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White House Party Crashers Investigated; Afghanistan Strategy?

Aired November 30, 2009 - 18:00   ET


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

Anticipation has been building for months now, and President Obama finally on the verge of revealing new marching orders in Afghanistan. He's giving world leaders and members of his war council a heads-up about his troop build-up proposals before his big public announcement tomorrow night. Of course, we will carry the president's remarks live here on CNN.

Right now, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, to give us a little preview.

What are you picking up about what the president is going to tell the American people and the world tomorrow night, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, top aides are saying the president is going to be focused in a large part on -- about finishing the job in Afghanistan, finally getting it right and finally getting the U.S. out.

For now, though, he's also dealing with allies, trying to bring them along, convincing them to add more new troops to Afghanistan, so it's not just a U.S. effort. And he's getting ready for the hardest part of all, selling it to the American people.


HENRY (voice-over): On the eve of a monumental speech from the president, he huddled privately with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, and placed calls to the leaders of Italy, France, Russia, Great Britain, and Denmark, all aimed at showing the war is not just a bottomless pit for the U.S.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not an open-ended commitment, that we are there to partner with the Afghans, to train the Afghan national security forces.

HENRY: But senior officials say the president will send about 30,000 more U.S. troops, while it's unclear how many new troops allies will send and how quickly Afghanistan can stand on its own.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: The key element here is not just more troops. The key element is shifting the operations to the Afghanis. And, if that can be done, then I would support the president. HENRY: In a CNN interview this month, the president said he will focus on an endgame, but it was telling, he hedged on whether President Hamid Karzai is a reliable charter.

(on camera): Do you trust President Karzai?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I think that President Karzai has served his country in important ways. He has some strengths, but he's got some weaknesses.

HENRY (voice-over): And how will the president pay for his second escalation of the war? Powerful Democrat David Obey is turning up the heat on Mr. Obama by pushing a war tax to fund the new troops.


REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I just think that, if this war is important enough to engage in the long term, it's important enough to pay for.


HENRY: An issue the White House will not take a position on.

(on camera): Will it be with a new tax or will it be with spending cuts?

GIBBS: Well, again, I think those discussions, once the president has a policy and can put a price tag on it, I think you will see those more in earnest.


HENRY: Now, Mr. Obama's not going to be able to duck the cost issue for long. David Obey and other top lawmakers in both parties will be here at the White House tomorrow afternoon just hours before the president's big speech at West Point. They're likely to press him on a whole series of questions, including costs likely to come up, especially with the U.S. now $14 trillion in debt, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, I take it, as far as an exit strategy, Ed, is concerned, we're not going to hear from the president what we heard as far as Iraq is concerned, a date certain, A, when all combat forces would be out of Iraq, and then a final date when all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq. That's not going to happen tomorrow night, as far as Afghanistan is concerned?

HENRY: That's right, no timetable. There have been reports out there suggesting the president would have a specific timetable. Top White House aides here are knocking that down. He's not going to get that specific.

And that is going to be one of the challenges for him, because, obviously, he was introduced to the American people in large part with his position on Iraq, where he was very specific, very clearly against the war and for a specific timetable to get out. Now he's going to have to explain exactly why he doesn't have a specific timetable here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, he's over at the White House.

Thanks very much. He will be up at West Point tomorrow night for the big speech.

Let's take a closer look at the Afghan security operation right now and how it might be beefed up after President Obama's announcement. Right now, there are about 95,000 Afghan troops taking part in what's known as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The top U.S. military commander, General Stanley McChrystal, wants the Afghan army to increase its commitment to 240,000 total Afghan troops.

Right now, 93,000 Afghan national police officers are assigned to the security operation. General McChrystal's proposed strategy would increase that figure to 160,000 troops.

Some of the president's staunchest congressional allies are at odds with him when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. Can they be convinced that sending more U.S. troops is the right move? One of them tells us she's leaning absolutely, positively no.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar. She's joining us from Chicago with more.

Some of the liberal allies of the president, as you know, Brianna, not very happy about this.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And one of them is Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, one of the earlier and most ardent supporters of President Obama.

She actually served in the Illinois state legislature with him. She supported his run for the U.S. Senate. But on the issue of Afghanistan, well, President Obama had better not bank on the support from this longtime political ally.


KEILAR (voice-over): In February, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and President Obama beamed for the camera moments before she escorted him on to the House floor before his first address to Congress. But now Schakowsky is one of many liberal Democrats likely to break with the president on Afghanistan.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: I think he's made up his mind that at this point, there ought to be a troop increase. And I have to say I'm very skeptical about that as a solution.

KEILAR: Schakowsky founded a group of congressional Democrats that dub themselves the Out of Iraq Caucus and she worries Afghanistan is set to become, in her words, another quagmire. In her solidly Democratic district in the suburbs north of Chicago, many of her constituents agree.

SCHAKOWSKY: My inclination is to think that increasing the number of military in Afghanistan is not going to help the situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you're saying everything that we hoped you would say.

KEILAR: Aside from defying the president, Schakowsky says her concern for Afghan women has made her decision a difficult one.

SCHAKOWSKY: When you look at the women, you can barely see their eyes. That's the idea.

KEILAR: Schakowsky bought this traditional Afghan burqa on one of her two trips to the country. Like many Westerners, she sees it as a symbol of oppression. Since U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001, some women in the capital of Kabul at least have shed the burqa. Schakowsky points out far more now go to school. And if U.S. troops leave and the Taliban regains control?

(on camera): Would this become the law without U.S. military presence in Afghanistan?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, that's not a given. I think that the...

KEILAR: But is it a concern for you?

SCHAKOWSKY: That is a concern for me. I do -- this complicates my thinking about it.

KEILAR: Schakowsky says she is torn, but, in the end, she thinks the cost of sending more troops to Afghanistan, both in lives and taxpayer dollars, cannot be justified, though she admits other Democrats may disagree with her.

SCHAKOWSKY: We have members who, I think, may be persuaded that this is the way to go. I think it's unlikely that I would be.


KEILAR: Now, there is expected to be a Democrat -- a divide among Democrats. But where that fault line will fall is still pretty fuzzy. Certainly, President Obama will lose the support of some liberal Democrats like Jan Schakowsky.

But, on moderate Democrats, some of them are really keeping their cards close to their vest, saying they want to wait and make their decision after they hear President Obama's speech tomorrow night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Possible he could have more Republican support than Democratic support after that speech. We will watch it with you, Brianna. Thanks very much.

Stay with CNN. You can see and hear the president's big speech on Afghanistan live tomorrow night. Our special coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM. We're harnessing our global resources to bring you all the angles of this very important story as no other network really can. Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You're even coming to the big city for that tomorrow night, aren't you?

BLITZER: I will be in New York, New York, tomorrow for that, yes.

CAFFERTY: You and I will be together again on the fifth floor of this here building at Time Warner Center.

BLITZER: It's a lovely building.

CAFFERTY: Looking forward to it.

BLITZER: Me, too.

CAFFERTY: All right.

On the eve of his address to the nation about Afghanistan, President Obama could be at a crossroads for his presidency early in his first term. Politically speaking, the stakes for Afghanistan and health care, for that matter, couldn't be much higher. Politico suggests that President Obama's gift of controlling his image is showing signs of faltering.

And they point to several anti-Obama storylines that have been gaining momentum, including things like the president thinks he's playing with "Monopoly" money the way he's been spending tax dollars to try to revive the economy, that the West Wing is dominated by Chicago-style brass-knuckle politicians, like the public battle with FOX News, which isn't exactly the change Mr. Obama promised on the campaign trail, that he's given House Speaker Nancy Pelosi too much power, that the president is a pushover, i.e. setting a deadline for health care which lawmakers in his own party ignored, that he should appear prouder of America than he sometimes does when he's overseas, and that he thinks too highly of himself.

The White House argues all of these storylines are inaccurate or unfair, sometimes pushed by Republicans or the press.

But there is a problem somewhere. The president's losing considerable support among white Americans. Gallup puts President Obama's approval rating among whites at 39 percent, down from 61 percent in February. And a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows the president with a 50 percent approval rating among whites, but that's down from nearly 70 percent in the same poll last winter.

So, here's the question. What does a drop in approval rating of 20 percent or more among whites mean for President Obama? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

It's not a very encouraging sign.

BLITZER: It means he better deliver a very good speech tomorrow night, Jack. CAFFERTY: And it better be the stuff that the public wants to hear. There's a big division of opinion on what the right thing to do is when it comes to Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Yes, huge.

Jack Cafferty, thank you.

Four police officers were slaughtered. A massive manhunt is under way in Washington State. We will have all the latest for you on what's going on. Also, the former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, his name is actually being brought up in connection with all of this. What is that connection? Will the former Republican presidential candidate suffer a backlash?


BLITZER: Right now, there's new urgency to find the suspect in the killing of four police officers in Washington State. Today, he apparently managed to elude members of a heavily armed SWAT team that thought they had cornered him in a Seattle home.

An intense manhunt is under way for Maurice Clemmons. He has a very long criminal record, including a stiff prison sentence in Arkansas that was actually cut short by the then Governor and failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She has more on this case, the possible political fallout for Governor Huckabee.

What's going on, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the former Arkansas governor commuted the prison sentence for Maurice Clemmons nine years ago. A prosecutor who fought that decision calls it a tragedy, saying Clemmons should have been in an Arkansas prison until he was eligible for parole in 2021.


SNOW (voice-over): Fellow police officers in Washington want to know why the suspect in the killing of four police officers was free, given his long criminal record.

BRIAN WURTS, LAKEWOOD POLICE INDEPENDENT GUILD: I can't believe he was out on the street. If what is true, I think this country needs to get together to figure out why these people are out.

SNOW: Maurice Clemmons' criminal record began in Arkansas. Between 1988 and '90, he was arrested on eight felony counts, including aggravated felony and possession of a firearm. He was convicted and sentenced to 108 years in prison.

In 2000, he sought clemency, saying he was a changed man. He wrote to then Governor Mike Huckabee that he was a teen who had just moved to Arkansas from Seattle, adding, he fell in with the wrong crowd and thus began a seven-month crime spree, which led him to prison.

Huckabee granted clemency, making Clemmons eligible for parole, but prosecuting attorney Larry Jegley objected, telling CNN, "A lot of my fellow prosecutors and I raised Cain with the governor, and Jegley says he continued to dread what's out on the streets.

Clemmons returned to prison again in Arkansas in 2001, but was paroled in 2004, and then moved to Washington State. There, authorities say he faces charges in the assault of a police officer and the rape of a child. He was released on bond just last week.

Huckabee addressed the topic of Clemmons on his daily radio commentary.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State.


SNOW: A spokesman for Huckabee declined our request for an interview. Huckabee is a commentator for FOX, and also defended his role on FOX Radio.


HUCKABEE: If I could have known nine years ago and looked into the future, would I have acted favorably upon the parole board's recommendation? Of course not.


SNOW: This isn't the first time Huckabee faced criticism about Arkansas prisoners being released. During the 2008 campaign, he was questioned about the release of Wayne Dumond , a convicted rapist who later raped and murdered a Missouri woman.

While Huckabee wrote to Dumond saying he hoped he would get out of prison, he denied pushing the parole board for his release.


SNOW: Now, yesterday, just hours before Clemmons was named a suspect, Huckabee, the 2008 presidential candidate, played down his chances for running for president again. Political watchers say, should he run, this case could haunt him. Already, there are comparisons to the Willie Horton ads that helped sink the candidacy of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Horton committed rape and robbery while released from prison through a weekend furlough program in Massachusetts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much. Let's talk about the possible political fallout for Governor Huckabee, as the GOP tries to regroup.

Joining us, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, and our CNN political analyst David Gergen.

How much of a problem could this be for Governor Huckabee, David, if in fact he would like to once again run for the Republican presidential nomination?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, had he not pulled himself out yesterday or essentially said he was leaning against it, I think controversy would be swirling around him now. The cloud would be so dark, I think it would -- people would tell him, don't run, or certainly don't get into this if this passes, because the Willie Horton issue, you recall that -- everybody who has been in politics for more than 20 years will recall that, not only just the release of Willie Horton, but the advertisement done by the Republicans against Michael Dukakis in that race, which was regarded as an outrageous advertisement, but did sink -- help to sink Mike Dukakis.

That same sort of advertising would come back and I think cost Mike Huckabee a huge amount if he tried to seek the Republican nomination now.

BLITZER: In a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Gloria, Huckabee was on top among Republicans' choice for the presidential nomination in 2012, 32 percent, to Sarah Palin's 25 percent, Mitt Romney, 21 percent, everybody else, way, way down.

I don't know if those numbers would be the same right now, based on what has happened in Washington State.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think that would be a problem. I think, when you look at the numbers, they're all about name identification. People kind of know who Mike Huckabee is because he ran last time, just as they know who Sarah Palin is and Mitt Romney is.

But I think the problem that Mike Huckabee has is that, in his statement that he released, he really sort of blamed the system, rather than saying, look, I made a judgment many years ago and I made a wrong judgment, obviously. It's something that every governor might fear when he thinks of clemency and granting clemency.

Instead, he seemed to sort of shunt the blame aside to the system, which I'm sure is partly to blame. But I think he needed to claim a little bit of ownership of this, which he did not do.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mitt Romney hit Mike Huckabee during the last primary, Republican primaries, on how many times he granted clemency, how many pardons he granted, because there were a lot from Huckabee when he was governor. The problem now is, there are specifics to someone that he pardoned. It's not the sort of general, oh, boy, he's letting a lot of people out there. It's, OK, here's one of the people they let out here.

So, it -- I agree with David. It would be a problem should he run. I'm not the least bit convinced he's going to do that anyway.

BLITZER: That he's going to run, you mean?


BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Because yesterday he was sort of suggesting, I'm not going to run, but it wasn't ironclad by any means.


CROWLEY: It never is, but...


BORGER: He seemed to be saying he liked having a TV show better than being president of the United States. So, there you go, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I like having a TV show, too.


BLITZER: David, we all like being on TV.

If he does have political ambitions -- and I'm among those skeptics who is convinced he still has some political ambitions out there -- how should he handle this? What should he just -- well, should he do what Gloria is saying, simply say, you know what, I screwed up; I made a horrible mistake?

GERGEN: I think Gloria's got a point. I think he does need to own up to it.

But it goes back to the pattern, too. There was over a six-year period, there's one study that shows that he issued more clemency and pardon writs than any other governor in all six states surrounding Arkansas combined.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: So, he's had a long history of this. And with other people, with at least this one other case of recidivism, the recidivism rate has been something I think you have to consider here.

And I think it's a question of when governors should exercise this. And there's also a question, Wolf, to what degree did his religious beliefs lead him to believe that people could -- should be given second chances in life like this.


GERGEN: And so I think this controversy, if he should get back into politics, I think the only way he can do this is deal with it now, just like Tiger Woods has to sort of deal with it publicly, and then from that then you see where you are, after you deal with it.


BORGER: And I think he has a good argument to make, particularly in terms of his political beliefs, as David says. There's nothing wrong with believing in redemption, and particularly since this man was 17 years old at the time.

BLITZER: Nineteen when he was commuted.

BORGER: Nineteen when he was commuted, but a young man who had a life ahead of him.

BLITZER: And he is an ordained minister, Huckabee.



CROWLEY: And that in fact was one of the arguments that he made or one of the explanations when he talked about it during the primary.

I think the other thing just practically speaking, there are clearly other people who let this guy go more recently even than when he was granted clemency by Huckabee. So, that would come to the fore at some point. But he has got to say something other than, oh, gee, everybody's to blame.

BLITZER: Right. All right. Good point. Guys, thanks very much.

We have an update on that couple who showed up perhaps uninvited, perhaps not, at a White House state dinner. What's going on? His brother is now speaking out and we have his comments.

Also, another ship is captured by pirates off the Somali coast. This time, it's an oil tanker headed for the U.S. with $20 million worth of crude oil. The whole story is coming up next.



BLITZER: Tiger Woods won't answer questions from the police or the news media, at least not now. His silence is fueling the rumor mill and giving his corporate sponsors some headaches. Can he turn the controversy around? Stand by.

And the couple that made waves at a White House party deny they crashed the gala. Officials are investigating, though, at the highest levels. Will anyone pay a price for this startling security breach?


BLITZER: A lot of people want to hear from that couple accused of crashing the White House state dinner. We have learned they have apparently spoken to at least one reporter. We're talking about Angie Goff of our CNN affiliate WUSA here in Washington. She says the Salahis called her. They would not say if they had an invitation to that White House state dinner. But the reporter says the husband insisted they did not crash the dinner.

Meanwhile, we're also hearing from Tareq Salahi's brother. Listen to this.


DR. ISMAIL SALAHI, BROTHER OF TAREQ SALAHI: I wasn't terribly surprised by it. I was shocked by it, but I don't definitely put it past him and his wife to do something like this. So...

QUESTION: Do you think they should get in trouble for this?

SALAHI: I think that an investigation is going to be done by both the White House and the Secret Service. That's my understanding. So, I think that they should definitely be treated like anybody else, celebrity status or not. It doesn't preclude them, I think, from the laws.

QUESTION: What kind of guy is he?

SALAHI: That's a whole other story. My brother has been embroiled in a bitter family feud for about 10 years trying to take over the family business that my father started. So I've been trying to help my father and my mother for many years now to get away from the trouble that they've been causing. But Tareq and I have not spoken in five years. So I have had no contact with him.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Sad, two brothers don't speak to each other. The White House addressed this controversy for the first time directly with reporters today.

Let's bring back our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry.

What did they say, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's clear that Robert Gibbs wants to keep the responsibility for this fallout at the feet of Secret Service, even though, as you know, previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have also had staffers from the White House Social Secretary Office waiting at the first checkpoint for state dinners.

So it was not just on the Secret Service, that there'd be somebody there with some sort of a list to check the names. I pressed Robert Gibbs on whether the White House also bears some responsibility.


HENRY: Will they just be reviewing what the Secret Service did or they also take a look at White House staff, Social Secretary's Office, and see whether they made mistakes as well?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will check with folks here. My understanding is that the Secret Service will look at what the Secret Service did.

HENRY: Do you think the White House staff should be looked at as well? There are guests who came to this event who say that at previous dinners, there was somebody from the Social Secretary's Office there who's checking names. That's not really the responsibility of the Secret Service.

GIBBS: No, but understand that the individuals that are listed weren't on any list.


HENRY: Now Robert Gibbs also made the point that if the Secret Service had some question about whether someone wasn't on the list, they could have picked up a phone at the White House gate and basically called into the Social Secretary's Office and found out whether or not this couple was really on the list.

I think the bottom line is this is why there's now a Secret Service investigation, to get to the bottom of who knew what when. And the White House certainly hopes that it can put this behind them.

This is a clear embarrassment, given the fact that this couple was able to talk to not just the vice president but the president as well, leaving to a lot of questions about whether there was a threat to the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's just hope they learned the right lessons from this. It doesn't happen again.

Ed, thank you.

We also have some new pictures for you this hour of the car that Tiger Woods wrecked early Friday morning outside his Florida home. They were obtained by the Web site And they show extensive damage to that Cadillac Escalade, including a broken window and a battered front bumper and grill.

Woods isn't doing anything to look through the mystery surrounding the crash. In fact he's not talking to police at all or to the news media.

Let's go to CNN's Susan Candiotti. She has the latest.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first sign of fallout from Tiger's accident turmoil. Woods is pulling the plug on a news conference at his charity tournament in California Tuesday.

KEN SUNSHINE, PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANT: I think they're listening to lawyers and agents and not listening to people that have ever dealt with the media.

CANDIOTTI: And his agent says Woods won't be playing either. A statement on his Web site says he's too sick to swing a club in competition the rest of this year. Woods says, "I'm extremely disappointed that I will not be at my tournament this week."

Woods hasn't been seen in public since he rammed his Cadillac SUV into a fire hydrant and then a tree coming out of his driveway last week at 2:30 in the morning. A neighbor called 911. But if he recognized Woods, he didn't say so.

911 OPERATOR: Is he unconscious?


911 OPERATOR: OK. Are you able to tell if he is breathing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I can't tell right now.

CANDIOTTI: Investigators were turned away three times from Woods' home over the weekend. By law, he didn't have to talk with investigators and he didn't. Instead, the golfing phenom issued a statement on his Web site accepting responsibility but gave no details about what happened that night.

A public relations consultant says Woods has a right to privacy but adds silence may not be the best idea.

SUNSHINE: Cooperate when legitimate questions are being asked. You don't have to give details of anything. You should never have to give details about your personal life. But to stonewall and clam up is an ingredient to more attention.

CANDIOTTI: It's getting a lot of attention on Orlando talk radio.

JASON "BUCKETHEAD" BAILEY, THE BUCKETHEAD SHOW, 104.1 WTKS: I think Tiger is not talking because he does not know how to handle it. He has never been in any type of trouble like this before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger's going to roll through it and, you know, it's wash off his back.

CANDIOTTI: On the line, potentially millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships. Today, Gatorade, Nike Golf and Gillette were among those supporting him. On his Web site, Woods called rumors circulating about what happened malicious and unfounded. The "National Enquirer" reported he's allegedly seeing another woman. She told the Associated Press, it's not true.

SUNSHINE: The media doesn't go away in these situations. And when you're that famous, they're going to only have more interest if there's anything scandalous or potentially scandalous involved. CANDIOTTI (on camera): Adding to the mix, investigators say they're deciding whether to subpoena Woods' medical records to document his injuries in order to wrap up the investigation.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Windermere, Florida.


BLITZER: Six years after the U.S. toppled the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, Iraqis have not turned their TVs and guess what, they're seeing him giving a political speech. What's up with that? We'll have the story.


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Betty, what's going on?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, despite a slow start to the holiday shopping season, November is ending with the market's best performance since the summer. Today marked the first full day of trading since before the thanksgiving holiday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up a modest 35 points. Stocks had tumbled during Friday's shortened session on news of Dubai's financial woes.

A Texas prison inmate, well, he is on the loose right now apparently armed and dressed like an officer. Authorities say the 6'0" 200-pound man pulled a gun on guards and even handcuffed them together during a prison transfer from Huntsville to Beaumont. He's serving a life sentence for convictions including indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault.

Listen to this. An Iraqi television channel devoted to Saddam Hussein? Fallen off the dial. Just three days after hitting the air waves, the so-called Saddam Channel has gone dark. The channel's chairman tells the Associate Press that it will be back once technology upgrades are made. Iraqi government officials believe Baathists, the political party Saddam once led, are behind the project -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Not a channel I necessarily would spend a lot of time watching.

NGUYEN: Interesting, yes.

BLITZER: Apparently still has some followers out there. Thanks very much, Betty, for that.

Tomorrow the president of the United States will announce his strategy for Afghanistan. If you want some straight talk about what we could all expect, you can't get better analysis than from CNN's Michael Ware and Peter Bergen. They're both standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're just over 24 hours away from President Obama's huge announcement on his new Afghan strategy expected to include at least 30,000 additional U.S. forces being deployed to Afghanistan.

CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen and CNN's Michael Ware, they're both here to discuss whether or not the strategy might work.

Michael, you've spent a lot of time in Afghanistan. Another 30,000 or 35,000 U.S. troops. Is it going to get the job done?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends entirely on how they're used, Wolf. I mean it's what the focus is going to be. You cannot possibly cover all of Afghanistan. So you need to pick your targets. And principally, the Taliban war machine, by and large, remains untouched, despite the troops who are already there.

Despite the operations in Helmand Province where the Marines have been sent, their ability to recruit, their ability to supply, their command and control remains intact. So how we're going to use these 30,000, where are we going to send them, and at the end of the day, Wolf, there's still not going to be enough.

We need an Afghan partner within the government. And I think we need Afghan partners beyond the government -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's got a lot of explaining, Peter, to do tomorrow night, the president, if he's going to convince the American public that this is the right thing to do.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. In the speech he gave on March 27th, he said it was really about disrupting, dismantling al Qaeda. I suspect in the speech that he will give shortly -- he'll expound on that and say that there are other values. We don't want the Taliban returning. That would be a strategic defeat for the United States and for NATO and Afghanistan.

We're concerned about the stability of Pakistan, and an unstable Afghanistan helps to make an unstable Pakistan, a country of nuclear weapons. We have a moral obligation to kind of get it right in Afghanistan, having overthrown their government. There are a lot of other things he could say...

BLITZER: Peter, there's a lot more al Qaeda -- forget about the Taliban for a moment. A lot more al Qaeda in Pakistan. And maybe even more al Qaeda in Somalia or Yemen than in Afghanistan.

BERGEN: Certainly. But you know, the Afghan/Pakistan border doesn't really exists -- you know, it exist on a map but it doesn't exist for al Qaeda or the Taliban. And the 82nd Airborne can't go in to Pakistan because of the politics on that side of the border. So, you know, we're trying to prevent the Taliban expanding even more back into Afghanistan than they are already.

BLITZER: What will this exit strategy, Michael -- the president supposedly is going to talk about an exit strategy down the road. We know the Taliban, they've had others who have come in over the years and tried to deal with Afghanistan like the Russians, for example.

If the U.S. is going to stay five or 10 years, to them it doesn't necessarily seem like a long time.

WARE: Well, no, it's not. As you know, Wolf, the Taliban fight generationally. They fought the Soviets for 10 years. They fought every other occupier invader before that as history tells us.

Bottom line, with American military might, you are not going to defeat the Taliban. It's their home soil. The terrain is against us. We don't have the troops. The people are scared. There's a weak and corrupt central government that does not give the villages any confidence.

The best that you can hope for is to put the hurt on the Taliban militarily. Make them feel the American military presence. And that hopefully will parlay to a political deal because ultimately that's going to be the only solution.

And as Ambassador Holbrooke, the president's special envoy to the region, has said, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has already been in direct talks and indirect talks with the Taliban. So there's going to have to be an accommodation of some sort before America can come home.

BLITZER: Can the U.S. buy off the Taliban in Afghanistan sort of the way the U.S. bought off the Sunni insurgents in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq?

BERGEN: Actually in the Defense Appropriations Bill, there's substantial amount of money to do precisely that and certainly at the lower and even the mid level, you can do that with the Taliban. In fact, there already has been an amnesty program for the Taliban over the last several years that several thousand Taliban, lower level members, have taken advantage of.

But the (INAUDIBLE) rate has been very low. It's a whole lot other question about doing a deal with Mullah Omar. He's repeatedly said that he's not interested in a deal. And in fact, he's just come out with a recent message making that same point.

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this tomorrow. Both you guys are going to be with us tomorrow night for our special coverage. That will begin at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Peter Bergen, Michael Ware, guys, thanks very much.

We met her as a little girl and watched her grow in the White House. And now some big news from Chelsea Clinton as she embarks on a new phase in her life.


BLITZER: Erica Hill is coming up right at the top of the hour on "CNN TONIGHT." She is joining us now with a little preview of what she's working on. What are you working on, Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks. Ahead at the top of the hour, something you've been talking a lot about, President Obama's big decision on the war in Afghanistan. Some 30,000 additional troops to be deployed. We want to know if this is the right strategy for victory. Tackling that question tonight.

Also, the desperate manhunt for an accused cop killer. Four officers gunned down execution-style in Washington. The suspect, a violent career criminal who many say should have been behind bars.

Plus Tiger's troubles continues. New pictures tonight of his bizarre car crash being released. And the golf great bailing on his own tournament, going from golf god to tabloid fodder. A lot of people wondering tonight if there could be more to the Tiger Woods story. We'll tackle that as well. All that coming up at the top of the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Erica. Thanks very much. Just coming up in a few moments.

On our "Political Ticker" right now, Chelsea Clinton is engaged to her long-time boyfriend. A spokesman confirms the 29-year-old former first daughter has said yes to 31-year-old investment banker Marc Mezvinsky. She met him as a teenager right here in Washington, D.C. and then they both went off to Stanford University.

Of course, everyone knows who her parents are, but did you know that his parents are both former Democratic members of Congress? In fact, Marjorie Margolie-Mezvinsky cast a critical vote for Bill Clinton's economic plan back in 1993 that passed Congress by only two votes. That move wound up, by the way, costing Margolie-Mezvinsky her job. Pennsylvania voters ousted her the following year.

Chelsea Clinton's future father-in-law, Ed Mezvincky, is also a former congressman from Iowa who voted to impeach Richard Nixon back in the 1974 when he was a member of the House Judiciary Committee. He recently served sometime in jail for his connection to a Nigerian e- mail scam.

Looks as though these two political families will be joined next year. In an e-mail to her friends, Chelsea and Marc, they say they're looking toward a summer wedding.

Congratulations to both of them and congratulations to their families.

Remember, for all the latest political news anytime, you can always check out

It's too good to be true, too good to ignore for a lot of folks. In fact, a late-night crash, a famous face, lots of hot headlines. Everybody's talking. Jeanne Moos finding it all "Most Unusual."


BLITZER: Right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, what does a drop in the approval rating of 20 percent among whites mean for President Obama?

Two major polls, CNN Opinion Research Corporation and Gallup, showing a rather precipitous decline among that particular demographic.

Jan writes from Ethnic Green, Indiana, "President Obama decided to keep the one promise he'd hoped he break, the sanity in Afghanistan. Unless the president starts making good on his promises and puts an end to the continuation of many of the unpopular Bush policies that he has kept in place, he can move back to Chicago in three years."

Russ in Minnesota writes, "I guess I'd be one of those folks who was added to his approval drop. The fact that I'm white means nothing. We were promised as new type of leadership, a new transparent Washington. From someone intelligent enough to see through the partisan lines and willing to get the job done. If he wants my support back, he needs to live up to the hype that he himself promised."

Ed writes, "These folks need to get over themselves. President Obama is doing the best he can under horrible circumstances under which he came into office. Let him do his job without all the back-biting rhetoric of which we already have too much from both camps. If he fails, we can elect a new president in 2012. People are too spoiled. They want instant gratification and a quick fix for everything."

Danny writes from Grundy, Virginia, "Simply put, it means that as long as the GOP doesn't nominate Sarah Palin in 2012, there'll be no reelection for President Obama."

Dave writes, "It means nothing. Who else are thoughtful, intelligent people regardless of their race going to vote for? Sarah Palin? I don't think so."

Steve in Virginia, "It means independents are no longer drinking his Kool-Aid." And Brent writes from Japan, "It means there is more to being president than not being George Bush."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog,, and check it out.

Wolf, I'll see you up here in the big city tomorrow.

BLITZER: See you in New York tomorrow, Jack. Looking forward to it. Thank you.

Jeanne Moos on Tiger Woods next.


BLITZER: Here's Jeanne Moos on Tiger Woods.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prepare for the Tiger should have used a driver jokes for the headline puns, for the instant polls, is Tiger hiding something, asked TMZ, yes, said practically everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something's fishy.

MOOS: Here come the juvenile Web videos featuring everything from a Tiger puppet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a cheater?

MOOS: To Barbie dolls in an imagined re-enactment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got five seconds to get out of here before I start smashing your precious Escalade (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: Reenactors on YouTube went into overdrive, donning Tiger masks and getting behind the wheel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please. Tiger, I lied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's none of our business. Until he comes forward and says, I'm getting beat up by my wife, let him do what he's got to do.

MOOS (on camera): We in the mainstream media can't resist the story. But we're being extra careful, using all kinds of wiggle words.

MATT LAUER, CBS' "THE TODAY SHOW" HOST: That perhaps linked...

JOY BEHAR, HOST, "THE VIEW": If that's true...


MOOS: Bt comedians don't have to tip-toe.

WANDA SYKES, HOST, "THE WANDA SYKES SHOW": She gets mad, punches the Tiger in the mouth. Tiger goes, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), I'm to get out of here before I kill this (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

MOOS: Regular folks had their own theories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that he left in what (INAUDIBLE) used to call a fit of jealous rage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And killed him in a fit of jealous rage.

MOOS: People were skeptical about Tiger's story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never used a golf club on an Escalade.

MOOS (on camera): And do you think she tried to rescue him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No, I think maybe she tried to hit the car. MOOS (voice-over): The "Metro" newspaper provided advice on which golf club to use if your man's been chasing the wrong kind of birdies. And in a bit of advertising irony, this ad for Accenture ran Monday. "The road to high performance isn't always paved."

But what seemed to strike most folks...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get a golf club and...

MOOS: ... was the use of the club.

(On camera): But do you think that she tried to rescue him with that golf club?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she was trying to bury it somewhere.

MOOS (voice-over): Could Tiger have been laid low by a piece of equipment that's taken him to such heights?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.