Return to Transcripts main page


White House Party Crashers and President Obama; Tiger Woods Injured in Car Accident

Aired November 27, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the best political team on television on these stories.

Tiger Woods treated after a car wreck. Right now, we're being told on how he's doing as officials try to figure out exactly what happened.

Also, a shocking twist -- the couple that crashed the White House state dinner came so close to President Obama, well, they actually met him, this as the agency that protects the president admits that it failed to fully secure this event.

And fears a financial shocker in the Middle East could ripple financial shockwaves in the West. Dubai reveals massive debt problems, and one expert says -- quote -- "Assume that the U.S. banks will be hurt."

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He is one of the world's most recognizable names and faces in sports. He has broken records and perceptions of African-Americans playing golf. Well, now there are a whirlwind of questions that are hovering around the golf megastar Tiger Woods after he hit a fire hydrant and a tree in his car. A hospital spokeswoman explained it this way.


SUSAN JACKSON, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, HEALTH CENTRAL HOSPITAL: Tiger Woods was in a minor car accident outside his home last night. He was admitted, treated and released today in good condition.


QUESTION: Now, why...


QUESTION: ... it say serious injuries?

JACKSON: I didn't say serious injuries.


QUESTION: The FHP report said it was serious. (CROSSTALK)

JACKSON: He was released today in good condition.

QUESTION: Do you know what time?

JACKSON: No, I don't.

QUESTION: Was it this afternoon or this morning or...

JACKSON: It was -- it was today. And that's a joint statement both from his office and from the hospital.


MALVEAUX: Our Mary Snow, she has more on this breaking news story with new details.

Mary, what do you know?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, Tiger Woods' publicist is calling this a minor accident and echoed what the hospital said, that he is in good condition.

This accident occurred at bout 2:25 this morning outside Tiger Woods' home in Windermere, Florida. It's a suburb of Orlando.

These are some new details. The Associated Press is now reporting that the Windermere police chief says that Woods' wife used a golf club to smash out the back window and help her husband get out of the car. It's reporting that the police chief says that she was inside the house when she heard the accident.

The police report says Woods pulled out of his driveway in a Cadillac SUV, struck a fire hydrant and than a tree. Now, the mayor of Windermere told CNN police were on the scene within two minutes and that Woods was treated for facial lacerations.

Now, while the police report says the investigation is continuing, it also says that the accident was not alcohol-related. Woods is scheduled to host the Chevron World Challenge on Monday in Thousand Oaks, California.

And just to reiterate, his publicist is saying that he is in good condition -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Mary, thank you.

As we said, Tiger Woods has earned worldwide fame for winning in golf and for doing what no other African-American has done in the sport of golf. We're going to talk about all that and much, much more with our sports broadcaster Bob Costas. He is standing by, that straight ahead.

Turning to new shocking developments regarding the couple that crashed the White House state dinner. We are learning they got disturbingly close to the president.

Want to go straight to our CNN White House correspondent, Dan Lothian

Dan, what are we learning about this couple and the access now that they had to the president as well as others in the White House?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this really is amazing. The questions that we have been asking have been, how close did this couple really get to the president? Well, now we know, a White House official confirming that they did get to meet the president in a receiving line. Now, this comes as the Secret Service admits that it dropped the ball.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The U.S. Secret Service is now taking full responsibility for the uninvited guests at Tuesday's White House state dinner.

In a statement, Director Mark Sullivan says: "They should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely. That failing is ours." He adds that the agency is "deeply concerned and embarrassed."

Earlier in the day, Secret Service agents paid a visit to the Oasis Winery in Virginia, the couple's mailing address. The manager confirms two agents showed up Friday morning, indicated they were not there to arrest Tareq and Michaele Salahi, but said: "It is imperative that we speak with them. If they do not sit down with us and talk, we will take whatever action necessary."

The Secret Service won't confirm that account, but says it wants to interview everybody, including the Salahis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. and Mrs. Salahi.

LOTHIAN: The reality show wannabes certainly looked the part and played up their visit on Facebook, posting photos with the vice president, White House chief of staff and Marines.

Representative Peter King, who is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, is calling for a congressional investigation.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: I mean, this could have been a national tragedy. If these were terrorists, if these were pathological murderers, they could have done a lot of damage in that brief period of time.

LOTHIAN: We don't know all the details of how the couple got into one of the most secure compounds in the world, but a stylist who worked on Michaele's hair just hours before the state dinner says she claimed they were invited.

PEGGY IOAKIM, STYLIST: She said that in the mail she got an invitation, and I asked, do you have it with you? And she said yes. She tired looking for it and didn't find the invitation. So, I never saw it. She didn't have it. She thought it was in the car or something.


LOTHIAN: Now, the Secret Service says that it is not ruling out the possibility of any criminal charges.

As for the couple, a publicist in a statement said that they did not crash the event and they are looking forward to setting the record straight very, very soon -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Dan, we look forward to hearing that side of the story.

Well, crashing this week's state dinner is by no means the first presidential security breach. In September of 1994, a small plane entered White House airspace and crashed on the South Lawn, killing the pilot. The Clintons were away at the time.

Now, I was with President Bush in northern Mississippi in November of 2003 for another security breach. There was a woman who drove through a security barrier, she crashed into a building just as the president's motorcade was waiting to leave.

I also remember July 2003 when a man, he sneaked his way on to the press plane that I was on following President Bush on his Africa tour. He wound up being arrested just feet from where I was working. And you may recall the incident in Baghdad last December when a legitimate member of the media threw his shoes at Mr. Bush. Secret Service can't necessarily prevent bad behavior.

Well, we want to get a better sense of how this couple may have crashed this secure event.

I want to bring in our own CNN's Tom Foreman, who can kind of give us the lay of the land and explain these things.

Clearly, we go to these events. We go through a certain trek, if you will. What did they do?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, what it looks like is that the focus is going to be on that one gate you saw a moment ago when Dan Lothian's report was on here. He's looking at this little gate up here right in this area, up here on the northeast corner of the White House.

This is where people were coming in, and this is where they would have been met by the Secret Service and metal detectors. All indications are that this was really the critical point for getting inside.

But once they got inside, if this flowed the way the pictures suggest it did, they came down this way into the east entrance here. This is where -- according to the Facebook photograph she posted, that's where she stood with the Marines, right outside the doors here. Then they would have gone inside here down this hallway past the White House coat check, which is also the White House theater.

They took some more pictures, which they also put on Facebook, then into the White House proper. That's where this happened, the video we have seen so much of them being introduced and walking through right down the middle of the White House proper. And this news we have just learned today, it would have been some time around this point that they would have turned and got into this reception line to go up and meet the president.

You had to have a card in your hand at that point to present to show that you were the right person to be there, a big question about that, because those cards would normally be pre-printed, so how did one get there for them if they were not invited, or how did they get one, or did somebody find a way to get them around that? We don't know. Nonetheless, that happened in that area.

They also met some other people there and had their photographs taken there to indicate they spent some time actually in the body of the White House. Then out here to the South Lawn, that's where the big tent was set up for all this. And that's where they posted for the other pictures.

Katie Couric was actually when they took that picture, but then the other pictures with Rahm Emanuel, for example, and of course the now famous picture with Vice President Joe Biden.

That is just a little sense of how they traveled. But I'm talking you, Suzanne, it is all going to come down to a very, very serious question about this area right here on Pennsylvania Avenue, that checkpoint, and how they got past there, because, once that was crossed, it was fairly easy sailing, even though there are plenty of White House personnel around who presumably might have spotted them and might have said something about them, because we know some reporters didn't know who they were and were asking around a little bit, saying who's this couple just because they were curious -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Tom, thank you so much.

One of the biggest names in sports injured in a car crash right outside his home. Golf superstar Tiger Woods has led a pretty quiet life. Well, I will talk about the impact of this accident with NBC broadcaster Bob Costas.


MALVEAUX: Our top story: He may be the biggest name in sports, golf superstar Tiger Woods involved in a shocking early-morning car crash right outside his Florida home.

He has been released from the hospital in good condition, but there are many questions that remain.

Joining me now by phone, one of the biggest names in sports broadcasting, Bob Costas of NBC and the MLB Network.

Bob, thanks so much for joining us here.

Obviously, you have covered him for years. He means a tremendous amount to the sport, I mean beyond words here. When you hear this story and you think of the impact that he has had, what comes to mind?

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: Well, obviously, he's the most impactful athlete in his sport presently playing.

You can take any other giant star in any sport, a Peyton Manning, a Tom Brady, their absence would certainly be significant, but it wouldn't have the effect on overall ratings and popularity and interest in the sport that the absence of Tiger Woods would have on the PGA Tour or the major golf events.

But now it appears, based on what we know now, that he's been released in good condition, and this shouldn't have an impact on his career going forward.

MALVEAUX: Now, Bob, he was raised by a father who really inspired him and drove him to be the very best that he could be. He inspired many, many African-Americans, young boys and girls, to get involved in the sport itself. And really he managed to stay out of the headlines, out of the drama and just focus on the game.

Do you think something like this, this kind of accident and the questions around it will deter, will kind of get him off of that?

COSTAS: No. No, I would think not. I don't know any more than you and your viewers know at this point about what occurred. But it was reported that the police are saying that the accident was not alcohol-related.

These things happen. Luckily, it seems to be a minor incident. He's going to continue to be in good health. And so I think will have no effect. Considering the spotlight that has been on him since he was a teenager, and certainly since he won the Masters in 1997, in effect in his pro debut, considering that spotlight, it's been remarkable the way he has conducted himself. And I don't think that this will detract from that in any way.

MALVEAUX: You know him as an athlete, but you also know him personally. What kind of man is he?

COSTAS: I don't know him that well personally.

He keeps his distance. He's always -- he's gracious, he's polite, but he doesn't open up easily to members of the press. So, I wouldn't pretend to know him that well. But he's a person clearly who has a tremendous will. He's driven to succeed. He has tremendous self-discipline. He can apply himself to the task at hand.

A year-and-a-half ago, he had to leave the tour because of serious knee surgery after he won the U.S. Open, gritting it out on a bad leg, his 14th major championship. He rehabbed that injury and came back and though he didn't win any majors this year, he was in contention in three of the four. He has 14 major championships now. He will be 34 on December 30.

The record is Jack Nicklaus's 18. And considering the condition that Tiger keeps himself in, it's almost a foregone conclusion that he will past Jack Nicklaus and have that record to himself.

MALVEAUX: Do you think he has gotten better with age?

COSTAS: In some sense, yes, because he understands the game better. He's always coming up with new ways to attack a course.

The guy is a 10 on a 10 scale in almost every way. If you broke golf down to all of its components, including imagination, daring, ability to deal with pressure, a variety of shots, the ways in which he can attack a golf course, his game keeps maturing. He seldom loses when it's close.

He did this past year in the PGA, and it made headlines simply because Tiger didn't win a major when the chips were on the line, but it happens so rarely that you have to like his chances going forward.

MALVEAUX: What keeps him going, Bob, do you think?

COSTAS: Oh, I think it's his desire to be the greatest golfer of all time. He has a tremendous sense of golf history.

As a kid, he had a poster of Jack Nicklaus, who by consensus is the greatest golfer of all time. He had a poster of Jack Nicklaus on his bedroom wall. He knew all of Nicklaus's accomplishments. He knows the whole history of the game. And he's moving up that list. I think, even if he were to retire today, you could make a very good case for him as the greatest golfer who ever played, but once he goes past 18 majors, assuming that he does, I don't see how you could possibly argue against him.

MALVEAUX: Do you think this will increase his desire to beat Nicklaus?

COSTAS: I don't think that desire can be increased. I think it was already a 10 on a 10 scale.

MALVEAUX: All right.

Bob Costas, thank you so much of NBC Sports. Appreciate it.

COSTAS: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, they lost their battle to keep their local government from tearing down their homes. Years later, their homes are gone, but was it all for nothing?



MALVEAUX: Well, it's a place that is far away from the United States, but it may cause problems here in the U.S. It's Dubai. Its massive debt problems may cause shockwaves for U.S. banks.

Now, our own Wolf Blitzer has reported from Dubai, which is fast becoming a tourist hot spot for things like this cold spot. Take a look.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's hard to believe that we're right in the middle of the desert. Yes, we're in the desert.


MALVEAUX: And we are following breaking news, details of Tiger Woods' car crash and a report that his wife smashed out the back window of Tiger Woods' car to help get him out.


MALVEAUX: Wall Street was rocked today by reports that a debt crisis in Dubai could slow the global economic recovery. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 154 points, almost 1.5 percent. The European index has rebounded from losses, but Asian markets were slammed.

The fear is that international banks could suffer huge losses if Dubai's government investment firm defaults on a $60 billion debt. Dubai has a well-earned reputation as both an economic powerhouse and a playground for the rich.

Back in 2006, Wolf Blitzer took SITUATION ROOM viewers sightseeing in the Gulf emirate. I want you to take a watch. Look at this.


BLITZER (voice-over): This is the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, arguably, one of the manmade wonders of the world. It's the world's tallest hotel, complete with a helipad near the top. It's also one of the world's most expensive.

Luc Delafosse, originally from Paris, is the hotel's general manager and gave us a tour.

LUC DELAFOSSE, GENERAL MANAGER, BURJ AL ARAB HOTEL: This is quite something unique in the world today and it represents Dubai. We have a magnificent view anywhere and the building itself soars at 321 meters. So you are in suite 2008, that is actually one of our panoramic suites and the particularity of this suite particularly is this fantastic window where you can actually really see Dubai at your feet.

And also we have a particularity as well at the Burj Al Arab is very amazing service we give in our suites to all our guests. We have a team of 150 butlers working on a 24-hour basis. So it's made of the ground floor, where you have a bar area, you have a lounge area. We call it actually the majlis here, for example, in this region. You have a dining room, you have two bedrooms. You have a bedroom on the one floor and you also have the master bedroom on the mezzanine level on the upper floor.

BLITZER (on camera): This suite is per night, how much?

DELAFOSSE: I would say in terms of dollars, you know, it will be something like around $4,000 or $5,000 a night. We have a magnificent spa located on the 18th floor, an amazing place. Our actually, commitment, or mission, is to be clearly the world's most luxurious hotel.

BLITZER (voice-over): Not far from the hotel is this mall. What's extraordinary is what's inside, it's called Ski Dubai.

(on camera): It's hard to believe that we're right in the middle of the desert. Yes, we're in the desert, even though it's cold in here, you can say my breath, it's very cold, it's below zero. But these people are skiing, they are going on chair lifts. We're in the middle of Dubai and yes, there's a ski lift and there are ski slopes indoors.

(voice-over): It's the most bizarre scene, people from all over the world snowboarding and skiing downhill and indoors. The snow is manmade, as is the below-freezing temperature. But everything else is very real. Check it out.

Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Dubai.


MALVEAUX: Amazing, skiing in the desert.

Well, the United Nations and the United States are getting tough with Iran. Senior administration officials are warning that the U.S. is prepared to push for harsher economic sanctions if Iran does not come clean about its nuclear program.

Now, that follows a bluntly worded resolution from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, backed by 25 nations, demands that Iran stop work at a previous secret nuclear facility. It's also calling on Iran to freeze uranium enrichment. Iran, which says its nuclear program is peaceful, called the resolution useless.

An early-morning car crash right outside his home -- we're going to get the update on the accident involving golf superstar Tiger Woods and the very latest on his condition.

And he spent eight years as a controversial vice president. Well, now there's a move to draft Dick Cheney as the GOP's standard- bearer in 2012. The best political team on television is all over that one.


MALVEAUX: Back now to the breaking story we have been following closely for the past few hours. Hospital officials and spokespeople say that Tiger Woods is good condition and back home after an early morning crash near his home. And CNN's Mary Snow, she has some compelling new details about what happened. Mary, what do we know?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, we're learning some new details about how the wife of Tiger Woods apparently came to her husband's aid after the early morning accident. The police chief of Windermere, Florida told the Associated Press that Elin Nordegren used a golf club to break the back window of the car and help get her husband out of the vehicle. She apparently told police she was in their house when she heard the accident and came outside. A publicist for Woods calls it a minor accident and says Tiger Woods is in good condition.

A police report says around 2:25 this morning, Woods pulled out of his driveway in Cadillac SUV, struck a fire hydrant and then hit a tree. The mayor of Windermere told CNN police were on the scene within two minutes, and that Woods was taken to a nearby hospital, treated for lacerations on his face and then released.

However, the police report says the investigation is continuing; it does say that the accident was not alcohol related.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Mary. Well, Tiger Woods is known around the world. He is currently number one in world rankings. And he's won 82 times across the globe and 14 major tournaments. His next big scheduled event that is hosting and playing in his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge. The date for that is December 3rd through the 6th.

I want to bring back our CNN's Patrick Snell. He recently interviewed Tiger Woods. Patrick, do you have any sense at all if he'll be able to participate in this tour in the days to come?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, it's interesting, if I know Tiger Woods, then I know he'll desperately want to be there. It's a tournament, this one, the Chevron World Challenge in California, Sherman Oaks, that he's hosting. Whether he plays or not very much remains to be seen. I've just got a hunch that these injuries -- and don't forget, we're still learning about these injuries. We have got reports of facial lacerations. Nothing of concern from the Woods camp on that specifically.

I think he'll be there in person. I think he'll want to be there. He'll want to put on a brave face. He'll want to show he's there. But I will be very surprised if he actually competes at this event. He's got to get his fitness back on track.

Tiger Woods is all about winning majors. He's trying to surpass Jack Nicklaus as the game's all time greatest. And he's four behind Nicklaus. Nicklaus is on 18; Woods is four behind on 14. And as far as 2009 is concerned, that's been a bit of a damp squid for him, in terms of majors, because he's not won a single major.

But preparations are already beginning for next year's Masters. That's the season's first major at Augusta, just down the road here at CNN center in Atlanta. He'll be desperately focusing on that. That is in early April. I imagine this is going to set him back just a little bit. I'll be fascinated to see how he recovers from this.

Remember this time last year, we were waiting with baited breath to find out when he would be coming back from his latest knee surgery. And now of course he's got a whole new set of injuries that he might have to deal with as well. It's going to be a real test of his character, Suzanne, I can tell you. But as we all know, Tiger Woods is made of very stern stuff indeed. Back to you.

MALVEAUX: All right. Patrick, we'll be waiting every step of the way and we will be following him. Thanks so much.

President Obama will unveil his plan for the war in Afghanistan on Tuesday night. And of course you can see his speech live right here on CNN. But there's some Congressional Democrats that are already voicing their opposition to sending more troops. I want to talk about that and much, much more with the best political team on television: our CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, former Bush speech writer and columnist David Frum, Democratic strategist Jamaal Simmons, and "New York Times" White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

We can pretend like this is an extension of Thanksgiving dinner. We can all fight, argue, throw things. Whatever you want to do, it's OK.


MALVEAUX: Seconds as well. I want to show you, first of all, this is a Draft Dick Cheney 2012 movement that seems to be taking shape here. It says "there's only one person in our party with the experience, political courage, and unwavering commitment to the values that made our party strong, and that person is Dick Cheney."

I have spoken to some people in the White House. This is a dream come true for them. What do you make of putting Dick Cheney out there for the possible 2012 run?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I make of it that right now the energy in politics is on the right-hand side of the Republican Party. But I don't take it seriously simply because Dick Cheney, when he was down campaigning for Kay Bailey Hutchison, something like this came up and he said, not a chance. So I think it's DOA, as they say.

DAVID FRUM, FMR. BUSH SPEECH WRITER: Drafts don't happen in American politics. What I ask about is where are the contenders who actually do want the job. We know there are people like Mitt Romney who want the job. And they're not visible. Why not? And what has happened that is discouraging them from making their voices heard in the middle of all the important debates, like the one we're about to have on Afghanistan.

SIMMONS: I got to tell you Suzanne, this made me choke a little bit on my left over turkey sandwich when I first heard about this story. But I think this is a clear indication of the food fight that's taking place inside the Republican Party right now. And the more you have Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh as faces and voices that people on the right are turning to, the better off it is for Democrats who have to compete for moderates and independents in these next elections. None of those people have any credibility with the people who would even consider voting for one of the democrats.

JEFF ZELENY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I'd like to be contrary here, but I think Candy's right. I think there's no -- the former vice president said himself not a chance. But what about another Cheney? What about Liz Cheney? She is out there much more than her father is. She's on television a lot. Certainly opinionated. So if there's going to be a Cheney on the ballot at some point, she'll be the one.

MALVEAUX: We haven't seen that campaign yet. But you never know; that could happen. Obviously, the president on Tuesday night delivering a very important speech to the American people. I have spoken to the White House officials who say he's working on draft by draft by draft, because he's trying to convince that there's an exit strategy, as well as getting in. Some democrats, they're not necessarily happy with this. This is coming here from "the Washington Post," the op-eds, saying -- not an op-ed, but rather an article -- "top Democrats have made it clear to Obama that he will not receive a friendly reception should he announce what is considered the leading option, sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The legislators have indicated that a request for more money to finance a beefed up war effort will be met with frustration and perhaps a demand to raise taxes." How much of a problem is this for the president, from his own party?

CROWLEY: The only way you can conduct a war, of course, is to have it be funded. That's the only thing that Congress can do to stop sending troops. They won't do it. There are plenty of Republicans who are willing to support the president. All things being equal, if it's what we think it will be, 30,000 or a little bit more troops, with an outline of what he expects from the Afghan government, how he sees the US getting out of this -- so there are enough Democrats -- Dianne Feinstein has already said, look, why would you not take this guy's advice -- and enough Republicans that he will get it.

I think the funding is a different matter -- I mean, paying for the funding, if you will. Tax increase certainly has started up there, but the White House has not picked it up.

FRUM: It's been eight years of Democrats saying Iraq is the wrong war; Afghanistan is the right war; don't do it in Iraq; do it in Afghanistan. You dropped the ball on Afghanistan.

Now the focus is on Afghanistan. We never meant any of that. The wrong war is the one we're fighting now as far as these Democrats are concerned.

But this is the war that the president has committed to and he better make good. The whole world is watching.

SIMMONS: There are some Democrats who may feel that way. But I got to tell you, there's a big chunk of Democrats who don't feel that way. Because the real question that has to be answered is -- there's a difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan. You hear people talk about the Vietnamization of the Afghan war. The Viet-Cong never harbored terrorists who attacked the American homeland. In Afghanistan, the Taliban did.

So the question is: is Afghanistan and Pakistan the right place to fight the war to hold down al Qaeda. If the answer to that question is yes, then there are a variety of things that flow from that answer that the president has to figure out. What we should be thankful for this holiday season is we've got a president, unlike President Bush, who actually has sat down and thought through this, week after week, with his top commanders, and figured out what the best course is. Now he's got to go out and sell it.

MALVEAUX: Jeff, you've got ten seconds to wrap it.

ZELENY: I think that's -- this is exactly buy Speaker Pelosi was at the White House the other day. This is buy David Obey, House appropriator, was at the state dinner. Obama is trying to sell this plan. I agree with Candy, they'll give him the money.

MALVEAUX: All right, thanks guys. Appreciate it very much. Thanks for joining us.

More information is now coming in on the White House state dinner crashers. We have a new photo of their meeting with the president.


MALVEAUX: I want to go straight to Dan Lothian at the White House who has more information, new developments regarding the couple that crashed the state dinner at the White House. Dan, what do you know? What do you have?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: New developments, again. We now have a picture, a photo of the president meeting that couple at that state dinner in the receiving line. As you know, whenever they have these public events, you line up to get a chance to meet the president and also take a photo. We have gotten information earlier tonight that in fact the president did meet the couple. Now we have that picture that the White House has released, showing the couple shaking hands, taking a picture with the president.

This comes on a day that the Secret Service admits that they did make a mistake, that they dropped the ball. Their investigation continues and they're saying -- they're not ruling out there could be charges against this couple, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Dan, thanks so much for the very latest. I want to go back to our best political team on television. We could talk about the state dinner, but that's OK. I will spare you. we may talk about it next week. We may still be talking about this, but I don't know. Karl Rove, one of President Bush's top advisers, in an op-ed with the "Wall Street Journal" today, taking on the president over the deficit. He says here that "after engineering an unprecedented spending surge for nearly a year, President Barack Obama now wants to signal that he takes deficits seriously. Well almost. What seems to concern the president is not the problem run away spending poses for taxpayers and the economy. Rather what bothers him is the political problem it poses for Democrats."

We saw a poll earlier this week that said Democrats now are quite concerned about the federal deficit. How does he manage this problem?

FRUM: As we just saw this weekend with Dubai literally a government go bankrupt. It was a state-owned enterprise, but it was the same thing as the government of Dubai. Dubai is not the United States. But a mood of anxiety about this burden of debt is very real. And even if a lot of the measures the president took said spend the money are justified -- you had to do some kind of fiscal stimulus. Most economists agree on that. path the United States is on past this emergency, that is the thing that is really alarming.

CROWLEY: It's a problem, clearly, but it's not the problem. The problem is unemployment. And that's what they're looking at now. Going into an election year, yes, people understand it's bad to spend more than you've got. The deficit can be a problem. But 10.2 percent Unemployment is what they're looking at right now. And if they have to spend more money, it will be what the president has said for an entire year, A, don't lecture me on deficits, Republicans, because you're just as guilty. And, B, I had to do this to get us out of the worst economic crisis in decades. So I think those remain the two responses. And they're going to look at unemployment.

MALVEAUX: That's what the job summit is next week. Senior administration officials say, look, they're going to be talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. That's what they're trying to do here.

ZELENY: Which is one of the reasons we sort of have a split screen coming up in the month of December. On the one hand, the White House is going to be talking about Afghanistan. But if Republicans want to support this, they're going to have to help pay for this. So the White House hopes that kind of cools their complaints about his spending.

But I think Candy is right. The unemployment number is the biggest worry, the biggest concern. As long as the White House is seen talking about the deficit, as long as the president is seen talking about it, he is concerned about it, I think that will probably suffice for now. Because he can't do anything about it at this moment.

SIMMONS: It's actually a policy problem and a political problem. For those in a lot of these districts, particularly in the south, the Midwest and out west, Nevada and other places, they are feeling the heat about the deficit numbers. feeling the heat about the spending. So what the president has to calibrate is whatever money we spend on jobs, how much is that going to affect people being concerned about the deficit numbers?

Now, he's going to have to get a trend line, I think, going next year that shows at least some decline in the unemployment rate, to really give Democrats things to run on and show that this works. But right now they're being squeezed in between both big spending and high unemployment. And Democrats are really worried about that.

FRUM: Jamal, Jeff and Candy all suggest that the deficit is abstract. The unemployment numbers are intense. Right now, that is real. But it would take a very small bad event in the bond market to make a lot of people who are at work, which is the majority of people, suddenly think this deficit is not so abstract.

MALVEAUX: Got to leave it there. Thank you so much, guys, for joining us today. We'll talk about the state dinner next week.

Government seizing private property; residents of one city lost their homes and sued all the way up to the supreme court. Now some fear it was all for nothing.


MALVEAUX: The fallout from the landmark Supreme Court case never seems to end for those who lost their effort to keep their local government from taking their homes. Our CNN's Brooke Baldwin has the latest. Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, we recently went to New London, Connecticut to check in with a community who has recently suffered a one-two economic punch.


FRANCO CRISTOFARO, NEW LONDON RESIDENT: Right now I would be standing right in the middle of the bedroom of the house.

BALDWIN: What was once Franco Cristofaro's bedroom is now a grassy field. His was one of 70 homes torn down by the city of New London, Connecticut to make way for a massive building plan. It catapulted the city into a national debate on eminent domain, the statute that allows government to take private property for public use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The disruption of multiple families, and for what?

BALDWIN: In 2005, Cristofaro's family and several others took their eminent domain case all the way to the Supreme Court. The families lost and all moved out.

CRISTOFARO: For some people that would have been a parking lot.

BALDWIN: The development was centered around a new research sight for Pfizer ever. The city of New London planned new office building and infrastructure around it, bringing in new businesses and jobs. -

JOHN BROOKS, NEW LONDON DEVELOPMENT CORP: We're going to have to wait until the economy rebounds. BALDWIN: But so far little has been built. John Brooks heads the agency in charge of the development project, and he says the recession has stalled they plan.

BROOKS:: The naysayers that have said that, well, in the last 12 months there hasn't been a ground breaking, that's true, but that's a reflection on the economy.

BALDWIN: Families who feel they moved out for nothing are frustrated. And now, to make matters worse, Pfizer is moving out of town, and it's the city's largest tax payer. The former mayor says New London is left in a lurch. He says Pfizer had a specific condition when the company moved in.

LLOYD BEACHY, FORMER NEW LONDON MAYOR: This is based on the fact that New London is going to have a major development in the Ft. Trumble area, and we literally, each one of us, had to stand up individually and swear allegiance to that plan.

BALDWIN: Pfizer would not go on camera, but told CNN that it was not part of the eminent domain legal battle between the city and the people who live near its research center. Quote, "Pfizer was not a party to that litigation, had no stake in the outcome of the case, and has no requirements nor interest in the development of the land that is the subject of the case."

Cristofaro says he tries not coming back here often to avoid the heartache it caused his family. Not only did he lose his legal battle, he lost his mother to cancer in the midst of their legal fight. Her memorial is all he has left here.

CRISTOFARO: Standing out here in the field, got memories, that's about all you have. It would be fantastic to see something actually developed here so that -- so that it's not for nothing.


BALDWIN: Earlier this month, New London's Deputy Mayor John Maynard, proposed an ordinance that in the future the city would not declare eminent domain to take property from private citizens for economic development. And he's hoping that other towns and other states take notice, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: One family's very unique holiday tradition; they grow Christmas trees for the White House. They reveal the secret of their success.


MALVEAUX: On our political ticker, the official White House Christmas tree has arrived. The 18 and a half foot Douglas Fir was delivered by traditional horse-drawn carriage from a farm in West Virginia. First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters were there to accept it. Our CNN Dan Lothian joins us now. Dan, tell us the story about the tree.

LOTHIAN: This is a tree really that has been grown by a couple that have been at it for about 40 to 50 years, have been growing trees. And so they got an opportunity again to bring the tree to the White House, this special occasion that Michelle Obama unveiled today.


ERIC SUNDBACK, TREE GROWER: This is the baby here now, we got to figure out how we're going to get this loaded.

LOTHIAN: For Eric and Gloria Sundbacl, this is a holiday tradition, growing a Christmas tree fit for a president.

E. SUNDBACK: You're helping make a Christmas for the whole country.

LOTHIAN: The West Virginia couple, both in their 80s, have grown four presidential Christmas trees, one for Jimmy Carter, two for Ronald Reagan, and now this 18 and a half foot Douglas Fir destined for the Obama White House.

E. SUNDBACK: What we really like this year is that it's going to a family. The children are there. The family is well-knit.

LOTHIAN: To provide the White House tree, a farmer has to be crowned by the National Christmas Tree Association. Then White House officials make a visit.

GLORIA SUNDBACK, TREE GROWER: They're looking for trees that have good form and for trees that have stronger branches, because they use a lot of decorations.

LOTHIAN: And it takes a lot of hard work to grow that perfect presidential tree, careful pruning, experimenting to get the right mix of characteristics, and a little tough love.

E. SUNDBACK: She had a word when she'd get up in the morning and get out, things are going, say, "well, fellas, you want to be a Christmas tree now or are you going to wait until later and be toilet paper?" And that gets the tree growing.

LOTHIAN: These college sweethearts who have been growing trees for 50 years are hoping to shake the Obamas hands when they drop off this holiday gift. But then it's back to work.

E. SUNDBACK: You don't want to let it go to your head because you got to come back out and work again.

G. SUNDBACK: That's right and you're right in the season.

LOTHIAN: But they say they're happy knowing their gift will bring joy to the first family. E. SUNDBACK: We hope they enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed Christmas as kids. So if the tree is good and they enjoy it, that's what it's about.


LOTHIAN: The tree will be decorated and displayed in the White House Blue Room. Of course, it will be the main attraction for all the various holiday celebrations, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, thank you, Dan. Wolf Blitzer in a blockbuster vampire movie? Stick around for the Friday funnies. We'll be right back.


MALVEAUX: OK, so what if it's the day after Thanksgiving? We are not skipping the Friday funnies. Check out Jay Leno, who managed to pair a Thanksgiving tradition with the issues of the day.


JAY LENO, "THE JAY LENO SHOW": Today, President Obama officially pardoned the White House turkey today, the Thanksgiving turkey. And not only pardoned the turkey, also gave it free health care for the rest of its life.


MALVEAUX: Conan O'Brien took a jab at this week's White House state dinner.


CONAN O'BRIEN, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": This is big, last night the White House held a state dinner for the prime minister of India, and it featured traditional Indian music. Isn't that nice? Yeah, unfortunately -- unfortunately the festivities came to a halt when Adam Lambert showed up and made up with the sitar player.


MALVEAUX: Finally, David Letterman made note of a blockbuster vampire film, "Twilight," with a special nod to a CNN colleague.


DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": This new installment is not just about vampires. It has an interesting twist to it. The new one, have you seen it here, take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The "Twilight" saga returns in "New Moon," featuring all your favorite characters from the book, including the brooding vampire, the mysterious werewolf, and the most frightening creature of all, the Werewolf Blitzer. Now playing in theaters everywhere. MALVEAUX: The Werewolf Blitzer. The Werewolf Blitzer.


MALVEAUX: That explains where Wolf's been all week, I guess. He's back in "THE SITUATION ROOM" next week. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Up next, Erica hill and "CNN TONIGHT." Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, thanks. I was wondering where he was, too.