Return to Transcripts main page


President Obama Takes on Big Banks; Italian Prime Minister Punched

Aired December 14, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Obama stares down Wall Street bankers, saying it's payback time for their bailout. This hour, did his bark about fat cat lenders have any bite?

If you send personal texts and e-mails at work, do you have a right to keep them private, even if you're abusing the system? The U.S. Supreme Court takes on a case that could affect millions of Americans who send electronic messages while on the job.

And the Italian prime minister is reeling from a shocking smack on the face -- this hour, new details on this security nightmare.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for joining us.

It's one thing for President Obama to call Wall Street bankers fat cats in a national TV interview. It's another thing to actually get them to loosen up credit and to give Americans the loans they need.

The president met with the chiefs of some of the nation's biggest banks today. And he tried to speak their language, reminding them that they have a debt to pay.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

Ed, did the president's words get results?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's the big question. And the short answer is no. The president has pressured these bankers several times during his first year in office, to little effect so far.


HENRY (voice-over): The president's message to bankers was blunt: Taxpayers bailed you out, so now return the favor.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry and now that they're back on their feet we expect an inordinate -- extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy.

HENRY: But after channeling populist rage and ripping into the banks on CBS' "60 Minutes"... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")

OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.


HENRY: ... the president suddenly shifted his tone from combative to constructive, after actually meeting with the heads of the nation's biggest banks.

OBAMA: So I urged these institutions here today to go back and take a third and fourth look about how they are operating when it comes to small-business and medium-sized business lending.

HENRY: And yet the president has repeatedly pressed the bankers to fix their pay and lend more to consumers, dating back to his first month in office.


OBAMA: When I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses, that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.


HENRY: That's why White House spokesman Robert Gibbs faced a barrage of questions about whether the president got firm commitments this time.

(on camera): Today, you're saying it was positive, constructive. The bankers came out positive, constructive. But...


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I -- I think the meeting was positive. I think the president said the meeting was also quite frank. The president didn't hand out awards.


HENRY: I just got off the phone with a top White House official, who insists the president is getting results. This official pointed to the news today that Citigroup was going to pay back bailout funds.

Also, last week, Goldman Sachs announced that it's voluntarily going to stop cash bonuses for top executives, while Bank of America today is suggesting it's going to loan another $5 billion next year on top of what it's already committed to small businesses. But, as you know, a lot of critics out there are wondering, we have heard this from the banks before. Are they going to follow through on that, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are the bankers, Ed, saying about all of this?

HENRY: Well, it was interesting. The bankers came out. And there were a lot of reporters out here waiting to shout questions. One of them was Richard Davis of U.S. Bancorp. He came to the microphone to basically say, look, this was a very positive meeting, we agree on all of these things, we're going to do a lot of positive things moving forward.

So, I decided, to press him and say, look, if everyone is in agreement here, why has there not been more lending in the last year? Take a listen to how he responded.


HENRY: ... agree so much, why is there not so more lending?

RICHARD DAVIS, CEO, U.S. BANCORP: Well, we do agree, but there's also a time and a place for lending to be a risk/reward measurement, right? So, at the end of a recession, the qualifications of most borrowers are lower than they were at the beginning. And the banks right now more than ever, you don't want us to make loans that are not strong and well-suited for the consumer or for the small business.


HENRY: But Robert Gibbs in his briefing today suggested that's not a good enough answer from these bankers, that basically what the president is talking about is not providing risky loans to people who can't afford it and getting back into the same old mess, but what the president is talking about now is actually lending to people who can afford it, but because of these banks being maybe too cautious now, the pendulum swinging in the other direction, they're not lending to people who do deserve it, whether it's consumers or small businesses.

So, on that point, they do seem to be at loggerheads, despite all of this talk about how productive and positive it all was -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The proof will be in the next several weeks and months to see if there's greater lending to small businesses and homeowners and others.

Ed, stand by. Thanks very much.

We are going to have more on this big story here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Later, I will by joined with two very different perspectives. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, they will both be joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM later.

Meanwhile, other important news we're following. The Pentagon's top military officer setting an ambitious goal today for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen says America is focused on eliminating the entire al Qaeda network and its extremist allies, as well as on finding Osama bin Laden.

Admiral Mullen spoke today in the Afghan capital about plans for the upcoming U.S. troop surge. One of the deadliest threats to American forces in Afghanistan right now is getting bigger and more powerful. We're talking about those roadside bombs. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr is in Afghanistan. She's getting a firsthand look at one of the Taliban's most dangerous weapons.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here in eastern Afghanistan, you can see this produce market is thriving, but actually insurgent activity is on the rise here. Still, it is not keeping U.S. troops off the streets.

(voice-over): We are on the town of Mehtar Lam. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ben Ungerman heads a reconstruction team here.

COL. BEN UNGERMAN, U.S. AIR FORCE: Our goal is the same as everybody's else's goal in Afghanistan.

STARR: What is it? To press the Afghan government here to crack down on corruption, so a real economy can take hold and there's no toehold for the Taliban.

There has been progress. Village elders have signed agreements promising to renounce terrorism. But now, since the summer, U.S. troops are increasingly being targeted here by local Taliban.

UNGERMAN: Since then we have seen quite the increase, IEDs being placed in roads, mostly unpaved roads. They're trying to dissuade development. They're trying to threaten and intimidate the government and the people, and frankly they're trying to get us out of here.

STARR: Ungerman tells us recent IEDs have nearly tripled in size, up to 150 pounds of explosives. Even these mine-resistant vehicles can't survive. There's so-called night letters of intimidation. There's a shadow Taliban government here.

Suddenly, as the colorful taxis and crowds go by, we get a firsthand look at how quickly a typical day for U.S. troops here can turn potentially into trouble.

(on camera): Even as we are in this market, though, we are getting some word from the U.S. troops here that there are some folks here who may want to cause trouble, so we have been asked to pack up and start moving away from the marketplace.

UNGERMAN: We have gotten the word that there's a few bad people that we don't want around us.

STARR (voice-over): An Afghan security officer alerted the soldiers that potential insurgents had been spotted. Everyone moves back to the armored vehicle. It's another reminder the insurgents hide among the people and the biggest challenge simply may be knowing who's who.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan.


BLITZER: let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

Another week, another "Cafferty File."

Jack, welcome.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. It just goes on and on, doesn't it?


BLITZER: That's good. That's good.

CAFFERTY: Depending on which member of the Obama administration you ask, the recession may or may not be over. There were mixed messages coming this weekend from some of the president's top economic aides.

Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, said -- quote -- "Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be" -- unquote. He pointed out the U.S. was losing 700,000 jobs a month when the president took office. Last month, we lost just 11,000. He said there should be job growth by spring.

But wait. When Christina Romer, the head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers was asked if the recession is over, she said: "Of course not. For the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering" -- unquote.

Romer says she won't say the recession is over until the unemployment rate returns to about 5 percent. Right now, it's at 10 percent, and 5 percent is so far away as to be almost unpredictable at all. The Obama administration is doing a balancing act here.

On the one hand, they want to show optimism that the economy is recovering. After all, there's an election in November. But they also want to appear sensitive to the difficult time that millions of Americans are still going through.

However, saying both of these things at the same time, well, that's confusing.

Here's the question. In light of mixed messages coming from the Obama administration, do you think the recession is over? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The technical definition of the recession would be two consecutive quarters of negative growth. So, I guess, if it's over, there would be two consecutive quarters of positive growth. We had one the last time. We will see what happens this last quarter of 2009. That's from an academic's perspective.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I was going to say, the policy wonks do that, but if you're looking for a job for eight months and you're part of the 15 people who are out of work in this country, those definitions don't mean a hell of a lot.

BLITZER: Well said, indeed. Jack, thank you very much.


BLITZER: Remember the controversy over those Bush e-mails? The Bush administration said they could not find those e-mails. Well, two groups now say, guess what? They have found the e-mails, all 22 million of them.

How could one of the most powerful and protected leaders in the world actually get punched in the face? That's what a lot of people are asking around the world right now after Italy's prime minister suffers a broken nose and two broken teeth.

And Senator Joe Lieberman takes a stand, but could his stand stand in the way, Democrats way? The new threat coming from Lieberman that could stop Democrats from getting health care reform.


BLITZER: Jessica Yellin is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Jessica, what's going on?


The first break today in bad weather is allowing rescuers to resume an air search for two hikers who went missing while climbing Fort (sic) Hood on Friday. The body of the third climber was found on Saturday. Ground teams are also searching, but only at lower elevations because of avalanche risks. Forecasters are calling for at least another foot of snow tonight.

Well, the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from four former Guantanamo Bay detainees who say they were tortured and denied religious rights. The British men say they were beaten, shackled, and threatened by dogs during their imprisonment from 2002 to 2004. They also say they were forced to shave their beards and were denied copies of the Koran.

And Palestinian Christians in the West Bank will be able to move more freely in Israel this holiday season. Israeli military officials are issuing a month-long permit to thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank so they can visit Jerusalem's holy sites. Typically, only small numbers have been allowed to enter Israel and only for urgent matters -- a little accommodation for the holidays -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica. We are going to be checking back with you throughout THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's a shocking story coming out of Italy right now. Folks all over the world are reacting. Officials are trying to investigate if terrorism played a role.

CNN's international security correspondent, Paula Newton, is watching what's going on. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watch this video as the attack comes in from the right-hand side. There it is, the Italian prime minister taking a hit in the face, staggering back a bit, and then the full force of the blow recorded moments later. Silvio Berlusconi emerges defiant with blood dripping, a broken nose, two broken teeth, visibly shaken at what was supposed to be a supportive political rally. Instead, he went straight to hospital, where doctors say he will remain at least until Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was not easy for the prime minister. He was shocked. He was upset. No doubt he had an interrupted sleep, and it's just like he had woken up from a nightmare. He was most upset.

NEWTON: Italian police confirm 42-year-old Massimo Tartaglia has been charged with aggravated assault. And they add, he has a history of psychiatric health treatment. The wounds were apparently caused by a sturdy replica of a Milan cathedral that Tartaglia pitched at Berlusconi's face, inflicting deep cuts.

And, still, Italy's interior minister says security followed all the rules, before adding, Berlusconi has a right to get close to supporters. This is a democracy.

Berlusconi's aides say he is shaken, wondering why anyone would hate him this much. He woke up asking for the papers, and saw these gruesome pictures and headlines, Italians wondering if this was a simple security breach.

"He has so many guerrillas around him, so many men," she says, "it's strange this man could succeed at hurting him."

But it's comments like these that are worrying the Italian government.

"On a humane level, I feel badly about this," she says, "but, speaking politically, he deserves what he got."

That attitude went viral on Facebook and other Web sites before the Italian government said it would try to shut down that commentary, saying it incited violence.

Italian politics are notoriously fractured, Berlusconi taking this one on the chin from the left, the same political side his aides say can be blamed for inciting this shocking attack on a 73-year-old man.

Paula Newton, CNN, London.


SANCHEZ: And you know U.S. Secret Service personnel are looking into this to make sure that could never happen to the president of the United States. We will continue to watch this story for you.

Meanwhile, millions of lost e-mails from the Bush White House, and now apparently they have been found. We're getting late word on this discovery and how the mistake happened in the first place.

And Senator Joe Lieberman takes a stand, but could stand in Democrats' way. His new threat potentially could stop Democrats from getting health care reform.


BLITZER: Here's a question that millions of folks are now asking: Is your boss really allowed to read your text messages sent from a work device? A case dealing with the privacy of government workers' messages is heading all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, to explain what this case is all about.

What is going on here, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, anyone who has ever sent a personal message on a work device should listen up to this one.

In August 2002, a California police chief requested the transcripts of every text message sent by one of his officers on his city-issued pager to see if his copious texting was work-related. A handful of the texts were work-related, but another 400 or so were not, and some of those were sexual in content.

Police Sergeant Jeff Quon then sued for invasion of privacy, claiming the department's rules on texting were vague. A federal appeals court decided that his bosses should not have been snooping. And now the Supreme Court will determine whether Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy for those messages -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, should we assume that the employers generally are reading these e-mails?

TATTON: Well, this is something that the American Management Association has looked at. A study from last year showed that 43 percent of companies do monitor workers' e-mails. That's e-mails specifically.

So, this decision, though it's specifically about a government employer, is going to be closely watched. In the meantime, there's probably a lesson in here. Those messages that were supposed to be private were not only read by Sergeant Quon's superiors. They're now national news, and they're going all the way to the Supreme Court -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we're going to have more on this story in the next hour.

Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst, he's going to here to explain your rights and why this is going to the Supreme Court. Abbi, thank you.

You may remember this controversy from the Bush White House. There were said to be many e-mails that were simply missing. There's now a new twist in this story.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

It's a dramatic twist, I must say.


Twenty-two million White House e-mails, they were lost, but they now are found. They were the subject of a lawsuit by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, know as Crew, and the National Security Archive.

The groups allege that over a two-year period during the presidency of George W. Bush, e-mail traffic for hundreds of days simply vanished, in violation of the federal Presidential Records Act, interesting e- mails that could shed light on issues like the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name and the controversial Bush administration firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Under the terms of a settlement with the Obama White House, 94 days of missing e-mails are being restored and sent to the National Archives and Records Administration for preservation. The public won't see them any time soon. They were found by computer technicians, but CREW says there simply was not enough money to restore all of them.

The two organizations that brought suits say documents they have already seen show that the Bush administration officials that knew there was a problem with storage and preservation of e-mails, and that they ignored it, allowing it to worsen.

The groups say, under the Obama White House, systems for preserving and sorting e-mails have improved -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Big story.


BLITZER: We will -- we will watch it closely. Thank you.

Damage control for Tiger Woods, Incorporated. Now that one of the golfer's big sponsors has cut him loose, a strategy session on how Woods will emerge from scandal and his break from the PGA Tour, at least for now.

And a member of President Obama's family doesn't want to be a movie star.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Iraq is auctioning off oil deals, and it appears, get this, no major U.S. oil company will reap any benefits. Who might say -- who might that say -- what might that say, I should say, to critics who say oil was a major reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Stand by for this story. Tiger Woods' scandal isn't just personal. It's now very financial. His admitted infidelity is affecting his wallet, as the first big sponsor dumps him. How bad might things get for the Tiger Woods brand?

And do you feel the recession is over? The Obama administration's message is muddled, so CNN asked people like you. Are they saying the same thing you're saying?

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

For Christmas, the White House may want the gift of a health care bill for the president to sign, but a new threat from independent Senator Joe Lieberman could deny Democrats what they want.

Let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

A little greater tension on the Hill right now.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And because of that threat, the sense of momentum that you really did sense here for health care last week, it feels like ancient history right now, Wolf. And Democratic sources admit there's a deep level of concern about health care and they're scrambling for plan C.


BASH (voice-over): A political bomb potentially blowing up Senate Democrats' hopes that they were on the verge of compromise to pass health care.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: This Medicare buy-in is, frankly, another way to try to get to a single-payer, government- controlled health care system.

BASH: Democratic sources tell CNN independent Joe Lieberman informed Democratic leaders he would support a GOP filibuster to block health care if it allows 55- to 64-year-olds to buy into Medicare.

LIEBERMAN: It has some of the same problems the public option had. It runs the risk of adding to the national debt.

BASH: The problem is, Democrats had hoped expanding Medicare was the key to getting liberal Democrats to accept a health care bill without a public option, but they likely need Lieberman's vote to pass health care. A Lieberman spokesman tells CNN he made crystal-clear to Democratic leaders last week he had deep concerns about the Medicare buy-in, but senior Democratic sources say leaders are furious, they feel caught off guard by his outright opposition.

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: I've always thought that Senator Lieberman was OK with the Medicare buy-in.

BASH: One reason, he's advocated the idea in the past. In 2000, Lieberman even campaigned for a Medicare buy-in as Al Gore's running mate.

Left-leaning blogs are exploding with anger towards Lieberman, and one Democratic senator told CNN this is just the latest example of Lieberman poking Democrats in the eyes. Colleagues are still smarting over what many sees as a series of disloyal moves from his support for the Iraq War, to this speech at the Republican convention...

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Senator Barack Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who I think can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But, my friends, eloquence is no substitute for a record. Not in these tough times for America.


BASH: Now, a spokesman for Lieberman admits he has changed his position on the whole concept of a Medicare buy-in, and the reason, his spokesman says, is because deficits have skyrocketed and the Medicare program is more strained than ever before. And one other thing that you're really seeing on the liberal blogs in particular are accusations, Wolf, that Senator Lieberman is in the pocket of insurance companies because they have a lot of headquarters in his home state of Connecticut.

His office denies that. They say that he is somebody who actually is for taking on insurance companies. In particular, taking away their antitrust exemptions. So they say that that's simply not the case, this is a philosophical issue about growing the government.

BLITZER: Dana, hold on for a moment. Gloria Borger is here, our senior political analyst.

And you've been doing some reporting on what the White House is try to go do to get over this major challenge.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Wolf, right now this is just a White House that wants to get something done, period. And so I'm told the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has asked the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, whether he might be interested in going back to the idea of using the budget process as a way to pass health care reform, because, as you know, that would only require 50 votes, because it's not subject to a filibuster.

It's also clear that the White House is saying, we are not wedded to this so-called Medicare buy-in provision. We're happy to get rid of that. The vice president, I'm told, has been on the phone with Joe Lieberman. Let's see if that gets them anywhere.

BLITZER: So, in other words, that so-called reconciliation process, 50 votes to break a tie, you have a Democratic vice president who's the president of the Senate.


BLITZER: Dana, will that fly?

BASH: From what I'm hearing from Democratic sources here on Capitol Hill, the answer is no, not yet. They are still committed to doing this with a 60-vote margin, despite the fact that it was floated by the White House to simply do this with just 51 votes. It's very difficult technically to do that.

The other thing that they do admit here is that there is some hint -- more than a hint -- at the White House that, maybe just drop this whole idea of a Medicare buy-in to get Lieberman on board. But the big problems with that, Wolf, is that that really is the key to getting liberals on board without a public option.

There's going to be a caucus meeting, pretty much an emergency caucus meeting, in about an hour, 5:30 Eastern, and they're going to discuss it to see if there's any way they can get around this. And just to give you a hint of the White House involvement in this, the White House has invited all Senate Democrats to the White House tomorrow to meeting with the president to see if perhaps if by then there's no compromise, he can help find one.

BLITZER: Well, let me bring back Gloria.

The push, at least from some liberals, to dump Lieberman, take away his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, for example, does that have any real legs?

BORGER: It's funny. I spoke with both people on the Hill and the White House about this, and that's not something they want to talk about right now while they're trying to get his vote. I think it's clearly something that they could talk about later if they don't get his vote.

I mean, I've talked to some Democrats, and it's like Lieberman might have to take out a restraining order against members of his own party because they are so upset with him. They feel that he kind of said this to them at the last minute, and that he's playing some games here for 2012 -- and they don't like it -- when he's up for reelection.

BLITZER: We're going to be speaking later with Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator. He's a good friend of Joe Lieberman's, and we'll hear what he has to say about all of this as well.

Guys, thank you.

With critics angry at Senator Lieberman, some are actually going after his wife. Haddasah Lieberman is a spokeswoman for the nation's largest breast cancer nonprofit organization, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. Some liberal activists want the group to cut its ties to Haddasah Lieberman, saying she has ties to the health care industry. And the activists are asking celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Christie Brinkley, others associated with the breast cancer foundation, to sign on. No word yet if those celebrities will be part of this push.

A member of President Obama's family gets a movie offer and doesn't sound too impressed.

And new information about those five Muslim-Americans under arrest in Pakistan and suspected of plotting acts of terror. We're learning more about how they communicated with each other and a militant figure.



BLITZER: Damage control. Can a good dose of it help Tiger Woods get through his scandal. I'll ask two people used to dealing with damage control. That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

And blast-off. A NASA spacecraft takes off from the U.S. for a very important mission.


BLITZER: To a "Strategy Session" about Tiger Woods -- what he needs to do right now.

Joining us, our CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and Republican strategist John Feehery.

You guys have helped people in trouble in your respective careers over the years. What does he need to do now? Does he need to just lay low, or should he go out and make a statement on camera?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It is kind of like a political crisis because he's a public figure, whether he wants to be or not. And people are paying him a lot of money now to be a public figure.

So, he's already said what he wants to do. He wants to take off and go heal his family. He just needs to be somewhere where people can see that publicly. I think he needs to go back out, say it publicly.

I don't think he needs to answer a lot of questions, but I think people need to feel him and see -- and then if that's what he's going to do, he ought to join some public counsel, some people that are respected, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, a pastor like a T.D. Jakes. You know, put some -- surround himself with people who the country understands can help guide this young guy, and then hold off and fix his marriage.

BLITZER: I guess the other side is some of the advice his people are giving him -- you know what? Stand by, stay low, get out of sight of the story, the media will lose interest.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This story will never die until Tiger Woods gets up and does the mother of all press conferences, in my humble opinion. I think he's got to answer all the questions he can.

I think Hilary's exactly right about seeking counseling from friends, mentors like Jack Nicklaus, outside folks who people respect. He's been seen as a super-human with his golf. Now he's obviously all too human. So what he's got to show right now is an arc. He's go to show he's done the sinning, now he's got to do the contrition so he can somehow get redemption.

ROSEN: I don't think he has to answer questions, though. I think we are -- we in the media, we would be relentless and obtrusive and useless for his redemption.

I think he needs to find a venue where he can talk without getting the onslaught of questions. But redemption is an American value.

Look at what we did this year with burying the greatest U.S. senator in history, Ted Kennedy. Look at the arc of his redemption. He can do that because he has the ability to perform at the top of his game for a long time to come just like Senator Kennedy did, others. I think performance is a big part of his redemption.

BLITZER: If Nike came to you and said, "John, what should we do?" Nike being his biggest corporate sponsor. The Gillette sponsorship sort of ended on Saturday, even though it's not official. Accenture did officially end their sponsorship on Sunday.

What would you advise Nike to do?

FEEHERY: You know, I've been thinking about this. I really think that Nike should stick with him. I think they've got too much invested in the Tiger Woods brand.

I think Accenture, trying to get out first, they look kind of like they're giving up on Tiger Woods. I think it's a mistake to give up on someone like Tiger Woods who is such a great athlete, such a great phenom when it comes to golf. And for a corporation who's so tied up in athletic performance, to give up on Tiger now would be a tremendous mistake.

ROSEN: I think a company has to look at it for what their brand is about. Somebody like an Accenture or a car company, or somebody else that -- where it's not central to the brand, it's less relevant. You can go with a lot of other people. But if your brand is about performance, again, it's connecting his performance to that.

BLITZER: Because Accenture is trying to suggest, you know what? We can give you great, wonderful advice down the road, and if they show pictures of Tiger Woods, maybe not such great, wonderful advice.

FEEHERY: Well, their ad campaign is "Play Like a Tiger," and maybe he did a little bit too much of that when he was out on the tour.

BLITZER: Yes, because Nike's got -- as you say, that's so associated with Tiger, but Buick is one of his major corporate sponsors as well. And he's done well for Buick over the years.

ROSEN: You know, he's going to lose a few more sponsors. There's no question.

The issue, I think, is less about whether they go away or whether his products are so integrated into their products, like Nike. You know, their entire golf business is, you know, centered around Tiger Woods. That's a big difference. The entire car industry is not centered around him.

BLITZER: Yes. You read that sports columnist in "The New York Times" yesterday who wrote a piece similar to the advice you guys are giving -- he's got to make a statement, he's got to come out.

ROSEN: I didn't see it.

BLITZER: Go to the Sunday "New York Times" and take a look.

ROSEN: These are original thoughts.

BLITZER: It was a very smart column as well, just like your comments.


BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Let's move on.

We take you now inside a series of operations that saved more than a dozen lives. It's a remarkable kidney transplant program that involved matching a huge network of donors and patients. This month, two Washington, D.C., area hospitals collaborated on one of the largest paired kidney surgeries in the country.

Here's our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Renee Patterson is looking forward to Christmas. And although there's going to be plenty of boxes under the tree, the most precious present for Patterson this year isn't something from a store. This week she was given the gift of life.

RENEE PATTERSON, KIDNEY RECIPIENT: I've told people I'm getting my kidney, I've told them how I'm getting it, the first thing out of their mouth is wow.

GUPTA: Nine years ago, Renee learned she was suffering from kidney disease. Her kidney eventually began to deteriorate. Because she couldn't find a family match, her colleague, Michael Williams, said he would donate his own kidney. Problem was, Renee and Michael didn't match either. But Renee's doctor knew of a donor recipient pair kidney donation program at Washington Hospital Center. So she and Michael put themselves on a list.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, KIDNEY DONOR: It was kind of jumping out there on faith. And lo and behold, it's working out for her.

GUPTA: Across town in Washington, D.C., businesswoman Leslie Wolfe was in a similar situation. She was willing to give a kidney to her best friend's husband, Stewart Block. But they didn't match. Lesley along with Stewart put herself on a similar list at Georgetown University Hospital.

LESLIE WOLFE, KIDNEY DONOR: If you can do something that is not life threatening to you that will save someone else's life, why would you say no?

GUPTA: So, early this December, in an effort to help more patients receive kidney transplants, doctors from Georgetown and the hospital center decided to meld their lists together. Coming up with a 13 way, 26 patient match that would take six days to complete, performing at least two to three operations a day.

DR. JOSEPH MELANCON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: All of the recipients had donors that they didn't match with. And they had to receive a transplant via a paired kidney exchange.

GUPTA: Renee, Michael, Leslie and Stewart were part of that 26. And Renee would get Leslie's kidney. On the last day of the operations, Leslie's kidney was removed, cleaned and ready to be transported to Washington Hospital Center where Renee's doctors were waiting to implant the kidney. Stewart had already received his transplant. And Michael's kidney was removed the same day that Renee received hers. By crisscrossing patients, 13 people were able to renew their lives. And 11 of them were minorities.

Doctors say more minorities need to join these exchange programs.

MELANCON: It's very important for minorities to be able to receive living transplants because their outcomes with disease donor are not as good as everyone else.

GUPTA: As soon as Renee is recuperated, she and Leslie plan to meet. Renee realized the sacrifice Leslie made for her. But she also realizes this would have never happened without her best friend by her side.

PATTERSON: He's saving my life because I wouldn't have been able to be in this circle. At the same time, he's saving somebody else's life.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


BLITZER: Carla Bruni's days as France's first lady may -- repeat, may -- be numbered. The former supermodel speaking out about her husband's political future.

Plus, two of President Obama's top economic advisers appear at odds over whether the country is still in recession. Our Ali Velshi is traveling aboard the CNN Express, and he's getting a reality check.

And why the U.S. is a big loser in a new fight over Iraqi oil.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at The Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Argentina, students duck for cover from water cannons as they protest the reelection of a university dean.

In India, one of 1,068 men shave together in an attempt to break a record.

In Israel, President Shimon Peres watches a soldier light the menorah on the fourth night of Hanukkah.

And in Germany, a chair lift freezes on top of a mountain.

"Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

On our "Political Ticker," the new mayor-elect of Houston says her sexual orientation is likely to have an impact on the city, but a limited one. Annise Parker is poised to become the first openly gay mayor of America's fourth largest city. Parker won Saturday's election with over 53 percent of the vote. She told reporters today she's more focused on the job ahead than on her place in history.


MAYOR-ELECT ANNISE PARKER, HOUSTON: The city the Houston is going to change with me as mayor because I face a very different set of circumstances than previous mayors, and it's a new city. But the fact of my sexual orientation has never particularly impressed Houstonians, and I don't think that had anything to do with who voted for me in this election.


BLITZER: Houston is the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor.

The first lady of France says once is enough. Carla Bruni Sarkozy says she would be satisfied if her husband served only one term as president. In a French TV interview, she described her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy, as someone who's committed from head to toe. She says it's up to him to decide if he'll run again in 2012.

As for herself, the former supermodel-turned-singer-and-first-lady says, "The people of France don't see me as I really am."

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: She's so misunderstood. Is that the deal?

BLITZER: Apparently.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: "In light of mixed messages coming from the Obama administration over the weekend, do you think the recession is over?" Gordon says, "It may be officially over, but it's not over for those suffering double-digit unemployment or reduced working hours. Government data doesn't pay mortgages or buy Christmas presents. Everyone in my family has a job, and for that I am grateful. What's the old saying -- no economist ever worried about his next meal."

Mike in Denver writes, "When people can find jobs and loans, then come talk to me about the recession being over."

Tom in Maine says, "Yes, Jack. By definition, the recession's over. But we're still in the recovery process with jobs predictably being the last element to be restored. Obama, being a working person's president, says he won't rest until everybody who has a job has one. Semantics don't count for much. Character is worth a fortune."

H. in Phoenix, "Far from it, Jack. It would not surprise me if this is simply the calm before the next economic storm."

L.S. in Illinois, "Yes, the recession's over. Now will somebody explain to my brother why he can't find a job after being unemployed for 18 months?"

Suzanne in Naperville, Illinois, "Recession over? Two of my seven children are facing foreclosure. No permanent jobs for one year. Both are parents, college grads. One even went to law school.

"I heard Larry Summers on Sunday. I wonder what world he lives in."

Lori writes, "No. If it was over, would President Obama have a meeting with the top bank executives about lending money to small business?"

George writes, "Technically, by definition, yes. But for the average citizen, no way. We have a long way to go yet. We need to remember how we got in this mess in the first place. It took a while to happen, as will the jobs recovery. Jobs always lag any recession recovery, so stay tuned."

A. writes from Oregon, "The recession is far from over. All we're seeing is the federal government pouring back billions of dollars to the states that were severely gutted under the Bush/Cheney administration."

"Too little, too late to turn around a deep depression for some. The economy is slowly turning around, but we're so far down, it's going to take years before we see the light of progress."

Paul writes, "When I get a job. Then the recession will be over."

And Don says, "Because of the Tiger Woods scandal, the recession is finally over for all the comedians in America."

If you want to read more on this subject, you can go to my blog, -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And as you know, Jack, there's not only a lot of people who are unemployed, 15 million, but millions more who are underemployed who, let's say, had a job, they were making $70,000 a year. They lost that job, and now they're happy to be making $30,000 a year. They're not unemployed, they're just underemployed.

CAFFERTY: There's another component, too, which is the underground economy, people who are not reported in the official statistics.