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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With President Obama; White House Enters Breast Cancer Screening Debate
Aired November 18, 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: Plus, a new vow that Congress won't turn the Fort Hood massacre into political theater. We have some new information on the investigation and deep fears that lawmakers could get in the way.
And why so many Americans are saying no to the swine flu vaccine -- we have an eye-popping new poll and some very personal stories from people who are more scared of the shot than they are of the virus.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Obama administration has been hearing the outcry for days. Now it's jumping into the debate over new guidelines for breast cancer screening. There's been a lot of confusion and deep fear this week after a federal advisory board said routine mammograms aren't necessary for women in their 40s.
Now the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, is putting some distance between the administration and that recommendation. Take a listen to what she told me here in THE SITUATION ROOM just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: They do not make policy decisions. They don't make coverage decisions. And that's really the critical piece. Those recommendations are taken in. In this case, I think what we know is that mammograms definitely save lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Still, Kathleen Sebelius is not completely rejecting those recommendations.
Some Republican women in Congress are pouncing on the recommendations and raising red flags about health care rationing. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Women don't want to lose control over health care issues. And that's really all we have to ask about this health care measure that is being pushed upon us. Who will get more control? Will it be government or will it be individuals? (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.
Elizabeth, let me start with you. You heard Secretary Sebelius in the interview she did with us. Did she clear up the conclusion?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what? I felt like she didn't clear up the confusion because she just said, talk to your doctor. But the whole point of the recommendations that have been out for 20 years is when you turn 40, go get your mammogram.
So, I didn't feel like she cleared it up. And I wanted to ask the secretary if she had had regular mammograms when she was in her 40s.
BLITZER: And a lot of people are asking those questions to women all over right now. This, Gloria, is about as sensitive a political subject right now for the president and for the Democrats in Congress who want to push through health care reform, and Republicans saying, you know what, there's going to be rationing.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
You know, as confusing as it is medically, it's also very confusing politically right now, because these recommendations came smack dab in the middle of the White House trying to get a health care reform bill passed, played right into the Republican hands. You saw the clip that you just showed.
And I think what we saw Secretary Sebelius try and do was thread the needle here, because she's not in the business of telling you when you need to have a mammogram or when you don't need to have a mammogram. She's saying, these are the recommendations.
But this is really about the future; this is really about what's going to happen once we get, if we get, some kind of national health insurance and what kind of influence these panels will have, if any, in the future. The White House today was putting out the word that, you know, maybe they won't.
BLITZER: On the Web site, Elizabeth, of the Department of Health and Human Services, they describe these panels, these federal advisory panels as the gold standard for the federal government in making recommendations, the gold standard.
And a lot of insurance companies, health insurance companies, say they rely on these federal panels for information on whether to cover these kinds of routine expenses, including routine mammograms for women in their 40s. So, the stakes here are enormous.
COHEN: The stakes are enormous.
And it is true, Wolf, that insurance companies do tend to look to the task force in deciding what to cover. But I have to say, I have been talking to a lot of really smart observers on this, and the say if insurance companies start refusing to pay for mammograms for women in their 40s, they called it a nightmare, a P.R. nightmare. And they said they would never do it. Even though they could possibly, they would never do it.
And actually in 20 states it's illegal for private insurance companies to refuse to cover mammograms for women in their 40s.
BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen and Gloria Borger, guys, thanks very much.
Want to turn to another significant story we're following right now and it involves those confusing questions about what happened at Fort Hood, Texas. Why were 13 people slaughtered in cold blood? That's the primary question in the investigation into the Fort Hood massacre. As authorities and military officials investigate, other government officials angrily are demanding answers. They want those answers quickly.
Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's been working this story for us.
There's a lot of anxiety right now over these investigations.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely there is, Wolf.
We were on Capitol Hill today. You get a sense of real urgency there that members of Congress want more answers on what Nidal Hasan did leading up to the shootings, what his motivations were, and if there were any dots not connected. They want those answers sooner rather than later.
We're also getting signals that the pace of this investigation not moving fast enough for some congressmen.
TODD (voice-over): Two members of Congress present at a high- level closed-door briefing from the lead agencies investigating the Fort Hood shootings tell CNN the information wasn't very specific. Impatience on Capitol Hill for more details on the probe is growing. Leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee say they have already started their own investigation.
This comes days after the president said this:
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But all of us should resist the temptation to turn this tragic event into the political theater that sometimes dominate the discussion here in Washington. The stakes are far too high.
TODD: Senate Security Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman responded to that directly.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: We are not interested in political theater. We are interested in getting the facts and correcting the system.
TODD: Lieberman says he does not want to interfere with the criminal investigation into the shootings, but says he needs to interview people in the government, including members of a joint terrorism task force that picked up communications behind alleged shooter Nidal Hasan and a radical Muslim cleric.
And Lieberman says he's working with the Obama administration to make that happen. One question Lieberman's committee is looking into, whether Hasan was self-radicalized, a lone wolf directed influence by militant Islam, but not directed by anyone. I asked the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who was in those secret briefings, if investigators are following that trail.
REP. SILVESTRE REYES (D-TX), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We have to allow the agencies to do their work, come up with the facts, and then we can act accordingly.
TODD (on camera): But is that something you believe or you want to know, whether this man acted kind of as a self-radicalized individual to commit these...
REYES: Oh, of course, we want to know everything that occurred, how this evolved, what exactly happened.
TODD: And while Congress looks into all that, other political disputes surrounding this case are ratcheting up as well. One Republican on the House Intelligence Committee told us again today there are tools that the intelligence agencies had at their disposal months ago that are no longer available to them.
Republicans openly wondering if that may have contributed to some information on Hasan not being shared. We pressed again today, but the Republicans are not saying what those tools are. House Intelligence Chairman Reyes told me he has no idea what the Republicans are talking about there, Wolf. That seems to be a bit of contention.
BLITZER: And we're getting more information about Major Hasan's background.
TODD: That's right.
NPR got hold of a memo from one of Hasan's superiors at Walter Reed who raised concerns about his professionalism, questioned his work ethic, also mentioned that he was counseled for inappropriately discussing religious topics with his patients.
You will recall last week we spoke with a former colleague of Hasan's who said many of the same things, that he was not competent, that he often strayed off-topic in his presentations into religion, and that his work was not academically rigorous.
So that seems to be a consistent refrain coming from those who knew him, trained with him and now supervised him.
BLITZER: So, the Army's really got to explain why he was promoted to major after all of these negative reports from his colleagues were pretty much well known. I don't think they have explained that yet.
TODD: Well, the memo that NPR got does mention at the very end that his supervisor said, given some of these concerns, I see no reason to essentially hold him back.
So -- but again specifics on that are not quite forthcoming on that. We're all kind of delving into that for answers.
BLITZER: He was obviously a troubled guy. And they were sending him off to Afghanistan to try to help soldiers who were going through some troubles of their own. The whole thing simply doesn't make a lot of sense. The Army is going to have to explain what happened.
Thanks very much, Brian, for that.
BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the man who predicted the worst recession since the Great Depression says the jobs picture is a lot worse than the numbers imply. Economist Nouriel Roubini says that real unemployment in this country closer to 17.5 percent and that job losses will likely continue until the end of next year, at the earliest.
Roubini suggests the official unemployment rate will peak at around 11 percent and remain at a very high level for two years or more. Roubini also points out that a lot of the lost jobs are simply not coming back, including jobs in construction, finance, manufacturing. He suggests the government extending unemployment benefits is not the solution.
Instead, they need to create jobs through infrastructure projects and provide temporary tax credits to companies that hire more workers. Roubini says the poor job situation, along with a weak recovery, could increase the risk of a double-dip recession.
In fact, while most economists agree the U.S. economy is now in recovery, many of them are calling for another round of stimulus to prevent another downturn. They point to factors like retail, car and home sales, oil prices and the stock market all as potential trouble spots. And President Obama is warning that's too much government debt could lead to a double-dip recession as well.
Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll shows 31 percent of Americans now name the economy as the most important problem facing the country, top of the list. Another 20 percent cite unemployment.
So, here's the question: When it comes to unemployment, do you think things are going to get worse before they get any better? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: And, as you know, Jack, for so many millions, it can't get any worse. It's about as worse as it gets now.
CAFFERTY: No. I'm getting e-mails from people who say just that.
CAFFERTY: "How can it get any worse? I'm unemployed and have been for months."
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jack, thanks very much.
Four more years. One year into his term, is President Obama thinking about reelection in 2012? Wait until you hear what he tells our Ed Henry in a one-on-one interview. And the president even answers if he thinks Sarah Palin will try to take his job.
BLITZER: Another no from Iran. Its foreign minister says Iran will not send any of its enriched uranium out of the country. This is a serious blow for the latest attempt to control Iran's nuclear program.
The plan was to have Iran send its lightly enriched uranium to Russia and France. It would then be sent back in the form of fuel rods that would be difficult to use in a nuclear weapon. The U.N. nuclear agency says it's still waiting for an official written statement, but, if it holds, it's a deep, deep source of concern for the U.S. and the others.
Meanwhile President Obama is in South Korea right now, the final stop on his Asia trip. Iran certainly was among the things he discussed with CNN from China. The president spoke with our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. Ed's in Seoul traveling with the president. He's joining us now live.
The president had four stops on this trip. He's getting ready to hold talks with the Koreans, North Korea very much atop the agenda. He has got to worry, though, about Iran and a lot of other domestic issues back at home, Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're right.
In terms of Iran, what is very interesting is, when I sat down with the president, he was saying, look, when I took office, the international community did not have a path in terms of how to deal with Iran. He asserts that the Obama administration for the first time has sort of put together a package for Iran to say, look, if you will verify, if you will come forward and show that you want nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, the world will be fine with that.
And he basically told me Iran will not take yes for an answer. And as a result, he believes that a case is now being built within the international community for tough new sanctions against Iran if it doesn't come to the table and get serious. However, for the president, the challenge is, when we were back in China, the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, gave no signals that he's willing to endorse new sanctions before the U.N.
Without China's support, they're not going to get those tough new scandals, as you know. So, I think that in a nutshell has been -- it almost shows you a symbol of what this trip has been like for the president, a lot of goodwill. He's been reaching out to a lot of people like he will President Lee here in South Korea. But so far he hasn't delivered a lot of results -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, I want to play a little clip from the interview you had earlier today with the president while all of you guys were still in China. And listen to this excerpt from the interview.
HENRY: Covered a lot substance. Let's end on a very short political question.
Sarah Palin's got a new book out.
HENRY: You think she will be a candidate in 2012? And will you be a candidate in 2012?
OBAMA: You know, I don't think about 2012 right now. I think about next week.
But, look, obviously, Sarah Palin's attracted a lot of attention. She is going to do very well with this book. That's clear. And...
HENRY: You going to read it?
OBAMA: You know, I probably won't. But I don't get a chance to read things other than briefing books very often these days anyway.
You know, she obviously has a big constituency in the Republican Party. You know, there are a lot of people who are excited by her.
And, you know, I do think it says something about our political process, though, that about 10 months after...
HENRY: Already talking about it.
OBAMA: We're already talking about...
HENRY: But can you envision a scenario where you don't run for reelection?
OBAMA: Here's how I think about it. I said to myself very early on, even when I started running for office, that I -- I don't want to be making decisions based on getting reelected, because I think the challenges that America faces right now are so significant.
Obviously, if I make good decisions -- and I think that I'm moving the country on the right direction economically, in terms of our security interests and our foreign policy -- I would like to think that those policies are continued, because they're not going to bear fruit just in four years.
I mean, you know, we -- we will -- we will have to take a lot of time to get a clean energy economy. It's going to require a lot of effort. Reforming our education system is going to take a lot time. I think we're putting the foundations in place for that kind of long- term growth.
But, you know, if -- if I feel like I have made the very best decisions for the American people and, three years from now, I look at it and, you know, my poll numbers are in the tank, and, you know, because we have gone through these wrenching changes, you know, politically, I'm in a tough spot, I will -- I will feel all right about myself.
I -- I would feel a lot worse if at a time of such urgency for the American people, I was spending a lot of time thinking how can I position myself to ensure reelection, because if I was -- if I were doing that right now, I wouldn't have taken on health care. I -- I wouldn't be taking on things that are unpopular. I wouldn't be closing Guantanamo.
I -- there are a whole series of choices that I'm making that I know are going to create some political turbulence.
But I think they're the right thing to do. And, you know, history will -- will -- will bear out my theories or not.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Seoul. Ed Henry is standing by. He did the interview.
Were you surprised by that answer, Ed, when he didn't firmly say, of course I'm going to seek reelection in 2012?
HENRY: I really was, because he didn't really sort of sound fired up and ready to go, like we heard last year. Instead, he really seemed resigned to the fact of the possibility that as he takes on all these major challenges, has a lot on his plate, as we have heard over and over again, on both foreign policy on these trips, but also back home with health care, and the economy, jobs, et cetera, he's almost resigned to the fact that, look, in three years, my poll numbers may be in the tank. I may have to just step aside.
On the other hand, though, I think, in fairness to him, if he had said, look, I'm ready to go, I will run for reelection, all of us probably would have jumped on it and said, look, he's already looking ahead to 2012. He's not focused on substance. He's focused on politics.
So, he's walking a fine line there. And we have to recognize that balance. But I suspect when you hear all that context as you played that this is also a president who believes that in the end he's going to get health care reform, he's going to bring the economy back, and he will relish the prospect, potentially, of going to the voters in 2012 and saying, look, it wasn't easy, but we got maybe not all of it, but a lot of this done -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point.
Ed Henry doing some excellent reporting for us on the road in Seoul, South Korea -- thanks, Ed, very much.
The dangers posted by swine flu bug are all too real, but our latest poll shows most Americans -- repeat -- most Americans just don't want to get the H1N1 vaccine. Has the government done all it can to prove it's safe?
BLITZER: Look who's sorry now. Why is the head of the Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs actually apologizing for needing a bailout? Jessica Yellin has some thoughts on that.
And the feds keep telling us the swine flu vaccine is safe. So, why it is being rejected by half of America? Just ahead, our brand- new CNN poll numbers -- the people who are just saying no.
BLITZER: All right, we're just getting this -- more confirmation now that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, he's going through a closed-door briefing right now on the bottom line health care reform. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as we reported earlier now estimates that the Senate bill, the bill they will vote on in the Senate would cost $849 billion over 10 years.
Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent, broke that news here in THE SITUATION ROOM just a little while ago, $849 billion, sources telling Dana that the CBO estimates that the Senate bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by $127 billion, while insuring an additional 31 million Americans.
Reid is expected to release all the formal details of the bill now that he's received the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis. So, we're watching the story -- Dana and her team all over it on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, have you received or do you plan to get the swine flu vaccine for yourself or your family? Amid the shocking number of people dead from the H1N1 virus, a fresh new poll has some shocking answers when people are asked about their vaccine intentions.
Let's bring in CNN's Brooke Baldwin. She's looking at these.
These are some pretty shocking numbers, Brooke.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are shocking when you think of the number of people who say, no thank you.
We talk a lot about H1N1. Yes, it's a virus that can be deadly, but it's also largely preventable. Now, the CDC is saying the shot is the solution here. But, Americans, they are not buying it. And there are new numbers today to prove that.
BALDWIN: The message from the CDC is clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OCTOBER 19)
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION: This year's flu vaccine, the H1N1 vaccine is being made in the same factories, by the same companies, with the same safeguards as the vaccine that we use every year and it has an excellent safety record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The CDC says nearly 3,900 people are believed to have died from the H1N1 flu in the first six months of the epidemic. Despite that fact, the majority of Americans still don't want the vaccine, according to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. Seven percent surveyed received it, 35 percent want it, but 55 percent say, no thanks.
Poll numbers show the top reason people didn't want the vaccine -- fears of dangerous side effects.
So who's to blame for failing to properly educate the public on H1N1?
Some say the government and the media.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they've also scared everybody.
BALDWIN: (on camera): How so?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, putting out so many numbers about the swine flu and not comparing it to the seasonal regular flu...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- you know, how many deaths, but they don't say how many people die from the regular flu.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard everything I need, you know, and wanted to know about it on -- on television or radio.
DR. LAURENCE MURPHY, PEDIATRICIAN: The shot may -- may not work.
BALDWIN: (voice-over): Even this pediatrician isn't convinced that the H1N1 vaccine is safe. Dr. Laurence Murphy isn't offering it to his patients and doesn't plan to, unless the government can prove the benefits out weigh the risk.
MURPHY: Well, I wish they had said it's available, we worked hard, here it is. If you want, it's at that clinic on Saturday morning, go get it. If you don't want it, be in touch with your physician.
BALDWIN: On the other hand, John Boudrot wishes he'd gotten the shot. It may have saved him from spending all of September in a coma after getting the virus. Boudrot wants Americans to learn from his mistake.
JOHN BOUDROT, H1N1 PATIENT: There's a vaccine for H1N1. Obviously, it's difficult to get your hands on today. Parents need to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible. Nobody wants to go through what I've been through the last eight weeks.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BALDWIN: CNN has confirmed with the National Institutes of Health that so far, officials there have not seen any serious side effects of the vaccine in clinical trials. But still, Wolf, that doesn't quell the concerns of what, the 55 percent of the Americans, who say they don't want it. Obviously, we met one physician still holding out from providing it to his own patients. So, it's kind of a mixed bag.
BLITZER: Yes. A lot of people are worried -- the majority in this poll...
BALDWIN: The majority...
BLITZER: ...they say thanks...
BALDWIN: -- 55 percent.
BLITZER: ...but no thanks.
BLITZER: All right. That's dangerous stuff.
Thanks very much for that.
One of Wall Street's giants may be having pangs of remorse over the country's near financial collapse and the massive bailouts which followed or is it just making a savvy P.R. move?
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, has been looking into this story for us -- Jessica, what are you finding out?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's news from the investment banking world. Goldman Sachs' CEO, Lloyd Blankfein admits his company had a hand in spinning the roulette wheel that took the nation to the brink of crisis. He now says the bank, which received billions in bailout dollars, "participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret." He said, : "We apologize."
Maybe he's in the mood for redemption. Blankfein gave that mea culpa just as Goldman Sachs, his bank, announced they'll give $500 million to help out small businesses, community banks and fund scholarships around the country. And it seems to be catching.
Look at this. JPMorgan Chase, they have taken out a full page "New York Times" ad announcing they're giving $5 million to local charities. You can pick the charity that gets the money on Facebook.
These are some pretty friendly moves from companies that have been the target of some populist anger -- Wolf, maybe they're just feeling the Thanksgiving spirit.
BLITZER: So why is Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs -- why are they do this now?
YELLIN: Right. Right now. Well, there are a number of reasons. Goldman Sachs says its plan for this $500 million gift has been in the works for a year. But the timing of the actual announcement has stirred attention because Goldman's CEO, Blankfein, has also been taking heat ever since he told "The Times of London" that he's doing, "God's work."
So is this a God that believes in taking one's reward in this life?
No, he now says he meant that as a joke.
Clearly here, there is a need for some damage control. And after those seemingly tone deaf remarks, there's also a need for some outreach to the public.
And get this, the bank has set aside $16.7 billion for bonuses. That bonus pool could even reach up to $21 billion by the end of the year. That is bound to generate unpleasant headlines, just as Congress is debating new financial reform legislation that could put a serious crimp in the investment bank's style -- Wolf, they need some goodwill.
BLITZER: Yes, so how -- how does this compare, though, with other bank giants?
YELLIN: Excellent question.
OK, JPMorgan Chase, they've set aside $21.8 billion for bonuses and payouts and $24.1 billion by Bank of America for compensation. If you add together what all the banks are going to do, they're on track to pay off $150 billion to their employees.
OK, let's put that in context. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has calculated the budget shortfall in states around the country. So you put all the states together, that comes to $190 billion. So Wall Street bonuses could make up for most of the missing revenue in the states around the nation.
Now, they tell us this is what they need to do to attract their top talent, so let's put their charitable gifts in perspective. The Goldman gift of $500 million is just 3 percent of their bonus pool. The JPMorgan gift of $5 million is just .02 percent of their bonus pool -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And $5 million in a lot of money, but it's pitiful compared to some of those bonuses that you...
YELLIN: Compared to what they make, yes.
BLITZER: ...as you can imagine.
All right, Jessica.
Thanks very much.
Don't go too far away. We've got some Political Tickers coming up, as well.
"Going Rogue" is now on the bookshelves -- a number one, best- seller, at least, right now. The former governor, Sarah Palin, hitting the bookstores to sell her new memoir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just dying to meet Sarah Palin, even if it's only for five seconds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to show my support for Ms. Palin. And I just think that she's such a positive, energy, refreshing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the chance of a lifetime. It's a one shot deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Thousands of people all over the country -- they're lining up. They're camping out overnight to make sure they get their books signed. I'll ask our political panel if they've ever seen anything exactly like this before.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: President Obama has asked...
BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is talking about the Congressional Budget Office numbers, the -- for his health care reform bill.
Let's listen in briefly. REID: This past year, 750,000 Americans filed bankruptcy. Over half of those bankruptcies dealt with health care costs. More than half the people who filed bankruptcy because of health care costs had insurance.
So not only do we make it affordable for every American, we also, certainly, do it in a fiscally responsible way. We're not -- not going to add a dime to the deficit. In fact, quite the opposite. We'll cut the problems we have with money around here by as much as three quarters of a trillion dollars.
And this bill is going to do good things over the next 10 years for so many different people in our society. Ninety-eight percent of the American people, those who have Medicare, will be included in that number, will have health insurance. And we'll make sure that 30 million more Americans who don't have health insurance today will soon have it.
I want to repeat, we not only protect Medicare, we're making it stronger. The numbers I have just gone over are pretty impressive, as they -- and I have no doubt that the American people agree with that.
Although we're proud of these figures, these numbers that we've given you, we can't afford to really overlook what this is really all about. More accurately, we can't afford to overlook who -- who this is all about. This is about a parent. For example, my friend Jeff Hill from Searchlight, Nevada. Twenty-three years old. He goes off his parents' health insurance policy. Within six weeks, he's diagnosed with testicular cancer. His parents, who have no money, have already expended $15,000 having their son operated on. He's now on chemotherapy, all kinds of complications. They had to put a -- his -- they couldn't put the chemo in his veins.
We're changing this. Now it's going to be 26 years old -- years of age that they can -- people can stay on their parents' coverage. We want to make sure that every American can afford good coverage.
BLITZER: All right. Harry Reid announcing that the Congressional Budget Office has come up with its estimate, how much the Senate's version of health care reform would cost over the next 10 years -- $849 billion. He reports that it would ensure an additional 31 million Americans -- there are 46 million people in the United States right now without health insurance. That means 15 million would still be without health insurance.
Let's talk about what's going on with our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, she's here; our senior political correspondent, on the other end of the table, Candy Crowley; Republican strategist and CNN contributor, Alex Castellanos, he's next to Candy; and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.
Since we're going to be discussing health care, just some business. Alex's firm does business with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Health Insurance Plans and PhRMA, the association that represents the drug industry. He also advises the GOP on health care. All disclosures. Jamal, as of yesterday, reminded us he works with The Raven Group. The Raven Group represents the American Association of Retired Persons, the California Endowment and The Breast Cancer Fund.. So they're both, obviously, very interested in health care reform, as all of us are.
Do you think this is going to work, this -- this deal -- this version that the Senate -- that the Senate leader has come up with, that it will get the 60 votes it needs to pass?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think they're going to have to throw some more things off the life -- lifeboat to -- to keep this boat afloat. No, not as currently structured. This is still nearly a billion -- a trillion dollar package. We don't know if this includes the $200 million -- billion dollars that they're going to give the doctors to -- for our Medicare fees.
So, no, we're still talking around a trillion dollars. And the American people have a big concern here. They -- they don't understand how something that's going to cost a lot more is going to save them a lot of money in a country that's already broke.
BLITZER: Let me bring Jamal in.
Jamal, is -- if the moderate or conservative Democrats, if they like that number, $849 billion -- it's below the $900 billion, it's below the estimate of the House version. If they come around, if all of them support it and those two Independents support it, that's 60.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That is 60. You know, Harry Reid is known to be one of the best vote counters in the United States Senate. I think he has a pretty good sense about how to get this bill to the floor and get it passed. And for the -- for the moderates, not only is the number important, but how you pay for it is going to be very important. They're going to have to be really assured that there's not going to be additional spending on this bill. And if they can close that loop, I think that he could close their votes.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, can I say, we just don't know what's in the bill yet, that this bill has been written behind closed doors. We know that it's massive. We don't know what new tax increases are in it. We don't know what they've accepted from the House. We don't know where the public option is going to wind up.
One big talking point for them, though, that's going to be very important is that they claim that this reduces the budget deficit, which is a huge problem for them politically, $127 billion over the next 10 years. And that's is going to be something I'm sure you're going to hear them talking about over and over again.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I -- I think it helps. I -- I think we have to remember that the name of the game right now isn't even the particulars. The name of the game right now is to get something out of the Senate so they can get it into conference committee. So they are go to have to decide...
BLITZER: And that's where they work with the House to come up with a joint bill.
BORGER: The House and the Senate.
CAFFERTY: Yes. And they're going to have to massage it so that it gets past the Senate. And that's the problem. It won't be this bill, but this is the framework. Largely, it will be this, with -- as Gloria says, we don't know what's in it, because it's not just that -- that conservatives were worried and moderates were worried about the price tag. They are worried about the public option. They are worried about some of the specifics in it.
So we'll see. But I think, in the end, something will get 60 votes and they will move out of the Senate.
CASTELLANOS: Yes, they'll throw enough out to get something. But the real political and policy problem here is this doesn't seem to bend the cost curve, as President Obama has said. They're raising taxes and cutting Medicare to pay for nearly a trillion dollars in spending. This doesn't actually reduce health care costs.
And guess -- guess what the number one issue in health care is for the American people?
CASTELLANOS: make it cost less, not more.
BORGER: They would argue with you that they're cutting Medicare...
BORGER: ...and they would say to you that, in the long-term, it's going to reduce spending and reduce the deficit.
CASTELLANOS: And in the next...
SIMMONS: That's right (INAUDIBLE).
CASTELLANOS: But in the next political year, 2010, going into an election, there are going to be higher taxes. There are going to be Medicare cuts.
And guess what?
Health care costs are still going to go up, in part, because of this bill. That's what's going to happen before 2010.
SIMMONS: There's also going to be no pre...
CASTELLANOS: Would you vote for that if you're in the Senate?
SIMMONS: There's also going to be no pre-existing conditions anymore. People are going to be able to access health care when they haven't been able to get it. There are going to be some tangible things that occur before the 2010 elections.
And I'll tell you what, in my time in politics, passing something is better than having nothing to run on.
BLITZER: Candy, the -- the fact that, what, 14, 15 million people in the United States will still be without health insurance, if, in fact, the Senate bill becomes the law of the land, that's not universal coverage, what we've heard in the past the Democrats want.
CROWLEY: It's not. And -- and looking at the president, there are some things in this bill that he campaigned against. One of them was mandatory health care insurance.
CROWLEY: One of them was a penalty if you didn't have health care insurance.
So this is going to be, again, something that they can get through. And there -- there will be -- you will begin to see the public reacting to some of these things. We've already seen, with the whole mammogram mess, that this is going to be brought into the health care debate.
So there's a lot to go -- that's going to go on between now and the time they pass it. I mean, the one thing about the Senate is they're not nearly as quick as the House. And you will hear them on that floor for the next two months battling this out.
BORGER: We'll be talking about this. Yes.
SIMMONS: When you talk about this thing...
BLITZER: Hold your thought, because we're out of time.
BLITZER: But you know what?
The Senate is going to take a lot time to discuss this so -- so will we, guys.
Thanks very much.
Let's check in with John Roberts to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- John, what are you working on?
JOHN ROBERTS, CO-ANCHOR, "AMERICAN MORNING": Hey, Wolf, good evening.
We've got something really interesting for you tonight. This is the first documented evidence of the performance of Major Nidal Hasan while at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It's a memo that was penned by his supervisor in which he says he "demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and lack of professional judgment."
Major Hasan saw less than one patient per month. He didn't respond -- or at least -- less than one patient per week. He didn't respond to emergency calls. Yet, still, there was nothing to stop him from graduating in the medical program there.
So -- so what happened?
Did he fall through the cracks?
We're going to talk to the reporter who broke this story, coming up in our next hour -- Wolf, it's something you don't want to miss.
BLITZER: Yes. And we'll be there with you, John.
Thanks very much.
The Army has got a lot of explaining to do, no doubt about that.
The director Stephen Spielberg is about to use his star power and bank account to try to change California. Stand by for our Political Ticker.
BLITZER: Let's go right to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, when it comes to unemployment, are things going to get worse before they get better?
Jerry in Florida writes: "Yes, they will. I don't see any signs the economy is picking up. We've shipped our manufacturing jobs overseas and the economy cannot survive being a service-based economy."
Carlos says: "It will get worse, clearly. And to those e- mailing you asking how could it possibly get worse, imagine having your $10 being able to purchase 50 percent less than it was able to previously. Can you say currency crisis?"
Joe writes: "It was rather easy to see that free trade would ship jobs overseas and create a jobless situation here in the United States. I believe that's what has created the Depression" -- he calls it -- "that we are experiencing now. From my frame of reference, I see little hope for things getting better anytime soon."
Dick in Indiana: "The only reason that jobs in manufacturing, construction and finance are coming -- are not coming back is because we don't pass laws that will bring them back. Until we get a Congress with some backbone and common sense, we will continue down the path of self-destruction, fueled by greed, low taxes and the lack of protection of our marketplace."
John in Nevada writes: "Of course it's going to get worse before it gets better. Employers will have no incentive to start adding employees until our economic engine begins running again and there are no bright signs of that on the horizon. The solutions -- a government-assisted push to get Americans back to work building a new clean energy infrastructure for America's future. Those jobs will, in turn, create more jobs."
And Anna in Chicago writes: "Tax cuts for business will not bring jobs back that went to China and India. Small business cannot produce the jobs by the tens of thousands that our big companies send overseas every month. Jobless recovery is only for the rich. They didn't suffer in this economy. For working people, I don't see any recovery."
If you did not see your e-mail here, you can check my blog. You'll find it at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf, I'll see you tomorrow.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
Let's go from Jack to Jessica.
She's got the Political Ticker for us -- Jessica, what are you working on?
YELLIN: Wolf, some of Hollywood's biggest power players are lining up to help California Attorney General Jerry Brown become governor again. There's a big fundraiser for the Democrat in Los Angeles tonight and it is co-hosted by director Steven Spielberg and his DreamWorks co-founders, among others. They expect to raise more than $1 million for Brown's expected 2010 campaign for governor. And this is deja vu for Brown who, you'll recall, rubbed shoulders with celebrities when he held that job in California back in the 1970s. Then he was known as Governor Moonbeam.
Well, haters may call him Dick Cheney, Darth Vader. But to seven kids, he's just grandpa. The former V.P.'s seventh grandchild, Sarah Lynne, was born this morning here in Washington, DC. She is the second child of Cheney's daughter Mary and her longtime partner, Heather Poe. Sarah Lynne is apparently healthy and doing fine, weighs in at six pounds, 14 ounces. We wish them all the best and a happy, healthy life -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Congratulation to the entire Cheney family.
Thanks very much, Jessica.
The soccer player who became a sensation when she pulled an opponent to the ground speaking out. It's Moost Unusual. That's why Jeanne Moos is next.
BLITZER: Remember the soccer player who pulled her opponent to the ground?
She's speaking out.
Jeanne Moos looks at a Moost Unusual story.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): It was the ponytail pull that floored everybody who saw it, the ponytail pull and punch that became a late night punch line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This display of rough action and hair pulling has caused sports fans across the nation to stand up and say, hey, maybe I need to start watching women's soccer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Elizabeth Lambert was called "nasty, dirtiest, most cheap shot."
And now, she gets the bully pulpit to say...
JERE LONGMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER: She's trying to say she's not a monster, that -- as she's being portrayed in the media.
MOOS: The University of New Mexico junior gave her side of the story only to "The New York Times -- no media circus.
LONGMAN: She came across as very remorseful, I think, and stunned that -- not only that this happened, but stunned that she was the one who did it.
MOOS: Speaking of hair yanking, she told "The Times": "I look at it and I'm like, that is not me."
She is seeing a psychologist, suspended from soccer. Her roommates try not to let her get near a computer to avoid vicious comments or a re-enactment or an impersonation of her making a dating video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM/TAUNTRTV)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, because we were thinking about putting the...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's up? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the soccer ball in the (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) shot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) is this?
Do you think all I do is play soccer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: But it's been far from funny for Lambert. She says she's stunned and scared by the vehemence of comments like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you should be taken to a state prison, raped and left to die on the side of a ditch.
MOOS: She points out that except for the pony tail yank, the rest of what was condensed into that video was normal jostling that takes place in women's soccer, that she was elbowed in the ribs before whacking back, that her opponent tugged at her shorts.
(on camera): Elizabeth Lambert says the whole incident got blown out of proportion because it was a woman doing it, that if it had been men's soccer, well, guys are expected to be rough.
(voice-over): And then there are all the catfight comments, like this one from Weiner Guy. She's appalled the incident has been portrayed in a sexy way.
LONGMAN: She's gotten messages from guys saying hey, we ought to meet up.
MOOS (on camera): She looks like a J. Crew model in this picture.
(voice-over): She is also the model of remorse. It could take a lifetime to live down this takedown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)
LETTERMAN: What happened to Linda?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)
LETTERMAN: She was here a second ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: ...New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."