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Massachusetts Drops a Bombshell; Back to Basics; Democrats Defeated; Rescue Drama in Haiti

Aired January 20, 2010 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly one year after President Obama took office his promise of change is taking on a whole new meaning. He and the Democrats have had their political world turned upside down by voters in Massachusetts. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The big story we are following the fallout after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's long time Senate seat. It means, among other things, the Democrats are losing a political advantage they fought very hard to get, their 60-seat supermajority in the Senate.

Now the president's party is being forced to rethink its strategy on health care reform, the Obama agenda and the 2010 elections. We have extensive coverage coming up this hour on what's going on in the world of politics, this bombshell as a result of this election in Massachusetts.

We also have extensive coverage coming up this hour on the situation in Haiti. Eight days after the earthquake, we'll go back there live. We'll update you on what's going on. There are survivors -- there are survivors who are emerging from the rubble today. Sanjay Gupta, Anderson Cooper, Brian Todd, we have reports on the scene. We're going to be watching both of these stories, but right now let's get to the world of politics.

The best political team on television is standing by. We've got all of our analysts, David Gergen, Donna Brazile, Alex Castellanos, Gloria Borger, we've got Paul Begala, and let's not forget Donna Brazile and Ed Rollins, also John King is here. He's over at the magic wall -- John, this election last night certainly having major, major ramifications.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 14 months after Barack Obama wins the state of Massachusetts by 26 points, a little known Republican state senator wins a Senate seat and is on his way to Washington. You just noted the changes, the balance of power.

I want to show you a closer look at just how this happened. Here is the map of the election in 2008. Remember this is just 14 month ago. Here is Massachusetts up here. It is as blue as you can get. President Obama carried all across the state, statewide, but let's move forward here to the Senate race.

Look at his, the blue counties, Martha Coakley, the red is Scott Brown, the winner 52-47. Let's go through the numbers closely to make a very key point in this election in Massachusetts that has national ramifications. Here are the statewide results, 52 percent to 47 percent. One percent for an independent candidate named Joseph Kennedy (ph), no relation to the long time Kennedy family.

Now I want to show you something critically important. Here are the results in Boston. This is Suffolk County where Boston is. Independents make up only 38 percent of the registered voters in Suffolk County. Martha Coakley wins handily, 66 percent to 33 percent. That's what a Democrat has to do. Many believe she needed a little bit of a bigger margin, but look at that again.

Remember where independent registration is low, Martha Coakley wins big. Now I want to pull out right here, this is Norfolk County (ph). This is where Scott Brown from, this county here, but this is typical of other counties where the registration of independents is more than half of the electorate, Scott Brown, 56, Martha Coakley, 44.

So Republicans only make up about 11, 12 percent of the registered voters in Massachusetts. What Scott Brown did was tap discontent among independents. The very voters that gave President Obama the size of his margin in 2008 have switched sides. We saw this in Massachusetts last night. This is amazing in this county here. We see this all across the state of Massachusetts.

And Wolf, remember this isn't a one-shot wonder. Republicans are energized more and more this morning because in Massachusetts a traditionally blue state, independents came to them following what happened in Virginia and New Jersey, statewide elections as well. This is why the Republicans think this race in Massachusetts is something they can use to build on nationally, using concerns about taxes and spending, the health care legislation and don't forget terrorism, that was also a key point of the Brown campaign in the closing weeks.

BLITZER: Well you were just there at Boston, you just came from Boston. You spent some time there. You are from there. Why is the political momentum a year after President Obama was sworn in as president of the United States, now swinging toward the conservatives and the Republicans?

KING: Because the Democrats are in charge in Washington and voters are still just as anxious if not more anxious about the very issues that drove President Obama to such a big victory back in 2008. They are still concerned about unemployment. In fact in many states it's higher now than it was in 2008.

They are still concerned about what they perceive to be unfair use of government resources to bail out banks on Wall Street. George W. Bush started that program, but President Obama has continued it. This (INAUDIBLE) with Washington, the president promised, and this was key with independent voters, he promised we are going to get along in Washington. I'm going to reach out and work with Republicans.

Well voters now and especially independents see Washington as more partisan than it was back in 2008, so the economic anxiety has transferred over to Obama and the Democrats. The political disaffection has transferred over to Obama and the Democrats, so independent voters who wanted change in 2008 still want it. The problem for the Democrats is they're now the party in charge -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John King, stand by. The surprise winner in Massachusetts, the Senator-elect Scott Brown, he says voters sent a message that they are tired of business as usual. Should his fellow Republicans also be wary of the mood around the country? Listen to this.


SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS SEN. ELECT: (INAUDIBLE) Scott Brown, Republican, maybe there is a new breed of Republican coming to Washington. Maybe people will finally look at somebody who is not beholding to the special interests of the party and who will look to you know just to solve problems. You know I have always been that way. I always -- I mean you remember I -- I supported clean elections. I'm a true self-imposed (INAUDIBLE) person. I believe very, very strongly that we are there to serve the people.


BLITZER: Yes, David Gergen is here, part of the best political team on television; you live up there in Massachusetts. Give us your sense of how surprising this election was.

DAVID GERGEN, ADVISED NIXON, FORD, REAGAN AND CLINTON: Well, in the last few days because the momentum went his way, the results were not surprising. But still the election was stunning. I mean, historically this is a stunning election, especially after Barack Obama won by 26 percent, after Democrats controlled all the statewide offices, they control the entire congressional delegation and there's a tradition behind that. But I want to emphasize something about what Scott Brown did and why he is different in part. Wolf, if you went to his Web site during the campaign, it was hard to find, I don't think it's on there, that he's a Republican. He ran strictly as an independent. He didn't identify...

BLITZER: Pretty smart.

GERGEN: He was very smart. He didn't have the Republican heavyweights come in. He didn't have the establishment come in. He essentially ran an anti-establishment campaign. And what Democrats have to be concerned about tonight is not simply Massachusetts, but there are a lot of polls in other states now, in fact around the country, you find that generally speaking independents are breaking about 2-1 against Democrats right now.

BLITZER: It's a smart strategy, Donna, because in New Jersey and in Virginia, the Republican candidates won and they basically did the same thing.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have a Democratic, what we call a walking (ph) sheet. Ed is familiar with this. Two years ago, this entire -- the sheet was filled with registered Democrats (INAUDIBLE). Yesterday when I was at the Democratic Party I was shocked that half the sheet, half the so-called Democratic strong precinct (ph), it's now independent. This is a wake-up call, not just to Democrats but to Republicans as well. We cannot rely on the old style, old playbook of just going out at the last minute and say turn up. You have to really appeal to these independents...

BLITZER: Ed, remember when you worked for Ronald Reagan back in the early '80s, he had a wake-up call and he took action. What advice do you have for the Democrats right now...


ED ROLLINS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIR. FOR REAGAN: If he ever had 59 votes in the Senate we would basically be in dreamland. We dealt with 51 and 52 and put coalitions together with Democrats to make it go. This president still has a tremendous opportunity to basically put it back together again. But he needs to take a very loud message here from yesterday, and that is the country doesn't like the way it's going.

I don't think it likes Pelosi. I don't think it likes Harry Reid and Harry Reid better really take note because polls were very accurate and when a poll after 44 years in office says you only got 35 percent approval rating in a state like Nevada you're in trouble, so I think there's a whole bunch of people in that Senate who now are going to be worried about their own seats and they may not be as inclined because the president does not give you cover and this president's popularity does not transfer (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: I want to bring in Paul Begala. Paul, how vulnerable are some of these Democrats in the Senate who are seeking re-election?

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER P.R. CONSULTANT FOR FREDDIE MAC: Very. But so too are the Republicans. This is going to be an interesting question. Democrats have lost every statewide election since Barack Obama won. But Republicans have lost every congressional race, every House race, some of them in very Republican areas. This suggests -- it's too early to tell to tell you the truth, but it suggests though that this may not be like 1994 when I was working for Bill Clinton we managed to lose 54 House seats and the Republicans lost zero.

That was an anti-Democratic year. This could be a much more broader anti-Republican year. Witness the point you were making before how Scott Brown did not run as a Republican at all. He ran as an independent, said so today, kind of disavowing parts of his party. And at the same time you watched that Democrat candidate who surrounded herself with the Massachusetts Democratic establishment at a time when independents are outsiders and they're populists. Democrats are perfectly capable of being outsiders and more capable of being populists. We're not the Wall Street party, so I think Democrats have to adjust and I think they can pull it...

BLITZER: Alex doesn't agree.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, FIRM DOES BUSINESS WITH HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY CLIENTS: Well I think most of those congressional races Paul was talking about were earlier last year. And it's not just Massachusetts. It's Virginia and it's up and down the ballot. It's mayor races in little towns in North Carolina and in Florida. There is an anti-insider way that the pickup truck here beat the Washington limousine. That's what this election was about, Americans are saying you know those guys in charge in Washington, they don't listen to us. They're spending too much. They promised they'd lower health care costs and they gave us $1 trillion bill that costs $1 trillion and they want some change.

BLITZER: But Gloria, there are some Democratic leaders who instead of seeing the big picture, as these guys are seeing it they're blaming Martha Coakley (INAUDIBLE) bad campaign.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well she ran a bad campaign. She ran a weak campaign. Some people say it's kind of malpractice the way her campaign was run. If you can't win in that state with someone who was known in the state and pretty popular in the state, so yes, she ran a bad campaign. But to Ed Rollins' point here, Republicans looked at their polls early on and Alex can tell us about this, because he was doing those polls -- looked at those polls early on and identified Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as the bad guys.

OK, they were the bad guys here. And what did this White House do? What did Barack Obama do? He handed health care over to Harry Reid and to Nancy Pelosi in order to avoid being like Hillary Clinton who came up with her own health care bill, which became a big fat target. So they went so far over that way that they advocated essentially and gave the Republicans exactly what they were looking for.

BLITZER: All right guys stand by because we have a lot more to assess on what's going on. This is a huge, huge story with enormous ramifications and we will also get a better sense of how President Obama plans to move forward when he delivers his State of the Union address one week from today. Join us for our prime time coverage. It all begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern next Wednesday right here on CNN.

Much more on the political story coming up, but also we are watching what is happening in Haiti. We are going to Port-au-Prince. A 5-year-old survived eight days into this -- into this aftermath of the earthquake. We'll have an update on his condition after this.


BLITZER: Get right to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Republican's victory in Massachusetts could very well be the final nail in the coffin for the Democrats' health care reform. Exit poll data from one Republican firm shows that health care was the single most important issue to Massachusetts voters yesterday. This poll found 52 percent of those surveyed opposed to health care reform.

Only 42 percent say they cast their ballot to stop the overhaul that's currently pending in Congress. Without the 60-vote filibuster proof majority in the Senate, the Democrats are now left with a few options, none of them very good and most involving somewhat complicated legislative procedures.

The House could pass the bill that cleared the Senate as is. But several house Democrats have already said they won't go along with that idea. The House could also pass the current Senate bill and then try to fix it with a procedure called reconciliation. It only needs 51 votes to pass the Senate or the Democrats could scrap what they have and try to pass a bare bones bill that includes only the most popular initiatives.

Several senators including Democrat Jim Webb are calling for health care reform to be suspended until Scott Brown is sworn in as the new senator from Massachusetts and it appears President Obama is getting that message too. He says the Senate should not jam health care through before Brown is seated.

Quoting here, "People in Massachusetts spoke. He's got be part of that process", unquote. So here's the question, how should the Democrats proceed on health care now that they no longer have the votes to pass it in the U.S. Senate? Go to; post a comment on my blog. My guess is Harry Reid is probably not going to sleep real well for a day or two.

BLITZER: They got to proceed very cautiously. This is a huge issue as all of our viewers know. Stand by, Jack, a lot more coming up on this story. The politics of what is going on, a dramatic day in politics here in the United States.

But let's go to Haiti right now. A 5-year-old boy is healing after spending almost eight days trapped in the rubble of his home. He was rescued several hours ago. His mother was killed and his father is missing.

Other developments in Haiti right now -- a senior administration official tells CNN seven rescue teams are searching the ruins of the Hotel Montana (ph) piece by piece by piece. Some Americans are believed trapped there, we're told so far they haven't found anyone on this day.




BLITZER: People screamed and prayed when a strong 5.9 aftershock struck Haiti early this morning. A U.N. official said some buildings collapsed but a small town closest to the epicenter of the aftershock. Check out the latest video we've received of the day when the big 7.0 earthquake hit. You can see a building pretty much disappear in the background and we just learned that President and Mrs. Obama have donated $15,000 from their personal bank account to help earthquake victims. We'll have much more from Haiti -- that's coming up.

Brian Todd is standing by. Among other things, he's got firsthand eye witness account of a rescue mission that is under way right now. Our coverage continues after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well sharp words on Capitol Hill today during separate hearings about the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair admitted to a misstep. He's questioning whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (ph) should have been treated as a civilian suspect. Blair says a special U.S. interrogation team known as HIG should have talked to the suspect.


DENNIS BLAIR, NATL. INTELLIGENCE DIR.: We did not invoke the HIG in this case, we should have. Frankly we were thinking more of overseas people and duh, you know we didn't -- we didn't put it in. That's what we will do now and -- and so we need to make those decisions more carefully.


SYLVESTER: Blair says the decision to file criminal charges against Abdulmutallab in federal court was made by the FBI agent in charge at the scene and that he was not consulted.

A Senate panel is warning of a possible terror threat in Yemen involving American ex-cons. A report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says as many as three dozen Americans who converted to Islam in prison have traveled to Yemen possibly for al Qaeda training. U.S. law enforcement officials say there is no public evidence the individuals have engaged in terrorist activities. But they say that some of them have quote "dropped off the radar for several weeks."

A bomb scare at an airport in Munich, Germany today may have been as it turns out a false alarm. Officials say a laptop computer bag triggered an alert for possible explosives. Now initially police said the passenger who owned the bag grabbed the bag and fled before security could stop him. But later they said the man, well that he simply may have been in a hurry. Part of the airport was shut down and passengers were re-screened. Police are still searching for the man.

And heavy rain and strong winds are hitting parts of southern California, already flooded from torrential rainstorms this week. Law enforcement officials are going door to door in low lying neighborhoods and they are urging the residents there to get out, to evacuate. They say flooding and mudslides are a real threat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much -- Lisa Sylvester with some other news. We are going back to Haiti in just a moment. Brian Todd is standing by. There have been some dramatic developments in Haiti today. Brian is getting ready to report on what's going on. In fact he is getting the latest information on a search and rescue operation. We will check in Brian after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in on a rescue drama unfolding right now in Haiti. A full eight days after that massive earthquake. Brian Todd is on the scene in Port-au-Prince. Brian, tell our viewers where you are right now and what's happening.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're in downtown Port-au- Prince at the site of a collapsed auto parts store. Right behind me, the L.A. County Fire and Rescue Team is digging through this rubble (INAUDIBLE) top of a collapsed (INAUDIBLE). The reason that they got here was because earlier today, and we were with them when this happened -- they were combing through the streets with canine teams they came upon this site and the dogs picked up a positive hit.

They sent more dogs in. And we were with them, this was really incredible to watch, the dogs got a lot of energy. They combed through this rubble. They barked several times. At least two dogs got about four or five positive hits at two or three different times during the course of the afternoon. This gives them a very, very positive signal there could be someone alive inside this rubble. They've also gone in with listening devices and snake cameras (INAUDIBLE) going down into the crevasses...


BLITZER: It looks like unfortunately that picture froze up. We will check back with Brian. Maybe it's been fixed. Brian, can you hear me? Unfortunately, we can see Brian, but we can't hear him. We will try to reconnect with Brian Todd. He's got a dramatic story, a search and rescue operation under way even eight days after the earthquake hit they are still finding a few, not many, but a few people alive.

Joining us now on the phone is Edmond Mulet of the United Nations. He is the official in charge of the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti. Mr. Mulet thanks very much for joining us. How bad is the situation right now?

EDMOND MULET, U.N. SPECIAL REP. TO HAITI (via phone): Well it's pretty bad, Wolf. As you know it's -- for about a week we are still involved in all the search and rescue efforts, many bodies still being recovered. And I mean it's chaos down here on the ground. As you know, the mission was hit quite badly.

The leadership of the mission disappeared, isn't accounted for or died and so we are putting back the mission back on its feet so we will be able to better serve the people in Haiti. But more and more every day we are improving on security forces in connection with the Haitian national police and providing humanitarian assistance and delivering water.

And a coordination mechanism also with the Canadian and American troops on the ground is improving. So every day, I mean we are perfecting -- I mean the way we work and improving. Of course we are extremely impressed by the generosity of so many people from all over the world coming to Haiti and participating right now.

And of course the spontaneous presence here has been very important to save many lives. But in a few days I think when this urgent situation will be over, it will be important to go into a different phase where better coordination will be needed in order to identify the priorities on the ground and for any assistance that comes from abroad is targeted -- I mean for the real needs of the country at that time.

BLITZER: What we did see today, Mr. Mulet is some indication that Haitians by the thousands want to get out of there. I guess you can't really blame them and they might be getting on boats or rafts or whatever to simply escape. That is a very dangerous, ominous situation. How worried are you about that?

MULET: Well it's not only by sea, but I mean at the American Embassy, at the Canadian Embassy (INAUDIBLE) you see thousands of people lining up and plan to get a visa or something. And also the exodus from Port-au-Prince to other provinces, that is also something that is happening. And the United Nations we also have troops in the provinces and I can't bring them to Port-au-Prince in order to strengthen our efforts here, because I don't want to deplete -- I mean our security forces out in the provinces, so the earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince will have an effect all over the country.

BLITZER: We've been seeing these pictures of some looting, some violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Is the United Nations capable -- or is the United Nations dealing with this?

MULET: Yes, we are. I think the security (INAUDIBLE) is under control. It is true that some looting and some incidents have happened, but it's not a generalized situation. Those are very isolated incidents here and there, which is normal in these kinds of circumstances. But most of the neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince are calm. I must say that people in Port-au-Prince have reacted in a very responsible way and very calm way. And we are working also with the neighbors and the communes and the national police and the security issues and with the private sector. So what you see sometimes on TV, some of these scenes, it is true but it's not a widespread situation. You must also be reminded that Haiti before the earthquake had problems with insecurity, and I could say that is not that different from what we saw before the earthquake.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll leave it on that note. Mr. Mulet, good luck to all the men and women working on the mission, the United Nations personnel. We are sorry about the loss, the loss of life for so many U.N. peace keepers who were killed in Haiti. Appreciate it very much Mr. Mulet.

MULET: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And please be sure to watch hope for Haiti, a global telethon you can see right here on CNN this Friday night. George Clooney and Wyclef Jean will host. Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta will be reporting live Friday at 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN. We'll continue our coverage of what is happening in Haiti. We're also watching the political ramifications of that election in Massachusetts last night. The best political team on television is standing by. We're also checking some of the other big stories of the day.


BLITZER: Let's get back to Lisa Sylvester. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. President Obama is cracking down on big business tax cheats. Today he signed an executive order barring government contractors who haven't paid taxes from getting new federal contracts. The order also directs the IRS to review contractor's tax filings to make sure they are on the up and up. President Obama says a government study shows the U.S. is owed more than $5 billion in unpaid taxes by thousands of companies.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: One company owner who owed over $1 million in taxes was paid over $1 million as a defense contractor. Instead of using that money to pay his back taxes, he chose to buy a boat and cars and a home abroad with his earnings.


SYLVESTER: Taking the fence today, the Salahis, the Virginia couple, remember them? They're accused of crashing a white house state dinner in November. The Salahis invoked their right against self incrimination during a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee. Members are investigating how the Salahis managed to get through secret service check points without an invitation and even shook lands with President Obama. Today, the Salahis didn't provide any information.


REP. BILL PASCRELL, JR. (D), NEW JERSEY: Let me ask you a question Mr. Salahi, did you order a tuxedo that night? You going to take the fifth?

MR. SALAHI: On the advice of counsel, I respectfully assert my rights.

PASCRELL: Let me ask you a question, were you there? Are you here today Mr. Salahi? Are you here right now? We got to get an answer from your attorney on that?


SYLEVSTER: That was painful to watch there. A safety warning for parents of young children. About 1.5 million Graco strollers are being recalled after several children's fingertips were amputated by the hinges on the strollers. Apparently, defective models were sold between October 2004 to December 2009. Graco is telling customers to stop using the product and contact the company to get free protective hinge covers.

That's all we got. Wolf, by the way I've got say, it's great being a part of the Wolfpack. I'm glad to be joining you here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: We are glad you are a part of the Wolfpack here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lisa Sylvester, glad she joined the team. Welcome Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: We are going to take a quick break. We will get back to the political bombshell that occurred last night. Huge ramifications for health care reform and more. Stay with us.


BLITZER: The Republican Scott Brown says his Senate win in Massachusetts is sending a powerful message to Washington. We're digging deeper on this major political story. Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is in Boston with more.

What are they saying on the day after, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of attention has been focused on the independents. As you know the independents swung the election to Scott Brown but Ted Kennedy won the independents for years. There is an enormous amount of analysis going on and why did they go with the Brown campaign this time around? A lot of the national attention is focused on the repudiation of the health care plan and of Obama's agenda broadly. And the truth is, his own campaign acknowledges that Scott Brown was able to raise a lot of online money, and to get some money from out of state because of those two factors. Because folks go against the Obama agenda. But when it comes to getting votes from independents here in Massachusetts, it seems it had to do with something much more vague and broad than that. And it was just a dissatisfaction with Washington and the power coming from Washington and they wanted to send a message to shake things up. Here is one independent voter we spoke to today.


BRETT MALOFSKY, INDEPENDENT: I think that this is going to be a serious blow to the Democrats running things down there and being an independent I'm not saying that's a good thing but it will have an effect.


YELLIN: So he wants the shake-up, doesn't know to it's a good thing but it's better than not. What does it mean for the Democrats? How dire is the situation for Democrats come November? The same fellow and others said they voted for Brown but they would be willing to vote for a Democrat come November as long as the candidate isn't arrogant. Listen.


MALOFSKY: I think it should be a wake-up call on how they plan the campaign. They assume it was Ted Kennedy's seat, they were going win. And that is how Scott was able to come out and do it. They need to not take anything for granted.


YELLIN: So apart from health care, apart from the economy, the big message out of Massachusetts it seems is don't be complacent if you are running for office and no doubt elected officials across the country will be analyzing these returns to see how they can win the Brett Malofsky's in their states. Wolf?

BLITZER: The independents are critical indeed. All right. Jessica Yellin in Boston.

Let's back to the best political team on television. I'm surrounded by them on all sides. Gloria, what option for the Democrats would be scale back dramatically the health care reform package, just do stuff that everyone agrees on and work with the Republicans and get bipartisan legislation. Is that doable or realistic?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's easier said than done. The white house now does haven't a lot of good choices. I think the temptation is to find a way to manipulate something to get it through the Congress.

BLITZER: Strictly Democratic support?

BORGER: They can't count on Republicans because for obvious reasons it has served the Republicans well to oppose Barack Obama. Why is it in their interest --

BLITZER: You remember in '93, '94 when Bill Clinton failed and he went to work with Republicans and they got stuff done.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There is a difference. The American people put the Republicans in charge of the Congress, the Senate and the house. The American people, the people of Massachusetts put one guy in one seat. The Democrats have gone from the largest majority in 33 years to the second largest majority. It's still their responsibility. Rather than whining about the party opposite, the opposing party opposing them, they ought to get things done. I think what you will see, the Democrats will make a run at trying to pass their version of health care. Pass it through the house. The Senate has passed it. Take the same bill, pass it through the Senate.

BLITZER: Can they get the votes?

BEGALA: Who knows? If the proof is the in the pudding, not a singer Republican voted for it. The American people, the polling was very much negative against it, the Democrats stood strong, and they passed the economic plan and Democrats got re-elected. That's the model here. If it works f it's good policy.

BLITZER: Alex, it's a Republican --

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There are a lot of Democrats out there thinking in Congress, I'm not ready to retire, become a lobbyist. And they just saw what happened to someone who is trying to defend the Obama spending and health care in Massachusetts. They are not going to go out will and support big government health care. What they are going to support is a big economic package, health and jobs.

BLITZER: Let me bring in David Gergen, you're listening to this. I have been saying, at least to myself and others, the Democrats' options now are bad and worse.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And terrible. Look, I understand Paul Begala's point, and why Democrats will take one more run at it. They do have to be mindful of two things. If it looks like another backroom deal that's going to cause a real problem. They have to be careful and transparent, it clearly made a difference of Scott Brown winning. But secondly they have to be mindful of the fact it's not just in Massachusetts, but if you look nationwide, the polls are at least 10 percent to 15 percent negative against this health care reform plan. So we have not -- Paul goes back 33 years. Paul, I don't think you can find an example in 33 years when the Congress of the United States when the president has passed a major piece of social legislation in the face of public opposition. So that is an important thing. And there are a number of people putting an interpretation to who the president said to George Stephanopoulos in his ABC interview that he was retreating from full scale.

BLITZER: Can Nancy Pelosi get 218 votes in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate version without change?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, she can. Let me say about this. The think Democrats will be able over six weeks to find the best elements of the bill and get it through. Now the Republicans may not like the entire package but if the Democrats can find a way to present parts of the package that the American people clearly agree with, pre-existing conditions, no discrimination, lowering costs, we might be able to find Republicans in the Senate to herm us get you bill through. I don't think we should close the door on health care.

BLITZER: Ed Rollins, why is it that Republican presidents, like the man you worked for Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, they had very small majorities in the Senate?


BLITZER: And the Democrats can't seem to do it.

ROLLINS: We didn't begin with an arrogant position. We started with Reagan, and had 192 house members. We needed to have a coalition there for strong national defense and cutting taxes and those things. We got down to 51, 52 in the Senate and we will had three or four going south on us. Byrd held. We treated Tip O'Neill with great respect and treated Byrd with great respect. The problem now is the lines are drawn.

CASTELLANOS: Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate for a year. They could have passed anything they wanted. But what they wanted was not something they could sell to the American people.

BLITZER: Hold those thoughts. We are going to continue our conversation. And Chris Lawrence is now aboard the U.S. hospital ship now offshore. Getting ready to save lives. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: On this anniversary of President Obama's first year in office we are looking closely at items from his term by the numbers. Check it out. With his signature he signed 124 bills into law and issued 39 executive orders. The president held three prime time presidential addresses and five white house news conferences. He also racked up plenty of miles on Air Force One. He visited 20 countries from Canada to China, Trinidad and Turkey and he's also visited 28 U.S. states, seven he lost in the elections and 21 others he won, by the numbers.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty now for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Question this hour is how should the Democrats proceed on health care now that they no longer have the necessary votes to pass in the Senate?

Jacques in Oregon writes, "Listen to Howard Dean. Sack the whole thing and start over and don't let the insurance lobby run the whole show as it has done in the last few months. Otherwise, strip out the mandate, fines and taxes on the Cadillac plans and add in a public option or a buy in to Medicare."

Danny in Brooklyn writes, "The Democrats ought to push just as hard as they were doing before the Massachusetts election. We have a lot of the table, terrorism, natural disasters, unemployment and the economic crisis. We shouldn't have to worry about health care in times like these. This should have been done many administrations ago."

Peter in California writes, "Start from scratch, be incremental. What a profound waste of time health care reform has been. So many pressing and arguably more important issues have been set aside by the leadership to pass a bill that was an expensive overreach. Leadership has done a disservice to the rank and file members of Congress who seem to get it. Thank goodness the Massachusetts voters have caused Congress and the president to take their foot off the gas and look both ways before they cross the public."

Ed writes, "They should not proceed with reform because it isn't reform. Since when do we call higher cost, lower quality and more red tape reform? Americans want this to stop and move to a plan that's better and fair and put together in an open and transparent way. Remember the broken promise by the president?"

Tracy in New York writes, "Here's a novel idea, listen to the people. How about this? Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and others refrain from the insults and derogatory descriptions of the independent voters participating in the Tea Party protests and sit down and thereon what they have to say?"

You want to read more go to my blog at Wolf?

BLITZER: Will do Jack. Thank you. See you back here tomorrow.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Soledad O'Brien has a powerful story from Haiti she wants to share with all of us.


BLITZER: Devastatingly close to the epicenter of last week's earthquake. We have been hearing so many emotional stories from people there searching for loved ones and burying their dead. Finally, they are getting at least some relief. Here is CNN's special correspondent Soledad O'Brien.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to go. We have to go to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is she alive? Okay?

UNIDENTIFIED ALE: Yeah, she's alive.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: On the chaotic streets of Jacmel, a baby is rescued from the rubble. She was found by a local firefighter and raced to Columbian rescue workers. No one knows if he was born before or after the earthquake. Did her mother abandon her or is her mother dead? It's just another confounding moment in the ruins of Jacmel, an isolated town not far from the epicenter of the quake. Life has been up ended. Local officials estimate as many as 10 percent of the population may have died. Survivors were digging themselves out alone for days until help began trickle in.

ROBERT BROWN, CANADIAN NAVY: We brought as much light engineering equipment as we could. I'm talking shovels, picks, axes, chain saws, the Jaws of Life, just any material that can be carried portably. O'BRIEN: Now there are guards from Sri Lanka, light engineers from Halifax and rescue workers from Columbia. The Cuban doctor was here with her colleagues working with Haitian doctors at the hospital. Now they have 70 patients a day beneath tents. This 3-year old boy is recovering from head injuries and fractured limbs. He is doing better. But this 4-year-old drifts in and out of consciousness and is likely to die. The child suffered massive neurological damage. Where there is life, there is hope, she says. They need orthopedists and anesthesiologists or people who survived the earthquake will die from their injuries. Jacmel is Haiti's cultural capital, a seaside town of 40,000 that draws artists, musicians and film students, who took to the streets to record the catastrophe.

DAVID BELLE, FOUNDER, CINE INSTITUTE: Jacmel weren't receiving help and they got to work videotaping stories and sending them out over the internet and help is finally coming.

O'BRIEN: Keeping up the pressure on the relief workers who are arriving. Massive boulders made it hard to pass. The Canadians came by sea and the Americans arrive by air.

Soledad O'Brien, CNN, Jacmel, Haiti.


BLITZER: So much medical help is anchored off the coast of Haiti. It's the U.S. navy shit Comfort. It's a floating hospital. I'll be back at the top of the hour with Campbell Brown. We leave you now with this report from our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We followed same route hundreds of patients are starting to follow. On board a navy helicopter and out to sea where the big, white ship is like a beacon for overwhelmed doctors in Port-au-Prince. Besides the 40 beds in the ER, the USS Comfort already has five operating rooms up and running. There is also a team of U.S. navy translators to help doctors and patients communicate.

GILBERT LAGUERRE, TRANSLATOR: They tell the doctor what they are saying and sometimes it can be frustrating.

LAWRENCE: Gilbert grew up in Haiti and struggles to watch what is happening on shore.

LAGUERRE: It -- never seen anything like it before. Never.

LAWRENCE: The military says the Haitian government is making the recommendations for which patients should come here. Doctors tell us they don't know if they will see 3,000 patients or 30,000. The Comfort have about 1,000 beds, nearly as many as Johns Hopkins. Soon, they will all be filled.

CMDR. TIM DONAHUE, NAVY SURGEON: I know at one point soon we will be filled to capacity. LAWRENCE: Which raises the question, what happens when they don't have any free beds and needy patients are still waiting to be air lifted on board?

DONAHUE: We are talking to folks that recognize what you just said. We have to be able to treat as many patients as we can. You are not going to be able to live on the ship indefinitely.

LAWRENCE: Commander Tim Donahue says there are roughly 20 facilities in the U.S. that are willing to accept patients. And they are talking with the Dominican Republican, Venezuela and Peru about opening their hospitals as well.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, off the coast of Haiti.