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THE SITUATION ROOM
Senate Democrats Have Job Anxiety; The Fed Chief's Job Struggle; Is the Stimulus Working?; Doctor "Surge" Making A Difference; Americans Skeptical About Stimulus
Aired January 25, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SANCHEZ: Did he apologize to poor people when he a CNN producer reached out to him?
Did he apologize to children?
No. He's apologizing to animal lovers. After telling a CNN producer that he never intended to compare people to animals, he goes on to say, quote, "If you have a cat and you take it in your house and feed it and love it, what happens when you go out of town?"
I don't know, what happens?
Bauer goes on to tell on to tell our producer that he wants you to know that, "He's not against animals."
He's raised money for the groups that protect animals.
Rudolph Andreas Bauer I, the only. He comes at number one on today's list that you don't want to be on.
That's it for us.
Here's Wolf Blitzer and here's THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Rick, thank you.
Happening now, a full and unprecedented account of $787 billion of your money. All this week, CNN's Stimulus Desk is tracking every penny so you know which projects put Americans to work, which ones fell flat and whether the economy is better off today.
President Obama says he wants to give many parents a bigger tax break. This hour, the raw politics behind his new pitch to the middle class, just days before his State of the Union address.
And Haiti starts looking toward rebuilding crushed homes, broken bodies and shattered lives. Our CNN correspondents are staying on this story and the long-term needs of a battered nation.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Creating good, sustainable jobs is the single most important thing we can do to rebuild the middle class and I won't rest until we're doing just that. But we also need to reverse the overall erosion in middle class security, so that when this economy does come back, working Americans are free to pursue their dreams again. There are a variety of immediate steps we can take to do just that -- steps that we're poised to begin taking in the budget that I'll put forward next week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama says make no mistake about it, the dreams of America's middle class are under assault in this economy. To help, he's laying out a five part proposal that will be included in his proposed fiscal year 2011 budget. The president hopes to almost double the child care tax credit for families making under $85,000 a year; also, a $1.6 billion plan to increase child care funding -- the largest one year increase in two decades.
To make college affordable, a capital on federal student loan payments to 10 percent of a student's income above a basic living allowance. For middle class retirement savings, the president is hoping employers will give workers the option of a workplace individual retirement account. The White House also proposing expanding tax credits to match some retirement savings. And the president wants to help families caring for elderly relatives.
The idea -- increase federal funding for caregiver support programs.
Many Democrats in Congress are also fixated on jobs right now. It's jobs, jobs, jobs. That's the key issue. After all, so many Americans still are out of work and a lot of Democrats are worried about losing their own jobs on election day.
We're learning more about a new Senate jobs bill that is now in the works.
Let's go up to our senior Congressional correspondent on Capitol Hill, Dana Bash -- Dana, tell our viewers what these Democrats have in mind.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've been talking about doing this in 2010 -- because this is the big political issue -- for some time. But right now, Senate Democrats are scrambling to come up with that legislation because of the terrible political climate.
They say no decisions have been made. But I can tell you, talking to Democratic sources, broadly what they're talking about. And this is a category of four issues or items that they're looking at to deal with jobs.
First, small business job creation. Again, a lot of ideas floating around. But the idea would be probably some form of tax credits for small businesses.
Then, infrastructure. We saw, certainly, some of this in the stimulus bill last year. But they want to do more in terms of federal dollars and incentives for things like highways, projects, airports -- airports there and trains, things like that.
Then, clean energy. You heard the president, a couple of months ago, talk about Cash for Caulkers. Expect, possibly, the Senate to put that into the legislation; along with, perhaps, some job incentives and, actually, education incentives to retrain people for more clean energy jobs
And then, public sector jobs. Try to help teachers, police officers and the like keep the jobs that they have in cash-strapped states that may not be able to pay them right now.
Now, Democratic sources, Wolf, they say they're not entirely sure what will be in there. And that will be determined by the political strategy. And that will be determined by the reality they're dealing with right now, and that is Democrats now need Republicans to come on board to get anything passed. So that probably will mean more tax incentives -- tax breaks, that appeal to Republicans more than, perhaps, Democrats would have done before -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's up on the Hill, staying there, what's the latest on the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke?
He's supposed to be confirmed in the coming days for a second term.
BASH: The president and his team at the White House, Bernanke supporters here, spent all weekend trying to shore up support for the Fed chief for that second term, trying to tell wavering Democrats especially, who are hearing populist anger, that, yes, they understand that approving him again might be bad politics back home, but they are saying it is worse when it comes to the -- to Wall Street and that the stock market can tumble if he fails.
And, you know, they are feeling more confident, they say, at the White House, and his supporters here, that they will get the votes for a second term. But in the category, Wolf, of you can never be too sure, the Fed chief is actually here. He's meeting with the number two Democrat in the Senate, who happens to be the vote counter, Dick Durbin.
And I tried to ask Bernanke, when they did a brief opening for the -- for the press and for the cameras here, I tried to ask him about the fact that he is being -- he's derided as somebody who mismanaged Wall Street and the economy. As you can imagine, he smiled, but he did not answer that question -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.
We'll stay on top of this story with our viewers. The market rebounding today, I think, in part because it looks like his confirmation is in the works, but we won't know for sure for a few more days. The administration's message to the American people right now -- we care. As they try to ease economic anxieties, one thing we're looking at very closely, the $787 billion stimulus plan.
Is it creating jobs for you?
All this week, CNN is your watchdog. Most of what you've heard about the stimulus plan has just scratched the surface so -- so far. Only CNN could and would do this. We've literally assigned hundreds of anchors, reporters, producers, editors, photojournalists to answer these questions -- is the plan working and where is your money going?
Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is over at the Stimulus Desk at the CNN Center in Atlanta -- here's the question, Ali, is the stimulus plan working?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'd be -- that's a question we're going to have a better answer to toward the end of the week. You hear, you were talking about this Stimulus Desk here. This is our Stimulus Desk here. Over on that screen over there, you can see $1.7 billion. Those are the -- those are projects that we have traced today. We are looking into projects. There are about 10 of these binders. Look at the detail in here. These all projects that have received stimulus money.
Our desk is calling people. We're calling agencies. We're calling recipients of that money to see how it's been spent.
And I want to show you over here something that our friends at CNNmoney.com have designed. Throughout this financial crisis, Wolf, the government has put in about $4.7 trillion. It's a lot of money. It's gone toward a lot of different things. $3.9 trillion of that is what we call stealth stimulus. I'm going to discuss that with you later in the week. Let's not worry about that right now.
What we're focused on today is this $787. That's the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was given out last year -- last February. We're looking at things like health care -- $129.1 billion -- some of the special things that have happened with that money; $19 billion to health care information technology. That's medical records.
We've talked about shovel ready projects. Well, that's highway and transportation, $27.5 billion. We're looking at -- we're calling specific projects to find out where that money has gone.
Help to the vulnerable -- $25.5 billion for people who have lost their jobs to get a subsidy on Cobra.
So things like that we know are working. Things like those shovel ready projects, Wolf, we're not entirely sure how many jobs have been created and we're making phone calls to find out all of that information all this week.
BLITZER: Well, remind our viewers, Ali. The stimulus plan wasn't just projects, there was a lot more to it. VELSHI: That's absolutely right. In fact, it wasn't just projects. It was help to the needy. It was $288 billion dollars. So out of -- out of $787, $288 was tax relief -- tax breaks to people. So we know where those things go.
And then there was, you know, a smaller stimulus, what we call stimulus two, the first time homebuyers' tax credit, unemployment insurance. It's a lot of things.
So what we're doing, is we know how to account for many of these things. We're trying to find money that was given to states, that was given to contractors, that was given to businesses, how was that money spent?
Was it spent fairly and did it create jobs?
BLITZER: Ali, don't go away.
We're going to be on top of this story all week.
If there's anything you missed here or anything you want us to dig deeper into, you can log onto your computer. CNN's week long look at the stimulus plan is months in the making. You can keep up with our ongoing investigation of the $787 billion plan. Go to CNN.com/stimulus.
I want to hear from you, as well. Lots to discuss.
After 13 days, the situation is dire in Haiti right now. The State Department says 59 Americans are confirmed dead. Three were children. The Haitian government says the quake killed at least 150,000 people. The secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says the Obama administration is looking at the idea of allowing more legal immigration from Haiti to the United States.
How much might be needed to rebuild Haiti?
Reports say the nation is asking the international community right now for $3 billion at an international donors conference in Montreal.
Meanwhile, many victims are in desperate need of medical care.
Doctors from around the world have arrived to help out so have nurses.
Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is on the ground for us, has been from almost the beginning.
He's joining us from Port-au-Prince -- Sanjay, I heard you say earlier in the day that there are many more doctors and nurses there today and at least they are beginning to get the situation, for all practical purposes, a little bit under control.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question, things are better today than they were yesterday, which was better than the day before. If you go to some of these hospitals which we've been visiting over the last couple of weeks now, Wolf, you've seen some of the images from before. And you're about to see some of the images of what they look now.
But as often is the case, new problems have presented themselves, as well, mainly due to still the persistent lack of organization.
Take a look.
We're in a lobby here at General Hospital. And one of the things that you'll notice right away -- I noticed -- is that things are definitely better here than they were even just a couple of days ago.
Lots of different equipment here -- gloves. They didn't even have gloves to perform some of these operations here just a couple of days ago. All kinds of suture.
One thing that's worth pointing out, though, even in the midst of all this, we still have instruments like this. I mean, that's a Black & Decker drill. That's what they have to use to be able to -- to perform these operations -- to actually put the pins into the legs.
So it's by no means perfect. But if you look around here and take a look at all the operations that are going on, this is better than it was three days ago.
But here's something I didn't expect. They actually think there may be too many doctors -- doctors stepping over one another, lack of organization, people watching what's happening and come flooding down into an area like this.
We're about to go into this meeting where they're actually getting all the chiefs in the various departments together to try and coordinate this so that they can try to be as efficient as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think all of the groups are well staffed. The issue is coordinating staff...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And coordinating...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and not repeating or overlapping...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and coordinating.
GUPTA: So that means some of these doctors may be sent to other hospitals, where they are short surgeons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We probably should bring on the person in the area where we think all the sick patients are and then we have a way to go through, sweep the camps once a day and look for patients, you know, who are sick and pick them up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
GUPTA: If you've ever been curious how they set up an operating theater, a whole system, in a middle of an earthquake, we were looking at it over here. They're literally writing on the wall. Here's OR1. Here's OR2. Here's the triage area. They've got post-op areas over here and here, pre-op areas over here. They actually separated this by the Haitian doctors, the natives, the doctors controlling (INAUDIBLE), Mt. Sinai over here, the Swiss operating room over here.
That's how it works -- lots of maps, lots of coordination going on.
But one thing I want to point out -- and I think this is really important. We are still talking about Port-au-Prince, which is over here. We now know that so much of -- there's been a lot of impact in other areas, as well, such as Leogane. And the plan now is to start taking some of those medical capabilities and moving them to some of the out -- outlying areas.
They call them mobile surgical units, Wolf. And it's very important to take some of the capabilities that are sort of located in downtown and move them out to some of these areas that haven't seen as much medical care.
It's also becoming one of those situations now where some of these surgeons -- some of these doctors have been working sort of nonstop over the last several days. They're going to start, hopefully, getting them into shift work, as well, so people can get some rest now that things have sort of progressed. And we're really with -- with no end in sight still -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So is it fair to say, Sanjay, that we should -- if a doctor or a nurse is watching us right now here in the United States or around the world, maybe now is not the best time, wait a few weeks, maybe a month?
They're going to need help for a long time to come. And there's got to be an orderly rotation, because you can get burned out pretty quickly in a situation like this.
GUPTA: Yes. There's -- there's no question, Wolf. And I think, you know, you're absolutely right. A lot of people want to come now because of hearing the stories and seeing the images. But a month from now, even two months from now, there's still going to be a need.
I will say, with regard to nurses, who, you know, really are the workhorses of the hospital, there probably still is a shortage of nurses at many of these hospitals. The -- there's more of a surge of surgeons at some of these places and they need to redistribute them a little bit more effectively.
They're also going to need rehab doctors. A lot of amputations have been performed here. They're eventually going to need prosthetics for so many of these people who have lost limbs.
So there's going to be lots of -- of different needs that are unmet right now, but they've really got to be smart and strategic about this. And they're gaining more information along those lines every day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta, we're going to check back with you.
Thanks very much.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Port-au-Prince.
Christiane Amanpour is there, as well. Well check in with her. She's got an amazing story of what happened today. Much more of our coverage after this.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Good news for whom?
BLITZER: For our viewers.
CAFFERTY: Oh, good news.
BLITZER: For our viewers, Jack.
President Obama, Wolf, is the most polarizing first year president ever since they started keeping track of this stuff way back during the Eisenhower administration.
A new Gallup Poll shows, on average, 88 percent of Democrats approved of President Obama during his first year in office, but only 23 percent of Republicans did. And that's a 65-point gap for President Obama -- higher than the previous record of 52 points for Bill Clinton and also higher than George W. Bush's first year gap of 45 points.
Bush's average gap for the eight years he was in the White House was 61 points, between Republican and Democrat approval. If Mr. Obama continues in the direction he's going, he could be more polarizing than George W. Bush.
Keep in mind, a year ago, President Obama came into office with one of the highest approval ratings among post-World War II presidents, but he quickly lost almost all the Republican support while he maintained the support of Democrats. And overall, his approval rating has been going steadily down.
Gallup suggests although President Obama set out to unite Americans, the country itself has become much more divided. There is, of course, time for President Obama to turn all these numbers around, beginning, perhaps, with the State of the Union address on Wednesday night. With the Democrats' loss of Ted Kennedy's seat last week, even some in Obama's own party thinks the president's priority of health care reform is dead.
Also, Democrats are now scrambling for cover in light of the upcoming November midterm elections. And, as a result, many believe the president can no longer command unity within his own party. If that's the case, it could be a big challenge for the president to push through any other major legislative priorities.
So here's the question -- why has President Obama become such a polarizing figure?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
He -- he needs to be a uniting figure like you are -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I don't know about that, but he's got work ahead of him. And we'll be covering that State of the Union...
What was this nonsense Dana was talking about, they're going to come up with a jobs program where they're going to create clean energy jobs and infrastructure jobs?
Didn't they sell us that basket...
CAFFERTY: ...of stuff with the stimulus bill?
BLITZER: They sold us a lot of stuff, Jack. And they're going to sell us a lot more. That's the nature of politics here in Washington. That's what they do, they sell.
CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. And we just hold our nose and buy it, I guess.
BLITZER: We'll -- we'll -- we'll observe and we'll study...
BLITZER: And we'll try to keep them honest, if we can.
CAFFERTY: And we'll report back.
BLITZER: That's right.
All right, Jack.
I'm getting dizzy from all these proposals.
BLITZER: All right, let's get back to our stimulus project right now.
CNN's in-depth look at how the federal government is spending $787 billion of your taxpayer money.
We have a team of journalists working at our Stimulus Desk. Right now. We're tracking what happened to the money and whether it actually created jobs as promised. Many people are skeptical, as you know.
Look at this. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll taken this month shows a majority of Americans oppose the stimulus -- stimulus package. And this a -- this helps explain why. Only about a third of those surveyed believe the stimulus money mostly benefited the economy. Sixty-three percent think the stimulus package mostly funded political projects that had no impact on the economy.
Let's bring in our senior political analysts, Gloria Borger and David Gergen -- Gloria, I'll start with you.
Other presidents have dealt with political setbacks like this.
Is this administration, based on what you're hearing, looking at previous examples -- what they can do from learning from history?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Oh, sure they are. And, Wolf, I took a -- a look today back at Ronald Reagan's State of the Union speech in 1983, after he lost 26 seats in the House. And I took a look back at Bill Clinton's State of the Union speech in 1994, after he lost control of the Congress and -- or his speech was in 1995.
Take a listen to what they said, because it might be instructive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1983)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to talk with you this evening about what we can do together, not as Republicans and Democrats, but as Americans, to make tomorrow's America happy and prosperous at home, strong and respected abroad, and at peace in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1995)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I must say that in both years, we didn't hear America singing, we heard America shouting. And now all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, must say, we hear you. We will work together to earn the jobs you have given us.
CLINTON: While we are the keepers of a sacred trust and we must be faithful to it in this new and very demanding era.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Well, you know, this is only one year into the Obama presidency, Wolf. So you could argue that Barack Obama has a little bit more time to get things fixed than Bill Clinton did.
But, on the other hand, Republicans now are very emboldened. They want to win more seats in this mid-term election. So they may not be ready to sit down at the table until after they have a little bit more leverage in 2010.
BLITZER: So in this environment, David, how does the president turn things around?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, it's very clear, I think, from the CNN poll that was released this afternoon, that Americans want the president to reach out and work with Republicans. I was interested in seeing the number. Seventy percent of Americans think it was a good thing that the Democrats lost their super majority in the Senate with the Massachusetts election and think it's a good thing that the Democrats are going to have to work with Republicans.
It was also interesting in this poll that four -- 68 percent of Americans of angry at the political parties. But the anger is pretty generally shared -- in fact, about 48 percent of all respondents said they were angry at both parties.
So that -- that gives the president an opening, if he can reach out.
GERGEN: Now, Wolf, it has to be more than symbolic gestures. We've had a lot of those on both sides. I think Gloria is right, that there's a real reluctance on the part of the Republicans to play ball, in part because they think that resistance is working for them politically; in part, because they don't think the other side is serious...
BORGER: And, you know the...
GERGEN: Go ahead.
BORGER: The danger, to add to David, is that -- is that Republicans could overreach, wouldn't you say, David?
And if they...
BORGER: If they overreach, they could flip the public back against them. I mean that's what happened to Newt Gingrich. And that's why Republicans ended up joining with Bill Clinton on welfare reform.
GERGEN: Well, they can overreach in this sense, Gloria. With Newt Gingrich, they overreached because they were -- they did have control and they actually, you know, they went too far to the right, in the judgment of many Americans.
In this case, they don't have control.
GERGEN: The question is, is, are they willing to cooperate? And I think if the president were to make some dramatic gestures and -- and -- toward the middle, in terms of cooperating, and -- and -- and they -- and called their bluff, in effect, and said, OK, are -- and showed that they weren't willing to participate, he might gain the leverage.
But I am -- I'm not sure he's willing to go that far.
GERGEN: I don't see a lot of signs from the White House that they want to go that far.
BORGER: Well, you know, some people in the White House say that this bipartisan deficit commission, for example -- which is going to have some teeth -- is an olive branch. And they kind of like that. So they're waiting to see what else they get.
GERGEN: Well, let's wait and see about that commission.
GERGEN: Let's wait and see.
BLITZER: David sounds a little skeptical about...
BORGER: I think so.
BLITZER: ...a presidential or Congressional commission...
GERGEN: I'd sure like it to work...
BLITZER: ...would that work. Yes.
GERGEN: I'd like it to work. I think it's very important. But it's -- we've got a ways to go. But, yes -- yes, show us the money. Let's go back to the stimulus again.
BLITZER: David Gergen remembers that Reagan speech and that Bill Clinton speech.
Were you working for both of those presidents, David, at the time?
GERGEN: I was there for both -- both of those instances that Gloria pulled out. I'm not sure that speaks well of me or not.
GERGEN: I was there for both nosedives, too, well.
BORGER: Can I just say something about Bill Clinton's speech, by the way?
BLITZER: Yes. BORGER: It was 89 minutes long.
BLITZER: I -- I remember that speech...
BLITZER: ...all 89 minutes of it.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.
James Carville is going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll speak to him. He's got some strong views on what's going on.
Also, we're going back to Haiti.
Christiane Amanpour is joining us live. She's got an amazing story to share.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- hi, Lisa.
What's going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, three inmates held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base are no longer in custody at the detention center. The Justice Department today announced that they were handed over to the government of Slovakia yesterday. The statement does not disclose their names and their departure reduces the number of Guantanamo's detainees to 193.
The infamous Iraqi general dubbed "Chemical Ali" has been executed. Ali Hassan al-Majid was put to death by hanging today. It was imposed by an Iraqi court January 17th for the 1988 poison gas attack that killed 5,000 Kurds. Al-Majid was notorious for leading campaigns that killed tens of thousands of people and he was one of the last key members of Saddam Hussein's regime still on trial in Iraq. He was also Saddam's cousin.
The brother of Olympic figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, has pleaded not guilty to assaulting their father, who died yesterday. Seventy-year- old Daniel Kerrigan, seen here with his wife Brenda in a photo -- you see it there, from 1994 -- was found unconscious by officers responding to a 911 call at his Massachusetts home. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Now, prosecutors say Kerrigan fell or collapsed while struggling with his son Mark over using the phone. Mark Kerrigan was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.
We're going to get back to you. We've got a lot more coming up, including what's happening in Haiti right now. Christiane Amanpour is on the scene. We'll go there. Christiane Amanpour. Much more on Haiti. Much more on the challenges facing President Obama right now, after this.
BLITZER: Here's the latest on Haiti. The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top diplomats from more than a dozen countries confer about rebuilding Haiti. They met in Montreal for a one day meeting to begin forging a strategy for early recovery and longer term reconstruction. An estimated 700,000 Haitians right now living in the streets, finding whatever shelter they can. Aid groups from around the world are rounding up tents, but organizers say it could take weeks to establish enough tent cities. Haitian officials meanwhile estimate 150,000 people are dead from this month's earthquake and says the toll could go higher. The State Department says 59 Americans are confirmed dead so far. That number could go up as well.
Much of the focus in Haiti has been on Port-au-Prince, but in what's considered Haiti's cultural capital, men, women and children wait for help and are finally getting aid courtesy of a coalition of the willing. Here's our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jacmel's tiny airport, just a landing strip really, is suddenly the logistical hub for the international airlift to southern Haiti. The Canadian air force has been running it since last week, bringing in French rescue helicopters, supplies from the U.S. navy, and even squeezing in the old Hercules workhorse, bouncing to a hard halt on the short runway.
MAJ. KEVIN KIRROW, CANADIAN AIR FORCE: We have 3,300 feet for them to come in, but all of our aircrew and pilots are very highly trained.
AMANPOUR: Major Kevin Skirrow is in charge here. Their best day saw in 80 flights.
How difficult is it gets big air craft in like this?
SKIRROW: How difficult?
SKIRROW: We were able to clear out some trees. We had some permission from the local authorities to clear the approach path.
AMANPOUR: Once down, water, food, medical supplies are off-loaded. Yes, and even checked by a Haitian customs official. Then aided by Haitian boy scouts, put on trucks and driven here to the house of American evangelical group Joy in Hope. Michael Regal explains they're trying to speed these basic supplies to the people. Military rations, MREs from the U.S. Navy, and water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got about 5,000 gallons of drinkable, potable water right now, and we've emptied this room twice.
AMANPOUR: Nearby, trucks from the U.N.'s world food program deliver rations to a tent city that sprung up in Jacmel's soccer stadium. Women wait with their babies for high protein powder. While back at the jetty, the Canadian army has set up a small emergency medical clinic in the shadow of destroyed buildings. Now they've seen the scale of the disaster here, they're already ramping up their presence.
L. COL. BRUCE EWING, CMDR., CANADIAN FORCES, JACMEL, HAITI: So instead of about 200 personnel, we're sending in up to 2,000, with a lot of them going up to Leogan where was the epicenter of the earthquake.
AMANPOUR: Today, a Canadian reverse osmosis water purification system is set up at the jetty, and the Canadian ship "Halifax" patrols Jacmel's coast, but it is this Caribbean coast and beautiful beaches that hold the future. This unique 19th century architecture and Jacmel's status as Haiti's cultural capital that the people and the government already hope to rebuild into a thriving tourist destination. So that in the future, its paragliders and not army helicopters flying from these beaches, and pleasure yachts, not relief-laden warships docking at the jetty.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Jacmel, southern Haiti.
BLITZER: We're going to stay in Port-au-Prince in Haiti. We're watching what's going on. We're not leaving the story. Ivan Watson will be joining us, Brian Todd, all of our reports are still on the scene.
Also when we come back, James Carville has got some advice for the president of the United States and other fellow Democrats on what they need to do now.
BLITZER: CNN is zeroing in on the $787 billion America spent to try to jump start the economy. It's your tax dollars and your jobs all on the line. We're tracking the money to see if it was spent wisely and if it really helped put people to work. Poppy Harlow of CNNmoney.com investigated part of $1.4 billion grant, Poppy, to the veterans' administration. What did you find out?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Wolf, I mean, we all know that wounded soldiers when they return from Iraq and Afghanistan they really rely on the department of Veterans Affairs for all of their medical care. So we looked at a portion of that $1.4 billion in taxpayer stimulus money that went to the V.A. and what we found out is not only is it boosting the local economy in Pennsylvania, but it's also really changing one marine's life in a pretty interesting way. Take a look.
HARLOW: Richard Bennett loved his old job, serving in Iraq as a marine.
RICHARD BENNETT, PRESIDENT, FIDELIS DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: You make a difference in the lives of thousands every day, every second of every day.
HARLOW: Bennett would still be in the military, but he was severely injured when his unit came under attack in 2004. He came back to the U.S. and was forced to find a part-time job.
BENNETT: I was a security guard in Philadelphia for a University of Pennsylvania.
HARLOW: And what are you now?
BENNETT: I'm president of a multimillion dollar construction company.
HARLOW: How does that feel?
BENNETT: Amazing, it's almost surreal.
HARLOW: And it's thanks to this man, construction entrepreneur Craig Williams. He was looking to partner with a veteran to take advantage of a program that favors vets in bids for government contracts. He read an article about Bennett, and then the two met. In May they launched Fidelis Design and Construction.
CRAIG WILLIAMS, V.P., FIDELIS DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: Even as an injured veteran, he was trying to find an opportunity to go back and join his comrades. That just said everything about his character.
HARLOW: Thanks to money from the Obama administration's stimulus program, Fidelis has had an impressive first year. Despite the weak construction market, the company has won three recovery act contracts, totaling more than $3.5 million. The largest, a $2.3 million pharmacy renovation project at the V.A. Medical Center in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, built back in the 1930s.
GARY DEVANSKY, DIRECTOR, COATESVILLE V.A. MEDICAL CENTER: Right now we have a facility that's been here for a number of years and we need to modernize it and centralize it. We see this as a really boom to veterans. It's really a win/win situation, in that it stimulates our local economy in creating jobs.
HARLOW: The year-long project will create roughly 40 jobs. For Troy Cooper, they can't come soon enough. Cooper runs an electrical company and the recession forced him to lay off 90 percent of his workforce last year. He's struggling to get out of the debt and says nearly all his work these days comes from stimulus spending.
TROY COOPER, FOUNDER, T.M. COOPER ELECTRICAL: What we're doing has some of the incentive money built into it, so I say, yeah, it's definitely going to help. Hopefully within the next month or so I'll be able to start bringing people back on from layoff.
HARLOW: Critics, including many Republicans, say the stimulus money will cripple the nation's finances and leave a legacy of debt, but the V.A. says this project needed to happen at some point, and Bennett says now is the right time.
BENNETT: If we don't take care of our national infrastructure and get out of this financial crisis we are in, when our veterans come home, they'll have nothing to do and they'll be on the streets, which is not a place for them to be.
HARLOW: Are you ready for this challenge? What makes you equipped to run a big projects like this?
BENNETT: I'm a marine, I'm always ready. This is a challenge, and a steppingstone to greatness, is how I see it.
BLITZER: Poppy, once again, the bottom line, how much will the project cost and how many jobs will it create?
HARLOW: Of course, that is the bottom line, Wolf. This project, this renovation at the V.A. Medical Center in Coatesville is costing taxpayers $2.3 million, so a hefty amount of money. It will create roughly 40 jobs throughout the area, they're hiring five different subcontractors, all small businesses to put these local people to work. The goal, improve the efficiency and privacy of this pharmacy in a hospital that serves around 22,000 veterans, so some significant work there, and Wolf, I know it's hard for most people to really grasp the enormity of the stimulus program. All in, we're talking trillions of dollars here, so we're trying to make it easier. I want you to go to CNNmoney.com/stimulus. Take a look at this interactive tool. It tracks your money that's been pledged so far through stimulus, also shows you what to expect, Wolf, as a result, we're updating that constantly. Again, CNNmoney.com/stimulus.
BLITZER: Good place to go. We're all getting smarter and smarter on this stimulus package, what it does, what it doesn't do, how many jobs have been created, et cetera. Poppy Harlow on the story for us.
James Carville is standing by. We're going to talk to him about what's going on here in Washington. Always smiling, James Carville. Will he smile after we talk?
BLITZER: Let's check back with Lisa. 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: Hey there Wolf. It's the mother of sinkholes in San Antonio, Texas where about 80 homes were evacuated after the ground gave way. The ground began shifting yesterday behind homes in a subdivision. Fortunately no one was hurt, but a retaining wall was split almost in half and crevices up to 15 feet deep were formed. Engineers headed to the site to sort out the problem.
Well keeping your blood pressure in check could ward off dementia later in life. New research suggests that hypertension is linked to conditions of the brain that are in turn linked to development of Alzheimer's and other dementias. The new evidence is prompting the National Institutes of Health to launch a study to see if aggressive blood pressure treatment protects not only the heart but also the brain.
And the housing market is a mixed bag. Sales of existing homes took their largest dip in more than 40 years last month, falling 16.7 percent, much larger drop than expected. On the flip side, existing home sales were up 15 percent last month from December 2008. The home prices also plunged more than 12 percent for the year. That, Wolf, is the sharpest decline since the great depression. So a lot of people are feeling the pain in the housing market, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly are, and presumably for some time to come. All right. Lisa, thanks very much.
We're just getting some excerpts of an interview the president, President Obama, has just granted. We're going to share that with you and get immediate reaction from James Carville. Stand by.
BLITZER: Let's get to Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is why has President Obama become such a polarizing figure? The most polarizing president since the Eisenhower administration during the first year of his term.
Justin writes, "Obama said to judge him by who he surrounds himself with. We see it. Socialists and communists and they're trying to shove their agenda down our throats."
Jim writes, "Fortunately in 2009 Americans didn't experience a cataclysmic event or an outside threat of the sort that tends to promote unity. Critics of bail out, health care reform and more managed to make the national government the evil agent when many Americans think evil national government they see the president's image."
Dennis in Pittsburgh, "President Obama is out of touch with America. He promised great change if elected. The only change is for the worse. The bottom line is he's just another stuffed shirt. The only person he's listening to is himself. A year into his term and he's already a lame duck."
Jay writes from Missouri, "Because he's black and a Democrat. The Republican strategy is to trash any Democrat in office. That causes polarization. I come from a southern state. I know there is a large minority believe blacks should not hold office, especially the presidency."
Donna writes, "Obama has turned out to be a narcissist. He is so wrapped up in his own agenda he doesn't listen to the American people." John says, "The only reason Obama is polarizing is because the right wing and corporations have done an effective job of misrepresenting his policies. After the 2008 election the Republican Party had no choice. In order to survive it had to vote as a block in order to derail the administration and that's what it's done."
Eugene from California writes, "Jack, I was proud of President Obama's election, but I never got the warm tingly feeling in my leg. Americans have discovered the hard way that Obama is an ineffectual elitist as well as a lying, pandering politician."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog CNN.com/Caffertyfile and read the other e-mails we got. Wolf?
BLITZER: The president has given an interview. He's speaking about all these issues. We'll have some of that for our viewers when we come back. James Carville will react as well. Much more coverage after this.
BLITZER: Let's go to our strategy session. Joining us our CNN political contributor James Carville, the Democratic strategist and Republican strategist, John Feehery. The president has granted an interview to ABC News, Diane Sawyer. They've just released some excerpts. Among other things the president says, I would rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. You're smiling. Why are you smiling?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I know that he says that and I'm sure in his heart he believes that, but I have never seen a president that ran that didn't want to win re-election. The best way to win re-election is to be a really good one-term president. I think you can be assured you would be a good second-term president.
BLITZER: He then says this, according to this release that ABC News put out. You know there is a tendency in Washington to believe our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That's not our job description, the president says. It's to solve problems and to help people. You know, he's being firm on that.
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Wolf, I agree with the president. I would like him to be a really good one-term president as well and we can get someone else after he's done. I think he's right that elected officials tend to look first look at getting re-elected and last about doing the right things for the American people. I think part of the president's problem is that his agenda has been so partisan that he has not really pulled everyone together in such a way as to move the country forward in a way Republicans and Democrats can come together.
BLITZER: So is it just rhetoric what he says, something like this James when he says, I don't want to look back on my time here and say to myself, all I was interested in was nurturing my own popularity? Is that something every politician simply has to say or do you think he believes it? CARVILLE: I think that the president does. When he said during the campaign he wanted to be inclusive, he was. They held up the Senate bill for three months trying to get a single Republican vote. There never was intent whatsoever of the Republicans to cooperate with this president. He really believed he could do that. The white house was giving him phone numbers and everything else. They bought into the sort of conventional wisdom in Washington. Don't play the blame game. They should have at the beginning laid out the crisis they were confronted with. It was left to them by the previous administration like Ronald Reagan did. They trashed Jimmy Carter for the entire first term that Reagan was in office and they were able to extend a story in the context of what happened. I think the problem with the president is that he came into office, he thought people would give him credit for being prospective and not laying out a narrative and that he could get Republicans working for him. Republicans had no interest in working with this president. Obstructionism works. That's the lesson, cowboys and cowgirls at home.
BLITZER: I suspect, John, the president will reach out once again to Republicans; see if there aren't some issues in this second year they could work together on. Is this doable?
FEEHERY: I think the comments of the president reflect -- it's really a slam on Bill Clinton. He doesn't want to be a mediocre Bill Clinton president. He wants to be transformational president like Ronald Reagan. Some say blaming Bush is a stupid strategy. I think it is a stupid strategy because people are looking forward. What have you done for me lately? To get a legislative agenda through, what you really need to do is have small bites that everyone has to support. You have to do it that way. You can't do these big packages that make it easier to oppose. That's what happened with this president.
CARVILLE: All I can say is Bill Clinton transformed $300 billion deficit into a $5.4 trillion surplus.
FEEHERY: James, I'm saying what Obama is doing.
CARVILLE: I wouldn't want to talk about the deficit either but be that as it may, I think President Reagan was right to put the thing in context. That's what you need to do. He needs to tell people how bad it was when he took over and improvements they are making. That's the important thing here.
BLITZER: James, the decision to bring David Plouffe back on board, he's the campaign manager from the successful campaign. Now that he's written a book and done speaking, get him involved in making sure the Democrats don't lose too many seats in November. How big of a deal is it?
CARVILLE: I think it's important. I think he's a competent guy. I think people see him as somebody that the president has faith in. It's important that they put their best political people in position. I thought this was a very encouraging sign.
FEEHERY: To qualify it, I think it's a big mistake. What the president needs is someone like Colin Powell who can bring stability. He doesn't need to be seen as so negatively partisan which his appointment shows. Way too partisan.
BLITZER: John and James, thank you very much.