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Muslim Americans Arrested in Pakistan; President Obama Accepts Peace Prize

Aired December 10, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: war, peace, and the president's prize. This hour, the reviews of his Nobel acceptance speech and how it may help him moving forward as commander in chief.

What were five Muslim Americans doing inside of that house in Pakistan? New details on the arrests and allegations they were planning acts of terror.

And medical marijuana could soon be legal in the nation's capital, and members of Congress paved the way.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama knew what he had to do when he stood before the Nobel Committee and accepted the peace prize. He pretty much had to acknowledge what was happening a world away in Iraq and Afghanistan -- the commander in chief explaining at length how he can war and promote peace at the same time.

Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux travelled with the president to Norway.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there was a great deal of excitement, anticipation and controversy around President Obama's visit here, but the president faced all of it. He said this is not about winning a popularity contest, but really pursuing U.S. interests, as well as trying to be a force of good for around the world. He said if he can be successful at that, perhaps some of the criticism will subside, but that is not his main concern.

(voice-over): President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, careful to show humility.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight.

MALVEAUX: Responding to the critics both at home and abroad. OBAMA: I cannot argue with those who find these men and women -- some known, some obscure to all but those they help -- to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

MALVEAUX: He is a reluctant wartime president being recognized for peace.

OBAMA: Perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander in chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars.

MALVEAUX: But President Obama made no apologies for ordering 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan just days ago. Accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, he said war is sometimes justified.

OBAMA: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history.

MALVEAUX: With that, President Obama warned that the world must respond to the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea and Iran and address global warming.

It was a day of protests, street theater, and pageantry. Earlier in the day, the Obamas visited Norway's king and queen, along with the prime minister and his wife. They signed the Nobel book. Later anti- war demonstrators and Obama's supporters mixed during a traditional torchlight parade, before attending an elegant banquet and behind bulletproof glass.

The president and first lady emerged from their hotel balcony, acknowledging the waiting crowd.

CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MALVEAUX (on camera): President Obama said that he wrote in the Nobel book that he was thankful to the committee for giving a voice to the voiceless. He also said that when Martin Luther King won his Nobel Peace Prize, that it galvanized the world and made him more of an effective leader back at home. That is certainly something that President Obama hopes for himself -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux traveling with the president in Oslo.

Whether or not you think the president is actually deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, a lot of people think he did a pretty good job addressing the controversy over his award.

Let's listen to a little bit more of what he had to say about waging war in pursuit of peace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naive -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.


BLITZER: The president expanded on his premise that war could be an investment in a freer, better future.


OBAMA: Yet, the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.

The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.


BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File."

Jack, he is getting a lot of praise, not only from the Democrats, but Republicans, too.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it was a great speech. And that is his wheelhouse. I mean, when he gets behind a microphone with the right ideas, he is mesmerizing.

The thing that impressed me was he acknowledged the -- I don't want to say hypocrisy, the conflict that goes with accepting a Peace Prize at the time that you are fighting two wars. And he addressed it head-on. It was a great speech. The guy was terrific. All right. Choosing your child's sex is becoming more and more mainstream in the United States. Maybe mainstream is too strong a word, but it's more and more common. It is done by using a technology called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which was developed two decades ago to screen embryos for genetic disease.

Parents using in vitro fertilization have the embryos screened to make sure they are not passing along genetic illness. But the same screening can also be used to select the sex of the embryo that is implanted in the woman's uterus.

In most countries, it is illegal, but not here, in the land of instant gratification. It costs about $18,000. Experts say most of the clients come from other countries, but that a lot of the Americans are now using this technology for gender selection, already have a boy or want a girl, and vice versa. They have one and want the other.

Critics worry about the ethics of all of this. Is this really stuff we ought to be playing around with? And they suggest that it could lead to a gender imbalance, especially in countries that traditionally prefer boys, places like China and India.

A doctor who pioneered the technique says he worries about using it to screen embryos for non-scientific reasons, asking if it's something doctors should be involved in at all.

But other fertility doctors see nothing wrong with it. They say it's just another example of giving women more reproductive choices.

So, here's the question: Would you choose your child's gender, sex?

Go to and post your comment on my blog.

It is a vexing question, vexing.

BLITZER: You know, little boys are great. Little girls are great. But some people want specifics.

CAFFERTY: Well, I have got four daughters, and I remember when the fourth one was born and somebody said, well, don't you want a boy? And I said, no, I am too old to play Pop Warner football, and I have already got three girls. I know a little bit how to raise them. And my fourth daughter came along. And I was delighted, so it all worked out.

BLITZER: Excellent work, Jack. Thank you. And good question.


CAFFERTY: It was easy.


You might be completely shocked to learn what was found in this house regarding those five American men arrested in Pakistan. Could the shocking things found in this house prove they were actually planning terrorists acts?


BLITZER: Democrats are nervously watching each small step as a potential major step toward health care reform, the latest, the house speaker, Nancy Pelosi, potentially softening rather dramatically on something she was previously rather firm on. Could health reform be even closer at hand?

Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She is watching it unfold on Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, now that the Democrats are poised to jettison a government-run health care option from their health care bill, and the president is praising their progress. In the House, Democrats who demanded a public option now seem to be bowing to reality, that the votes simply aren't there to pass it through Congress.


BASH (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this summer:

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option.


BASH: Yet, now that Senate Democrats have a tentative deal to drop a public option, she is softening her stance.

You have said there is -- quote -- "no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option."

Is that still the case?

PELOSI: We in the House believe the public option was the best way to hold the insurance companies honest, to keep them honest, and also to increase competition. If you have a better way, put it on the table. As soon as we see something in writing from the Senate, we will be able to make a judgment.

BASH: Pelosi opened the door to a health care bill with no public option as long as it meets certain standards, like affordable coverage and competition for insurance companies. But perhaps more surprising than Pelosi's positive statements, the reaction from some of the most liberal lawmakers in her caucus.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We are certainly not closing the door.

BASH (on camera): You are open to it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am. REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: None of us care about what it is called, as long as people have the type of coverage that they deserve.

BASH (voice-over): These members of the powerful Progressive Caucus had vowed to block health care without public option. Now?

(on camera): You know the reality, and the reality is that the votes are such that you are going to have to live without a public option, likely?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: That is what appears to be. And I don't -- while I won't like it, I'm not going that make me kill the program and kill the improvements that are in it.

BASH (voice-over): They especially like the Senate idea of allowing people 55-64 to buy into Medicare.

NADLER: Medicare, if we are going to greatly expand Medicare, that is a public option.

BASH: But, to be sure, not all liberals will stomach compromise.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Look, we need a public option for the purpose of choice, competition and access. That is why we need it.


BASH: Now, many House Democrats say that they are in a wait-and- see mode. They're waiting to see what the details are of that tentative deal among Senate Democrats. We won't see that until the Congressional Budget Office finishes its analysis.

Still, you talk to the Democrats in the House and the Senate, despite whether they're liberals or moderates, there is a growing sense that despite their policy differences, Wolf, they do feel that they need to pass something rather soon, some kind of health care bill, and the House speaker even said that could happen still by year's end.

BLITZER: Bottom line, Dana, is they will do whatever it takes to get a deal; is that right?

BASH: There is a growing sense even among the most entrenched Democrats on either side of the philosophical divide on this public option that that is the case.

BLITZER: All right. We will see how long it takes, Dana. Thank you.

The debate over health care reform may be costing Democrats their competitive edge over Republicans in next year's congressional elections. Our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 40 percent of Americans now say the nation would be better off if Democrats ran Congress. That figure has been steadily eroding for months, down from 56 percent when the new Congress was sworn in back in January, not good news for the Democrats.

There is new mortgage outrage right now. Some of the same banks that took in billions and billions of government bailout dollars are dragging their feet when it comes to helping Americans hold on to their homes. What is going on?

We asked our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to find out, and she has.

What is going on?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I will tell you, a new report from the Obama administration's Treasury Department shows that their mortgage relief program has a long way to go before it begins to make a dent in the nation's foreclosure crisis.


YELLIN (voice-over): Daisy Vidal thought she was one of the lucky ones. On a trial basis, she was offered a more affordable mortgage thanks to the Obama administration's homeowner relief program, so why is she living in limbo?

DAISY VIDAL, HOMEOWNER: I feel frustrated, because, like, for me, it is very difficult.

YELLIN: After three months of steady payments, her mortgage company was supposed to decide if it would make her temporary mortgage permanent, but instead for six months the company kept asking for more documents without making any decision. She was worried she would lose her house.

VIDAL: I'm worried so much, and when I hear a lot of people losing their houses.

YELLIN: She is not alone. So far, lenders are failing miserably at offering permanent new mortgages under the president's program. The Treasury Department expected 50 percent to 75 percent of homeowners in the trial phase of the program would get permanent mortgages. Instead, through November, the lenders made offers to a measly 4.3 percent of eligible homeowners. That is just over 31,000 people. Some in Congress say it is time to put the screws to the banks.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: We forced the lion to lie with the lamb. But, if you look closely, when the lion gets up, the lamb is missing, and we are saying, here, kitty, kitty.

YELLIN: The administration insists, it is angry, too. Herb Allison is a top Treasury Department official.

HERB ALLISON, ASSISTANT TREASURY SECRETARY: We are moving to the point where we're disciplining the banks if they don't perform better than they are today.

YELLIN: The banks, which received bailout money, insist they are doing what they can to keep up with overwhelming demand.

JACK SCHAKETT, BANK OF AMERICA: Our goal is to keep as many customers in their homes as possible. We understand the urgency of our solutions.

YELLIN: After CNN's inquiries, Saxon, the company that holds Vidal's mortgage, determined she does not qualify for a permanent mortgage under the president's program. Still, they are offering her a mortgage on their own. They add they have launched a number of proactive initiatives to help other homeowners who are having difficulties with the President Obama's mortgage program.


YELLIN: Now, in testimony today, Treasury Secretary Geithner really tried to emphasize the positive, that nearly 750,000 Americans have at least gotten the temporary new mortgages, and that has reduced their payments on average $550 a month.

But, still, they acknowledge there is a problem here. Treasury is ramping up pressure on the banks. They're even sending what they are calling SWAT teams in to visit the lenders to help, Wolf, get these mortgages resolved more quickly. They're really trying to step up pressure on the banks.

BLITZER: They have got to do something, because these folks are hurting out there.

YELLIN: Got a long way to go.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

So, what is in your wallet? Likely more money, at least on paper, if you're like many Americans. Household net worth is actually rising. Look at this. The Federal Reserve says Americans' net worth grew 5 percent to an estimated $54 trillion in the third quarter. Of course, net worth is the difference between a household's assets, like the value of your home, your bank accounts and investments, and liabilities, like mortgages, and credit cards.

Sarah Palin and Al Gore at odds over global warming and now the sniping is getting sort of personal -- that and more with the best political team on television.



BLITZER: Five young American Muslims, now they are behind bars in Pakistan. They're being questioned by U.S. investigators there. Were they actually plotting acts of terror here or there? And new information on the suspects and their possible links to extremists all coming in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Happening now: new details emerging of those five American men arrested in Pakistan and accused of plotting terror, what they claimed was the purpose of their trip and what investigators are now uncovering. Stand by.

Sarah Palin, Al Gore and global warming. She is a doubter, he is a believer, and the war of words is now getting personal and hotter.

Medical marijuana right here in the nation's capital. Will Washington, D.C., be the next locale where patients can access pot? Details of the vote that is getting closer.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get to the arrest of those five Muslim Americans at a home in Pakistan. They are accused by local Pakistani police of plotting terrorist acts. The FBI now confirms they are the same reported missing from here in the Washington, D.C., area.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is here with the latest on the investigation.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the five men from Northern Virginia told the Pakistani Embassy they needed visas to attend the marriage ceremony of a friend and sightsee, but authorities are still trying to determine if their actual intent was terrorism.


MESERVE (voice-over): Behind bars in this jail in Pakistan, five young American Muslim men. State Department and FBI representatives have now met with some of them. And a law enforcement official says there are indications some may cooperate with law enforcement.

P.J. CROWLEY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: We are gathering information about -- you know, why they were there, who they were in the company of, and the implications of that. We have reached no conclusions on that.

MESERVE: Pakistani authorities say the Americans connected with militants after posting comments on YouTube videos. They then communicated by reading and deleting drafts of e-mails, rather than risking detection by sending them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were mercenaries. They were there for jihad. They could have done anything.

MESERVE: Computers, jihadi literature, and maps highlighting areas of Pakistan where terrorists have been active were all seized at the house where the five were arrested, according to the Pakistanis.

Authorities have to reconstruct the men's history, since none of them had come to the attention of law enforcement before their parents reported them missing. TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What's missing is knowing who they were talking to, who they were meeting with, what e-mail traffic was being sent at the time they were still in the United States.

YELLIN: Ramy Zamzam, pictured here on Facebook, is a student at Howard university. Investigators are checking out activities and contacts there, as well as George Mason University, where Umar Farooq, another of the Americans, went to school, also a mosque in Northern Virginia where several of the men worshipped.


MESERVE: Though Pakistani officials say the men were intent on committing terrorist acts and made contact with two terror groups, U.S. officials are being much more cautious.

Law enforcement says it is too early to know what the Americans were doing in Pakistan and who they were in contact with. U.S. officials say they are in discussions with Pakistani authorities about returning the men to the United States. As of now, they have not been charged with any crime in either country -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: I know you are going to stay on top of this story, Jeanne -- Jeanne Meserve reporting.

Let's get back to President Obama's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. The president is fully aware of the criticism that the commander in chief is getting as far as getting that Peace Prize, but he is making the case that there are some wars that are justified.


OBAMA: I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend.



BLITZER: One of the few times he was actually interrupted with applause during that 35 minute or so speech.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political contributor, Alex Castellanos, he's a Republican strategist; Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons; and CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- Candy, I know you listened closely to that speech.

what's intriguing to me is that he's getting a lot of praise from Democrats, but also a lot of praise from Republicans.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is. They heard what they've been wanting to hear for a year on two scores.

Number one, they thought that this most well-traveled first year president had done way too much apologizing. And the graph that he had was so strong about whatever mistakes we've made, we've shed a lot of blood over six decades on soil that was not ours. That totally pleases conservatives, who really have been critical of his overseas travels.

And I think the other thing that pleased them was the word "evil." We noticed that. But it was like he was channeling George Bush at one point, when he said, you know, we have to -- there is evil in this world. And you'll remember what heat President Bush eventually got for that.

So it was...

BLITZER: For the axis of evil.

CROWLEY: Yes, exactly. And evildoers.

BLITZER: And we remember that (INAUDIBLE). That's right.

CROWLEY: And, you know, that sort of thing. And so I think that pleased them. And just, in -- in large part, the justification for most of the wars -- save Iraq, as far as the president is concerned -- that the U.S. has participated in, from Bosnia to pushing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and he talked about it for humanitarian purposes.

So, yes, they -- on that particular part, the Republicans were all with him. They were not pleased with his -- the -- the clip that you just ran. I think that upset them.

BLITZER: Yes, except -- except for that clip...


BLITZER: ...when he brought up the "torture" and GITMO...

CROWLEY: Exactly.

BLITZER: know, everything else, they seemed to like, is that right?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He did have some wonderful moments in the speech. He did defend America's responsibility to lead in the world. It's not a luxury we can discard. We're the defenders of peace and freedom and democracy.

But notice the clip you played. He said "I" 36 times in this speech -- "I closed Guantanamo," "I have a responsibility," "I"...


CASTELLANOS: It was I, I, I all the time.


BORGER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: No, no, there's something developing in this president that's almost an intellectual arrogance, something -- he stands above us and says if you only understood all these hard decisions I have to make, you'd agree with all these unpopular things. You're seeing it in the survey...

BORGER: But -- but (INAUDIBLE)...

CASTELLANOS:'re seeing it in the survey research here at home. It's almost the same case that George Bush, Candy, made at the end of his term -- I don't care what the polls say, I'm going to do...

BORGER: But he...

CASTELLANOS: ...what I think is right.

BORGER: But, Alex, he -- he did approach this with a certain degree of humility. He did say I am at the beginning...

CASTELLANOS: But the words.

BORGER: ...I am at the beginning of my life on the world stage. So, you know, you have to give him that.

CASTELLANOS: The words were humble, but the tone and it's -- it was about him. It wasn't about the country.

SIMMONS: Well, I have to remind Alex that the -- that, you know, the prize did go to Barack Obama. The prize did not go to some larger group of people. So...


SIMMONS: ...standing before the world stage, he's clearly got a popularity. There's clearly an expectation of him as a man of peace to have to talk about not only why he would like to have a world of peace, but why sometimes, in order to protect that world of peace, you have to have mechanisms in order to do war.

I think the most important phrase that he used was, he said: "No holy war can ever be a just war," which I think penetrates directly to the heart of the Islamic terrorists who have been attacking us...


SIMMONS: ...and says that cannot...


SIMMONS: ...that cannot stand.

CROWLEY: Well, and he compared Al Qaeda to Hitler.

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: I mean he was very, very strong on that. And I think that was...

BORGER: Right.

CROWLEY: ...important to be out there talking about it after all of the things that he's been criticized for.

BLITZER: And he got into the face of the Europeans on several of these points...

CROWLEY: He totally did.

BLITZER: ...that Tom Friedman said earlier.

BORGER: It was kind of a Sister Souljah kind of a moment, because there he was in Norway accepting the Peace Prize, talking about the moral justification for going to war, which may have been one of the reasons he wasn't interrupted with applause 25 times.

CASTELLANOS: Which shows you that sometimes doing what's right for the country is also the best politics. And he's moving toward the center...

BLITZER: All right...

CASTELLANOS: ...and he's doing the right thing (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: There was -- there was a lighter moment later in the evening, at the dinner, when he said this.



OBAMA: As I indicated before, no one was more surprised than me. And I have to say that when the chairman spoke introducing me, I told him afterwards that I thought it was an excellent speech and that I was almost convinced that I deserved it.



BLITZER: He's a funny guy sometimes, the president of the United States.

All right. Guys, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, including a would-be vice president and a former vice president at serious odds over climate change right now. We're talking about Sarah Palin and Al Gore. The best political team on television is standing by.


BLITZER: All right. We're back with Gloria, Alex, Jamal and Candy.

The former vice president, Al Gore, is speaking out forcefully against those who would deny that climate change and man -- that there's a connection there.

Listen to this.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the global warming deniers persist in this air of unreality. A hundred fifteen years ago this year was the discovery that CO2 traps heat. That is a -- a principle in physics. It's not a question of debate. It's like gravity, it exists.


BLITZER: Not so fast, if you're Sarah Palin.

Listen to what she said on her Facebook page. She said: "Vice President Gore seriously needs to consider that their findings are flawed, falsified or inconclusive. Vice President Gore, the Climategate scandal exists. You might even say that it's like sort of like gravity, you simply can't deny it."

Wow! Getting a little personal there -- Gloria, between these two.

BORGER: Yes. You know, this isn't about physics, it's about politics. And Sarah Palin sees an issue out there on the horizon and then decides not to talk about it, not to come here and talk about it, but to write about it very nicely on her Facebook page.

And, on the other hand, you've got Al Gore -- this has been the cause of his life -- using the phrase deniers, which is really interesting because, of course, it raises in my mind the notion of Holocaust deniers, which is a pretty strong term to use about Sarah Palin, saying she just doesn't understand the science, the science is clear, there isn't -- there isn't any doubt about it. But...

BLITZER: It's like gravity. She wrote a -- a big piece on the op-ed page of "The Washington Post," too. So she's got...


BLITZER: That's right. She's -- why are you saying print?

It was a printing.


BLITZER: It was printed in "The Washington Post."

BORGER: Right. Not here.


BLITZER: Yes, she wrote that piece. And so she wants to establish herself as a leader of the opposition to Al Gore.

CROWLEY: But she's -- yes, she'd like to establish herself that way, but she's going to have to do some give and take here. You can't, as Gloria says, come out on Facebook and post something and then do an op-ed, you need to engage.

But, yes, she wants to -- she's clearly speaking to a specific audience -- the people who would, A, read her column and the people who, A, would go to her Facebook. At some point, she's going to have to speak to a -- a larger group, if, indeed, what she wants to do is something other than sell books.

SIMMONS: You know who she also should speak to, she should speak to the Republicans. Republicans have a history in their party of standing up for issues like the environment -- Teddy Roosevelt with the national parks; Richard Nixon with the clean water bill -- Clean Water Act and establishing the EPA; Ronald Reagan with the Montreal Protocol to help get rid of the ozone layer.

This -- this should not be part of partisan politics. And I think that's where the vice president is trying to get her to, where a lot of other people, including Lindsey Graham, who wrote that column with John Kerry in "The New York Times. This is -- this is something that people agree upon.

CASTELLANOS: Well, not exactly. But I do agree with Jamal that Republicans should address, actually, the issues here -- the -- the physics of it. It is physics and policy.

Gore is right that 150 years ago we established that carbon traps heat. Great. But what he's not saying is how much carbon dioxide actually is there in the atmosphere?

Is there a number here?

I mean we're talking about a big problem.

Where -- what percent is it?



CASTELLANOS: ...41/100 of 1 percent. It's not that much. There is a scientific issue here. It's worth talking about. So we should do that.

But the danger for Gore and the Democrats here is that they can become the party that's not progressive. The Democrats have enjoyed that for a long time. If they become the party that resists economic progress and change, you've got a whole generation of kids out there without jobs and they're -- they're holding back progress for this kind of weird science they were manufacturing, it's a problem.

BLITZER: The debate, no doubt, will continue.

Let's check in with Deborah Feyerick.

She's monitoring some of the other top stories happening right now -- Deb, what have you got?

FEYERICK: Well, hey, there, Wolf.

Hey, everyone.

Some scary moments in New York Times Square today. Police chasing a suspect shot and killed a man after he fired at them. Now, the shootout happened around noon outside the Marriott Marquis Hotel in the Broadway District. And you can see the suspect's gun in these NYPD photos that we're just getting in. And a bullet shattered the glass in the window of the box office of the Marquee Theater.

Now, police say that the man was a scam artist who had been trying to dupe tourists into buying CDs on the street. He fled when police asked to see his permit.

Also, check out this video, as a pregnant Texas woman jumps in to help break up a fight. Well, nine months pregnant, Angela Gutierrez says she had to do something when she saw a police officer being attacked by a group of young men. Fortunately, she was not hurt in the scuffle and the teens eventually fled. The officer she helped suffered only minor injuries. Three teens have now been arrested in connection with that fight.

And finally, a California appeals court heard arguments today in the decades old Roman Polanski sex case. Polanski's attorneys and the victim asked the court the dismiss the case without Polanski even being there. But prosecutors argued for the case to proceed following Polanski's arrest in September in Switzerland.

Boy, a long time.

And what if they dispense it -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front.

Deb Feyerick reporting.

Let's check in with John Roberts top see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- John, what are you working on?


Good to see you.

Coming up at the top of the hour, 30 years after Three Mile Island, nuclear power could be making a comeback. Environmentalists helped to kill it. Now some of the same people are pushing the nuclear option as the next big thing -- a cheap, clean alternative to America's mounting energy demands. Countries all over the world have gone nuclear.

But the big question is, are Americans ready to fire up the reactors again?

Can we afford not to?

All that and more, Wolf, coming your way at the top of the hour.

We'll see you then.

BLITZER: I know. You raised that issue with the vice -- the former vice president, Al Gore, yesterday.

What did he say?

He said that he's open to it, but...

ROBERTS: He said he's not against it. He says the cost is prohibitive. But one of the reasons why the cost is prohibitive, of course, is because of all of the regulations that -- that companies that are building nuclear plants have to go through.

But as I said, this is -- this is something that's getting a new look, Wolf. And -- and you wonder if the industry hadn't been killed 30 years ago, where might we be today in terms of energy independence.

BLITZER: John Roberts.

He's going to have a lot more on this right at the top of the hour.

John's coming up.

Thank you.

For about $18,000, you can choose whether your child will be a boy or a girl.

Would you do that?

Jack Cafferty has your e-mail.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is would you choose the sex of your child ahead of time if you could?

And you can now, for about $18,000. Renee writes: "I a proud mother of six healthy boys and I've always wanted to have a daughter. I'm still young. I'm in good health. If my financial situation was better and I able to afford it, I would definitely choose the gender of my child. I would have stopped at two kids if I had a girl and a boy, but I always held out a little hope that the next one would be a girl."

Now she has six boys.

Thad writes: "It's a tough decision that touches me personally, because I have three daughters and I surely want a son. Using conventional ways and statistics, I'm almost guaranteed another girl. I'm all for it."

Dale writes: "When you see the pure evil of gender selection in China and India, you can't help but have a healthy aversion to the practice. I'm a man, but I see this as yet another tool to devalue women in society by some groups. I understand the desire to have one of each or even two of the same. But I don't think we ought to have the right. The real consequences are immoral."

Lou writes: "I'll be for creating designer babies just as soon as children have the right to pick qualities they like in their parents. My dad would have loved having another boy rather than my little sister. But we both would have been equally happy to trade him in for a less alcoholic parent."

D. writes: "When people have too many choices, they often make bad ones."

Darren writes: "What comes after that, picking which annoying genetic traits their child won't have?"

And Diana in New Jersey writes my favorite: "After having three daughters and two sons, I sure would. All my girls give me gray hair, acid indigestion and sleepless nights. I would have had all sons or puppies instead."

If you want to read more about this, go to my blog at -- Wolf, see you tomorrow.

BLITZER: I'll see you tomorrow in New York, Jack.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Medical marijuana advocates have been fighting for a decade to make it legal here in Washington, D.C.

Are they now on the verge of winning their battle?


BLITZER: A decade after voters approved it, legalized medical marijuana in Washington, D.C. may be getting closer. Our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is following the latest developments for us. There has been a significant development, hasn't there -- Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a vote in the House. It still has to pass the Senate, where it's expected to. And then President Obama would have to sign this into law.

But, Wolf, already about 12 states have enacted laws that say medical marijuana is OK. And this vote today could pave the way for Washington, D.C. to join them.


KEILAR: (voice-over): In the House, a vote to fund the federal government for the next year. Also inside the massive spending bill, a provision that lifts a decade old ban on medical marijuana in the nation's capital -- a victory for medical marijuana advocates.

AARON HOUSTON, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: We just don't think it's right to have a cancer or AIDS patient whose doctor has recommended that they use marijuana being subject to arrest and prosecution. It's simply not fair."

KEILAR: In 1998, D.C. voters passed a referendum allowing residents to possess and use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Congress, then controlled by Republicans, quickly intervened -- much to the chagrin of D.C.'s sole member of Congress, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), D.C. DELEGATE: They tried to keep us even from counting the ballots in the referendum. That was overturned. And then they simply banned, no matter what the referendum said, any kind of -- of medicinal marijuana in the District of Columbia.


KEILAR: But 10 years later, it is a different story. Democrats are in power and conservative opposition to this issue of medical marijuana just isn't what it used to be. So because President Obama would have to sign this into law, what is his take on this?

Well, the administration's policy on medical marijuana, at least through the Justice Department, is that it will not prosecute or go after people who are using medical marijuana in states that have medical marijuana laws, as long as they're doing it for a legitimate medical purpose -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It looks like it's coming to Washington, DC.

All right, Brianna.

Thanks very much.

Here's a look at some Hot Shots.

In Nepal, young monks observe the 20th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Hong Kong, this swimmer is tossed into the air after placing third in a relay race.

In Moscow, people walk past a huge Christmas tree installed in Red Square.

And in Chicago, with the help of her penguin hat, this woman braved some very cold weather.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Barbara Walters announcing her annual list of the 10 most fascinating people of the year. Guess who's on it?

We've got that, plus more.

Freezing temperatures around the nation causing some Moost Unusual incidents.


BLITZER: Jessica Yellin has some Political Tickers -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of the Democrats' most visible flame throwers in Congress is taking aim at Dick Cheney in a creative way. The former vice president's latest criticism of President Obama got Congressman Alan Grayson -- remember him -- of Florida riled up again. In a national TV interview, Grayson declared that it's time for Cheney to STFU.

Now, if you don't know what that acronym means, the first letter stands for shut, the last part involves a curse word I'm not going to say on TV. But he's clearly pushing the limits.

All right, Republican Congressman Joseph Cao wants to brag about the undefeated New Orleans Saints. He's asking constituents to write short essays explaining how the team's record is lifting the city's spirits. He plans to read some of the best essays on the House floor, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper, "Roll Call." City officials are so excited the Saints may make it to the Super Bowl, they're even rescheduling some Mardi Gras events to avoid a possible conflict.

And we all know Michelle Obama has been praised for her strength, her brains, her wardrobe -- even her arms. Now she's being praised as downright fascinating. The first lady topped Barbara Walter's annual list of the 10 most fascinating people of 2009 -- Wolf, check out some of the other women on the fascinating list, pop star Lady Gaga, amazing for what she wears, at least; reality TV star, Kate Gosselin; former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin; and South Carolina first lady, Jenny Sanford -- Wolf, Barbara Walters' clearly has a thing for the Obamas. Last year, her most fascinating person on -- in America was President Obama. BLITZER: Yes. And you know who's fascinating in my mind?


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos, because Jeanne Moos finds the bitter cold much of the nation is experiencing right now Moost Unusual.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): It's like being tongue tied to a pole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the dumbest thing I've ever done.

MOOS: Frozen to a pole on purpose. And if you thought it only happens in movies like "A Christmas Story"...


MOOS: ...well, real kids have gotten stuck three times in just the past few days, from Vancouver, Washington...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we have a student that stuck their tongue on the flag pole.

MOOS: this Boise, Idaho fence post -- three separate incidents...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Numbness. My tongue is really numb.

MOOS: which kids like this had to have their tongues liberated. In Spokane Valley, Washington, a dark haired girl used her cell to call 911 to rescue her 13-year-old friend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is she stuck to the pole?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were retarded and she stuck her tongue to the pole.

MOOS (on camera): The second girl put her tongue on the pole only after the first girl put her lips on the pole. And the lips came off without a problem.

(voice-over): But not the tongue, in temperatures of about 10 degrees.


MOOS: In the movie, the kid is abandoned. But in real life, the friends stuck by the girl whose tongue was stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell her we'll get somebody there to help her, OK?


Are you laughing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm not. I feel bad for her.

MOOS: As for how best to get a tongue unstuck...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it really stuck?


MOOS: Breathing isn't usually enough. Nor do we recommend the technique used in "Dumb and Dumber"...


MOOS: The best method is room temperature water, says the captain who rescued the laughing 13-year-old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just poured it on there and within about 10 seconds, her tongue pulled off.

MOOS: Sore, but OK. So, kids, don't you dare risk your tongue over a dare.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I triple dog dare you.

MOOS: The captain didn't bother to give the girl a tongue- lashing, figuring it had been lashed enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did ask her why she did it and she said curiosity.

MOOS (on camera): Ah-ha. Well, we know what that did to the cat.

(voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: What a story.

Thank you, Jeanne.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."