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President Obama Holds Jobs Summit; Interview With Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor

Aired December 3, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We hear from the man who called 911 to report Tiger Woods' car crash. The police audiotape reveals new information about what happened that night.

And a U.S. senator's daughter a victim of crime right here in the nation's capital. He the shares the story of the carjacking and how a tracking device saved the day.

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

If you're one of the almost 16 million Americans without a job right now, you know full well how tough it is out there. With six workers now competing for every single job vacancy, everyone agrees that this country needs more jobs and the country needs those jobs quickly.

But there's disagreement over what the president and the Congress can do to try to jump-start employment. That brings us to today's jobs summit over at the White House and questions as to whether it was more about scoring political points than actually making work.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He watched all of this unfold today -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president said that a lot of Americans out there are hurting. He also admitted that he hears a lot of that skepticism, but he pointed out that he doesn't expect that all of the challenges of unemployment can be repaired in just a few hours, although he believes that good progress is being made and today's forum is one step.



LOTHIAN (voice-over): A White House jobs brainstorming session, with one big question on the table.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How do we get businesses to start hiring again? How do we get ourselves to the point where more people are working and more people are spending?

LOTHIAN: President Obama and his Cabinet breaking down the unemployment crisis with big executives, small-business owners and other leaders, looking for creative ways to stimulate hiring, in addition to increased spending on roads and highways, weatherization projects or tax credits for small businesses.

But some Republicans say this is nothing more than a P.R. effort with no substance, and that the administration is partly to blame for high unemployment.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The biggest problem that we heard from our economists with regard to why employers aren't hiring, it is all the job-killing policies that are being offered by this administration and this Congress, and creating an awful lot of uncertainty for American employers.

LOTHIAN: President Obama and his administration have made big promises.

OBAMA: We want to create or save three million jobs, save or create 3.5 million jobs, the creation of millions of new jobs.

LOTHIAN: While the overall economy seems to have stabilized, Americans continue to lose their jobs. One out of 10 is out of work, like Jean Senat, who was laid off from his job in the financial industry seven months ago.

JEAN SENAT, JOB SEEKER: It's been frustrating. I knew it was going to be hard, but I never thought it would be that hard.

LOTHIAN: He's applied for hundreds of jobs, without success. Adding to his family's stress, a baby's on the way.

SENAT: My wife, sometimes, she cries. And I'm hopeless, and I can't help her.


LOTHIAN: He says he knows that the president does have a lot on his plate, like Afghanistan and health care, but he hopes that after today's forum that the administration will really focus on creating more jobs.

And this is the kind of feedback that the president might hear as he hits the road, tomorrow headed to Allentown, Pennsylvania. It is the first of what the White House is calling several listening meetings across the United States, a chance for the president to hear some of the deep concerns that Americans have during this difficult time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, watching the jobs summit over at the White House, thank you.

Members of Congress are calling the White House party crashers every name in the book, including pathological, egomaniacal and serial con artists. But some anger also is being directed at the White House itself and its effort to protect a social secretary from testifying.

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

There were some fireworks at that hearing today. ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There were, and not some of those egomaniacal and some of those others adjectives, but they were -- some Republicans were saying that Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary, is guilty of stonewalling, and they say, if she doesn't start talking to Congress, they're going to slap her with a subpoena.


QUESTION: Director Sullivan, any comment before you testify?

QUESTION: What are you going to tell the committee today, sir?

HENRY (voice-over): The pressure on Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan is intense. And he told Congress, his agency will take the heat for the gate-crashing fiasco.

MARK SULLIVAN, DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: This is our fault, and our fault alone. There's no other people to blame here. You know, look at me and blame me.

HENRY: Lawmakers praised his candor, but bluntly declared, White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers should be facing tough questions, too.

REP. CHARLES DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We always expect the Secret Service to take a bullet for the president. We don't expect the Secret Service to take a bullet for the president's staff.

HENRY: Specifically, Republicans want to know why Rogers broke with past practice by not having one of her aides standing at the front gate to check names for the state dinner. But, like the Salahis, who did not show up for the hearing, Rogers declined the committee's invitation to talk, on constitutional grounds.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Based on separation of powers, staff here don't go to testify in front of Congress. She won't -- she will not be testifying in front of Congress.

HENRY: Republicans laughed off the notion the president might use executive privilege to protect an old pal from Chicago.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: This is not a separation of powers issue. This is not an issue where there are people at the White House advising the president on health care or cap and trade or Afghanistan. We're talking about an administrative decision to have people or not have people standing with the Secret Service and to change a policy of at least 20 years standing.

HENRY: But the Obama White House is getting cover from an unlikely source.

C. Boyden Gray, former White House counsel in the first Bush administration, told CNN Rogers clearly should be shielded. C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's a pretty slippery slope to say, well, this person's a little bit more important than that person, this issue's a little bit more important than that issue. I think the safety of the president is a pretty important issue.


HENRY: So, the White House may be on safe legal ground. The question is whether they're on shaky political ground, especially after the president, you will remember, in the campaign, but then his first week in his office as well, Wolf, talked about the most transparent administration ever.

BLITZER: And we have learned today that some of those Secret Service officers, what, have been disciplined?

HENRY: That's right. I think three of them have been put on administrative leave. And the director today testified to the Congress it's likely they are going to be fired.

So, people are going to really pay the price. And the fact is that even if Desiree Rogers now is under scrutiny, it's the Secret Service that really fouled it up here. And their own director acknowledged that.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much.

Let's get back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File." He's joining us now -- Jack.


The -- abortion is the political hot potato that eventually could derail health care reform entirely. It caused major disagreements in the House, and the Senate is now wrestling with how to address abortion.

Democrat Ben Nelson says he will introduce an anti-abortion amendment and that he won't vote for the health care bill in the Senate unless that language gets added. Nelson and others are not satisfied with Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan, which is to forbid including abortion coverage as a required medical benefit, but to allow a new government insurance plan to cover abortions and let private insurers that get federal money offer plans that include coverage for abortion.

In the House, a group of anti-abortion Democrats added restrictions that would forbid any health plan that gets federal money from paying for abortions, except in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother's life.

Also under the House bill, a new government insurance plan could not offer abortions, and women would have to buy separate insurance coverage for abortion services. That's just bizarre. Women's rights groups are outraged, and they should be, and they vow to keep similar language out of the Senate bill, with hundreds rallying on Capitol Hill yesterday to insist that the Senate health care bill allow coverage of abortions.

Those opposed to the House's abortion language say it amounts to the biggest rollback in a woman's right to choose in three decades. Other points to the existing Hyde law, which already prevents government money from being used for abortion, except for the cases that I mentioned a couple of minutes ago.

So, here's the question. When it comes to health care reform, how should the Senate proceed in addressing the issue of abortion?

Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a sensitive, sensitive question. It doesn't get a lot more sensitive than that issue, does it?

CAFFERTY: No. And it's been lurking in the background of this debate for months, but now it's become the 800-pound gorilla. Nobody can ignore it any longer. It's right in the middle of the homestretch of this thing. And it's going to have to addressed.

And there will be some fireworks.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Jack. Thank you.

One of the most powerful men in the country endures a grilling. We're talking about the Federal Reserve chief, Ben Bernanke. Critics want to make him a poster child for many of your economic problems. You may be surprised to learn exactly who the critics are.

And a senator's daughter right here in the nation's capital carjacked. Senator Bob Corker talks about she's doing and how something that may be in your car -- repeat -- may be in your car helped police catch the suspects.


BLITZER: Ben Bernanke, the powerful Federal Reserve chairman, his job touches the lives of every American. He wants to keep his job. The president wants him to keep his job as well. And by most accounts he will.

But, as we saw today, things could get rough.

Let's go to our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She watched this hearing unfold -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you will recall, for the 18-plus years that Alan Greenspan ran the Federal Reserve, there were not many times he got roughed up in his appearances before Congress. Well, now it seems that the members who did not ask such tough questions in the lead-up to the financial crisis are making up for it now. And they pummeled the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, as they consider the president's request to renew Bernanke in the job for another four years. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): It was Ben Bernanke day as senators from both parties accused the Federal Reserve chair of missing the financial tumors that spread into a national cancer.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), BANKING COMMITTEE: In the face of rising home prices and risky mortgage underwriting, the Fed failed to act.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), BANKING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I admire what you've done over the last two years, but it shouldn't have gotten to that.

SEN. JIM BUNNING (R-KY), BANKING COMMITTEE: You are the definition of a moral hazard. You put the printing presses into overdrive to fund the government spending and hand out cheap money to your masters on Wall Street.

YELLIN: Now one senator is trying to block Bernanke's confirmation to a second term at the Fed.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Not since the Great Depression has the financial system been as unsafe, unsound and unstable as it has been during Mr. Bernanke's tenure.

YELLIN: Some members charged the Fed with failing to rein in the nation's banks and protect consumers before the economic collapse. Now Congress is considering stripping the agency of several of its key powers, an effort Bernanke is fighting.

So he was on a charm offensive, admitting mistakes...

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Did we do everything we could? Absolutely not.

YELLIN: ... defending the Fed's response to the crisis...

BERNANKE: The Federal Reserve cut interest rates early and aggressively. We also created targeted lending programs that helped restart the flow of credit.

YELLIN: ... and vowing to do better in the future.

But the Senate isn't Bernanke's only foe. The House of Representatives is poised to OK an audit of the way the Federal Reserve handles our money supply, an effort spearheaded by Congressman Ron Paul.

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Why should they do it in secrecy? Why should they be allowed to create a trillion dollars, spend it, help special interests, get involved with other countries, have agreements with foreign governments and foreign central banks?

(END VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN: Now, Wolf, despite all the feisty exchanges, Bernanke is expected to be confirmed eventually, but more senators are likely to weigh in before then, which means Bernanke will have to shoulder a lot more punches before his chairmanship gets renewed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, don't go away yet. We got the political tickers coming as well.

So far, $73 billion in bailout money has been paid back to the federal government of the $475 billion invested so far in the program. Here's where some, some of the big firms stand.

J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs, they have repaid their debt in full. GM and Chrysler have paid back some of the bailout money. So far, Citigroup and Bank of America haven't paid back a penny. Bank of America announced this week it will return the $45 billion it owes, but it doesn't say when that will happen.

More on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Tiger Woods car crash. We have police tapes from neighbors who called 911 and revelations that others were in the house that fateful night.



BLITZER: Even a United States senator's family is not immune to crime right here in the nation's capital. The shock of having his daughter carjacked gives way to relief and a new appreciation of technology. Stand by.

We're also learning right now that someone else was at Tiger Woods' home the night of that mysterious car crash. Stand by to hear some of the police interview with a concerned neighbor.


BLITZER: Unemployment is still very much at an alarming level. But at the same time, we're beginning to see some -- repeat, some positive economic signs trickling in.

What do they mean?

Who gets the credit?

Let's talk about this with Congressman Eric Cantor.

He's a Virginia Republican, the House minority whip.

Good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Congressman.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Nice to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Does the Obama administration deserve some credit, because a year ago or so, the economy seemed to be on the abyss, near depression. Things are a lot better now than it was -- seemed to be then.

CANTOR: Well, Wolf, you know, you can look at the macro numbers -- CBO, others may say GDP looking better but...

BLITZER: There was economic growth in the last quarter.

CANTOR: ...but the bottom line is 10. 2 percent of the work force in this country is unemployed. So most families I know that I talked to when I was at home for Thanksgiving are feeling very insecure about their economic future. That's the reality and that's the prism through which we ought to be looking at this situation in this country.

BLITZER: So is the country economically worse off today than it was a year ago or better off than it was a year ago?

CANTOR: Well, I mean, clearly, there have been over two million jobs lost in this country since the passage of the Democrats' stimulus bill. So for those people who are out of work, it is a lot worse than it was when the year first started.

BLITZER: Because of the economic growth in the third quarter, there probably will be some economic growth in the fort -- fourth quarter, which would suggest to an economist that the recession is over.

Is the recession over?

CANTOR: Again, I'm not an economist. All I can tell you, Wolf, is the families that I represent don't think that things are the way they should be. If you're out of work, there is an economic crisis. In fact, unemployment now is at 10. 2 percent nationally. When we were looking at trying to do something about this back in January, the administration and the majority in Congress says pass a stimulus bill because it will stave off unemployment and we'll keep it from going over 8 percent.

Clearly, that hasn't worked.

So we've got to look at things another way.

BLITZER: Well, the House Democrats, they have an idea that they're floating right now, to use some of that unused TARP money, the money to bail out Wall Street, to use that to start creating jobs and to get some infrastructure projects going.

You're smiling. It -- it sounds like you...

CANTOR: Well...

BLITZER: don't like that idea.

CANTOR: Well, I mean, look, Wolf, when we passed that TARP bill, nobody really wanted to pass that. That was an extraordinary amount of money. And it was passed because we were in an economic emergency. I think most experts said that our capital markets were on the verge of absolute collapse.

And so we did that with the -- with the notion that we were going to get that money paid back to those from whom we borrowed it. That's borrowed money.

BLITZER: Some of the money has been paid back by -- by Goldman Sachs and some of the other big banks. And what they're saying, the money that was paid back, use that to create jobs.

Is that a good idea?

CANTOR: We don't want to create a slush fund here for the political whims of Washington to spend that money. This country is in debt. We ought to be paying off the debt. We ought not be preserving it

BLITZER: So what's the best way, from your perspective, to go out there and reduce unemployment and create jobs?

CANTOR: Right now, the -- the -- the first thing we've got to do is make job creation a priority. And...

BLITZER: All right, so how do you do that?

CANTOR: Well, first of all, I think you've got to ask the question, is why is the president, why is Speaker Pelosi, why are they jetting off to Copenhagen next week to go and promote the Cap-and- Trade Bill, which everyone knows is a job killer?

Why is it that they're bringing...

BLITZER: So what are you proposing, though?

What is the alternative...

CANTOR: Well, first...

BLITZER: If you had your way, to say to the president, here's the best way to go create a million jobs...

CANTOR: First of all...

BLITZER: ...what would you tell him?

CANTOR: First of all, let's relieve the harm. OK, let's stop doing things that inhibit job creation. And that's what's going on right now. You look at the administration, 100 regulations that have a cost of $100 million or more apiece on job creation.

BLITZER: Is there something positive you want them to do, though?

CANTOR: Absolutely. We -- we can right now say we're not going to allow for tax hikes during a period of high unemployment. We can say we'll freeze discretionary spending. That immediately will save this country $53 billion and send a signal that we're getting serious about deficit reduction.

We can talk about reforming the uninsurance employ -- the uninsurance benefit program in this country so we can actually get people who are out of work back to work.

BLITZER: What about cut taxes?

CANTOR: Absolutely we should be cutting taxes. But at this point, we -- we need to make sure that we don't hike taxes. Embedded in the law, as you know, coming next year, are significant tax hikes -- tax hikes on capital formation, individual income tax hikes that are embedded in the law.

BLITZER: Those are the Bush tax cuts, which will lapse unless Congress packs -- pass -- takes action to keep them going. And that's very much up in the air right now.

Congressman, we've got to leave it there.

Thanks very much.

CANTOR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A carjacking of a senator's daughter in the middle of a very busy urban area -- we're talking about the 22-year-old daughter of Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. She's thrown to the ground as thieves drive off in her SUV. Stand by.

And we're going to show you how the technology in that car actually saved the day and caught the suspects.


BLITZER: U.S. Senator Bob Corker says his daughter is just fine, but really sore after her car was hijacked right here in Washington, D.C. He's grateful that he didn't stop paying the bills on the car's tracking device.

Let's go to CNN's Brian -- Brian Todd. He's got the story for us from a dealership in Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., on this tracking system which is pretty impressive, Brian.


It's called OnStar. And GM has been equipping its new vehicles with it for several years. Now, it can kick in automatically or drivers can activate by simply working these buttons just underneath the rear-view mirror.

Now, in this case, it helped bring a happy ending to that harrowing incident involving Senator Corker's daughter.


TODD (voice-over): Wednesday evening in downtown Washington, the 22-year-old daughter of a U.S. senator is carjacked, dragged from her vehicle, thrown to the pavement. Two suspects take off in her Chevy Tahoe.

Police in Seat Pleasant, Maryland tell us, after only about an hour, they're notified of the vehicle's make, model, tag numbers, and location. Shortly thereafter, about seven miles from where the carjacking took place, the suspects are apprehended, parked at a Taco Bell.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is grateful that his daughter Julia wasn't seriously hurt. He's also grateful for something else.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: With OnStar, they were able to identify that they were actually not moving. And the police were able to come up and apprehend them.

TODD: OnStar, the navigation and tracking system that GM installs in its new vehicles, can pinpoint your car just about anywhere.

We get a demonstration from Bob Kunkel, sales consultant at Koons GM of Tysons Corner in Virginia. He shows us how, just by hitting a button, OnStar connects you to a real person in a command center who can give directions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Travel southeast on old courthouse road.

TODD: The system can unlock your doors if a child is locked in. And if your car is stolen, all you have to do is call the police, let them know your make and model, tell them you have OnStar. They'll look up the vehicle ID number and as Kunkel says interrogate the vehicle without the knowledge of those driving it.

That's essentially what happened with Senator Corker's daughter. You can activate the emergency system yourself, he says, but be careful.

(On camera): You say I shouldn't hit this little red button unless things are really hairy, why?

BOB KUNKEL, KOONS GENERAL MOTORS: That little red button will send the cavalry. OnStar assumes that if you hit this button that it is a life threatening situation, and they are going to respond with police, fire and rescue, unless somebody tells them otherwise. They're assuming somebody's going to die very shortly.

TODD: A new feature with OnStar shown in a recent ad, the ability to disable the gas pedal by remote control and slow the car down. That stopped another carjacking in California recently. But Kunkel says OnStar is not the perfect fit for everyone.

KUNKEL: A number of my customers are concerned about big brother, so to speak, being able to watch the people in the car, listen surreptitiously to phone calls, things of this nature.


TODD: But Kunkel says OnStar has been very upfront about not tracking motorists unless the drivers contact them first for help -- Wolf?

BLITZER: He -- at some point, the senator thought of dropping the OnStar feature on that car, didn't he?

TODD: He did. And he told us that he was kind of tired of paying for it every month, he thought it was a waste of money. Now, of course, he says in retrospect, it wasn't a waste of money. He's glad he kept it. It cost about $18 or $19 a month if you pay by the month. It's a little cheaper if you get a prepaid package for a couple of years.

BLITZER: Pretty good $18 a month, I would say, indeed. All right, Brian, thanks very much.

New details just coming in about the moments after the Tiger Woods crash, not from Tiger or from his wife, but from the neighbor who actually called 911.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow, she's working on what's going on right now.

What is going on? What are you learning?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Florida highway patrol late today released audio recordings of their interview with neighbors who called 911. This was just minutes after Woods crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree.

Jarius Adams and his sister rushed out to help. As you'll soon hear, the tapes reveal that Adams told them he saw the driver's side door open and that Woods was lying on the ground with his wife over him talking to him. But he says Tiger Woods was unconscious. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: And was he conscious, unconscious?

JARIUS LAVAR ADAMS, TIGER WOODS' NEIGHBOR: At that point, he was snoring.


ADAMS: He was actually snoring.

UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: OK. Did she say anything to you?

ADAMS: No. At this point -- she was actually very quiet, just kind of in shock. You know, just kind of sitting there. She wasn't very verbal.

UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: Did she ask you for any help or anything?

ADAMS: Well, yes, when I went out there, you know, she said, can you please help me, can you please help me, whatever the case may be. And that's when I rant back in and got the phone. UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: Did you smell any alcohol?

ADAMS: No alcohol, no any other kind of drug whatsoever. None.


ADAMS: Zero. Zero percent.

UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: Did you get close enough that you think you would have smelled it had he been drinking?


UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: OK. And you did not smell anything?

ADAMS: Not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: Did you or you, ma'am -- did either one of you see a golf club out there near the vehicle?

ADAMS: No. No.

KIMBERLY HARRIS, JARIUS ADAMS' SISTER: I saw two sitting in the seat of the golf cart.


HARRIS: Mm-hmm.

UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: Did you recall seeing any glass out there in the area of the vehicle?

HARRIS: No. We didn't see any glass at all.

UNIDENTIFIED TROOPER: Did anyone ever tell you or did you ever hear anyone mention anything about someone possibly knocking out the window of the vehicle with the golf club?

HARRIS: No, sir. Again, they verbally did not speak to us at all.


SNOW: Now on the tapes Adams also told police that Woods had a laceration on his lip as if he had bitten it but saw no blood on his clothing. Now his sister Kimberly Harris claimed that Woods' mother and mother-in-law came out as well. They were apparently staying at the home for the thanksgiving holiday. Woods was charged with careless driving and paid a $164 fine -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Did the neighbors, Mary, hear the crash? In other words, what prompted them to rush outside?

SNOW: Well, on these tapes Kimberly Harris told troopers she had heard a faint knocking sound for about 10 minutes. She said looked out the windows, saw the headlights of an SUV at an odd angle and then she woke up -- she woke her brother up, that is, to check it out, what that knocking sound was is unclear.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much for that.

It might be the new American motto, "mind your own business." We're going to talk to the best political team on television about what Americans are feeling right now.


BLITZER: Americans are feeling more insular right now, that according to a brand new poll. Let's talk about that and more with the best political team on television. Joining us our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Paul Begala, "Washington Times" columnist Amanda Carpenter and CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Here's the new Pew Research Center poll that asked this question, the U.S. should mind its own business internationally. Forty-nine percent agreed, 44 percent disagreed. This is the first time in 40 years that the plurality say the U.S. should simply mind its own business internationally. People want to get outside -- come back inside, I should say.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's probably not surprising given the fact that people always retrench when the economy is bad and we're also fighting two wars that a lot of Americans believe are unwinnable. And there's a large focus from Americans on saying, look, you know, tend to the business at home right now and try and fix our economy before we look abroad.

BLITZER: Because isolationism could be a dangerous feeling out there, at least according to a lot of foreign policy experts.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It could be. I think it was noteworthy that in the last election, both parties nominated committed internationalists, John McCain, great internationalist for the Republican Party. Of course, Barack Obama, internationalist in my party.

But this could create an opening either for a Republican or a third-party candidate to kind of stitch together a lot of the ginners. Opposing bailouts at home, opposing deficit spending, opposing wars which most Republicans tend to support under Mr. Bush, and now opposing any kind of international engagement.

This could be, you know, paging Lou Dobbs, you know...

BORGER: Or Ron Paul.

BEGALA: Or Ron Paul.

BLITZER: Or Pat Buchanan used to be an isolationist, I guess, to a certain degree. What do you think of that?

AMANDA CARPENTER, WASHINGTON TIMES COLUMNIST: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) that this poll was conducted before President Obama had his speech making the case for Afghanistan, so maybe that would have changed thing. But I do think that global climate change policies are a big part of this push towards isolationism.

And I think this will play out when the president goes to Denmark for that climate summit and then also to Norway to accept that Nobel Peace Prize.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just think the other thing you have to remember is that right now there is -- people don't see a real compelling reason to go overseas and do anything. Right after 9/11, you saw, you know, the sort of, yes, we need to interfere internationally.

There's no real compelling reason, and a very compelling reason to be looking inward, so I think these things shift depending on what the news is and obviously where the country is. I'm not sure I would look at it at some long-term -- and third parties never get grown well here in the U.S. But I mean it's interesting that I would -- I'd be really cautious about seeing anything long-term.

BLITZER: It was a lovely jobs summit over at the White House today. But the question is after, you know, all these 300 or so folks go back to wherever they came from, they'll be able to tell other friends, you know, I shook hands with the president or whatever.

Is anything really going to be...

BORGER: That's happening a lot lately.


BLITZER: Is anything going to emerge from it?

BORGER: Well, yes and no. I mean obviously the White House believes that it's got to make the push on jobs right now. With unemployment at 10.2 percent, very, very likely to go up, they understand that there's an election coming up in 2010 and that they have got problems with their own caucus on the jobs issues.

The big question is, do they do another jobs stimulus package? What can they do to let the American public know that they're on the case? It's very difficult.

BLITZER: Because if the unemployment rate, as the Congressional Budget Office estimates, stays at, let's say, 9 percent next year and in 2011 stays at 8 percent, Democrats are talking about some big headaches.

BEGALA: Right and the unemployment rate among congressional Democrats will go way up which is going to be a big problem for my party. I think you will see a jobs growth. You know I think that -- am I sounding just talking on the people on Capitol Hill, but also on the White House. More on the Hill, frankly, is where it's coming from. But I think you're going to have a jobs bill. I think that -- I'm not an economist, but the economy needs it certainly, unemployment is stubbornly high, but also I think the Democrats want that politically. They wouldn't mind going into an election with headlines saying Republicans oppose Democrats jobs bill.

And I think that's kind of...


BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) was pretty blunt. We just heard him make the case, you know what, don't waste anymore money. A lot of this money has been wasted already.

CARPENTER: Right. We had a $787 billion stimulus package. We're having a jobs summit where key groups like the Chamber of Commerce were not invited. And we're going to have jobs numbers tomorrow that will show exactly where things are. And I think we should be suspicious of another jobs package as another stimulus bill.

Because if you look at the stories, the front page of the "Washington Post," saying most of the money stayed in Washington, D.C. It's not getting into the states in the same kind of political shenanigans that we have seen again and again.

CROWLEY: On the PR front, I mean you have to look at a jobs summit that is held on the eve of a jobs report that's coming out tomorrow where we may see is not going to be good news and on the eve of the president taking another tour around to various Allentown, Pennsylvania, I think, to talk about jobs.

So I think we need to see it in that context and there is value in a president saying, I understand that there are not enough jobs out there, but they are caught, OK, between twin concerns -- the rising deficit, which is just phenomenally bad, and what that might do ultimately to children, grandchildren and to interest rates, and a 10.2 percent unemployment rate.

But if you are going to run for election next year, you're going to address that unemployment rate before you address anything else.

BORGER: And I think, if I were a betting person, I would bet that in the president's State of the Union address, he would talk about increasing jobs at the same time he calls for deficit reduction and says, you know, we have a plan to do x, y, and z because we understand concerns about the deficit.

BLITZER: It's never by accident or coincidence that the president decides to go to a place like Allentown, Pennsylvania.

BEGALA: And I think it's great. You know for a couple of times he's gone to Elkhart, Indiana. That's sort of been his place to go...

BLITZER: Chillicothe, Ohio.

BEGALA: Gosh, you have a good memory.



BLITZER: They always find battleground states to go do these things.

BEGALA: Right. And I suspect in the months to come this will be a more regular thing for this president. He'll go to places like Ohio, Michigan. He's going to Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and Allentown where people are hurting. Because I think Amanda is right, there's some criticism that this is all too Washington focused.

And I think we also heard in the campaign, this guy is an amazing campaigner. Let's get him out there with the real people.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll continue this conversation tomorrow. Thanks very much. Talk about Allentown, Pennsylvania, a lovely place.

It was supposed to be the announcement of a new United Nations messenger of peace, but wait until you hear the tune that competed with Stevie Wonder. The singer songwriter takes it all in stride.


BLITZER: Erica Hill has got a full hour of news coming up at the top of the hour.

Erica, give us a preview.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks. And just ahead the White House, as you know, on the offensive tonight fighting charges that it's actually stonewalling the investigation into those D.C. party crashers. White House social secretary now refusing to answer lawmakers' question. The White House is citing executive privilege.

We're going to hear from a former Secret Service agent who says it was not the agency's fault alone and the White House should indeed be sharing some of the blame here.

All that and much more ahead at the top of the hour -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see you then, Erica. Thanks very much. Let's check in with Jack for "The Cafferty File." Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: When it comes to health care reform how should the Senate proceed on the issue of abortion?

Allison writes from Vancouver: "The Senate should vote to join the ranks of civilized countries like mine and many others who don't dictate whether a woman has a right to an abortion. Period. I chose to have one many years ago. Our health system paid for it. I thought there was supposed to be separate of church and state. Yet you people allow your fundamentalist Christians to dominate the political agenda. I find that really sad."

Chandra in Las Vegas: "Abortion should not be covered unless it's medically necessary or a pregnancy resulting from a rape. Abortion should be treated as an elective procedure and paid for out of women's own pockets if they want it. The focus should be on promoting birth control and decreasing the need for abortions."

Dawn in Bermuda writes: "I'm a woman, a Democrat and pro-choice. This bill needs to pass, if it takes not allowing federal funds to pay for those who choose to have an abortion for the Senate to pass this bill, then so be it. The greater good, Jack."

Jean writes: "The bill should simply reference the Hyde Amendment and proceed. There will have to be insurance plans that don't cover abortion. The cost should be slightly lower and many men will want them as well."

Joe writes: "If men got pregnant, abortion will be socially approved legal and government-funded." Joe says, "about the -- or the House language rather word for word."

And Bill in Leesburg, Florida says: "For those against abortion, don't have one. Throw out all your plan b pills that your daughters have, leave others alone in the hard decision they need to make. If you don't remember, back alley services, at least look it up before you stop others."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog, you'll find that, And you'll find me on the way out of this building in about 90 seconds -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That long?

CAFFERTY: I got to make a quick stop.

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: I'll see you tomorrow.

BLITZER: I'm not going to ask where you're stopping. All right. Thank you.

What the Republican Party has in store for President Obama when he heads to Pennsylvania tomorrow to talk about the economy.


BLITZER: Check in with Jessica Yellin to see what's on the "Political Ticker" -- Jessica?

YELLIN: Wolf, well, when President Obama heads to Pennsylvania tomorrow to talk about the economy, the Republican Party chairman will have a little something there for him. A new radio ad blasting the stimulus package claiming it's been more to grow government that create jobs. It's also a chance for the RNC to criticize a high-profile defector from the party. The same ad makes a point of linking Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter to the president and the stimulus.

Well, the mayor of Baltimore says she won't let an embezzlement conviction her from doing her job. Sheila Dixon faced reporters today. Now you remember she was found guilty this week of taking gift cards from a program meant for the city's poor children. It's a misdemeanor but the prosecutor says the mayor could be removed from office because that's a theft related crime.

For now, Dixon says look, she'll keep doing the people's business and ask for her conviction to be overturned.

Right now hundreds of provisional ballots are being counted in the Atlanta mayoral runoff. It's likely to set the stage for a recount. At last report, former state senator Kasim Reed had a lead of just 620 votes, very slim. He's claiming victory, but his opponent Mary Norwood is refusing to concede her bid to be the city's first white mayor in decades. So strap in for America's latest election cliffhanger.

And attention public officials. Music legend, Stevie Wonder, could teach you a few things about keeping your sense of humor when things go wrong. Wonder was at the United Nations today to be named a Messenger of Peace. But whoops, a fire alarm went off when he was there. There was no fire and no danger, but plenty of awkward silence. So Wonder filled the void.


STEVIE WONDER, U.N. "MESSENGER OF PEACE": This is a final, you know...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't think it's real.

WONDER: I'm trying to figure out a new melody.



YELLIN: If ever there was a person to fill in an awkward silence, it's got to be Stevie Wonder, Wolf. I know you're a big fan of his. What's your favorite?

BLITZER: He could make music out of that melody right there. He's Stevie Wonder.

YELLIN: What's your favorite song?

BLITZER: I like them all. All of them. "Isn't She Lovely." You know that song.

YELLIN: I know. We don't want you to sing it, though.

BLITZER: No. But I'd like you to sing a few...

YELLIN: No, no. Another time.

BLITZER: J.Y. That's what they call her. J.Y. Thanks very much.

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

His private life under public scrutiny. It's the story the media just can't get enough of. Jeanne Moos has that.


BLITZER: People can't get enough of the Tiger Woods scandal. At least some people are. Jeanne Moos find it all "Most Unusual."


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 'Tis the season to be anything but jolly if you are Tiger Woods.

(On camera): What is your message to Tiger Woods?

(Voice-over): He's probably not laughing. Now only his voicemail to a woman claiming to be his mistress gone public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, it's -- it's Tiger.

MOOS: Now the voicemail has been turned into a slow jam remix on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, it's -- it's Tiger. Can you take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you.

MOOS: Not since Alec Baldwin left a message for his pre-teen daughter...

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: You are a rude, thoughtless little pig.

MOOS: ... has a voicemail gotten this much exposure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to do this for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was TV guilty. He was so guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm embarrassed for him that his whole life is displayed in front of everyone.

MOOS: And you can bet Tiger doesn't feel jolly about the press for displaying it. To drive home the point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he believes is a private matter. And the Florida highway patrol concedes he does not legally have talk to them. MOOS: Along with reporters outside Tiger's mansion was this scantily clad radio host carrying a sign saying, "Tiger, they offered me $500,000, I'm keeping my mouth shut." As for the women who really are involved...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Come on, Jamie, give me something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a good night, guys.

MOOS: She already gave everything to "Us Weekly."

(On camera): Did you hear his voicemail?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know everything about Tiger. Yes, but I can't comment about...

MOOS: You're not one of his women?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it's none of our business. Please, it's a personal domestic dispute.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger's a good boy. He has a gift this season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he's on the naughty list this year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not getting his set of golf clubs that he asked for.

MOOS (voice-over): This parody of a holiday card from Mr. and Mrs. Tiger Woods is making the rounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger, we have a message for you. One, two three.

You better watch out, you better watch out, you better watch out. You better watch out.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

(On camera): Good-bye, Santa. Good-bye.

(Voice-over): New York.


BLITZER: Very, very cute. Erica Hill and "CNN TONIGHT," coming up at the top of the hour. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We leave you now with more from the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. Sheryl Crow, she performed. There is "The Star That Shines Tonight."