Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Taking Heat for a Terror Trial; Afghanistan's Cancer of Corruption; $98 Billion in Government Waste

Aired November 18, 2009 - 17:00   ET

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


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in the beginning. Yes, he has also probably done some good in changing our image globally. If given the option, though, to vote to reelect or keep him in office today, I would decline."

Frank says: "Of course I would. Give the guy a break. He's only been there nine months. No president has the omnipotent power to do everything he wants. I say throw out most of Congress. Those are just a few of them that represent the people."

Jerry in Maryland says: "I didn't vote for him, but I have to say one year is not enough to make a judgment about his presidency."

Bob in Arizona: "I didn't vote for him the first time around and haven't seen any great change to sway me to vote for him in the next election."

Carol in Massachusetts: "Hillary is looking better and better. Hillary/Barack 2012."

And G. writes: "Yes. The people still like Obama because they think he truly wants what is best for the country, even if they don't agree on the how. That wasn't the case under Bush-Cheney."

If you did not see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jack.

Thank you.

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

Happening now, the attorney general of the United States gets a grilling -- angry senators and relatives of 9/11 victims question his move to put terror suspects on trial in a civilian court in New York.

Ninety-eight billion dollars down the drain or into the wrong pockets -- a stunning amount of government waste revealed by the Obama administration. We'll hear what they plan to do about it -- $98 billion.

And they share the same father, but do they have anything else in common? President Obama spends some time with -- a brother of his he barely knows, a half-brother -- why he had to go all the way to China to see him.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Emotions ran high on Capitol Hill today as the attorney general, Eric Holder, defended the controversial decision to try the self- proclaimed 9/11 mastermind and other alleged plotters in a civilian court in New York. Critics are blasting that move and wondering what will come next.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is here with more -- Jeanne, some tough questions from members and relatives of those killed in 9/11.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It was a tense and testy few hours on Capitol Hill, with Republican senators challenging the attorney general, not just about these trials, but future cases. Senator Lindsey Graham posed hypothetical questions about the capture of Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: But I'm telling you right now, we're making history and we're making bad history. And let me tell you why. If bin Laden were caught tomorrow, would it be the position of this administration that he would be brought to justice?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: He would certainly be brought to justice. Absolutely.

GRAHAM: Where would you try him?

HOLDER: Well, we'd go through our protocol and we'd make the determination about where he should appropriately be tried.

GRAHAM: Would you try him -- why would you take him some place difference than KSM?

HOLDER: Well, that -- it that -- that might be the case. I don't know.

GRAHAM: If we captured bin Laden tomorrow, would he be entitled to Miranda warnings at the moment of capture?

HOLDER: Again, I'm not -- that all -- it all depends. I mean (INAUDIBLE)...

GRAHAM: Well, it does not depend.

HOLDER: ...captured.

GRAHAM: If you're going to prosecute anybody in civilian court, our law is clear that the moment custodial interrogation occurs, the defendant -- the criminal defendant is entitled to a lawyer and to be informed of their right to remain silent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Lindsey Graham is a -- a military lawyer, so he knows this stuff, obviously, very, very well.

So was that the worst of it, as far as Eric Holder was concerned?

MESERVE: No, it really wasn't, although the Democrats on the committee were supportive of the attorney general's decision, said he had done the right thing. The Republicans were loaded for bear.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: (voice-over): The horror of 9/11 is now history. Eight years have passed. The attorney general says for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged conspirators, justice is overdue and justice will be done in the civilian courts.

HOLDER: Failure is not an option. This -- these are cases that have to be won. I don't expect that we will have a contrary result.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I don't know how you can make a statement that failure to convict is not a -- an option when you've got juries in this country. It seemed to me ludicrous. You know, I'm a farmer and not a lawyer, but I just want to make that observation.

MESERVE: Republicans on the Judiciary Committee asked if an acquittal or mistrial would set terrorists free on the streets of the US. The attorney general insisted no. But the overarching question was about the wisdom of his decision.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: How could you be more likely to get a conviction in federal court when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has already asked to plead guilty before a military commission and be executed?

How can you be more likely to get a conviction in an Article Three court than that?

HOLDER: Well, Senator, you're dealing with...

That was then. I don't know what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wants to do now and I'm not going to base a determination on where these cases ought to be brought on what a terrorist -- what a murder wants to do. He will not select the prosecution venue, I will select it and I have.

MESERVE: Although some 9/11 family members support Holder's decision, the group in the hearing room did not. The mother of Mark Bingham, who died in the crash of Flight 93, told the attorney general personally.

ALICE HOAGLAND, MOTHER OF 9/11 VICTIM: But I -- I think that I can speak for many 9/11 families when I say that we are heartsick and weary of the delays and the machinations. And I am afraid that the theatrics are going to take over at this point. And I very much regret that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: Holder tried to change her mind, but didn't succeed with her anymore than he did with the Republicans on the committee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. This is a really explosive subject and it's not going away any time soon, Jeanne.

Thanks very much.

Only hours from now, the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will attend the second term inauguration of Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai. There's an air of urgency about Secretary Clinton's visit to Kabul, as Karzai is under intense pressure right now to try to clean up the corruption within his government.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, has been looking into all of this for us -- cleaning up corruption in Afghanistan, Jill, no easy task.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It isn't. And, you know, here's the question, Wolf, how corrupt is Hamid Karzai?

Although there are no specific allegations against the Afghan president personally, his government is tainted with corruption from top to bottom. And that is complicating U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): Eight years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, it's now the second most corrupt country in the world, after Somalia -- a cancer that's chipping away at any faith Afghans might have in the government of President Hamid Karzai. "For the last five years, we haven't had security," this student says. "Now, I want him to stand by his word and the oath he's taking. He must fire the corrupt government officials."

From the bribe-taking cop on the beat to top officials, experts say the Afghan government is a web of corruption.

MALOU INNOCENT, CATO INSTITUTE: The corruption that's so endemic and so pervasive within the society has actually pushed many Afghans to sort of side with insurgents, that offer themselves as a righteous alternative to the corruption of the Karzai regime.

DOUGHERTY: President Hamid Karzai himself was involved in an election campaign marred by massive vote fraud. Allegations abound that his half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is linked to Afghanistan's drug trade -- something that brother has repeatedly denied. Now, new allegations in a front page "Washington Post" report that the minister of mines accepted a nearly $30 million bribe. The ministry denies it.

Karzai's government is creating a new major crimes task force with help from the FBI and a national anti-corruption tribunal. But U.S. officials say the real test is whether they will be implemented. In Kabul, Afghanistan for President Karzai's inauguration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, officials tell CNN, is driving home to Karzai that the U.S. wants deeds, not words, when it comes to fighting corruption.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: There is now a clear window of opportunity for President Karzai and his government to make a new compact with the people of Afghanistan, to demonstrate clearly that we're going to have accountability and tangible results.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: But some experts doubt that Hamid Karzai really will crack down on corruption. They say that he owes his political success to warlords and others and cutting them off could be political suicide -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty is at the State Department working the story.

Thank you.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The Obama administration now says that federal advisory board's recommendations on mammograms is not government policy and has caused, "a great deal of confusion."

No kidding.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was out with her broom sweeping up today, saying mammograms remain an important life-saving tool in fighting breast cancer and that women should talk to their doctors and make the decision that's best for them.

But the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said Monday that women in their 40s shouldn't get routine mammograms. They claim this was meant to reduce over treatment and that many women experience false positives, anxiety and unnecessary biopsies. They said mammograms saved one life for every 1,900 women screened.

It turns out this advisory panel is made up of 16 health care experts. None of them are oncologists.

What the hell is going on here?

We have a federal advisory panel making recommendations about breast cancer and there is no one on the panel who is an oncologist.

And think about this, while the Preventive Services Task Force is independent, the Department of Health and Human Services Web site calls this panel's recommendations "the gold standard" and insurance companies look to this panel for guidance on which preventive care practices they should cover.

Is it starting to become clear now what's going on here?

Cancer experts and the American Cancer Society immediately rejected these new guidelines, with some critics asking if insurance companies would now use these new recommendations to justify denying mammogram coverage for women in their 40s?

You bet your fern they will. Republicans are pouncing on this, saying it's a sign of rationing health care. One doctor told "The New York Times," "My patients tell me they can live with a little anxiety and distress, but they can't live with a little cancer."

Here's the question: What do you think is behind the new recommendations for mammograms?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

You know how much -- how clear it is to see through a window when they use those squeegees, how transparent it becomes?

That's -- that's how clear this is becoming.

BLITZER: Yes, but you know what, I was surprised, because in the interview I just did with Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Jack, she did not flatly reject these task -- these recommendations from the task force.

CAFFERTY: Well, of course not.

BLITZER: She said, you know what, check with your doctor. If your doctor says you...

CAFFERTY: Of course not. What this...

BLITZER: ...need it...

CAFFERTY: But what this panel's recommendations do is give the insurance companies an out. This -- you know, that's what this is about.

BLITZER: Correct.

CAFFERTY: Of course you don't reject the use of mammograms as a diagnostic tool. That would just be silly. But it gives the insurance companies an out. They can say oh, the federal advisory panel says you don't need this, so we're not going to pay for it.

BLITZER: Yes. And that's the deep, deep concern out there that a lot of women have.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: As they should, Jack.

CAFFERTY: This stinks. BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty, telling us how he really feels. He does that every day.

Are you angry about the state of the economy?

President Obama says if he were you, he might be mad, as well. We're going to show you more of his interview with CNN's Ed Henry that happened earlier today.

Also, the White House Budget Office has a new estimate of exactly how much of your tax money is being wasted.

So what's the number?

Here's a hint -- it's got a lot of zeros.

And the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence will be here live in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask her if sending more troops to Afghanistan would make America safer. Jane Harman is standing by live.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I've got some live pictures. Take a look at this. All these folks are in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- the first stop of Sarah Palin's book tour. She's getting ready to go over there and start signing some books for all these people. If she starts speaking live -- there's a microphone there available for her to speak live -- we're going to go there and hear what she has to say. Sarah Palin and a lot of friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stand by for that. You'll see it here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The White House Budget Office is issuing a new report detailing government waste and the numbers are startling -- staggering, I should say.

Kate Bolduan is covering this story for us -- how much money, Kate, are we talking about?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're talking about a lot of money, Wolf. New numbers released by the Obama administration -- they show a startling amount of government waste this year. Peter Orszag -- you see him right there. He's the White House budget director. He says in 2009, the federal government handed out $98 billion -- that's a lot of zeroes -- in what they are calling -- they're calling it improper payment to individuals, organizations and contractors. That's 5 percent of federal spending.

Now, improper, they say, means anything from outright fraud to something like human error or misdirected reimbursements. And when you break that number down, that comes to -- lookie here -- $268 million per day.

So where are the biggest problems?

When you look at all of the figures that they're handing out, the biggest problem areas were $12 billion of improper payments went to unemployment insurance. There's also $18 billion went -- of improper payments went to Medicaid, health care for the poor. And then $36 billion in improper payments -- questionable Medicare payments.

The administration says it's not all due to fraud, they point out. They say this misuse of taxpayer dollars, according to Peter Orszag, could result from something as seemingly simple as a doctor's sloppy signature. But Orszag was unable to give any overall estimate of just how of this $98 billion was actually due to fraud.

Now, we spoke to Citizens Against Government Waste. Their name pretty much says it all. And the watchdog group says, unfortunately, this number isn't shocking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Tom, when I say $98 billion in improper payments, in government wasted money, what does that say to you?

TOM SCHATZ, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: It says the government isn't keeping track of where their money is going. That's not a big surprise. They haven't even looked at every agency yet. It could be $150 billion. Even if it's a dollar, it's too much money that isn't coming back and is going out in the wrong way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Kate, so what -- what is the Obama administration going to do about this?

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. Well, Orszag points out and he says that the reason that this number went up in the first place, he says, is partly due to overall spending went up in 2009. We know that. And stricter accounting standards were put in place for federal agencies in reporting.

But Orszag said President Obama will sign an executive order very soon focused on boosting transparency, accountability and creating incentives here for compliance and better reporting for federal agencies down to the recipients, whoever is receiving this money.

But as we spoke to Citizens Against Government Waste, they said that's not an easy -- it's not going to be an easy solution.

BLITZER: Yes. You can imagine what they could do with almost $100 billion a year...

BOLDUAN: $100 billion.

BLITZER: ...if it were properly used.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Kate, thanks very much.

President Obama is now in South Korea. It's the last stop on his trip to Asia. Earlier, in between talks with Chinese leaders, the president spent a little time in Beijing with a brother he barely knows.

He spoke about that with our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I was at your town hall in Shanghai. And you joked about how an Obama family gathering is a little bit like the United Nations, because of all the different backgrounds.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right.

HENRY: And you do have a half-brother who lives here in China.

Have you had a chance to meet with him during this trip.

And what do you make of his book where he said -- says that the father you share abused him?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I don't know him well. I met him for the first time a couple of years ago. He stopped by with his wife for about five minutes during the trip. And I haven't read the book.

But it's no secret that my father was a troubled person. Anybody who has read my first book, "Dreams from My Father," knows that, you know, he had an alcoholism problem, that he didn't treat his families very well. And, you know, so obviously it's a sad part of my history and my background. But it's not something that I -- I spend a lot of time brooding over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president's brother is also speaking to CNN about their relationship.

Our senior international correspondent, John Vause, caught up with him in Beijing -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mark Obama Ndesandjo says he's only met with Barack Obama a few times before. They didn't grow up together. Even so, he still refers to the president as his big brother.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: (voice-over): In between his arrival in Beijing on Monday and his informal dinner with Chinese President Hu Jintao a few hours later, President Obama met briefly in his hotel with his half- brother, Mark Obama Ndesandjo.

MARK OBAMA NDESANDJO, PRESIDENT'S HALF BROTHER: We just had a big hug. And my wife and he had a big, big hug. And it was very, very powerful, you know, very, very intense because he's my big brother.

VAUSE: Mark Obama, who has spent the past seven years living in Southern China, has recently written a semi-autobiographical book.

And in that book, he says he was often physically abused by his father, Barack Obama, Sr.

(on camera): Did the president ask you about the experiences with your father, the same father that you both share?

NDESANDJO: What I can say is that we talked about family.

VAUSE: And your mom was Jewish?

NDESANDJO: Yes.

VAUSE: And you're Jewish?

NDESANDJO: She is -- she is Jewish. And I'm Jewish, yes.

VAUSE: Yes.

(voice-over): Just like Barack Obama, Mark Obama was the child of a mixed marriage. While he never knew his half-brother while growing up, the two have met from time to time as adults.

NDESANDJO: There's always that personal connection. And I don't -- I don't see him -- I honestly don't see him as president of the United States when I'm next to him.

VAUSE: (on camera): Do you have that relationship where you can pick up the phone and say, hey, hey, it's Mark calling.

NDESANDJO: Well, you do that very carefully.

VAUSE: But -- but can you do that?

Can you pick up the phone and call him?

NDESANDJO: You know, I would say -- I'd rather not go into that for -- for various reasons. But the thing is that we know how to get in contact with each other if we have to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: President Obama's trip to China was all about building deeper ties and, also, it seems, spending time, albeit briefly, on family relationships, as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John.

Thank you.

John Vause in Beijing.

California -- the State of California moves to ban television -- or at least many of the most common models of television sets. We're going to tell you why.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This story just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go back to Fredericka Whitfield.

What are you picking up -- Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this stop story that's just breaking out of Minneapolis. We understand about three miles outside of Austin, Minneapolis, a motor coach -- a tour bus -- was traveling Eastbound on Interstate 9D when something happened. It crossed over into the westbound lanes and then found its way into a ditch. You're seeing the images right there -- that bus right on its side.

We understand that about 23 people were injured. These images coming from our affiliate KAAL, as well as the information, of course.

When we get any more information about exactly how this vehicle crossed lanes like that and how it got into this trouble, we'll be able to bring that to you.

Meantime, for the first time in the US, California regulators have ruled that stores will stock only energy-efficient televisions. Estimates are that TVs account for 10 percent of the electricity used in an average home and that this rule could cut as much as a billion dollars from the state's total electric bill.

And new research from Norway shows that taking large doses of folic acid supplements, combined with Vitamin B12 or B6, may increase the risk of cancer. In the US, smaller daily dose of folic acid is recommended to prevent birth defects. It can be found in a diet high in fruits, vegetables and grains.

And a word of warning now -- stores are rapidly running out of Eggo waffles, a staple of the modern breakfast. The Kellogg Company reports that a flood in one facility and repairs in another will result in shortages and rationing until next summer. Twitter actually was jammed with waffle lovers looking for stores still selling the frozen delicacy. One Tweet calls it "a national tragedy."

And, Wolf, I know my son agrees, because just yesterday I was at the grocery store. I couldn't find any and now we know why.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of folks love those Eggos.

WHITFIELD: It's one of his favorites.

BLITZER: No doubt about that.

WHITFIELD: I know it.

BLITZER: All right, Fred.

Thank you.

President Obama talks about why health care reform legislation is taking longer than he'd hoped. We're going to show you more of this interview with our own Ed Henry.

And concern -- with concerns about piracy on the rise, we're going to take an up-close look at some new state-of-the-art counter- piracy equipment.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

By the way, this is the -- the bus -- the "Going Rogue" bus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sarah Palin, the author of "Going Rogue," the former vice presidential nominee, is there. I think she's getting out of the bus. I can't really see. But she's going to go into a bookstore. And thousands of folks have lined up to get an autographed copy of that book. We expect she may go to the microphones and speak, as well. If she's does, we'll have it live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. You're looking at live pictures from Grand Rapids, Michigan right now -- the "Going Rogue" bus tour. Sarah Palin -- that's her first stop selling her book, "Going Rogue." She's going to go into a bookstore there, where thousands of people have been waiting patiently in line. They want an autographed, signed copy. We're going to see if she speaks. There is a microphone set up and if she speaks we'll hear what she has to say on this first stop of her "Going Rogue" tour across the United States.

Meantime, President Obama is saying now that a self-imposed deadline to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp by January 22nd will not be met, but that's not the only missed deadline in Washington. Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry sat down with the president. We're going to get to that interview in a moment, sat down with the president but I want to go back to Grand Rapids right now. There she is getting ready to go sign some books over at the grand rapids and let's listen in and hear what she has to say.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Thank you so much for showing up. My goodness. Oh, thank you. Thank you.

So this is our first stop on the tour and -- and there's just something about Michigan I couldn't wait to get back to Michigan. Alaska and Michigan have so much in common with the hunting and the fishing and the hockey moms and -- and just the hard working patriotic Americans who are here. This is the heart of industry in our country and I would like to see for this heart industry, for all of you to see a revitalization of your economy and to be able to see really some miraculous things happen in this part of our land, and I anticipate that good things are going to happen here, but I thank you so much for showing up for the book and so that you can read my words unfiltered from the media, thank you. Just know how much I appreciate all of you, and I just can't tell you how good it is to be back in Michigan, so thank you and let's get to work. Thanks.

BLITZER: All right. She's enthusiastic. She's excited about being in Michigan right now. This is the first stop of her book tour, Sarah Palin going to go inside a book store and start signing some copies, lots of folks are standing by. They want to see the former Alaska governor, the former Republican vice presidential nominee. We'll stay on top of this story for you.

But right now let's go back to China. The CNN senior White House correspondent Ed Henry, he had a chance to sit down with the president of the United States earlier today, and they had this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Let's talk about health care and the economy. You've set a lot of deadlines for fellow Democrats and they have missed many of them on capitol hill and you hear Democrats sometimes say why isn't the president more like LBJ and grab them by the lapels and get this done, get more specific and enforce these deadlines?

OBAMA: The truth of the matter is that we've been very specific. LBJ didn't have the Congressional Budget Office, just to give you one example, of how complicated the process in Washington has become. You know, essentially Harry Reid was ready with a Senate bill several weeks ago, but it has taken this long for the Congressional Budget Office to present its best estimates of how much this is going to cost and how many savings will be obtained and what kind of savings will be obtained from the legislation, so there are just a lot of procedural hurdles that explain why health care hasn't been dealt with in 40, 50, 70 years, but I remain confident that we are going to get this done and we're going to have a bill that reduces our deficit, bends the cost curve, covers millions of people who don't have health insurance right now and for people who do have health insurance makes their insurance more secure. I'm absolutely confident that we'll get that done.

HENRY: On the economy, we received a lot of questions from CNN I-reporters who went to the website and wanted to ask you a question directly. This is one is from Guy Watson in Albuquerque. He says he's a disappointed Obama voter. Why have you chosen to give our tax money to the banks without holding them responsible or forcing them to lower their rates for start ups and to facilitate refinancing of foreclosed homes?

OBAMA: I hear that a lot. I do. I think it's important to understand, first of all, that the so-called bank bailout started before we came in. I actually think it was the right thing to do in a crisis. We had to make sure that you did not have a complete meltdown which would have been even worse, and -- and I've said in the past I supported President Bush's decision to move forward on that.

Once we got them in a place where they were no longer in crisis the problem is things were put together so quickly last year that there weren't as many strings attached as we would have liked and so what we've tried to do is to create some structures after the fact that would impose more accountability, more discipline. The most obvious example would be the rules on executive pay, but it's always hard to do, particularly when a lot of these banks now got well and then just paid the money back so we now no longer have leverage. This is why it's so important moving forward that-to-make sure that we've got a financial regulatory framework that protects consumers, makes sure that they are not getting gouged, make sure that there's a lot of clarity in terms of mortgages that they are getting.

In the meantime, just on an emergency basis, we're trying to do everything we can to poke, prod, incentivize banks to help responsible homeowners who through no fault of their own are finding it very tough for them to pay for their mortgage, to make sure that businesses are getting loans and we've massively expanded small business lending through the SBA.

Those are all steps that we're taking, but, look, I understand people's frustrations. I mean, the American people have gone through a very tough year, and, you know, and my job as president is to help navigate through this tough year, and, you know, people who don't have a job right now, people who have lost their homes, you know, I'd be mad, too, and they expect me to do something about it, and, you know, my job is to wherein the institutional constraints that I have and the resource constraints that we have, because we also inherited a structural deficit of several trillion dollars, to try to make the best decisions possible to help as many people as possible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: More of this interview with Ed Henry. That's coming up in our next hour. Ed asks the president if he's going to seek re- election in 2012. His answer might surprise you. He also asks them if he is going to read Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue." Stand by for that. The interview continues with the president in the next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

More people have died from H1N1 virus than died on 9/11, but our latest poll shows most Americans don't even want the vaccine. You're going to find out why. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As we reported yesterday, the department of agriculture here in Washington reports that hunger is on the rise dramatically in America right now with 49 million, 49 people in this country, including almost 17 million children not getting enough food last year. The reaction to this report has been stunning. The numbers are certainly shocking, but not necessarily to everyone. We asked CNN's Ted Rowlands to take a closer look. Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The alarming statistics about the lack of food is not a surprise here at this Los Angeles area food bank. In fact, they say they are busier than ever and last month was their busiest in their 30-plus year history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: It's two-year-old Nicole Flores' birthday and her mother Diana says there's not enough money for a cake.

DIANA FLORES, MOTHER: I'm not working and I don't have enough money with me and I wanted to make her something. I wanted to give her a little cake or all that stuff but like there's no money or nothing so I really don't have nothing to offer her, you know, just say happy birthday. That's about it.

ROWLANDS: Diana Flores and her boyfriend Pedro are struggling to take care of Nicole and her 5-month-old brother Anthony. Pedro is a construction worker and hasn't had a construction for three months and Diana worries about feeding her children.

FLORES: Sometimes there's no food. Sometimes we just eat in the morning and we don't have food for the afternoon so that's why we try to take care of the food like that, just like whatever, so we like try to just take care of it and eat what we have to eat so we can have it tomorrow or the next day.

ROWLANDS: For the past three months Diana says they have been coming to this Los Angeles area food bank called M.E.N.D. which stands for meet each need for dignity. Shelter organizers say they have seen a 50% increase in clients over the past year.

FLORES: Gracias.

MARIANNE HAVER HILL, PRES. & CEO, MEND: Often they are working part-time at McDonald's and part-time doing baby-sitting and part-time doing house cleaning or working in a car wash and if it rains they don't work, again, part-time labor, construction, if they are -- you know, if they are working or maybe they are not.

ROWLANDS: It's Jaquetta Cooper's first time at the food bank, an unemployed medical assistant with a 7-year-old doubter.

JAQUETTA COOPER, MOTHER: I put in resumes and I keep calling and I'm like checking my voice mail have they called me or things like that. I'm always checking up on it but right now it's like there's nothing out.

ROWLANDS: She and her husband who is also looking for work are staying with a relative rent-free for now. Are you worried?

COOPER: Yes, I am, very worried, especially for my daughter.

ROWLANDS: Diana says she, too, worries about her daughter and son. Her plan is to get a job and school. She hopes she can throw a birthday party for Nicole when she turns 3.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: Not everybody agrees that the government's numbers paint an accurate picture. They say that people that are worried about food doesn't necessarily mean that people are going hungry. Still nobody is disputing the fact that places like this across the country are busier than ever -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Shocking story, nevertheless, Ted. Thanks very much.

Could it lead to mission accomplished? As the president weighs whether to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, I'll ask Congresswoman Jane Harman what she would expect. She's just back from the region. She's standing by live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: How safe is its nuclear arsenal and will more U.S. troops make a difference in Afghanistan? Lots of questions for Democrat Jane Harman of California. She's just back from the region and chairs a house subcommittee on terrorism risk and assessment. Thanks for coming in.

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: If the president agrees to send another 30,000 or 40,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, will he eventually be able to proclaim mission accomplished?

HARMAN: Well, I hope that the Pakistani people will eventually be able to proclaim mission accomplished, but I don't think inserting 30,000 troops or spending $30 billion to $50 billion U.S. is going to turn the corner on this problem.

BLITZER: You mean Afghani people?

HARMAN: In Afghanistan, yes, excuse me. I think what will turn the corner on this problem is if the Afghani government cleans up its ramp an rampant corruption and the reason I think that is the Afghan people don't like the Taliban and they don't like this Karzai government more and that's why many of them are moving over to the Taliban.

BLITZER: If the president called you into the oval office and said, Jane, you're back from Pakistan and Afghanistan, what should I do, should I send in another 30,000, 40,000 troops, what would you tell him?

HARMAN: I would tell him no. I think you should use your leverage which we have a lot of to get the Karzai government to clean up rampant corruption. There's a lead story in "The Washington Post" today about a $30 million bribe, allegedly that the minister of mines took, there's millions of dollars going out of the country into private accounts in Dubai, there are shakedowns up and down this government and I don't excuse President Karzai either, but what I think we should now do and I hope we will do it, not just let him form his third anti-corruption commission but insist that ministers that can prove to be corrupt in competent Afghan courts be imprisoned.

BLITZER: What kind of deadline would you give him before starting to pull out some of the 68,000 U.S. troops that are there right now?

HARMAN: I would -- would I not insert any more troops or any more U.S. dollars, taxpayer dollars and I would start by saying your inaugural speech is tomorrow. Our secretary of state will be sitting in the audience, and we expect this new plan, not just the words but the actions to start rolling out within 24 hours, and then I would watch and see what happens, but my hope would be that by cleaning up this government a lot of Afghans would move on back to support it and would be the next troops needed to win the fight for their own country. They have to fight for their country. If they are not willing to do it and on present facts they are not willing to do it, there's no way inserting any number of troops will win any kind of victory there.

BLITZER: Would you give them six months, a year, how much time I met with them in Kabul and Kandahar in April with some others on a Congressional delegation and they were predicting that the election would be a sham. And nothing was done. That was then, this is now and we should act immediately on this and use maximum leverage and not play both sides of this and make clear to President Karzai that as far as the U.S. is concerned we're going to make ever move here. What do you say to those who say he's corrupt, the Taliban could come back, let al Qaeda operate and U.S. national security would be further in danger?

HARMAN: I'm not for the Taliban coming back, I sure am not. Nor am I for a total U.S. pullout for the country. What I am for is using our leverage to change, reduce the corruption in this government and I predict that if we do that, the Afghan people will leave the Taliban and come back to support the government and then be what's necessary. This would be like the Sunni awakening in Iraq. They're different countries, but what we need is the people to decide that they would prefer to support their country than the Taliban and that's not happening because of the rampant levels of corruption.

BLITZER: Sarah Palin in an interview said he is a terrorist and she flatly says he should have been profiled while he served in the United States Army. Do you think he's a terrorist?

HARMAN: Well, I think he committed an act of terror, I don't see any proof yet of any al Qaeda affiliation, but I think this is what we might call a lone Wolf terrorist who was basically radicalized by some teachings, by a Yemeni imam. A very lonely disconnected fellow. But my view is that we ought to study what happened, we're learning the facts, this is an active prosecution and I don't want to interfere with it in any way, but I think that the acts committed at Ft. Hood were an act of terror.

BLITZER: Are you concerned about the security of its nuclear arsenal potentially could get into the wrong hands? HARMAN: Well, I have been assured up, down and sideways over many years that the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan which is 60 to 100 nuclear bombs, but I have been particularly concerned about the so- called father of the nuclear bomb in Pakistan, who was in Pakistan and was under house arrest and was by free order in Pakistan the high command. I was one of those who insisted on some of these so-called conditions. $7.5 billion and we will now get periodic assurances that proliferation is being monitored in Pakistan, including people like dr. Kahn. That was something I pursued on my trip to Pakistan just last week.

BLITZER: We're happy you're back safe and sound from Pakistan and Afghanistan elsewhere in the region. Thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

A controversy is growing over new recommendations about mammograms of women in their 40s. We're going to break it down for you and take a much closer look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check in with Jack, he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What do you think is behind the new recommendations for mammograms?

Dan writes from Michigan: "Looks like the insurance lobby is at it again. Trying to get a position before any health care reform is passed. Just think, another preexisting condition. Do we as citizens of this wonderful country ever catch a break against the big bucks?"

Eric in Houston: "I wish I knew, Jack, great stuff though for the death panel crowd, since it certainly could be made to look like a trial balloon for the rationing of a common, but costly procedure. If so, it was pretty ham handed. No actual experts on the expert panel. Does that sound like Washington? I ask you."

Rob writes: "More than likely it's an adjustment to Obama's new health care plan. I expect that next emergency room care for heart attacks will be optional."

Bree in New York writes: "Not to sound paranoid, but is anybody asking whether members of that panel are hoping to derail health care reform? The timing of the recommendation seems suspicious. Might I ask how many health insurance professionals are on board compared to zero oncologists?"

Jimmy writes: "I have an ex-girlfriend most in the hospital right now dying from brain cancer that spread from undiagnosed breast cancer while on Medicaid. In February of 2007 she had an emergency double mastectomy. She had begged for almost two years for a mammogram but didn't get one until she produced visible evidence of the cancer and by then it was too late."

M.J. writes: "These recommendations will solve one thing, those with insurance will now know how it feels to be like those without it, those who can't afford preventative care."

And Andrea writes, "What boobs are in charge of the health of my boobs."

If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf?

BLITZER: See you in a few moments Jack, thank you.

We also, by the way, have a relatively new way for all of you to follow what's going on behind the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Get some advanced word on guests and everything else. You can get my tweets at twitter.com/WolfblitzerCNN. That's all one word.

Happening now, the best political team on television on these stories. The White House trying to clear up confusion about mammograms but only adding to the confusion. This hour a reality check on mixed messages. We're going to try to cut through the medical spin.