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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Afghanistan War Plan Revealed; Police End Tiger Woods Investigation
Aired December 1, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Obama briefing top members of Congress on the war plan he will reveal to the nation tonight. We're standing by for the first excerpts of his speech on Afghanistan. We already know a lot about the troop surge he's ordering and his surprising end game. Stand by for details.
They are denying they crashed the president's party, but the White House isn't buying it. Now Congress is set to ask some tough questions about the shocking security breach. We have new information.
And Tiger Woods walking away from his late-night car crash with just a slap on the wrist. Just a short while ago, police in Florida revealed the findings of their investigation and declared that it's over. Will a mystery woman's interview, though, keep the controversy going?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama took his time making the difficult decision to send another 30,000 or so U.S. troops into battle in Afghanistan. Now he wants the deployment to happen quickly. We're about four hours away from his long-awaited announcement.
Right now, the commander in chief is at the White House. He's briefing top members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, about his new strategy, his timetable, and his endgame. Stay with CNN for live coverage of the speech and in-depth analysis.
You're looking at live pictures of members of Congress over at the White House, Rahm Emanuel there. They are all getting ready for this briefing.
Let's go to the -- our -- our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's joining us now from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where the president will be delivering his new marching orders in a few hours.
How aggressive, Ed, is he going to be, and how quickly will these troops be -- be deployed?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's going to be very aggressive. And the scene is set here for one of the most dramatic moments of this young presidency -- Mr. Obama about to escalate the war in Afghanistan by 30,000 U.S. troops.
And he's going to do it very, very quickly. In fact, top aides are telling me that the president is going to announce to the American people and the world tonight that he wants these new troops in place within six months.
Officials at the Pentagon saying that is extremely aggressive, but they are hopeful that they can get this done in that time frame. It's important to keep in mind that the president had been facing all kinds of allegations by top Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney in recent weeks, that he was dithering over this decision.
Obviously, people wondering whether or not that had some influence on the president's decision to move quickly. Top White House aides insist, no, that it has nothing to do with the criticism, but that, after this long process, the president came to an independent decision that he believes that moving this quickly is the best solution to try and break the back of the Taliban at a time when they have been surging, that it's time for the U.S. to surge itself.
Obviously, a lot riding on this decision, because it's unclear whether or not it will work -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because the U.S. now has about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. Another 30,000, that will bring it close to 100,000 U.S. troops. And you say that full deployment could be in place within six months.
But he's also going to be talking about when he wants to start withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan at the same time, isn't he?
HENRY: Very important point, because this is something that could please some liberals in his party who are concerned about the escalation by the fact that he's now suggesting, according to top aides, in the speech tonight that, starting in July 2011, he's going to start drawing these forces down, start bringing troops home.
But they are making the important caveat that it will be based on conditions on the ground, as we used to hear from former President Bush about Iraq, very similar language, conditions based -- conditions on the ground.
And, so, that is a big hedge in terms of how quickly he will bring more troops home. And the most important point to make is that, since he sent more 21,000 more troops in March, you add this up with the 30,000, it's now 51,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan from this president before his first year is up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, stand by. We are going to be getting back to you. I know you're waiting for some release -- for the release of some of those excerpts from the president's speech. As soon as you get them, we will share them with our viewers.
Ed Henry is already at West Point getting ready for this speech. On Capitol Hill in Washington, early reaction to the president's new war strategy is mixed. It doesn't necessarily cut along the usual party lines.
Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She is getting the reaction. Dana, what are you hearing?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, I spent a lot of time today walking in the hallways, along with the rest of our team here, talking to lawmakers.
And I have got to tell you, when you're talking about Democrats, the president's fellow Democrats, it is hard to find many that are supportive. Now, there are some that really are supportive of the president's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, but by far the most that we have been hearing from Democrats is skepticism.
In fact, I spoke with Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Wolf. She is actually on her way to the White House right now for that meeting with the president. She is somebody who is undecided. Again, she says she's deeply skeptical, and she say that she has a lot of very tough questions for the president and his team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NITA LOWEY (D), NEW YORK: Now that he's made a decision, I need to get clarity of the mission. I need to get a clear understanding of what our allies are doing and what they are contributing. I need to get a clear understanding of what Karzai is going to do and the government is going to do to address corruption. And we have to have all these guidelines in place before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now Congresswoman Lowey actually says that she agrees with what some of her colleagues have been saying here, and that is that the connections to Vietnam are actually eerie -- eerie, that there are some analogies that actually frightens her and frightens other people that -- that we have spoken to here.
Now, she chairs the subcommittee on Foreign Operations, and so that means that she has -- is one of the people who has the power to try to stop funding for this mission. She says that she is going to withhold judgment on that until she has this meeting with the president. And she will be among those holding hearings with members of the president's team -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's -- it's really interesting, Dana, that so many of the liberal Democrats are really opposed to what the president is doing, including from some usually reliable supporters, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, not very -- a lot of them are not very happen with this decision, are they?
BASH: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the members of the reliably anti-war flank of the Democratic Party, who, again, are for the most part very supportive of the president.
It was remarkable, Wolf. Several of them actually had a press conference before the president spoke to -- to blast his decision. One actually said that it's the wrong conclusion, getting sucked into a war with no end, and several of these Democrats actually vowed to try to stop the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: Well, action can include, obviously, not permitting funding for additional troops. It can include resolutions for time frames to withdraw troops, as many of us have worked on together with regard to Iraq, and other approaches that we would be open to.
But, as far as I'm concerned, everything would be on the table in terms of to prevent this error from occurring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, in real terms, the biggest tool these Democrats have is to try to block funding for this escalation.
But the irony is that that will be very difficult for them to do, and the reason is because the president still has some pretty significant Republican support for this idea of sending more troops -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana is going to be getting reaction all night for us up on Capitol Hill.
Thank you, Dana.
Stay with CNN to hear the president reveal his strategy. We're sending thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. Our live special coverage begins right after THE SITUATION ROOM at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, in-depth analysis from the best political team on television as well, CNN covering the world as no one else can.
Jack Cafferty is here, and he's got "The Cafferty File."
Good to see you in person, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the big city.
BLITZER: Nice city.
CAFFERTY: Nice to have you with us.
BLITZER: Thank you.
CAFFERTY: It seems the Republicans cannot agree on their party's proposed purity test...
CAFFERTY: ... which would bar financial support for candidates who don't meet eight of 10 tests on social and fiscal issues.
Some of these include supporting smaller debt, lower taxes, opposing President Obama's so-called government-run health care plan, opposing amnesty for illegal aliens, opposing government restriction on gun ownership, and supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. Many Republicans, even some of them who say they would pass the purity pass, say this is a bad idea, because the party should offer a larger tent. With a Democratic White House growing more unpopular and with Republicans hoping to pick up congressional seats next year, they say this purity test could just cause more interparty fighting.
And it seems pretty hypocritical. Here are a few examples of Republican purity former House speaker Newt Gingrich admitting to cheating on his wife about the same time that Congress was impeaching Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky; former Congressman Mark Foley resigning after reports he sent sexually explicit instant messages to a male congressional page; Idaho Senator Larry Craig arrested in an airport bathroom in Minneapolis, where an undercover cop accused him of soliciting sex; and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who went MIA for several days over the summer, lied about where he was.
Turned out he was visiting his mistress in Argentina. His wife subsequently left him, moved out with the kids, but he's still in office, although probably not for much longer.
These guys all define Republican purity, wouldn't you agree? Of course, Democrats do this stuff, too. The difference is, they are not the ones out trying to sell political purity to the public.
Here's the question, then. Do Republicans suffer a credibility problem trying to sell the idea of purity? Here's a hint: Yes.
CAFFERTY: Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and write to us.
BLITZER: I love it whenever you give us a hint. It's a pretty...
CAFFERTY: I try to, you know, give guidance on these things...
CAFFERTY: ... in case -- you know, sometimes they are a little murky and obscure, so you try to give a little guidance.
BLITZER: Give a little guidance.
CAFFERTY: That's all, a nudge.
BLITZER: Not too nuanced.
CAFFERTY: Not an nudge...
CAFFERTY: ... a nudge. BLITZER: Yes.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: The White House says it's a simple matter. It's as simple as this, in fact. They showed up at a party, and they weren't invited, so they are crashers. The controversial couple, though, they say it isn't exactly so -- just ahead, their new interview and denial.
Also, the Iraqi journalist who famously threw a shoe at President Bush now getting a taste of his own medicine.
And a new -- and a nightclub hostess, I should say, addressing rumors about Tiger Woods, as police announce they are done investigating the car crash.
Our coverage continues after this.
BLITZER: It's the dinner that's turned into a smorgasbord of scandal.
The latest offering on the political buffet, a pair of reality TV wannabes essentially telling the White House: You're wrong.
For the first time today, the couple accused of crashing the state dinner last week breaking their silence in a morning TV interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")
TAREQ SALAHI, ACCUSED OF CRASHING WHITE HOUSE STATE DINNER: This has been the most devastating thing that's ever happened to us. We're -- we're greatly saddened by all the circumstances that have, you know, been involved in portraying my wife and I as party-crashers. And I can tell you, we did not party-crash the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The couple says, they didn't. The White House insists they did. So, what really happened? That's what lawmakers are hoping to get to the bottom of in an upcoming hearing this week.
Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's got some new information.
What are you picking up, Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is one event the Salahis are actually invited to, but it isn't a sure thing they are going to appear. The House Homeland Security Committee and the Secret Service confirmed that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan will be testifying Thursday, and fur is likely to fly. Although, in a written statement, Sullivan has taken responsibility for what he acknowledges was an embarrassing breach of security, both Democrats and Republicans on the committee are demanding a more complete explanation.
Chairman Bennie Thompson says, it's a time for answers, not political games or scapegoating, but that his confidence in the management of the Secret Service is in the balance. Ranking Republican Peter King is blasting the Secret Service, saying the situation could have been catastrophic if someone with ill intent had gotten so close to the president.
But King isn't stopping there. At his request, the committee has also asked White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers to appear on Wednesday. King wants to know why someone from her office wasn't helping stop uninvited guests from entering the state dinner.
Committee member Eleanor Holmes Norton put out a release this afternoon making it clear that she wants a chance to grill the Salahis themselves. She calls them -- and I'm quoting here -- "headline- addicted practicing con artists who bamboozled the Secret Service, serial scam artists."
And the next installment of this drama plays out Thursday morning before the House Homeland security Committee -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: We will obviously have coverage of that. Jeanne, thanks very much.
The chairman of that House Homeland Security Committee, by the way, the -- the man who will be chairing the committee, will be joining us. We're talking about Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. I will be speaking with him today here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will be asking him what his panel hopes to achieve by having this hearing. That's coming up.
Also, did these accused party-crashers previously crash another event in Washington that the president attended? We have some new information on that that Brian Todd is working on. So, stand by, much more on this story coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Other important news, though, that we're following today involving Iran, its president speaking out today about his country's nuclear ambitions. And he had some pretty strong words for the West and Russia over international efforts to get Tehran to stop expansion of its suspected nuclear weapons program.
CNN's Reza Sayah more.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was vintage President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was brash, self-assured, and remained defiant in the face of growing pressure from Washington and Western powers, who have condemned Iran for continuing to enrich uranium and not cooperating with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. In a marathon live television interview that lasted more than an hour- and-a-half, President Ahmadinejad once again said, Iran is not planning to build nuclear weapons, but will continue a peaceful nuclear program and not back down to pressure from the West.
At times, President Ahmadinejad actually chuckled at what he called propaganda and lies from the West. He wasn't as tough on the U.S. as he's been in the past, saying, Iran had not seen positive change in U.S. policy.
The president did not take it easy on the U.K. and Israel, accusing those two nations of deceit and derailing the recent IAEA proposal that Iran had agreed to in principle. That deal would have had Iran sending out most of its enriched uranium in return for nuclear fuel designed for medical research. President Ahmadinejad said Iran pulled out of that deal because of a climate of condemnation.
He also said Iran was not bluffing when it comes to the construction of 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. As far as the possibility of a fourth round of economic sanctions and military action, President Ahmadinejad brushed off those possibilities, saying any hand that will pull the trigger on Iran, that hand will be cut off -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Reza Sayah, thanks very much for that. We will continue to monitor what's happening in Iran.
We're about three-and-a-half-hours away from President Obama's speech tonight, finally revealing his new strategy for Afghanistan. But some are wasting no time, already criticizing it. We're going to get what -- the reaction from Senator John McCain. He's speaking out forcefully today. It's a bit of a lecture to President Obama on how to win a war. Stand by for that.
Also, police announce their decision regarding Tiger Woods. After his crash, he will be punished, but you're going to hear precisely how much it's going to cost him.
BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Betty, what's going on?
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two more Guantanamo Bay detainees have been transferred out. One of them, an Algerian native, had been order released by a federal judge last year and is headed to Paris, the other a Palestinian who was sent to Hungary. Their departure follows the release of two other detainees sent to Italy. Now 221 prisoners do remain at Guantanamo.
This is an interesting story, really sad, too. A former Miss Argentina is dead after complications from plastic surgery. The 37- year-old died in a hospital after being transferred from a clinic where she was having an elective surgery on her buttocks last week. A mother of two, twins, that is, she was crowned Miss Argentina in 1994.
Well, the Florida State Seminoles will soon say farewell to a football coaching legend. Bobby Bowden says he will end his renowned 44-year run after his team plays a bowl game. College football's second winningest coach, Bowden claimed 338 victories throughout his career, including two national titles for Florida State. I know a lot of people sad to see him go.
Well, the Iraqi journalist who lobbed a loafer at President Bush last year -- Remember that? -- well, he was flying -- dodging his own flying footwear, not his, but this happened at a news conference today. Guess who threw that? We are going to get to that in just a second. But this guy right here had been jailed for the attack, and then he was released in September, three months early, for good behavior.
But, today, it was his brother who took off his own shoe to return fire. That's what you just saw. But he shrugged off the incident and was unharmed.
Interesting. I guess what comes around goes around, huh, Wolf?
BLITZER: Do we have an explanation why the brother decided to throw his shoe at him?
NGUYEN: You don't have that. Interesting, though. I will check into that for you.
BLITZER: All right. Check into it. Let me know. I'm just wondering why these two brothers obviously don't like each other.
BLITZER: They obviously don't.
BLITZER: All right, Betty, thank you.
Tiger Woods isn't talking, not yet. Florida law enforcement officials are talking. They have just announced that Tiger Woods will be punished for his crash. You're going to hear the punishment, what it will cost the golf -- the golfing great.
Also, the slaughter that sparked a manhunt ends in a suspect being shot and killed. We have the latest on the slayings of those four police officers in Washington State and the apparent demise of the man believed to have killed them.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: the buildup in Afghanistan. CNN is learning President Obama will call for up to 30,000 more U.S. troops, setting off a costly logistical mission on a very tight timeline. The president's senior adviser, David Axelrod, he's standing by to speak with us live. We have some strong, important questions to ask him.
And Tiger Woods lands on his feet -- no criminal charges for the golfing great. But why is Tiger Woods remaining silent? And what about his world-class brand? We're taking a closer look at this entire story.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In just under four hours from now -- actually, three-and-a-half-hours from now, to be precise -- President Obama will finally reveal his plans for Afghanistan, sending another 30,000 troops to the war, and his timeline for trying to get most of those troops out.
But the president's rival in the presidential campaign last year, Senator John McCain, sort of a lecture for the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have been concerned about initial reports that there will be a date for withdrawal. I think those dates for withdrawal are dictated by conditions. The way that you win wars is to break the enemy's will, not to announce dates that you are leaving.
I am pleased that we are second an additional 30,000 troops, apparently, and there is a strategy that -- for the military action that I think will succeed, modeled on the surge in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit more about the strategy and the criticisms of what's going on.
Joining us now, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, in General McChrystal's original recommendation, he wanted 40,000 troops. Did he envisage getting all these troops, 30,000 or 35,000, within six months?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's hard to say, Wolf. I think most military commanders will tell you it is going to take longer than six months to get them all there. By all accounts, it's 30,000 U.S. troops hoping -- hoping for another 10,000 from NATO, but it's going to be well into next summer before they all get there.
BLITZER: Because logistically, it's a nightmare. There's no -- it's sort of a landlocked country, Afghanistan. It's not just -- you can't just drive in.
STARR: A landlocked country. Everything has to come in by air. It's going to take a long time GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I was told by a senior adviser at the White House just a few minutes ago that what they are talking about is sort of reaching the apex at about 18 months, which makes a little bit more sense, doesn't it?
BLITZER: Instead of six months, you mean?
BORGER: Well, you're going to throw a lot in, I think, early, right, as early as they possibly can? But you're talking the apex at 18 months, and then you gradually start to draw down, if things go according to plan.
BLITZER: So it's going to take a year and a half to get to 100,000 U.S. troops? Is that what this adviser is suggesting.
STARR: Well, he wouldn't go any further than he went.
BLITZER: Because right now they are also suggesting that within three years they can start withdrawing troops...
STARR: That's right.
BLITZER: Coincidence that within three years there's going to be another presidential election?
BORGER: Gee, they say, when you ask them over at the White House, this has nothing to do with politics. Polls have nothing to do with this, if we followed the polls we wouldn't be in Afghanistan because the public is opposed to the war.
But if you look at the Iraq model -- and again, Iraq and Afghanistan are very different -- but if you look at Iraq model, you had the surge in 2007; the withdrawal, 2010.
STARR: Look, I mean, they always say war doesn't survive first contact with the enemy. It doesn't survive first contact with politics either. There will be changes along the way.
I think we can anticipate that these are goals the White House is setting out. This is what they hope to do.
They are going to go as fast as they can, but they are not going to put everything in there at once for a couple of other reasons. They want progress from Hamid Karzai's government. They want to see Karzai start really cracking down on corruption, and they don't want a total militaristic new presence in Afghanistan immediately. That's not the optic they want to see, but yet we are told now that the first Army troops are going to start moving in a few weeks
BORGER: You know, I think the question is, when you set these benchmarks for Karzai, the question is, what do you do if Karzai doesn't meet them? Do you start withdrawing aid? Do you start withdrawing troops? I mean, I think these are questions that really need to be answered tonight.
STARR: That's going to be part of it, what is Plan B? BLITZER: You know, we're going to ask David Axelrod, the president's senior adviser, some of these questions. He's standing by live. We'll talk to him in a few moments, guys.
Thanks very much.
Amid the larger picture of troop buildups and war strategies, there are many smaller stories from people who have endured horrors in Afghanistan. One woman who fled the horrors recalls what happened. She spoke with CNN's Brooke Baldwin.
Brooke is joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta.
Brooke, tell us about that conversation.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, imagine this reality. We're talking about Masooda Omar, and she described to me living under communist rule in Afghanistan as fairly easy. It wasn't until the Taliban, who she says really changed everything. And tonight you can believe this Afghan refugee will be watching the president, though she says the troop surge is really only half the solution.
BALDWIN: Your life could have been totally different.
MASOODA OMAR-YOUNG, FLED AFGHANISTAN: Yes. I don't even know if I was going to be alive anymore.
BALDWIN (voice-over): Life in Afghanistan was always uncertain for Masouda Omar. The 31-year-old was born in the capital of Kabul under communist rule. She was just a teenager when the Soviets withdrew, when the opposition Afghan forces, the Mujahideen, took over, and then several years later the Taliban.
OMAR-YOUNG: My dad passed away a month after the Taliban captured Kabul. The first thing they did, they came to our house, took our car, and told my father, who was the president of the university, told him that he shouldn't go back to work anymore and that he was fired. And that was life, and he had a heart attack a month after they came.
BALDWIN: Masooda fled to the northern cities of Afghanistan still free from Taliban rule. However, Masooda was not free. She was forced into marriage and had a daughter before moving back to Kabul. It was there that she was told her husband, who was living in another part of the country, was killed.
OMAR-YOUNG: I guess there was a wedding and four people were sitting there, and some Taliban rocket came and killed all of them.
BALDWIN: Under Afghan rule, a father's family gets custody of the child in the event of death. Fearing the possibility of losing her daughter, Masooda fled to Pakistan.
(on camera): It was a total life-risking moment...
OMAR-YOUNG: Oh, definitely.
BALDWIN: ... fleeing Afghanistan.
BALDWIN (voice-over): Months later, the then-single mother received a visa to come to the United States to join her mother and siblings.
OMAR-YOUNG: What is your project on?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Incas and Aztecs.
BALDWIN: Masooda is now teaching her 11-year-old to speak Farsi, but one Afghan tradition she is not passing on -- the stifling inability to speak up.
OMAR-YOUNG: I want you to know that these things in the culture that I grew up, I do not like them, but people do it.
BALDWIN: The news from her native country is constantly on her mind and that have her new husband. Masooda supports the decision to send in more U.S. troops, but says a long-term solution lies in cutting off funds and support to the Taliban. She worries about allegations that the Taliban are being supported by other countries in that region.
OMAR-YOUNG: This was a major success for America, to go to Afghanistan. And leaving it, abandoning it will be a humanitarian disaster. But still, I mean, how long, how many people, how many troops, how much money can we keep sending there if, you know, another government that is supposed to be our ally is fueling the insurgency?
BALDWIN: Despite her story, Masooda says she doesn't know if she can be entirely angry with the Taliban. She says as children, so many of them were forced out of their homes during the Soviet occupation. They lost their parents. They fled to these towns on the border with Pakistan. And Wolf, she says, so many of them had no choice but to join the Taliban forces.
BLITZER: Lots of stories from Afghanistan. There will be many, many more.
Thank you, Brooke Baldwin, for that.
More questions this hour about whether Tiger Woods is getting preferential treatment or not. The police delivering the final word on their investigation into his car crash. It's not all that harsh.
Stand by. We're going to share with you the details.
And can President Obama make good on his plan to get out of Afghanistan in only a few years? As we count down to his televised speech, I'll be speaking with his senior adviser, David Axelrod.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Tiger Woods walking away from a big controversy with a potentially small fine. Florida police now saying their investigation into his car crash is over.
Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is joining us now outside the Florida Highway Patrol Office in Orlando with more.
So what happened, Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, after five days of speculation and questions that started with a bump in the night, finally the Florida Highway Patrol has revealed its verdict.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Tiger gets a ticket, slapped with a citation for careless driving. That's it.
MAJ. CINDY WILLIAMS, FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL: Careless driving is a moving violation. And upon conviction, may result in a fine of $164 and four points on a driving record.
CANDIOTTI: After Woods' car bounced off a fire hydrant and slammed into a tree in the middle of the night, his wife Elin told police she used a golf club to bash out the windows to rescue him from the locked SUV. That prompted questions of what led up to his late-night drive and whether the couple fought. If so, police are unaware of it.
WILLIAMS: There are no claims of domestic violence by any individual.
CANDIOTTI: The neighbor who made the 911 call...
911 OPERATOR: Is he unconscious?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
911 OPERATOR: OK. Are you able to tell if he's breathing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I can't tell right now.
CANDIOTTI: ... that neighbor's attorney held a press conference to say his family, who tried to help Woods, felt sorry for them.
BILL SHARPE, ATTORNEY FOR TIGER WOODS' NEIGHBOR: It was consistent with a car wreck, the minor car accident that he had, and inconsistent with him being beat up. And that's the question everybody wants to know.
CANDIOTTI: In a carefully-worded statement made Sunday, Woods called unspecified false and malicious rumors about his family irresponsible. Today, "The New York Post" published an interview with a woman who a tabloid reported was having an affair with Woods.
Rachel Uchitel denied it. "This is ridiculous," she told the paper. "Not a word of it is true." "I told the 'Enquirer' and 'Star' that it wasn't true. I told them not only did I have information to disprove the story, but I offered to take a lie-detector test."
CANDIOTTI: She says she only met Tiger Woods a couple of times in her job as a nightclub hostess, and she blames two women she believes to be the sources for those tabloid stories, calling them "wicked and stupid."
As for the traffic case here in Florida, well, investigators say it is over. No criminal charges will be filed. And after discussing the matter with prosecutors, investigators said there was not enough evidence to seek a subpoena for his medical records.
The question at the end of all of this, Wolf, is whether Tiger Woods himself will ever talk about this. And I think it's safe to say he'll be asked about it when he eventually appears at a news conference at one of his upcoming golf tournaments -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, as far as we know, Susan, he's still holed up in his home there in Florida. He hasn't left, as far as we know. Is that right?
CANDIOTTI: As far as we know, and, of course, he's cancelled out of his charity tournament in California this week, says he won't be playing anymore this year because he's suffering from his injuries.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up later in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.
Thank you, Susan.
The man suspected of killing four police officers in Washington State meets the same fate. Now the Seattle area is mourning and honoring those police officers as other people have been arrested in connection with this nightmare.
And with Mike Huckabee's name tied to this tragedy, some fellow conservatives are now going after him. How much backlash might the former Republican presidential candidate suffer?
BLITZER: In the Seattle area today, a procession of prayers, praise and tears. They are honoring those four police officers who were gunned down on Sunday. The slain officers were taken from the medical examiner's office to a funeral home.
Meanwhile, the man suspected of killing them apparently meeting the same fate.
Let's get the latest from CNN's Dan Simon. He's joining us from Tacoma, Washington.
What is latest, Dan?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Wolf.
This all happening just before 3:00 this morning. Here you had tons of police officers, really an entire community, on the lookout for this suspect, Maurice Clemmons. And at the end of the day, it was a single police officer on routine patrol who spotted what he thought was a stolen car, nobody inside.
He ran the license plate, determined in fact it was stolen. Moments later, he saw a man appear, a man he thought was the suspect, Maurice Clemmons.
He told Clemmons to put his hands up. Clemmons refused and reached for something in his waist. At that point, the officer pulled his own gun, fired three shots and killed the suspect right here on the spot. It turned out that Clemmons did have a gun on him, a gun he stole from one of the police officers he allegedly murdered -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan, how many people have been taken into custody in connection with allegedly helping Clemmons?
SIMON: At this point police are saying that at least four people have been arrested, including somebody who drove a getaway car from that coffee shop. Police also arresting three other people, people they say who helped Clemmons over the past few days, people who may have helped him have a place to stay, also giving him some money and a cell phone. Obviously facing some very serious charges -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story. A sad story indeed.
Thanks very much, Dan Simon, for updating us.
Let's go to our "Strategy Session" and talk a little bit about the political fallout from this, specifically on Mike Huckabee, the former Republican presidential candidate.
Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Republican consultant and CNN political contributor, Alex Castellanos.
Guys, thanks very much.
Mike Huckabee was the governor of Arkansas back in the year 2000 when he offered clemency to this Mr. Clemmons, who is now dead, and there's some political fallout from that. He's getting a lot of grief for helping the process, helping release him from prison.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: And well he should. There's culpability here, I think. Political, at least.
The governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, commuted or pardoned more people in his 10 years as governor than his three predecessors did in 17. This was a problem, I think, that Huckabee had. Well, it was a policy that he had, and he needs to account for that politically. I have to tell you, it's a little shameful that so far, his level of accountability has been to go on Fox News, where he already works, and do a creampuff interview with Bill O'Reilly. He needs to go to Seattle and he needs to go to Tacoma, and he needs to apologize to those families and that police force, because he was part of the chain that could have prevented this, and he broke that chain.
BLITZER: It was an issue during the campaign last year, the clemency, the pardons. Michelle Malkin, who's a conservative writer and blogger, she says this: "O'Reilly unbelievably praised Huckabee for his openness in explaining clemency decisions -- which should cause the entire state of Arkansas to shake in derisive laughter and revulsion given the former GOP governor's stubborn refusal to explain his decisions until forced to do so by a massive public backlash."
How much political trouble is Governor Huckabee in, assuming he wants to get back into politics one of these days?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think this is the end of his political career, and I think deservedly so.
Again, this is a history of pardons and commutations in Arkansas. The dodge he's using to say the parole board made him do it won't work, because in Arkansas it's a small state. The governor appoints the parole board, and Huckabee talked to them regularly. His wishes were well known, and it is part of over a thousand pardons and commutations he gave even to violent criminals, and they are still out there today.
So it's an ongoing issue. The interesting thing, Wolf, is that most campaigns, and the 2008 campaign, the Republican campaigns, had this information, didn't use it. McCain didn't want to. He wanted to keep Huckabee on the right to divide the Romney vote, and the Romney campaign, of which I was a part, had two spots ready to go in Iowa and New Hampshire, didn't use them.
CASTELLANOS: The campaign thought, I think, they were too tough.
BLITZER: Was that a Mitt Romney decision personally? Did he make that decision?
CASTELLANOS: That was made at the top level of the campaign.
BLITZER: So I assume that would be Mitt Romney.
Are you surprised they didn't use that information in a tough Republican presidential primary?
BEGALA: I am. It's a legitimate issue. I suspect the case Alex was referring to is, of course, not this animal Clemmons but, rather, Wayne Dumond.
CASTELLANOS: Wayne Dumond.
BEGALA: Wayne Dumond was already a notorious criminal and rapist who Governor Huckabee released, went on to commit more violent crimes. And I think it's a legitimate issue.
Now, the Willie Horton thing became racist in its execution.
BLITZER: That was involving Michael Dukakis.
BEGALA: Mike Dukakis. Bad policy there, too.
He released a guy on a furlough, he never should have done it. It was a bad policy. The execution became racist.
There's no reason to believe that your campaign was going to use it in a racist way. It's a legitimate issue.
CASTELLANOS: Well, this had nothing to do with that. This was a 17- year-old cheerleader in Arkansas who was violated by this man that Huckabee released from prison and went to Missouri and murdered two people. He took his own life later in prison.
But again, this is part of a pattern. Huckabee has some explaining to do here, but there's no political future in this.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about Afghanistan, the big speech coming up in a little bit more than three hours.
It's interesting the RNC, the Republican National Committee, they had Dan Senor, a former adviser to President Bush, saying this about the president's speech -- Dan Senor saying, "I have been critical of the process over the last 90-some days through which the president has arrived at his decision, but it sounds to me, based on what we know, that this is a very good decision, and I applaud him."
Are you surprised that some of these Republicans are now coming out and saying the president is making the right move?
BEGALA: Well, I'll tell you, it shows some real intellectual honesty on the part of Dan Senor. I've debated him before and I find him to be an intellectually honest guy. Even worse, Karl Rove, President Bush's former chief political adviser, apparently this morning said, "If this is his policy, I will stand up and applaud."
The political problem becomes they may be playing it a little too cute. They know that when Democrats see guys like Senor or Rove praising it, that's going to cause mischief on Capitol Hill with Democrats. This is going to be a very, very tough sell for the president in own party if these leaks are accurate. And I know they are.
BLITZER: He may have more trouble with the Democrats than with the Republicans.
CASTELLANOS: This is the challenge of bipartisanship when your party controls everything. He needs to move to the middle.
If Barack Obama takes a beating in the 2010 elections, this is what his future is going to look like. He's going to have to govern losing some Democrats on the left to gain the middle. He's out of position now. He's lost Independents and suburban voters in the middle.
Frankly, a little bit of uprising on the left will help him move towards the middle. This is the right thing to do for the country and it's the right thing to do politically.
BLITZER: Don't go away, guys, because we have a lot of analysis coming up over the next several hours here.
Guys, thanks very much.
Sarah Palin takes on a tennis great and wins. That's coming up in our "Political Ticker."
And new information about some other events that this couple may -- repeat, may -- have crashed. We're taking a hard look at the Salahis and their denial that they went to the White House without an invitation.
BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," voters are choosing Atlanta's new mayor right now. The runoff election is likely to hinge on race.
City Councilwoman Mary Norwood could become the first white mayor of the mostly African-American city in a generation. She's vying against a black former state senator, Kasim Reid. Norwood had a 10-point edge over Reid in the November election, but she fell short of getting 50 percent of the vote, the threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
We'll stay on top of this story, share the winner with you when you know.
Sarah Palin is acing out tennis legend Andre Agassi. The former Alaska governor's memoir has grabbed the top spot on the New York Times Best Seller List, pushing aside Agassi's tell-all book entitled "Open." Palin recently wrapped up a high-profile two-week tour to publicize her book entitled "Going Rogue."
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got some experience with New York Times best sellers.
Because your book was a New York Times best seller.
CAFFERTY: Yes. It just occurred -- is the quality of the literature in this country declining?
BLITZER: Literature? Would you call those two books literature?
CAFFERTY: Well, that's what I mean. The top New York Times best sellers are a thing written by some guy who beats tennis balls for a living, and Sarah Palin. It's discouraging.
The question -- I guess it's not literature. The question this hour: Do Republicans suffer a credibility problem trying to sell the idea of purity, sort of like a contract with America? They have said to Republican candidates, if you don't pass this purity test, we won't give you any money to campaign.
Jerry in Toronto writes, "It depends on your definition of purity. For Republicans, it means you can hike naked on the Appalachian Trial, have affairs with some bimbo in Argentina, have affairs with your married employee, find a job for the husband of the wife you're messing around with, or play footsie with the guy in the next stall in the men's bathroom."
"All of that behavior is OK. But God help you if you think folks deserve to have health care. Then you're out of the party."
Bill in Baltimore writes, "Don't forget John Ensign, Republican senator from Nevada. The guy is a real piece of work: had an affair with one of his staffer's wife, paid off the staffer with a big check, lined him up for a lobbying job -- where? It gets better. As a lobbyist he now gets to lobby Senator Ensign."
David in San Diego, "The Republicans are a small phone booth type of party. I think they should restrict membership and voters to white, male, gun-toting, warmongering, evangi-delusionals. Oh, and Sarah Paleface."
Todd in Taunton, Massachusetts, "As water has a relationship with oil, the Republican Party has the same direct relationship with the social conscience. Purity? Don't you mean hypocrisy?"
"No problem having thousands of brave soldiers give their lives in Iraq for corporate oil futures, spend millions an hour doing so. But how dare we want to take care of all Americans with a universal health care program."
June writes, "both parties fail the 'purity' test big-time. Neither party ought to be trying to represent themselves as being free of the same moral failings many of us demonstrate. The Republicans should position themselves as the anti-Democrat Party who will reverse course on tax-and-spend politics, the course we are currently on."