Ed, let talk about Iran and North Korea, huge issues right now. Did the president get from China what he so desperately wanted?


What's interesting is that President Hu basically said that he wants more negotiations with Iran to try to stop their nuclear program. That's not really what the president here traveling in Beijing wants. President Obama wanted to see Iran come aboard with new sanctions before the U.N., tough new sanctions. It was far short of that from President Hu.

I think maybe President Obama got some better news on North Korea, as you said, because you have President Hu suggesting he's ready to restart those all-important six-party talks. They have been dormant for a long time. U.S. officials are happy that maybe China is finally ready to help there. That's very critical as the president is about to go to South Korea for the final stop on this journey. They want to have some momentum for those six-party talks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He did raise the sensitive issue, especially for the Chinese, sensitive issue of human rights while in Beijing. Over these past many months, sort of been a little reluctant to do so, given the dependency of the U.S. on China right now for so much economic goodwill, shall we say. Why the shift in gears?

HENRY: You're right. And a behind-the-scenes story, they were taking a lot of flak at the White House from human rights groups because of the fact you will remember a few weeks ago the Dalai Lama was in Washington. President Obama did not meet with him. A lot of human rights groups frustrated with that.

Basically top U.S. officials said they made the calculation they didn't want to embarrass China on the eve of that visit. At least they say so privately. They wanted to come here and delay that visit and deal directly with President Hu. Rather than doing anything maybe that would be seen as behind his back, very publicly, directly here say, look, we want you to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, and get a conversation, a dialogue going.

Human rights groups are happy with that for now, but that's just talk. They are going to watching President Obama very closely in the weeks ahead to see if he follows up, meets with the Dalai Lama, and what he actually says at that meeting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Next stop, South Korea. It's going to be a very important visit as well. A lot happens on these summits behind closed doors, in secret. We don't know about it sometimes for weeks, months, even years. But based on what we know right now, what looks like the major accomplishment so far?

HENRY: Well, it's hard, frankly, to point to something, what the president can bring home as what they call a deliverable. He thinks it's sort of a goodwill mission. He's opening doors. But to bring something concrete back, items hard to find something.

Behind the scenes, U.S. officials are saying they believe they are actually getting somewhere on climate change. They believe that there's going to be some momentum in Copenhagen next month because of the conversations President Obama has been having with President Hu.

These are the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. They think they're going to actually get something done in Copenhagen. I can tell you, a lot of environmental groups back in the U.S. very skeptical because here on this trip, what the leaders were basically saying is they no longer expect to get a treaty in Copenhagen. They expect to at least make a small bit of progress for more negotiations down the road.

That's not what environmentalists want. They want to finally see some action -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry traveling with the president in Beijing -- Ed, thanks very much.

This important programming note to our viewers: Ed is getting ready. It's already Wednesday morning in Beijing. In a few hours, he's going to be sitting down with the president of the United States to talk about his Asia trip. That one-on-one interview will air tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING" starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern, only, only here on CNN.

Now to one mother in uniform vs. the United States military. She's in hot water for failing to deploy to Afghanistan because she says she had no one to take care of her baby.

Brian Todd is looking at this story for us. This is an emotional one, Brian, with no simple answers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This young mother says everything she tried on do to take care of her young son and to arrange for his care had fallen through, and she had no one to turn to. Army officials say she committed misconduct, and they're investigating.



TODD: Kamani Hutchinson, less than a year old and caught up in a high-profile dispute between his mom and the U.S. Army. Kamani's mom, Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, is restricted to her post at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

A single mother, she is under investigation by the Army after missing her deployment to Afghanistan earlier this month. An official at Fort Stewart tells CNN, Specialist Hutchinson showed up practically on the eve of her deployment and said her family care plan had fallen through, that she couldn't find anyone to care for Kamani.

The official wouldn't discuss possible charges she could face, but her civilian lawyer did with CNN affiliate KGO.

RAI SUE SUSSMAN, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIALIST ALEXIS HUTCHINSON: AWOL, missing movement, desertion, failure to have a family care plan, and disobeying an officer.

TODD: The attorney told CNN, the Army threatened to court- martial Hutchinson if she didn't deploy after reneging on a promise to give her more time to find care for her son. A spokesman at Fort Stewart emphatically denies both claims.

KEVIN LARSON, SPOKESMAN FOR FORT STEWART: The Army did give her a 30-day extension and like all soldiers was given plenty of time to work out another care plan.

HENRY: Kevin Larson says Hutchinson's Army unit has known for months that it would deploy to Afghanistan, that she was given an extension back about August and September, and that it wasn't until the last moment that she told them she had no one to care for her son.

Hutchinson had tried to place him with her mother, Angelique Hughes. Hughes initially tried, but she said she couldn't handle it because she had other relatives in her care, plus a home day care operation.

Still, with his mother under restriction, Kamani is now back with his grandmother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm spreading myself thin. And then I deal with kids all day long, so I have not a break in between anywhere.

TODD: I asked former Air Force JAG officer Michelle McClure (ph) about this case.

(on camera): Does Specialist Hutchinson have a legal or regulatory leg to stand on in this case? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most likely not. I mean, when soldiers are ordered to deploy, and single soldiers included, they have to have a family care plan in place if they are single or military married to military, and they need to implement that.


TODD: And it says so right here in black and white. This is military form DA-5305, the family care plan, each soldier has to agree to when they sign up. It says if they don't essentially have a plan to take care of their kids when they're deployed, they could face disciplinary action.

Then in a checkoff space for soldiers it says -- quote -- "If arrangements for the care of my family members fail to work, I am not automatically excused from prescribed duties, unit deployment or reassignment."

Wolf, it says so here. At some point, this specialist had to have seen some of these forms.

BLITZER: What legal strategy could her lawyer or lawyers use?

TODD: I spoke to her attorney about that. She says that she is going to try to get her discharged administratively under a statute called Chapter 58, and that says you cannot perform your military duties if parenting responsibilities essentially get in the way.

The former JAG officer we spoke to, Michelle McClure (ph), says that's probably how this is going to be resolved, some kind of administrative discharge.

BLITZER: Well, you will stay on top of it, update us when you know.

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd. Good story.

Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: When you're sitting around your Thanksgiving table next week, here's something to think about.

Nearly 50 million Americans, one in six, struggled to get enough to eat last year, and that includes almost one in four children. The Agriculture Department's out with a stunning report showing the highest number of hungry Americans since the government began tracking this in 1995.

It shows food shortages are especially bad among women who are raising children alone, with more than one this three single mothers saying they struggled for food, and African-Americans and Latinos more than twice as likely as whites to say that food was scarce in their home. Experts say these numbers are even worse than what they expected. The president of a group called Feeding America says -- quote -- "This is unthinkable. It's like we're living in a Third World country" -- unquote.

President Obama called the report unsettling and says more needs to be done. He points to steps that his administration has taken, like additional spending on food stamps, food banks, school lunch programs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was on THE SITUATION ROOM about a half-hour ago, says this is a wakeup call to get very serious about food security, hunger and nutrition. Vilsack says the main cause is the rise in unemployment, which is now above 10 percent, and acknowledges the number of Americans going hungry could be even worse this year.

So, here's the question. With Thanksgiving coming up next week, what does it say when one in six Americans goes hungry? Go to to post a comment on my blog.

Pretty sad, Wolf.

BLITZER: As my father used to say, how could this be in the United States of America, the richest country in the world. How does this happen?

CAFFERTY: Yes, I don't know the answer to that. But it's a disgrace.

BLITZER: Totally.

All right, Jack, thank you.

Everyone wants to know why 13 people were killed in cold blood at Fort Hood in Texas, but is there a danger in too many investigations happening at the same time? We're taking a closer look.

And even though many people are against living near alleged terrorists, one U.S. senator says, bring them on. Dick Durbin of Illinois, he is here THE SITUATION ROOM to explain why he would welcome terror detainees moving from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to his state.


BLITZER: Ever since the news hit that federal officials were considering housing detainees from Guantanamo Bay in the almost empty Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois, the reaction has been intense and a lot of it has been negative.

But, Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, thinks it's a very good idea. He's here, the majority whip, to answer some of our questions.

And Gloria Borger and Candy Crowley are here to pick up some of the question as well.

But I will start. Why do you think this is a good idea?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: There are 340 convicted terrorists currently being held in prison across America, 35 in the state of Illinois, including al Qaeda-connected terrorists. They're being held securely and safely.

They're not escaping. No one escapes from a supermax prison. We can detain these prisoners at Thomson, Illinois. We can create jobs we desperately need in my state, and we can expand this prison for others from the Bureau of Prisons.

BLITZER: Listen to this Republican congressman from Illinois, Don Manzullo. Listen to this.


REP. DON MANZULLO (R), ILLINOIS: Gitmo is not being closed. It's being moved. to northwest Illinois. And the terrorism threats to Gitmo and the people who have become terrorists because of Gitmo, that hatred and animosity will also transfer to northwest Illinois, thereby making this area of the country and the entire country a magnet for terrorists.


BLITZER: All right, what do you say to the congressman?

DURBIN: I like Don, but I disagree with him.

Let's be honest. We convicted an al Qaeda terrorist who was in Peoria, Illinois, and discovered after 9/11. He went through time in the Navy brig, convicted, now incarcerated at the Marion Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, without a ripple in the community.

I'm afraid the critics are overstating the obvious. We know now, working with the Department of Homeland Security, there is no threat to the people living in this area. In fact, it will be the safest, most secure federal prison in America.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I change the subject just for a minute to health care, which is, of course, the big issue facing you in the Senate?

And the Obama administration and presumably Senate Democrats have been promising transparency. Yet, this health care bill seems to be being written behind closed doors, as we speak, in the Senate, very shortly before it's going to go to the floor. How do you explain that?

DURBIN: It's not being written behind closed doors as much as being read behind closed doors by the Congressional Budget Office that has to go through it line by line to make sure we meet President Obama's requirement not to add to the federal deficit. It has literally taken them four weeks. We are hoping, any minute, any hour, any day to receive their final report. The bill before it is voted on the floor in any form is going to be on the Internet for the world to read in detail. So, there will be nothing that is opaque about this.

BORGER: Well, are they reporting to you, as leaders in the Senate, saying, well, it's over in this area, and then you cut? Is that what's going on?

DURBIN: Yes. Yes. Right now, there is a final negotiation to hit the numbers. We can't add to the deficit. The president has said that. That's our standard that we're living by. But this is technical. It's complex. But it's going to be done.

BORGER: But it's not open. But it's not open.

DURBIN: Well, it's going to be as open as it could possibly...


BLITZER: It was all supposed to be on C-SPAN, wasn't it?

DURBIN: Well, it's ultimately all going to be on the Internet for people to read. My guess is, they are going to be able to spend all Thanksgiving Day ignoring television and turkeys and reading this bill, which is not a turkey.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's talk about how you are going to pay for it, because that's part of this equation how. We have heard, of course, about the Cadillac plans. This was in one of the bills. We have also heard now that Senator Reid is looking at the idea of anyone making over $250,000 in their payroll taxes on Medicare.

How else are you going to pay for had bill, or are those two sufficient?

DURBIN: I hope you will forgive me, but I'm not going on discuss the details until it's reported to the Senate. I think we owe it to our members, the caucus, and the American public to have our package presented to the floor.

I sincerely hope the Republicans will have their health care reform bill on the Internet, transparent, for the world to see during the same period of time before we return after Thanksgiving.

CROWLEY: But would those two be sufficient for what you're trying to pay for?

DURBIN: It depends on what you're trying to achieve and how much it is going to cost. And the CBO, Congressional Budget Office, is giving us those numbers right now.

BLITZER: Mary Landrieu, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln, the Democratic Senate from Arkansas, Ben Nelson, the Democratic senator from Nebraska, Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat, as he likes to call himself, they all have serious problems.

Do you have 60 votes that can break a Republican-led filibuster?

DURBIN: What we're trying to do is bring the bill to the floor, and then start trying to put together...


BLITZER: But you can't bring it to the floor unless you have 60 votes.

DURBIN: Well, there's a procedural vote that just says, OK, we will start the debate. And that I think we have 60 votes to reach. I hope we do.

BLITZER: Are you sure?


DURBIN: Well, there are certain things that happen among the Senate Democratic Caucus member, some personal and family things, which may interrupt someone's attendance on a given day. That's a fact.

But I believe, if we have full attendance, that we will have the 60 votes to begin the debate. In terms of moving the bill forward, that's when the delicate negotiations begin. And wouldn't it be great to have a senator from the other side of the aisle to join us in that effort?

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there. And we will see what happens.

But when is this debate going to begin? Do you know?

DURBIN: It could start this week at least to proceed to the bill, then perhaps have the bill posted for the world to see over the Thanksgiving recess.

BORGER: And health care this year?

DURBIN: It has to be done in the Senate this year.

BLITZER: In the Senate. Then they will go to conference. And then there will be -- we will see.

So, a signing ceremony, will that happen, assuming it passes, before the president's State of the Union address?

DURBIN: I want it to, but I wouldn't predict that. Being the whip and counting the votes, in the Senate, you never know from day to day or week to week exactly when things are going to finish.

And on the other side of the aisle, the Republicans will continue to do everything they can to delay and stop us.

BLITZER: We will see what happens.

Thanks very much for coming in, Dick Durbin...

DURBIN: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: ... the number-two Democrat in the U.S. Senate.

Key Republicans call for a congressional investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas.

And banks which received huge taxpayer bailouts aren't exactly rushing to go bail out taxpayers who need help right now.



BLITZER: The Catholic Church is giving the nation's capital an ultimatum, in effect, over same-sex marriage. That could hurt tens of thousands of people in Washington, D.C., in need of charity.

And why are bankers that got huge bailout money apparently lending less? Our Jessica Yellin is asking some tough questions.


BLITZER: Right now here in Washington, there's a very tense political standoff, on one side, the charity for the Catholic Church, on the other, gay rights supporters and the D.C. City Council. If the council passes legislation that the Catholic Church is against, it could have a very dramatic impact on thousands of very needy people.

Let's bring in CNN's Brooke Baldwin. She's working this story for us.

Lots at stake here, Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lots at stake. And each side has a story here.

Let's get first to what the D.C. City Council is saying. Basically, they're confident. They say, yes, the same-sex marriage bill will pass next month. In fact, the government says, basic human rights, fairness and equality all at stake here. On the other hand, you have the Catholic Church, and they are defending its morals, its basic teaching. And it appears neither side is backing down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we met a little bit more than three years ago at a friend's birthday party.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Michael and Steve want to get married, and if same-sex marriage legislation passes next month in Washington, D.C., they can. And one day they would like to adopt. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, some day, we might want to start a family, and we want to be able to be married to have all of the rights and protections available to every couple, especially if we are to parent children, because they need those protections as well.

BALDWIN: But adoption in D.C. may become more difficult, because some of the social services in the district might be cut if this bill passes. That's because the Catholic Church, which provides services to 68,000 people in D.C., disagrees with the bill.

ED ORZECHOWSKI, CEO, CATHOLIC CHARITIES: All we're asking for is to allow us to stay faithful to our teaching.

BALDWIN: Ed Orzechowski knows as CEO of Catholic Charities, the social services arm of the church, under the current Bill, his group would be unable to refuse adoption services to same-sex couples, and provide benefits to same-sex spouses of their employees.

But the church won't do that. It says it violates their basic teachings. So Catholic Charities says it would sever its contract with the city, operate on its own, and lose the $25 million it gets from the district every year.

The Bill does have an exemption that allows churches and priests to opt out of performing same-sex marriages, but the Catholic Church wants more.

ORZECHOWSKI: Fundamentally, we would like to see the religious exemption broadened, which would allow Catholic Charities to continue the partnership that we've had with the district government for decades in providing the quality, effective, social services that we do, day in and day out.

BALDWIN: This has happened before. In 2006, Boston's Catholic charities did delist itself as an adopting agency because they couldn't get an exemption to state anti-discrimination laws. But under D.C.'s current legislative language, city councilwoman Mary Cheh says Catholic Charities would have to help everybody.

MARY CHEH, D.C. CITY COUNCIL: It would appear as though under current law, that we would pass, and if those services involve adoptions, then it -- it would be discriminatory for them to pick and choose couples whom they would serve.

BALDWIN: Including this couple and this practicing Catholic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My hope is just that the church will continue to support and find ways to support families like ours.


BALDWIN: So right now the church and D.C. government, they are still involved in talks, months before next month's vote. Hoping for some kind of compromise. But it's important it point out if they don't reach one, the city says it will have to find another group to replace Catholic Charities. You know, some say, Wolf, no problem, there are plenty of groups who can step in. Some say, "You know what? You really can't compete with Catholic Charities providing, you know, services to a third of Washington's homeless population, doing a lot." So we'll have to see what happens.

BLITZER: Especially in these times of economic distress.

BALDWIN: Exactly.

BLITZER: Coming up with the money won't be easy. Brooke, thanks very much. She's going to be with us all week here in Washington.

From matters of church and state to matters of dollars and cents, what would you think if you found out that banks that got huge bailouts from the American taxpayers are not bailing out some businesses in need as much as they used to?

Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's working the story for us -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you've got to ask why does this keep happening? The bank, they get the taxpayer money, but they don't seem to be too intent on helping the taxpayers, do they?

The latest example, small business loans. CNN Money has crunched the numbers and found that a new report shows the top 22 recipients of bailout money have slashed the amounts that amount that they're loaning to small businesses in the last six months alone.

And here's how that affects all of us. Take a look. Mom and Pop America, now, remember, they gave banks billions in bailout money, and they continue to help banks by keeping cash flowing, giving them cheap money through the Federal Reserve.

Now, in return, the banks, because they got all this cheap dough pumped in into them, they were supposed to keep loaning money to small businesses, and in return, these small businesses could buy equipment and keep paying salaries for employees here like Mom and Pop America.

Well, the new report shows that the bailout banks have actually reduced the amount that they're loaning small businesses by $10.5 billion in the last six months. And without that money, some of these small businesses are forced to lay off regular folks like one of these guys here, and that only fuels the nation's 10.2 percent unemployment rate.

Now, this is an outcome that the administration was hoping to avoid. Let's remember what President Obama and Secretary Geithner said during the teeth (ph) of the financial crisis in March.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've already done a lot, but we've got to do more. And none of these steps will be effective unless we unlock the credit markets that are denying small businesses the loans they need to grow. TIM GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: Banks need to make the extra effort to make sure that good loans are getting to credit-worthy small businesses in order to serve the larger public good of moving this nation to recovery.


YELLIN: Now, the administration, Wolf, says things could have been worse without the bailouts, without the steps they've taken, but they clearly aren't fully there yet.

BLITZER: So Jessica, here's the question: what's the administration trying to do to fix all of this?

YELLIN: Well, tomorrow they're holding a powwow at the Treasury Department with Secretary Geithner and the head of the Small Business Administration.

Their idea is to use the remaining bailout money -- remember, some of that money is still left, in part for small business loans. And then the Small Business Administration has also used about $375 million in stimulus funds to help back up small business loans and keep that engine going.

But the bottom line, you know, is that government can't do it all. The banks, they have to step up, and many of them are saying that these loans are too risky right now. Stingy of the banks or wise? It really depends on which side of that bank debt you sit -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, thank you.

Lawmakers are desperate, meanwhile, to try to create more jobs. The No. 2 Democrat in the House says his party is now moving ahead with legislation intended to produce them. It's a new jobs Bill. It's unclear what will exactly be in this new Bill.

But the majority leader, Steny Hoyer, predicts it will pass before Congress breaks this year. Hoyer insists it will not be a second economic stimulus package.

We have an update to a story that senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash did for us yesterday. Ten Republicans and all the Democratic senators voted to limit debate on the judicial nomination of David Hamilton to the appeals court. This blocked any attempt by the Republican leadership to filibuster or stall the nomination.

As Dana reported, Hamilton is the very first judge President Obama nominated, and his confirmation has now been held up for eight months.

While the U.S. military investigates the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas, some questions are raised about the alleged killer. A key Republican lawmaker wants Congress to get directly involved. Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the leader of the Republican minority on the House Intelligence Committee has been very publicly frustrated since the Fort Hood shootings. Congressman Pete Hoekstra has pushed for more information on what went wrong. He has shared some of the information he's getting on the investigation with us.

But essentially, he's tired of waiting. In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hoekstra and other Republicans say Congress needs to hold its own probe into the apparent lack of intelligence sharing on the man charged with the killings, Nidal Hasan.

In the letter, quote, "The circumstances surrounding the shootings at Fort Hood require immediate and thorough investigation."

In a news conference, Mr. Hoekstra was very blunt about what happened in the intelligence and law enforcement communities before the shootings.


REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This represents a systemic breakdown. The systemic breakdown in the activities in the intelligence community that reflect an inability for us to get -- to get the information that's necessary into the right places, into the right hands of the people, the right decision makers.


TODD: Other Republicans on the committee claim tools and methods used by the intelligence committee just a few months ago are no longer available to them, and they want to know if that may have contributed to the shootings. They say they could not discuss what those tools were -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd working the story for us. Thank you.

Israeli officials today submitted a plan to build another 900 housing units in a Jewish neighborhood in the disputed area of Jerusalem. A Jerusalem city spokesman says final approval is many months away, but the move has already drawn sharp condemnation from Palestinian officials, and the Obama administration made an exceptionally strong protest.

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, saying, and I'm quoting now, "At a time when we are working to re-launch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally preempt or appear to preempt negotiations."

The Gilo (ph) neighborhood in Jerusalem is already home to some 40,000 Israelis. More controversy as far as the peace process in the Middle East is concerned. Fascinating results from a new poll on voters' attitudes. Democrats and Republicans view elections very differently. You're going to find out which party has a bigger appetite for victory.


BLITZER: Winning may not be necessarily the only thing. We've got some new political polls set to talk about that and more.

Let's bring in Gloria Borger. She is our senior political analyst. David Frum, former Bush speechwriter and now with Our CNN political contributor Donna Brazile. She's our Democratic strategist. And our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Here's some new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls that apparently show Republicans are more interested, David, think about this, in ideological purity than in beating Democrats.

We asked this question. Do you want -- this is only for Republicans. Do you want Republican Party to nominate candidates who can beat Democrats but don't agree with you on issues? Forty-three percent. Agree with you on issues but can't beat Democrats? Fifty- one percent.

And we asked Democrats only do you want Democratic -- the Democratic Party to nominate candidates who can beat Republicans but don't agree with you on the issues? Fifty-eight percent say we want to win. Or agree with you on issues but can't beat Republicans, 38 percent.

Why are Republicans, at least according to this poll, more anxious to maintain their ideological purity, if you will, than beating Democrats?

DAVID FRUM, NEWMAJORITY.COM: First of all, Republicans have a very hard time accepting that a candidate who agrees with them won't win, won't beat Democrats.

But because the Republicans have been the majority party, the bigger party for so long that this is an uncomfortable new situation.

I think a lot of it depends on how obnoxious President Obama can render himself over the next six to eight months. That number will change as Republicans get sicker and sicker, up to here with the actions of this administration.

BLITZER: Then they'll become more interested in winning.

FRUM: They will want -- they will want to win.

BLITZER: Even if it means nominating moderates.

FRUM: Even if it means nominating moderates. Even if it means maybe just holding on to your convictions, but presenting them in a more acceptable way.

BLITZER: Let me let -- let me let Donna weigh in. Why are Democrats more pragmatic?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Because we're the party of a big tent. We're more interested some getting results. We're more pragmatic. We would like to choose candidates who we believe can go out there and fight for the middle class, fight for working people.

And, you know, Wolf, I look back over my 30-plus years in American politics. I've supported conservative Democrats, moderate Democrats, liberal Democrats, bland Democrats, foreign Democrats, because we really want people who care about government and care about helping people.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But the party of the big tent, it's also the party that's in the majority at the moment. And they got in the majority by being a little looser on what the ideology is. That's why you have people like Ken Schuler, why you have, you know, some -- basically, Democrats who are Republicans...

BLITZER: But the Democrats, they recruited -- they recruited candidates who support guns, who oppose abortions, who went against the ideological base of the Democrats.

CROWLEY: In the districts where they were running. And that's -- what they wanted was to get enough Democrats in Washington to vote for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker so that they could run the place. And there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm not sure it's, like, so much big tent as practical politics.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it kind of depends on how long you've been out there in the wilderness. And the Democrats have been out there in the wilderness for a really long time and you know what? They like it a lot better when they're in power.

And the Republicans are just kind of getting used to being out of you power, and they're going through this process of who are we, what do we stand for.

And by the way, they never thought that George W. Bush was ideologically pure enough for them, so there's a reaction against that, too.

FRUM: All true, but it raises the question why then is this administration so I'd logically rigid? Why the insistence on the public option. They're not governing the way that their members...

BORGER: See what happens. See what happens.

FRUM: Well, we'll see. They're not right now governing the way their supporters say they want. They say they want a deal, so make a deal, but in fact, the administration will not relinquish its most ideological commitments. BRAZILE: I'd say that this administration has kept 30, 35 percent of George Bush policies when it comes to tax cuts, the war in Iraq. Most -- most liberal Democrats would have hiked to see this president come into office and immediately brought our troops home from Iraq.

So I think this president is trying to get to the middle, but it's very difficult, because the conservatives clearly have no ideas and they just keep saying no.

I want to correct the record. We did have the Congress for several decades until 1994, and that was an exhaustive Democratic Party that was defeated in terms of the legislative -- in the legislative arena, but it's a play that has come back based on the strength of its ideas and its ability to mobilize the middle, the left and, of course, the left in order to get things done.

BORGER: But they didn't have the presidency. And that's the big enchilada. And -- and that's something they don't want to lose. And...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens, guys. Thanks very much. Good discussion indeed.

It's a battle between Republicans and Dick Cheney is picking sides. But what will that endorsement really mean for the candidate in the Texas governor's race some. Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty clear the president served in the Senate.



BLITZER: Check right back with Jack with "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Troubling question this hour, Wolf. With Thanksgiving coming up, what does it say when one in six Americans goes hungry?

George writes from Austerlitz, New York, "Experts say these numbers are even worse than they expected. Really? Experts can't see the economy for the working poor has been growing worse for decades? Experts can't see the middle class has been shrinking for decades? Experts can't see that homelessness, including for children, is at or near epidemic proportions and that the few of us who can still help have less resources to go further? What exactly are they experts in? I'm just asking."

Mark in Anna, Illinois: "Very sad to hear this. We're in bad times now. In this country we have seen charities giving to other countries in need, which is not a bad thing. But what they should really be doing now is taking care of Americans first. When all of our people have been taken care of, then we can try and take care of others."

Ralph in Chicago: "We have Food Stamps that should be used for food not sold for drugs or alcohol. We have children having children. We have fathers who have no idea what it takes to raise a child because they're in jail. The government can only do so much."

Terry in Illinois says, "America has lost its guiding light. America is spending trillions in Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to protect oil for the oil companies, and to rebuild those countries. Yet Congress here in America continues to argue about extending unemployment and other programs to help Americans who are out of work and the poor who are without food, shelter, et cetera. Greedy American capitalism has ignored the less fortunate."

Lou offers this, and it's a dandy. It says, "We all need to step up to the plate here and not wait for the government to solve the problem. If you live in a big city, donate to the food pantries. If you live in a small town, you know who needs help. Help them out. In this situation, ordinary people can do more to solve the problem than any administration can."

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

I'll see you tomorrow, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'll see you next -- excellent advice from that last person.

CAFFERTY: Yes, that's good, right?

BLITZER: Especially this time of the year: Thanksgiving, getting ready for Christmas and new year's. It's very important everyone chip in and help a fellow citizen.

CAFFERTY: There's something we can all do as individuals, absolutely.

BLITZER: I totally agree. See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

Let's check in with Jessica Yellin. She's got our political ticker -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Hi, Wolf.

We're told this event is running late. But Dick Cheney's endorsement probably worth waiting for if you're Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The former vice president is now taking the Republican senator's side in her run for Texas governor, and it is Hutchison's biggest endorsement yesterday in her primary challenge to incumbent Republican Rick Perry.

Now, just a short while ago the Perry camp issued a statement downplaying Cheney's endorsement, calling it an example of the Washington establishment sticking together.

The Perry camp also reminded voters that Governor Perry has a big-name endorsement of his own: from Sarah Palin. The fight is on.

Senator Robert Byrd may want to pop a champagne cork at midnight tonight. That's when the 91-year-old West Virginia Democrat becomes the longest serving member of Congress in its history. Now, he's already been a U.S. senator longer than anyone else.

But now he's about to break the record for time served in both the House and the Senate. Get this: a whopping total of 56 years and 320 days. That's a long haul.

Now here's a little trivia for you. The record was previously held by Congressman-turned-Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona.

And you may remember yesterday, I showed you this "Newsweek" cover of Sarah Palin. We were making a point about how her sexuality has both helped and hurt her politically.

Well, Palin, she's now slamming "Newsweek" magazine for using this picture, which she originally posed for when she was posing for a running magazine. And she says she doesn't think it is sexy. She thinks "Newsweek's" use of the photo is sexist and in her words, "Oh, so expected."

Turning the page from sexy. Apparently, President Obama doesn't think there's anything wrong with showing a little bit of his casual chic side every now and again, or at least a little G.Q. glamour.

G.Q. magazine has unveiled its annual "Men of the Year" edition, and the president has made the list for the second straight year. Check him out, looking dapper on the cover as G.Q.'s leader of the year. I don't think I've ever seen him in a checked shirt quite like that.

But Wolf, when are you getting a man of the year award?

BLITZER: I'm not. I'm not. I'm looking at the list. Tom Brady, I see Kobe Bryant, Tom Ford, Alec Baldwin.

YELLIN: You're a chic dresser, though.

BLITZER: Not -- not that good.

YELLIN: I know. Credit to your wife. We all know.

BLITZER: I know. "G.Q.," that's -- that's a nice magazine. And "Runner's World" was a good magazine. "Newsweek," that was a nice picture, as well.

YELLIN: Controversial.

BLITZER: Thanks.

Got a lot of -- I tweeted about it. Got a lot of reaction on twitter. WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.

A revealing look at Sarah Palin and the father of her grandson, Levi Johnston. Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look when we come back.


BLITZER: Sarah Palin is all over the airways this week, promoting new her book "Going Rogue," and the young man who almost became her son-in-law is also getting a lot of coverage, possibly too much, for some "Playgirl" enthusiasts.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has this most unusual report.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's gone from a page in history to the pages of "Playgirl."

(on camera) There's actually going to be a pull-out centerfold of Levi.



MOOS (voice-over): "Entertainment Tonight" paid for exclusive rights to shoot Levi Johnston's "Playgirl" photo shoot.

JOHNSTON: I'm taking it off.

MOOS: But not all of it.

(on camera) Full frontal, half frontal, quarter frontal, what frontal?

NARDICO: We have sort of well placed objects in front of the frontal.

There's like hockey sticks, shirts.

MOOS (voice-over): The first photo released on "Playgirl's" Web site was a demure one from the obligatory shower scene. Levi's almost mother-in-law told Oprah she has a name for this.

PALIN: I call it porn, yes.

MOOS: But blogs complained it was a tease. The Web site Gawker reacted with mock dismay.

"Playgirl" says at the last minute Levi insisted on a clause in the contract excluding full frontal nudity. How big has this story become?

NARDICO: I've got "The New York Times" called me, saying how big is he?

MOOS (on camera): "Playgirl" figures its audience is about 60 percent gay. The print edition was actually discontinue about a year ago, and they're bringing it back, with Levi Johnston starring in the first issue in January.

PALIN: I hear he goes by the name Ricky Hollywood now.

NARDICO: I took him out a couple times. He didn't drink. You know, he really had his head on straight. He really sees this as business. It's about his son.

MOOS (voice-over): Meanwhile, critics of Sarah Palin went about the business of dissecting her latest interviews, looking for inconsistencies.

For instance, when Oprah asked who she consulted when John McCain asked her to be his VP.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Was there a family vote or discussion?

PALIN: This time there wasn't a family vote.

MOOS: That's not what she told Sean Hannity back then.

PALIN: It was a time of asking the girls to vote on it anyway, and they voted unanimously yes.

MOOS: Sounds like a full-frontal contradiction.

PALIN: This time there wasn't a family vote.

It was a time of asking the girls to vote.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for us. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."