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THE SITUATION ROOM
Search for Students Missing in Haiti; High Court Hands Down Campaign Spending Decision
Aired January 21, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Rick, thanks very much.
Happening now, 100 years of the government policing how unions and big business influence elections -- it's now changing. Remember these -- a dizzying number of campaign ads in the last presidential election. This could be the norm right now after what the Supreme Court decided today. One Republican saying, future campaigns are going to look like this -- "the wild, wild West" -- a direct quote.
And President Obama slams the court's decision. Full coverage coming up.
Haiti, meanwhile, sees some faster relief after a damaged pier reopens. But there's little relief for loved ones worried about six missing Lynn University students and professors in Florida. The school is holding a press conference. We're standing by. We'll have coverage of that.
And weeks ago, you might not even have recognized this man. Today, reporters are stalking him, top senators are meeting him and the political world wants to know, will the Massachusetts senator- elect torpedo the Obama administration's goals?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's go right to CNN's Ed Lavandera.
He's at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. The president of the university is speaking out on those six individuals who were missing at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince -- four students, two professors -- Ed, what's the latest?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is going on as we speak right now so we're monitoring this closely. It has just started within the last minute.
But what we've heard so far is that the university is still hopeful that those missing students are still alive. Remember, they are at the hotel -- believed to be at the Hotel Montana, which is up on a little hill overlooking the city -- one of the nicer hotels in -- in Port-au-Prince. And remember, this has been a very difficult situation for the Lynn University family here in South Florida. Eight of those 12 students that had gone on this humanitarian mission last week to Haiti have been -- have been found alive and already been brought back in the days after the quake. But there are still four students and two officials with the school that are still missing. They had search and rescue teams combining through the wreckage of the Hotel Montana endlessly, around the clock, since this earthquake happened. And they have had other university officials combining Red Cross centers, hospitals, first aid centers across Port-au-Prince and even into the Dominican Republic, in hopes that maybe some of these students had staggered somewhere else and just haven't had a chance to check in.
But right now, the university says they are still hopeful that they might be found alive.
BLITZER: Well, monitor the news conference for us, Ed, and update us on new information. Maybe we'll speak with the parents of some of these missing students at the Hotel Montana. We're going to have coverage of this. It's resonated with a lot of our viewers, for obvious reasons.
In Haiti, meanwhile, some survivors could soon see a dramatically faster pace in the distribution of aid. The damaged main pier in Port-au-Prince is now repaired and is receiving ships loaded with critical supplies. A damaged road from the port is also repaired. This is significant. Ships can carry much more cargo, as you know, than planes.
Meanwhile, many survivors who were smashed by falling buildings or trapped under rubble have very serious injuries and doctors and nurses, they're forced into decisions that could forever change patients' lives, but could also save their lives.
Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is in Port-au- Prince.
He's joining us now with more -- these are -- for a doctor, for a nurse, these are such difficult decisions, Sanjay, that have to be made very quickly.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, sometimes even at the scene, Wolf. And they are tough decisions. Keeping in mind, of course, everything that goes around this -- postoperative care or lack thereof, the right sort of instruments. They're called crush injuries. And we're seeing more of this than, I think, just about anybody expected.
Here's what we found.
GUPTA (voice-over): These are such dramatic injuries a week out. And the patients are so at risk. And, look, they're out in this blazing hot sun, no I.V.s hanging, significant injuries and really no home to go to, either. So you can really see what's -- what's happening here and just patient after patient. It's -- these are...
(voice-over): If head injuries are the hallmark of the war in Afghanistan, the Haiti earthquake will be known for crush injuries.
Doctors amputated 17-year-old Isamine's (ph) arm three days after the quake. In her case, there was no question.
But with such severe injuries over and over again, doctors are faced with a tough choice -- to cut or not to cut. Like this 10-year- old boy, Desiree (ph). He is beaten down and looks awful, but his limb still moves.
(on camera): Well, the initial instinct for most people -- try and save the leg. It would be too morbid not to. But we also know now that's not always the right answer -- infection, gangrene, crush syndrome.
(voice-over): Crush syndrome is a simple name for a condition called rhabdomyolysis. After your muscle is crushed, it can start to break down, releasing these particles into the bloodstream, cause kidney failure, very high potassium levels, even cardiac arrest. So removing a limb could mean saving a life.
Here in Haiti, crush injuries are everywhere and amputations at the scene to rescue someone or here, in hospitals like this.
But how do doctors decide whether to cut or not?
Some clues -- obviously dead skin; blisters, like this; or a crush that's simply lasted too long. In the case of Desgraves (ph), he had all those things and he was also severely dehydrated. That made his condition even worse. So last night, Desgraves did lose his right arm. But remember, that is also probably what saved his life.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GUPTA: You know, and, again, Wolf, you wish that you had the proper instruments to perform these amputations, even things like having blood during -- these can sometimes be bloody operations. That -- that doesn't exist in many of these hospitals. And again, prosthetics, rehabilitation, just standard postoperative care -- a lot of that is non-existent, as well.
So, Wolf, they -- they're saving lives, but there's a lot more, as you might imagine, to -- to this entire process.
BLITZER: And what about pain medication and anesthesiology?
Is that available -- are those things available readily?
GUPTA: Minimally available. In fact, some of the debridements, where they actually take off some of the dead skin, initially are often done without anesthesia. And that is very tough to watch. They do give medications that are known as dissociatives -- sometimes disassociating your mind from your body. So it's not really a pain medication, it just sort of makes you less aware of what's happening.
General anesthesia -- you know, putting a breathing tube in and -- and using general anesthesia, I haven't seen that yet. So they're getting there, Wolf. I mean, it seems to be better even at the hospital where that report came from today versus yesterday. It's slowly improving. But, you know, a long way to go -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Last night, you and Anderson were talking about the perhaps thousands of deaths a day -- needless deaths because of a lack of medical equipment or medical supplies or doctors and nurses.
When I heard that last night, I was shocked.
But what -- what did we learn today?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it -- it's hard to pinpoint a number on this. And some people say it's thousands. Some people say it's more in the hundreds. It's really hard to say what the preventable death number really is.
But there's no question, for example, something that might be a rather innocuous cut or a scrape even on someone's hand, if it's untreated -- not even washed out and someone who's living in these conditions, that can turn in a problem very quickly, even leading to gangrene and then all the problems that you saw in that piece there.
So is that a preventable death?
Is that something that could have been prevented with antibiotics early on?
But, you know, again, these types of amputations being necessary early on, the treatment of infections and pain medications -- it's -- it's getting better, but -- but, again, not enough of it.
BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much for all the important work you and our entire team are doing.
Our viewers are grateful to you.
The U.S. military is playing a lead role in relief efforts right now. There are approximately, as of now, 13,000 personnel in Haiti or on ships offshore. These include Army airborne troops providing security on the ground and Marines from an amphibious group. Another 4,000 Marines and sailors are on the way right now. U.S. Air Force personnel are keeping the airport going at far beyond normal capacity, with an average of 120 to 140 flights per day. Dozens of military and Coast Guard helicopters are conducting relief operations and more. Right now, we're told they're en route. Twenty ships are offshore, including the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, ships linked to the Marines and five Coast Guard cutters. The hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is on station, with operating rooms and 1,000 beds.
We're going to stay on top of this story. Brian Todd is standing by.
We'll go back to Port-au-Prince.
Chris Lawrence is with the U.S. military and what's going on.
Stay with us.
Much more coming up, right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the Pentagon the report into the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas that left 13 people dead, it's a joke. No mention in the report of the suspect's views of Islam -- none.
In fact, the 86-page report doesn't even once mention Major Nidal Hasan by name. It lumps in radical Islam with other fundamentalist religious beliefs and instead focuses on things like military personnel policies and the emergency response to the November shootings.
This despite the fact that Hasan made no secret of his radical Islamic faith. He allegedly proselytize to his fellow service members, spoke out often against the wars the U.S. is fighting in Muslim countries.
John Lehman, member of the 9/11 Commission, told "Time Magazine" the Pentagon's silence on Islamic extremism, quote, "shows you how deeply entrenched the values of political correctness have become."
What a shame.
The Texas Congressman whose district includes Fort Hood says the report, quote, "ignores the elephant in the room -- radical Islamic terrorism is the enemy."
The Pentagon acknowledges it did not focus so much on Hasan's motives as on what it called actions and effects. The report says that they didn't want to interfere with the criminal probe into Major Hasan.
Meanwhile, a new Gallup Poll shows 43 percent of Americans admit to feeling at least a little prejudiced toward Muslims. That's more than twice as many who feel that way about Christians or Jews or Buddhists. And the same survey finds that Islam is the most negatively viewed religion. One third of those surveyed say their opinion of Islam is, quote, "not favorable at all."
So here's the question -- why would the Pentagon choose to ignore the Fort Hood shooters' ties to Islam in its report?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Get ready, Jack.
You're going to be swamped with a lot of e-mail on this one, I -- I have no doubt.
All right, count them -- there could be so many campaign ads that your head swells. One Republican says it's going to look like the, "Wild, Wild West."
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively smacked back 100 years of the government's trying to police how unions and big business influence elections. In a major five 5-4 decision, the court gave them more power to spend as much money as they want to support or oppose a candidate for president or for Congress. We're talking about the House and the Senate.
Groups are lining up supporting and opposing this U.S. Supreme Court decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BOSSIE, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS UNITED: It's a monumental victory for Citizens United and, more importantly, importantly for the First Amendment and the fundamental rights of people to participate in the political process and in the marketplace of ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY HERBERT, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: Today's decision is a disaster for the American people. But more importantly, to us lawyers, it's also the dark -- one of the darkest days in Supreme Court history. Let there be no mistake, today's decision is the most radical and destructive campaign finance decision in the history of the United States Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. I think we misfonted -- we missed -- the graphics were incorrect for those two sound bites, but we apologize for that.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN consultant on TV advertising, Evan Tracey, of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
We did -- had the wrong names on those...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. We did.
BLITZER: ...two individuals. And we apologize for it. That stuff happens on live television.
Evan, let me start with you. Practically speaking -- and you watched this very, very closely, about as closely as anyone -- this Supreme Court decision today, what does it mean?
EVAN TRACEY, FOUNDER & COO, CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYSIS GROUP: Well, you know, Wolf, it's not like money hasn't been getting into the political system in the form of advertising by these third party groups. If you look at the last two elections, there's been close to $100 million spent in 2006 by these kind of groups and $100 million in 2008.
What they've really done is taken sort of the revolving door and basically taken the doorway altogether. So groups are really able to -- to put money in, through corporations, through unions, through all different groups, entities, individuals, into these elections right now.
BLITZER: So if a bank or a G.M. or somebody else wants to directly start advertising on behalf or against a candidate, they can do as much as they want?
TRACEY: They -- they can do. I mean, obviously, there's political risk in corporations doing this, because they have shareholders and a board of directors and...
BLITZER: But if they want to spend millions, they can do it.
BORGER: Well, yes.
TRACEY: If they want to, they can. That's -- that's...
BORGER: And they have...
BLITZER: And individuals, as well.
BORGER: And when they have an issue, they will. I mean I think this is a political game changer. It's historic. It's a grenade. They've -- they've not just opened the door, but they've blown the door off. And I believe this is going to have an impact on candidates, the way we conduct our elections. You know, you want to talk about politicians being bought and sold, this is going to be a huge issue for politicians -- and, by the way, for political parties. Because I think what's going to happen is that political parties are going to become less important and the special interests -- the unions, the corporations -- are going to become more important because they can spend unlimited amounts of money...
BLITZER: Is that going to happen?
BORGER: ...on behalf of their issues.
TRACEY: Well, the groups are going to become enormous players, certainly in these midterm elections. They -- they're really going to have (INAUDIBLE)... BLITZER: Whether a labor union or a big corporation or whatever?
TRACEY: That's -- that's absolutely right. They're going to be able to basically run ads as early as they want and as late as they want. And the ads, too, are going to have to lose -- they're going to lose these magic words that you had in the past about call senator so and so and tell him to support legislation.
Now they're going to look a lot like candidate ads. So it's going to be even harder for voters to tell the difference between what the candidates are doing, what the groups are doing, what the party is doing.
BLITZER: At the end of the ads, they're not going to have to say, I'm X, Y or Z...
BLITZER: And I paid for this ad or whatever?
TRACEY: No. There's no more speech restrictions based on this current law. So that means right now, they they're going to look just like candidate ads.
BORGER: So -- so if you're a member of Congress, for instance, and you have limits on direct contributions to your campaign, but corporations and unions are unlimited in the amount they can spend, either for you or against you, don't you think that's going to have an impact on the political discourse in this country and perhaps -- dare I say it -- even on the way some people vote in Congress?
I mean I just think this, you know, Katie bar the door in terms of special interests...
BLITZER: The unintended consequences are only awaiting all of us.
We'll see what happens for the good and the bad.
Guys, thanks very much.
And what does Senator John McCain think about this landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision?
He's a very vocal advocate of campaign finance reform. McCain/Feingold -- remember that?
John McCain will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We'll speak about the court's decision today and what it means.
I'll also ask him about this -- his wife, Cindy McCain, posing for a photograph promoting same-sex marriage. John McCain is against gay marriage. I'll ask him about that, as well. Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's go right to Lisa Sylvester.
She's 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, we have important information for Toyota owners. The car maker is recalling 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pads. The recall covers eight different models ranging from 2005 to this year. Toyota says if you experience a sticking accelerator, you should brake firmly and steadily before calling for help. Now, this is separate from an ongoing recall of more than four million Toyota and Lexus models to correct floor mats that can entrap gas pedals.
Southern Californians are bracing themselves for yet another soaking today. Powerful storms have been pounding hillside communities around Los Angeles. Authorities have issued evacuation orders for more than 500 homes because of possible mudslides. The severe weather has already knocked out power for thousands and lightning actually struck two planes at the Burbank Airport. Two passengers on board that plane were taken to the hospital, complaining of feeling numb.
And Pakistan's Army says it wants more time to ramp up military efforts against militants targeting U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S. had hoped Pakistan would expand its offensive against Taliban forces hiding out near its border with Afghanistan. But Pakistani authorities told Defense Secretary Robert Gates that they're stretched thin and they need at least six more months. Gates is on a two day visit to Pakistan, considered a vital U.S. ally in the Afghanistan war.
And a rifle maker now is promising to stop inscribing bible references inside weapons used by U.S. troops. Military officials had called the scripture references on rifle scopes a big concern. The Michigan company says it will provide the Pentagon with 100 modification kits to remove the bible lines on existing rifle scopes and they will do it free of charge. The Army and Marines Corps have a $660 million contract with the company. A pretty surprising story there. And the Pentagon, you know, Wolf, they're saying that they had no idea of these inscriptions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Well, and it's a good story to follow and we'll see what -- what falls out from it.
Lisa is working on an important story on Haiti, as well. We'll get back to her.
Speaking of Haiti, the president of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, just moments ago, spoke out at a news conference about those four missing students and two professors at the Hotel Montana in -- in Haiti.
Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN ROSS, PRESIDENT, LYNN UNIVERSITY: Our Journey of Hope students went to Haiti to deliver hope. Eight have returned and six remain missing, yet we still have hope at Lynn University -- hope that a miracle is in the making; hope that our six are found safe and sound and hope that many others, too, will be freed and reunited with loved ones from around the world.
This remains our most ardent wish here at the university.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: One of those students is Britney Gangel.
We're going to speak with her parents, Leonard and Cheryl Ann Gangel.
That's coming up.
BLITZER: In Haiti today, makeshift camps are now estimated to house up to 500,000 people. Aid is becoming more plentiful. Crucially, ships can now dock and unload aid after the capital's port has reopened -- at least part of it. The U.S. military says it has more than a thousand flights on a waiting list to fly in more aid.
Clinics, meanwhile, have waiting lists for people seeking care for crushed limbs. U.S. troops have begun flying the gravely injured to the U.S. hospital ship, the USNS Comfort.
Meanwhile, there is little relief for loved ones of six Lynn University students and professors who remain missing. At a news conference, the president of the university says they still have hope.
Joining us now is Leonard Gengel.
He's the father of Britney Gangel, one of those six students still missing at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince.
Mr. Gangel, you're with two people.
Tell us who -- who -- who's -- who's with you.
LEN GENGEL, MISSING STUDENT'S FATHER: My wife, Cheryl Ann and our new -- our new great friend, John Jenikessee (ph), who is Christine's father.
They don't have earpieces, Wolf. I'm the only one that does, because we did this as a means to get our message out right away.
BLITZER: What's the latest information you can share with our viewers about these four students and two professors?
L. GENGEL: What I can tell you is, in speaking to the State Department in Port-au-Prince today at around 3:30, was that the efforts are still going on, but they are diminishing. They're down to three crews, two of which are Miami-Dade and Fairfax.
We feel very blessed that they're there working, but we still don't have the military presence there. It's -- it's a U.N. presence and we feel that we need that mil -- our United States government needs to get down there and take over that operation.
BLITZER: Do all of you still have hope?
L. GENGEL: Do all of us still have hope?
John, do you have hope?
JOHN JENIKESSEE: We still do have hope. We still do have hope. We -- we realize that, you know, time is of the essence. But we do have hope. But we -- we do need -- we do need our U.S. presence down there to give us further hope that our loved ones and all Americans -- and, really, anybody in that hotel are being looked after properly. We -- we have to have a presence there. And we're begging -- we're begging for that presence.
BLITZER: Has any...
L. GENGEL: Wolf, if you could (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: Leonard, ask your wife, Cheryl Ann, if there's something she wants to say.
L. GENGEL: Cheryl Ann, is there something you want to say about Chris?
CHERYL ANN GENGEL, MISSING STUDENT'S MOTHER: Well, I think everybody probably knows today is her 20th birthday. And so God gave me a miracle 20 years ago today.
And I'm praying for another miracle today and for everybody else, that they get their miracle. If everyone could just maybe sing happy birthday and have a piece of cake for her, that would mean a lot.
L. GENGEL: Wolf, we need -- we need the American people to call their Congressmen and call their senators and tell them to get the American forces down there right now to help out with this search and rescue. Because as soon as it becomes a recovery, the heavy equipment comes in and then almost all hope is lost. And we can't get to that point just yet. We are not ready. They are still pulling people alive out of Haiti. We need to continue this effort. I'm just begging the American people to just put yourselves where we are. It is not just about our children and professors. It is the 100 or so Americans. We have people calling us from all over the country, all over the world. Someone from Denmark touched base with us. It is amazing how this story affected so many people. It is about the people that are in that hotel that just don't have a voice. Right now, Wolf, you are helping us bring that message out.
BLITZER: Thank you.
GENGEL: We can't thank you enough, Wolf.
BLITZER: We are praying together with you and I know millions of people around the world who are watching are praying as well. We will stay in close touch. We only hope that this will work out. We are praying with all of you.
GENGEL: God bless. Thank you all.
GENGEL: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Good luck.
GENGEL: God bless.
BLITZER: We are hoping, obviously, for the best. We want to go to a remarkable story unfolding in Haiti now. Brian Todd is on the scene for us in Port-au-Prince with new efforts. Brian, what's going on? Tell our viewers what you are seeing and hearing.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, our assign many today was to cover the airport operations because there had been complaints some of the aid may not have been getting into the airports fast enough and not getting off the tarmac fast enough. We checked it out. Officials are there are saying they are streamlining the operations and much better than it was a few days ago. They are up to 160-some flights a day compared to 25 right after the earthquake. When we were there we also just saw firsthand how this airport is also used as a hub, as a critical staging point, for medevac operations to get people who need to be in hospitals outside of Haiti out as fast as possible.
I'm finishing up a live report. And this American man comes up to me, tugs me on the shoulder and says hey, I have an 8-year-old boy here with a severe head trauma and I need a medevac and I don't know where to start. Do you know where I can look? I kind of go with him and check out the situation. He says he's an American businessman kind of just operating independently with some aid groups. He opens the back of an SUV and we see an 8-year-old boy. He's clearly in a critical state. His eyes are rolling in the back of his head. He has labored breathing and he's also got a severely broken leg. IV drip attached to him. He is in very bad shape. I offered to take this man down towards the military field hospital which is also next to the command center where he can at least inquire about a possible medevac. As we are going down there, we happen to spot CNN's medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta coming the other way. He is a neurosurgeon and so we ask him to look at the boy. He looked at him. He confirms he's got to get medevaced and needs a cat scan. Sanjay says he has to go to the "U.S. Comfort" or Santa Domingo. So we all get in this SUV. We rush to the military field hospital and we stay outside while they take the boy inside. We're waiting out there. They come out and say that they stabilized him and given him medication. Then he comes out on a stretcher minutes later and he's medevaced to the U.S. naval ship Comfort.
You know, it was a lucky sequence of events. And it happened to unfold because of American businessman talked his way on to the tarmac and shown officials his checkpoints how critical this boy was and got him to me and got him the next stage of the way. I then asked one of the doctors who treated the boy about the sequence of events and what would have happened if it hadn't replied out that way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. SHEA BRANNAN, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: This little boy literally just fell in our lap and you can tell when he came through the door he was critical. And he had no way, shape or form was it just, you know, one person or just us as medics and surgeons that took care of him. It was a huge effort on the part of everyone here. Everyone up the chain, tall way up to the gods that coordinate the flights that came together to get him out of here.
TODD: What would have happened if he had been held up outside the airport, if somebody hadn't let this guy in? What would have happened?
BRANNAN: Who knows. He was critical. He was sick. He was very critical when he got here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: We now know the young man was transferred to the "USS Comfort" and is there now. No word on his condition. We are trying to get an update. I asked this businessman Charles Field how did he get on the tarmac. He said he hired two policemen downtown, hired a driver -- not hired the policemen but talked the policemen into escorting him to the airport. He talked his way through three checkpoints. Officials here say it is not dumb luck he got in. The officials at the checkpoints are trained to look at people coming in and clearly spotted this boy was in bad shape and let him through.
BLITZER: People are doing whatever they can individuals to save lives. So critical. Brian will have a more detailed report later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will get back to you, Brian. Thanks very much.
Chris Lawrence is on the scene at the pier in Port-au-Prince. We will check in with him. More coverage after this.
BLITZER: House speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be ruling out one last ditch option to get health care reform passed. The speaker admitted today she lacks the votes necessary to get the Senate current health care reform bill through the House of Representatives. Democrats are scrambling right now to try to save health care reform after losing that special election in Massachusetts and their 60-seat supermajority in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: Its present form without any change I don't think it is possible to pass the Senate bill in the house. There's some part of our caucus that would say well, let's just take these pieces. We recognize health care has to be done, health care reform must be done. Let's take pieces of it and go forward and others saying let's just get it done and move on. Everybody recognizes that something needs to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Massachusetts Senator-Elect Scott Brown has been making the rounds here in Washington today. Two days after capturing the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat. Now, let's go to Capitol Hill. Senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash is standing by.
He is now a superstar on the hill, isn't he?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly the way it seemed by looking at the pictures. Talking about the issue here, you heard it from Nancy Pelosi. What happens next on the president's agenda, whether it is health care or anything else, still a big question mark? Democrats try to figure out the fallout from the Massachusetts election. But what happened today was a series of courtesy calls that really offered dramatic proof that one man and one election changed things here overnight.
BASH: Mr. Brown came to Washington. And arrived to a frenzy, a crush of cameras at meeting --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, I'm not going anywhere. Everyone settled.
BASH: Settled? Scott Brown knows the capitol has not been settled since his election shook Democrats to their core but went out of their way to be warm and welcoming from Ted Kennedy's son Patrick to the senior Massachusetts senator.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Ted Kennedy wrote me and said as Humphrey Bogart would have said, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I look forward to working with Scott.
BROWN: Look forward to working with you.
BASH: Questions like this didn't get answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, how much is Senator-Elect Brown shook your agenda?
BASH: Offered mostly vague answers like on health care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are thinking about a smaller-scaled district back health care bill, you would be willing to look at that?
BROWN: I look at every bill and plan to look at every bill and make a rational decision.
BASH: He stuck to the script that brought him here.
BROWN: People want good government, transparency.
BASH: Tried to hold on to his man of the people image making a point of stopping to talk to Senate staff and security. Taking a photo with students he bumped into. The understatement of the day goes to the excitable Republican leader.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, really happy to have him here.
BASH: The Senate's balance of power will shift and Republicans will, of course, have a lot more leverage as soon as Senator-Elect Brown becomes Senator Brown and he's actually seated. He told us today he believes that will happen as soon as next week.
BLITZER: John McCain seems to be his mentor. We will be speaking about the new senator-elect with John McCain. That's coming up in our next hour. Thank you very much.
We are also watching what's happening in Haiti right now. Chris Lawrence is on the scene over at the pier. One of the piers reopened. Badly needed supplies are coming in.
BLITZER: Leader of the free world. More and more, though, sounding like a man of the people. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Never again will the American taxpayer be held hostage by a bank that's too big to fail. You can expect a continued sustained and relentless effort to create good jobs for the American people. I will not rest until we have gotten there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama sounding very populist, populist tones as he vows to help every day Americans. Today's pitch, tough new limits for big banks. The president announced new measures to narrow their very many activities or proposal to prohibit commercial banks from making trades for their own accounts and to bar banks from owning or investing in hedge or equity funds. Let's talk about this new populist tone with our senior political analyst David Gergen, economist from "Fortune" magazine, columnist Ben Stein, and our CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger. It is a new tone I'm sensing from the president.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Or it is a return to a previous tone. We heard this tone a lot from candidate Obama, when he was the reformer. And that worked for him in the 2008 election. And I think there are those in the white house who argued he needs to get back to what he was as a candidate which is somebody who fought for the little guy and was an alternative to the special interests and to wall street and that that's his roots.
BLITZER: Ben, do you like this tone from the president?
BEN STEIN, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: I don't care that much about the tone, frankly. I think the idea is a great idea. The investment banks made themselves into giant casinos and made themselves into commercial banks plus investment banks and giant casinos. I think the meat of the idea is a very, very good idea. A big mistake -- very good idea to put some -- something like it back in place. But as to his tone, I mean all presidents, never yet met a president that said I appeal to the rich big guy. I don't care about the little guy. Who is going to say that that? They all say they appeal to the little guy. He has men of Wall Street all around hi. He is essentially at this point a puppet of Wall Street. I would like to see him change. If he can change that would be great.
DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think he is a puppet of Wall Street. I do agree with Ben about the substance. In this proposal, he is embracing Paul Volcker. What the spirit of last eagle --
BLITZER: Federal Reserve chairman during the Reagan administration.
GERGEN: And by the way, dear friend of Ben's father. I thought having Volcker today was very smart.
BLITZER: Is he trying to pivot now away from health care towards some of these other issues?
GERGEN: I think he will try but no.
BORGER: The question is that a lot of people both inside and outside the white house are talking about right now is why this president didn't do this at first. Why he did not -- he had an economic crisis. Right? People were upset. People were upset. Why did he turn to the issue of health care and instead of turning to financial regulation which would have been very popular at the time?
STEIN: Or just turn to jobs, jobs, jobs. The ordinary citizen doesn't really care that much about regulation if he has a job and can pay for his house. They should have said look, job number one, put people back to work. Then we will worry about everything else. Created too much uncertainty and employers are reluctant to hire in a climate of this uncertainty and that was a big mistake. GERGEN: In my judgment, Nancy Pelosi announcement today put his presidency very close to crisis.
BLITZER: The announcement they don't have the votes and the House of Representatives to pass the Senate version.
GERGEN: It is -- she said it is up to the Senate. The Senate can't get it done that means the house can't get it done. Where do they go from here? They almost have to go back to scrap. They want to pivot jobs and now stuck on it. You know, stuck in this Meyer. I think this is a very difficult moment for the president.
BLITZER: What I'm hearing you saying and said it the past 24, maybe 36 hours, health care reform as the president sees it right now could be dead.
GERGEN: I think that's right. The dream of universal health care that goes back seven presidents tried it. Barack Obama was the eighth president and looked for a long time if he would succeed. I think that dream is now --
BLITZER: Do you agree, Ben?
STEIN: Dave and I worked together when he was my boss in the Nixon administration on drafting the speech to get everyone in this country health insurance. We could go back to that plan. It is a simple plan. Take par people and give them checks to buy health insurance. It is that simple. Just go back to that. You will get near unanimous support for that.
BORGER: Ted Kennedy opposed and regretted it.
STEIN: Simple plan.
GERGEN: I think the presidency is --
BLITZER: Guys, thank you very much. We will continue this coverage. Lots coming up.
President Obama will be speaking next Wednesday when he delivers the state of the union address before a joint session of Congress and will be addressing the nation and the whole world will be watching. You can join us for our prime time coverage that begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern next Wednesday right here on CNN.
We are going back to Haiti in just a moment. Chris Lawrence is on the scene. He's watching what's happening at the port. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what is going on? LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, on the job for a few days, Virginia's new governor is being tapped to deliver the Republican response to President Obama's state of the union address. GOP leaders say Governor Bob McDonald, "Understands that the American people are more interested in shrinking unemployment than expanding government." He won the governorship last fall and one of two Republican victories.
And a celebrity tell-all book about Oprah Winfrey will hit bookshelves. Crown Publishing is publicizing Kitty Kelley's unauthorized biography of the talk show sensation will be available in April. Kelley is known for her gossipy and unflattering but popular exposes. Crown says she researched Winfrey for three years and conducted 850 interviews for her book.
Bargain hunters can soon add high end Bloomingdale to their shopping destinations. Parent company Macy's says it will launch the new outlet stores for Bloomingdales. To start, four stores will open at outlet malls in New Jersey and Florida and Virginia. More could open next year. They will offer clothing and accessories and Wolf, that is good news for those of us who are bargain shoppers.
BLITZER: And a lot of people are especially with this economy as it is. That is important news.
BLITZER: Thank you, Lisa Sylvester, the newest member of THE SITUATION ROOM team, and we are happy about that.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty, who is one of the original members of THE SITUATION ROOM team, and we are happy about that, too. Did you welcome Lisa, Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's terrific. Yes, I used to watch her on Lou Dobbs' show and send her an e-mail or two complimenting on her on what I always thought was a professional presentation, and much like yourself, Wolf, and she is attractive like you are.
And the question this hour, why would the pentagon choose to ignore the shooter of the Ft. Hood shooting's ties to Islam in its 86 page report? They didn't even mention this guy's name.
Don writes from Florida, "Over 25 years in the military, I have seen the Pentagon leadership become browbeaten into political correctness. The Bush administration ran out the nay-sayers after 9/11 and only after years of bad war policy made a move to a new defense secretary. Now of course the political correctness of the Obama administration has taken hold and the pentagon reflects this, and we lose soldiers everyday in combat, but we're not in war with terrorists."
Linda in Arizona writes, "It can only be political correctness carried to absurdity and plus the cover up of the army's failure to stop him when they should have." Chris in Ontario writes, "The way you phrase the question says it all. Millions of Americans have ties to Islam, but only a few have ties to radical Islam. Perhaps the pentagon wishes to be cautious, because the distinction is lost on so many Americans."
Greg in Minneapolis says, "Come on, Jack, the reasons are obvious, the slightest perception of insulting Islam is more than enough to bring the protesters out enforce. We saw with the Danish cartoonist, we see it with rumors that the Koran is being treated with disrespect. Until we can look at religion extremism with suspicion and not be afraid of the reaction be it Islam with the Ft. Hood shooter or Christianity with the likes of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, we will be losing the battle of against terrorism that's fueled by the perversion of religion."
And Lizzie in L.A. writes, "Because they're scared to offend somebody. Well they offended a lot of people, the American people."
And Ken in Virginia says, "Maybe the pentagon is under orders not to mention much less criticize Islam since our military runs on Middle East oil."
If you want to read more on this go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right Jack. Thank you. We're going back to Port- au-Prince in just a moment. Chris Lawrence is on the scene.
BLITZER: We go right to Chris Lawrence with a critically important development occurring in Haiti.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are here at the south pier of the main port where big changes could start to break the bottleneck that is holding up a lot of the aid. You can take a look down, there and that is right, there are actually ships, docking here now at the pier. All day, we have seen cranes unloading containers of food, water, medical supplies, and we even saw some of the charities coming out here and picking up their needed supplies, and supplies they have been waiting a week to get. In fact, the coast guard told me the other day, they offloaded 124 full containers of supplies out here.
And the big thing was that the navy divers got in and assessed this place and what they found was half of the pier is structurally sound to a point. That is why everything is going on the left side there, and it can only run one truck at a time, which means that the truck goes up, and they pile stuff on and it comes back. It is slow. What they want to do is to get two-way traffic going, and they may happen as soon as Friday. Take a look at what we saw a week ago, what all of this was. You see that huge green structure right there, and that is the primary crane that would pick up those huge containers right off of the ship and deposit them on shore to be trucked into the city. You can see some of the damage with the hangar. Normally the ships would pull up right down there and they would come off right there and they would offload the equipment on the trucks, and the trucks would drive down this road right here, but you can see, look at what they would run into. The earthquake has buckled the road almost as tall as I am. There is no way to get a truck through there. And I can tell you that on the other side, the road is buckled all of the way out to the main road. Okay. That was then, and this is now. Enough of the concrete pile has bank nod down and gravel put that you can have the trucks rolling again. This pier is so important, because you can put so much more supplies on a ship and a container than you can on an airplane. The Coast Guard feels as they get this really ramped up, this could be a major break in terms of getting more supplies out here to the folks who need it in Haiti. Wolf.