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Building Up America; How Fast is Haiti Healing; New York Governor Blasts Sleazy Rumors
Aired February 9, 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": Thanks very much, Don.
Happening now, President Obama tries to get the last word on the ground rules for bipartisanship. This hour the inside story on his talks with Congressional leaders. Republicans didn't get what they want. Reporters, though, did -- at least on this day.
The president's spokesman slaps Sarah Palin's hand -- a very public jab at the former Alaska governor and her speech crib notes.
And this is the place to watch the New Orleans super celebration live. We're going to bring you the parade honoring the Super Bowl champion Saints. And we'll have play-by-play by some of the city's famous natives and fans.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We haven't seen President Obama like this in months. Reporters' jaws -- at least some of them -- dropped when he walked into the White House Briefing Room unannounced. The president had just wrapped up talks with Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders and he apparently wanted to send a message -- his push for bipartisanship has limits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I won't hesitate to embrace a good idea for my friends in the minority party, but I also won't hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that's rooted not in substantive disagreements, but in political expediency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A lot of questions about how and if Republicans and Democrats can work together heading into the televised bipartisan summit on health care a little over two weeks from now.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.
He's been watching all of this unfold.
How much give is there in this give and take between the president and the Republican leadership? DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president is saying that there will be some give and take. But he's digging in his heels. He says he doesn't want to start this entire process all over again because he doesn't believe that the American people want another year of wrangling or months and months of additional hearings.
And while up on Capitol Hill, the Republicans have been critical of the House and Senate bills, the president believes that they do have some key components that he does not want to let go of, such as bringing down health care costs for families and for businesses and dealing with insurance abuses.
The president says, though, that he's willing and ready to listen to good ideas. And at this February 25th summit, he's hoping it will be a real bipartisan effort.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Bipartisanship cannot mean simply that Democrats give up everything that they believe in, find the handful of things that Republicans have been advocating for and we do those things and then we have bipartisanship. That's something -- that, you know, that's not how it works, you know, in -- in any other realm of life. That's certainly not how it works in my marriage with Michelle, although I usually do give in most of the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: So the president there using his relationship with the first lady and a little bit of comedy to drive home that bipartisan message.
Looking ahead to the summit, though, the president saying that he hopes that it will turn into political theater, that it will be a real attempt on both sides to get health care reform moving forward -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's coming up February 25th. And the snow is coming up right now behind Dan.
LOTHIAN: Yes, it is.
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on that story, as well.
If Americans had to choose one thing for politicians to work together on, it probably would be jobs. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says negotiators are right now close to a bipartisan agreement on a jobs package that could be unveiled, perhaps as early as tonight.
The top Senate Republican sounding open to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We discussed the Senate package that's been percolating, if you will. It's kind of a work in progress. But we're certainly open to it. And there's a chance that we could move this forward on a bipartisan basis. We hope it's not just another stimulus bill. We hope it is truly a job generator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
He sounded pretty open, at least in public. But you're learning the -- the tone in the meeting at the White House was a little bit different.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at least one particular instance that we're told about by sources who are familiar with this bipartisan White House meeting this morning. And that is that the president directly confronted the Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell, about the issue of him voting against a debt commission a couple of weeks ago, even though he had supported it previously.
You know, that the president has actually been talking about this as he travels all over the country, using this as Exhibit A of how Republicans are so intent on blocking his agenda, they're even voting against their -- their own ideas.
Well, Wolf, I'm told that McConnell responded that he had actually raised the issue with the president before his inauguration. But McConnell said I hadn't heard about it in -- in a year since that happened. And he also, apparently, shot back at the president, saying that he supported this idea of a commission to reign in debt before the president went on a "spending spree."
So today's meeting might have been the first attempt since the Senate had some new math -- the Democrats have lost that 60 seat majority -- to reach out to Republicans. But at least if this incident is any indication, it sounds like it was a no holds barred meeting. And maybe this health care meeting that is upcoming on February 25th could, in fact, be must-see TV if any of this does spill out into public -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll be anticipating every step of the way.
All right, Dana.
Another example that bipartisanship has its limits over at the White House, especially when it comes to Republican Sarah Palin. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, poked some fun today at the former Alaska governor and the talking points she had written on her hand during a weekend speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They're going to bring their ideas to the table, right?
They're going to bring the ideas that -- look -- and there are some in their party that want to do away with, as you saw during the presidential campaign, the entire -- I wrote a few things down.
GIBBS: I wrote...
GIBBS: I wrote -- I wrote eggs, milk and bread.
GIBBS: But I crossed out bread just so I could make pancakes for Ethan if it snows. And then I wrote down hope and change just in -- in case I forgot that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And no response to that from the Sarah Palin camp, at least not yet.
We know this much. Robert Gibbs' son Ethan is probably going to get those pancakes because, as you can see, it's snowing here in Washington, DC.
A lot of people having fun with Sarah Palin's notes on her hand. And that continues.
Forecasters say we could get another 10 inches or more in the nation's capital on top of a massive snowfall this past weekend. Snow is in the forecast for a big chunk of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, including New York City. Hundreds of flights across those regions have been canceled as far west as Chicago.
Let's go out to CNN's Brian Todd.
He's with some snow fighters in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington -- all right, tell us what's going on right now, Brian, because people are preparing for at least five inches -- maybe an additional 10 inches, which is a lot here in the nation's capital.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a lot here in Washington, Wolf. You know that. This area does not handle snow very well. Just a couple inches can close the government, it can close schools.
We just got hit with about almost three feet of snow over the weekend. This second wave, as you mentioned, could be up to 10 inches. It could be more. We're right in the middle of rush hour. Here you see people scrambling out of town, trying to get out ahead of this thing.
Here's another problem. Because of the previous snowstorm, you've got large drifts of snow -- meaning no place to shovel it when the plows come through. They've got to scramble for a place to put it. Also, you've got the -- the roads still -- many of the side roads, like this one, not completely plowed. You've got ice and snow packed. And again, several more inches coming on top of it. It has got snow plow teams absolutely scrambling.
TODD (voice-over): The snow plow drivers call it hard pack -- icy, crusted snow packed down by cars covering long stretches of neighborhood streets and main roads -- one of several challenges these plow teams place, scrambling to dig the D.C. area out from under one massive snowfall as another follows.
I ride along with Dave Rothschild from the Virginia Department of Transportation, a 12 year veteran of these jobs who's never seen a one-two punch like this.
(on camera): A lot of the snow is still here from the last storm, still packed down.
What is your biggest worry right now?
DAVE ROTHSCHILD, SNOWPLOW DRIVER: The equipment. The equipment needs to be serviced. It needs to be taken care of. And just when we're running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it's hard to get a chance to fix anything or keep equipment running like the way it should.
TODD (voice-over): Rothschild and another snowplow driver have to work in tandem -- two out of thousands of trucks fanning out in Virginia, Maryland and Washington. The D.C. area historically doesn't handle snow very well. A few inches is enough to close school schools and the federal government. Now, it's still reeling from a blizzard that dumped up to three feet over the weekend and another storm is hitting.
These guys have a few neighborhoods to clear out ahead of the next storm. These streets have barely been plowed when we get there. Most residents are happy to see us. But the steep inclines with hard pack don't help.
ROTHSCHILD: Now we're -- now we're in big trouble.
TODD (on camera): Here's how dicey it is to try to plow some of these streets after a major storm and before another one. This is a very hilly street. Not only do you have a huge problem with snow drifts here that are already in place after the first snow, in addition to the several inches that are about to arrive here, but, again, these roads not completely plowed yet. We're hitting one right now. And my guy, the guy I'm riding with, Dave, just got stuck over there. He spun out a little bit. He's had to get his colleague here, who has chains on his truck, to help pull him out.
(voice-over): They hook up with chains. After a couple of rough pulls, Rothschild's truck is free. He's got several more hours left on his shift on a night when the next storm could bring up to two inches an hour. (END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: And here's what some of the cars are going to be facing right now. This one hasn't dug out yet. Several feet on this. There are many cars like it. They're scrambling for more, Wolf. These crews are worried about fatigue. They're working 12 hour shifts and they don't have enough trucks to cover all the neighborhoods -- bracing now for much more -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd.
He was in Northern Virginia. Now he's in Georgetown, here in the District of Columbia.
Lots of snow on the ground. More heading our way.
Brian, don't go too far.
We heard the White House take a shot at Sarah Palin. Now we're asking Michelle Obama for her take on the Republican superstar. Stand by to get the first clip from the first lady's exclusive interview with CNN's Larry King. You'll hear it and see it here in THE SITUATION ROOM first.
And an urgent plea for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on behalf of the Americans charged with child kidnapping in Haiti.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: -- and lasting peace. Its political leaders have to...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the first lady is calling on America to get moving in order to fight childhood obesity.
Michelle Obama kicked off a national effort at the White House today to try to reverse what is a growing and shameful epidemic. The numbers are staggering -- one third of American kids are overweight or obese. One study shows the number of overweight children between the ages of six and 19 has tripled since 1970.
These kids are at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, as well as other disease that come along later in their lives.
The first lady's initiative is called the "Let's Move" campaign and it's focused on what families, communities and the public and private sectors can do to reduce childhood obesity within a generation. She wants everyone to get involved -- from parents to teachers, doctors, coaches and, of course, the kids themselves. Her plan covers everything from making healthier choices to getting kids to exercise more to providing healthier and more affordable foods to the inner cities. Also, the administration is focusing on several steps the government and private companies can take, including making package labels easier to read.
The Obama administration wants to invest more money to make school lunches healthier and major school food suppliers will have to decrease sugar, fat and salt while increasing whole grains and fruits and vegetables in their meals.
Here's the question then, why have we allowed this to happen -- one third of our kids to become overweight or obese?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a good question. And it's a good thing the first lady is raising this issue, because it is a horrible situation.
Jack, you'll be interested in this. The first lady will be a guest on CNN discussing this later tonight. Michelle Obama is on LARRY
KING LIVE at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. They've just finished taping that interview. In a few moments, you'll get the first excerpt of that interview -- the first lady and Larry King right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, President Obama is essentially saying he won't just sit back and let Iran thumb its nose at the world. Tehran defies the West, wrapping up enrichment of uranium to -- get this -- a level that could allow Iran to set off a nuclear reaction. Iran says it's all for medical purposes. The United States and the other nations say Iran wants a nuclear bomb.
Today, President Obama talked tough about looming sanctions against Iran and was asked how far along are they?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They have made their choice so far, although the door is still open. And what we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president maintains Iran wants a nuclear bomb and says that is not acceptable.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen.
The deadline was supposed to be December 31st. It's now February and the sanctions still haven't been put into place -- David.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The sanctions haven't been put into place, Wolf, but they may be coming because this is now taking a dangerous turn, as the president recognized. Iran, in effect, has rejected the deal that the international community put on the table and today started ramping up, as you said, its enrichment of um, trying to make a pure uranium, which would be used for a nuclear weapon.
And I think what's now clear, Wolf, is that President Obama's early efforts at diplomacy, joined with other nations, have now come to an end, at least for this round. Secretary Gates and Hillary Clinton are trying to round up votes for sanctions. Mr. Gates has said sanctions is the only path forward and he wants to get them done within weeks, not months.
BLITZER: But for those sanctions to be effective, you really need everyone on board. Of course, the Europeans are on board, maybe even Russia.
But listen to what the president said about China.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, the -- we are confident right now that the international community is unified around Iran's misbehavior in this area. You know, how China operates at the Security Council as we pursue sanctions is something that we're going to have to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Something we're going to have to see. It's a problem for the U.S. and the -- and the Europeans if China is not on board.
GERGEN: A huge problem. The administration is pleased that Russia has come along and has always hoped that the Russians would persuade the Chinese and not let the China -- and the Chinese would not want to be isolated.
But the Chinese, in recent days, Wolf, have made it very plain they are not prepared to go yet with sanctions. They're very heavily dependent upon Iran for energy. Eleven percent of their energy comes from Iran.
That may not sound like much, but someone raised the point today, you know, the United States -- would the United States put sanctions on Saudi Arabia?
We're only 8 percent dependent on Saudi Arabia. China is even more dependent on Iran. So you can see the Chinese side of the argument.
But for the administration, trying to get sanctioning passed at the UN, China has a veto there, of course.
There are other nations that are dragging their feet, too. Brazil, which is more and more allied with China, Nigeria and Turkey, all opposing this at a Security Council level.
So the administration has got its work cut out for it, Wolf.
But, you know, there is this one other element of the Iranian story which is also causing a lot of uncertainty in Washington tonight and that is, as you know, on this Thursday of this week, we'll have the 31st anniversary of the revolution in Iran. And that is going to bring millions of people onto the streets in demonstrations against the regime -- some estimate as many as three million. Some believe this could lead to violent conflict.
One Reza Aslan, who is a frequent contributor here on CNN, actually argues that Iran is enriching uranium in order to take attention away from the demonstrations, to try to switch the subject.
So it's a complex game that's going on here. But Iran is certainly growing as a story and as a major threat to international order.
BLITZER: It's a -- it's a huge issue. The stakes are enormous right now.
BLITZER: Eyeball to eyeball -- the president of the United States versus Ahmadinejad. We'll see who blinks on this issue.
Thanks very much for that, David Gergen.
It's an unimaginable nightmare now being called a miracle -- a man apparently survives being trapped under rubble in Haiti for 27 days.
How hard will his recovery be?
Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by to join us live with an update.
And when the Saints go marching in -- the party's just starting in New Orleans. It's holding a massive celebration for the Super Bowl champs and you'll see it live. That's coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa, what's going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, a U.S. lawyer for one of 10 Americans charged with child kidnapping in Haiti is urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to personally intervene on their behalf.
However, the State Department says it would be highly unusual for Clinton to get involved in the judicial process of another country.
The death of Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan's father has been ruled a homicide. The Kerrigan family immediately released a statement saying the medical examiner's finding is premature and inaccurate. The family says it doesn't blame anyone for Daniel Kerrigan's death, noting he had a preexisting heart condition. Nancy Kerrigan's brother Mark was arraigned last month on assault charges. Daniel Kerrigan died after an alleged altercation with his son at his home in Massachusetts.
And debt laden Dubai is said to be planning to sell one of its most famous assets, the ocean liner, the QE2 is reported to be one of the assets Dubai's state run poverty equity firm is planning to sell. It bought the QE2 back in 2007 for an estimated $100 million. You see it there. The firm also has a 20 percent stake in the Cirque de Soleil. Recently, though, it sold off the W Hotel in New York for just $2 million -- and, Wolf, I've actually stayed in that hotel. And for $2 million, that seems to be a bit of a bargain -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Wow! Maybe if you work really hard someday, Lisa, you could buy that hotel for $2 million, although it's -- you'd probably lose a lot of...
SYLVESTER: That might be a bit of a reach.
BLITZER: -- lose a lot of money.
SYLVESTER: But you never know.
BLITZER: You never know. You could go into the hotel business.
Lisa Sylvester, thank you.
The New York governor, meanwhile, is shooting down what he calls sleazy rumors about him. David Paterson is telling reporters there's basically only one way he'll leave office. Stand by for that.
And he was rescued just yesterday from the rubble in Haiti, almost a month after the earthquake. We're going to find out how he's doing right now. Our Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- they are on top of the story. They're on top of what's happening with the recovery in Haiti.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, it's not even Mardi Gras yet, but New Orleans is set for one big celebration. The Super Bowl champs, the New Orleans Saints, are getting ready for their victory parade. Tens of thousands of people are already lining the streets. We're going to take you to the parade live when it starts.
And a White House spokesman pokes some fun at Sarah Palin. The first lady weighs in on criticism of Governor Palin.
Is too much being made of Palin's sleight of hand over at the Tea Party Convention?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In a city that's seen so many hurdles, so much hurt and a massive hurricane, it's the kind of hurray virtually everyone can be proud of. Right now, New Orleans honors its hometown sports heroes, The New Orleans Saints. There's a massive celebration after their Super Bowl win. And this is one party that's just getting started.
Let's go to New Orleans.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is standing by.
They're getting crazy over there, I take it a bit -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're getting excited, Wolf. You know, this is a city that knows how to do parades. But they have been waiting for this kind of parade for 46 years.
And so we just talked to one gentleman, Marcel Mavier (ph). And I asked him -- I asked you earlier, I said, are you tired of waiting?
What did you tell me?
MARCEL MAVIER: I said we waited 43 years for the Super Bowl, hey, I would wait 12 hours in the snow to say thank you.
LAVANDERA: There you go, Wolf. That pretty much says it all right here. You know, I think what I love the most about a New Orleans parade is that they know how to do it. And look at these kids right over there across the way. You can tell that they're used to a parade. So these kids know how to do it. Those are little seats set up on tops -- on tops of ladders.
So the rest of the country can learn a little something about how to get ready for a parade here New Orleans style -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And just walk us through a bit, because we're going to have live coverage. It's going to start where and end where?
LAVANDERA: Well, we are toward the beginning of the parade. The Superdome is just a couple of blocks away. That is where the parade is starting. So the players and the coaches and a bunch of other people -- high school bands, the Tulane band and other groups that have been helping out within New Orleans. It will be coming down this way. It will wind its way through the business district here in downtown New Orleans, down Canal Street and wind up later tonight at the Convention Center.
But it's that stretch along St. Charles Avenue, which perhaps will be the most poignant part of this parade, where the players and the coaches will have a chance to speak to the tens and thousands of fans who have turned out here today. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And then the party gets going later after the parade is formally done. That Latin quarter -- the French Quarter is going to be a pretty exciting place.
LAVANDERA: Well, you know, everybody has kind of descended on downtown New Orleans here tonight. So I would be shocked if Bourbon Street is not a little bit crazy tonight.
BLITZER: All right, Ed Lavandera is going to be our man on the scene. He's going to be joining us throughout these next several hours as we watch it.
One quick question, Ed, before I let you go, and I want you to get ready for this parade. As we watch the players themselves, they are the heroes, they won the Super Bowl. And give us some context, because there's no doubt that few would have expected the New Orleans Saints -- given their record over the past 43 years -- maybe ever to reach the Super Bowl, let alone win it.
LAVANDERA: No. You know, they never expected this. And that's what made this so special. We've talked to people over and over again who say that these aren't just players that play on a football team that kind of come and go. They all kind of feel like they're part of one family here.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us. We're going to stand by. Ed, thanks very much.
We're going to go to Haiti very soon, our Sanjay Gupta is standing by, and Anderson Cooper, in fact, they're both standing by. I think they're ready to talk to us right now.
Let me go to Port-au-Prince and see if they are. Yes, I think they can both hear me.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in and helping us better appreciate what's going on. You -- both of you spent a lot of time in New Orleans after Katrina, during Katrina, so you can appreciate the excitement that the city and all the residents of the Gulf Coast are going through right now, because you covered that story brilliantly, as you're covering this one.
But, Anderson, let's start with what's happening today in Haiti. Because I -- like you and Sanjay, I don't want our viewers to neglect what's going on, to pay attention to the enormity of this challenge, and it is an enormous challenge right now. It's not going away anytime soon.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It certainly is an enormous challenge. And you know the clock is still ticking. We were out with UNICEF today as they and many other aid groups, like Save the Children, the International Red Cross, are trying to figure out ways to kind of figure out how many kids have been orphaned, and what's going to happen to those kids.
It's a very complex task, but the clock is ticking because with more people moving out to the countryside to kind of get out of the city, as the government here has asked them to, that means families are even more spread apart, and kids who may be lost or separated from their loved ones, it's going to be that much harder to find them.
So we were out with a team today, several teams from UNICEF. We're basically going through these tent cities where up to half a million people living in Port-au-Prince right now and just trying to get their hands around just how many kids really there are out there who may be orphaned or who may have extended family that could be able to take care of them in the weeks and months and the years ahead.
BLITZER: Sanjay, update us on that amazing recovery, that rescue yesterday, a guy -- a young man, 27 days, we believe he was in some sort of rubble, and he's alive.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question about it. We've got an update today. Sometimes the second day can even be more challenging. Medically in the first day you have to replace fluids, make sure that he doesn't develop kidney failure or a heart failure or something as a result of resuscitation.
But he's doing well. He is stable according to the doctors. Still a little bit confused by all that's happening, certainly, but starting to eat food as well. He was asking a lot for chocolate for some reason, so the nurses were giving him chocolate today. And he was able to keep that down. So it sounds like things are going to be constantly improving for him.
I will say that exactly what happened to him, all the details of all this are still a little bit murky, because he's confused, and as Anderson and I have talked about with some of these other survival stories, you know, we may never know all the details of exactly what happened here, you know.
One of the things that he said that was pretty haunting for me was that he heard bulldozers coming in around him excavating lots, and he thought that maybe his lot was going to be next.
You know just one of those really haunting things to hear, but we are in a search and recovery mode, not a search and rescue mode, as you know, Wolf.
BLITZER: And I want to ask both of you. I know you've only been back for a day or two since come back here in the States. Have you had a chance, Sanjay and Anderson -- first to Sanjay -- to get an update on some of those personality stories you reported on the first two weeks after this earthquake, how some of those people are actually doing right now?
Sanjay, you've performed surgery on some of them, as all of our viewers will recall.
GUPTA: Yes. You know I have. And you know I'll tell you, like Anderson, I really couldn't stop thinking about some of this, even when we went home for a few days. There was a 12-year-old girl who I performed surgery on. And I was -- you know I was worried about her for some time, certainly before the operation.
The operation went well, but, you know, it's one of these situations that we hear over and over again, was she an orphan? Where would she go after she recovered? But interestingly enough -- I don't even know if I told you -- but viewers were watching from Canada, and actually one of the viewers turned out to be her aunt.
GUPTA: And they actually are back in touch. And the aunt was able to get ahold of this girl. Her name is Kimberly. Get ahold of Kimberly's father, and hopefully they're going to be reunited this week.
COOPER: That's great.
COOPER: So yes, that was a good story, and hopefully a positive outcome for her.
BLITZER: And Anderson, what about you?
COOPER: Yes, we're hoping to get in touch again with Monly (ph), the little boy that was rescued from the rubble, according to his uncle, eight days after the earthquake. We haven't been able to find him yet today. He's in a camp. We know where we believe he is. We're going to go there tomorrow.
And also of course B, a 13-year-old girl who we saw being rescued the first morning -- the morning after the earthquake. She had been concerned, she broke her leg, she didn't break her leg, we saw her about a week or so after the earthquake, and she was doing well.
I mean she'd lost 10 members of her family, so obviously there's emotionally a lot going on, but we hope to get back in touch with her. But I mean there's so many people here who you come across, who just you recognize from being out on the street.
There's a guy who's been living in the park behind us for all this time who -- you know, I see him every couple of days, and we talk and check up on how he's doing. But it's -- you know, I mean, there -- as you know, Wolf, it is all around, half a million people or so homeless right now in the streets of Port-au-Prince.
BLITZER: So we're going to check back with you guys tomorrow and I know you're going to have, Anderson, a lot more at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on "AC 360" later tonight. We'll be watching.
Thanks once -- thanks not only for your reporting, but for what you're doing in Haiti right now. And as I said yesterday, other news organizations may be losing interest in what's happening, but CNN is not. Thanks to Anderson and Sanjay.
Turning now to another important story we're following. President Obama's job approval, our CNN polling center has a fresh poll of polls, average of some of these major polls.
Take a look at this. The president's approval rating now at 47 percent, 45 percent disapprove. When you look at the weekly averages for the president over the last month, you'll notice his approval rating has slightly gone up and down over the past several weeks, all within the margins of error.
The First Lady Michelle Obama was here at CNN, the Washington bureau, just a little while ago for an interview with our own Larry King. We're going to give you a preview of what she had to say, including her answer to a specific question about Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: As Jack Cafferty mentioned, the First Lady Michelle Obama launching a new crusade to fight childhood obesity. She kicked off a national effort to try to reverse the growing epidemic.
First lady talked about that and a lot more with CNN's Larry King in a one-on-one interview. She also was discussing the criticisms of her husband, especially some of the recent slams over the past weekend from one Republican in particular.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: What's your read on the former governor of Alaska?
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: You know, I -- you know I don't have a read. I mean, I try not to make or set opinions about people that I haven't had any, you know, substantive interaction with. I mean I know what you see on TV --
KING: Does it irk you when she criticizes the president?
OBAMA: You know, democracy is about critique, and the president is not immune to criticism. I think he's doing a phenomenal job. You know, we have to think of where we were when he took office. We were on the brink of a depression, worse than anyone really ever imagined, and I don't think the country ever really knew how bad things were.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. There she is, the first lady with Larry King. Let's bring in our CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, she's the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
She's good, Michelle Obama, the first lady --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good at dodging that question.
BLITZER: I think she's got a future in politics someday, maybe following in the footsteps of another former first lady, talking about the secretary of state. BORGER: I think she'd rather her husband sort of had eight years and then figure out her life. But look, she dodged the question, she did it very nicely. I'm sure she has more of an opinion of Sarah Palin privately than she was willing to tell us, but, you know, very smart of her to say that I haven't met her.
And then later on in the interview, she goes on to say that I like women with strong voices, right? So it's good. It's just that I don't know her personally and we can all be caricatured on television.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually I think she does -- she could take over for Hillary Clinton and be a diplomat. Because it was nice and she dodged the question, except for not really. Because what did she do? She said, well, I try not to form opinions of people I don't actually know, like say Sarah Palin did about my husband, and then sort of moves on sort of nicely.
CROWLEY: I thought it was a -- you know it's a great answer. And there's no percentage in the first lady getting involved with Sarah Palin.
BORGER: You know, the first lady has a popularity -- according to our polls -- of 68 percent. There is nothing she is doing, her fight against childhood obesity or anything, to lower that. She's going to stay in that stratosphere, and the way she's going to stay in that stratosphere is by doing what she just did in terms of not getting in the mud and the muck with Sarah Palin, defending her husband, but stopping short --
BLITZER: Her approval rating is a lot higher than her husband.
CROWLEY: And that is generally true of first ladies, particularly first ladies that stay out of the policy part. It was not true always of First Lady Hillary Clinton and certainly it was with Laura Bush, Barbara Bush. They're husbands go this way. But they're kind of seen by the country as sort of over politics or to the side of politics.
BLITZER: And the interview -- the full interview will air later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, "LARRY KING LIVE." This is something I think we're all going to want to see.
BORGER: We'll be snowed in so we'll be watching.
BLITZER: But it's great time to watch "LARRY KING" tonight with the first lady of the United States.
The New York governor says he's not resigning despite rumors about him that he calls sleazy and outrageous. Stand by. You're going to hear David Paterson defend himself and lash out at reporters.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: New York Governor David Paterson is insisting today that sleazy rumors won't stop him from running for reelection. Paterson firing back at reporters and questions about his character.
Let's go to New York. Mary Snow is covering the story for us.
All right, Mary, a lot of our viewers haven't been following this. But it's pretty intense where you are. What's going on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it was really an extraordinary news conference this afternoon. It was supposed to be about a snow emergency, but New York governor David Paterson told reporters he's not resigning and that the only way he's leaving office is either by the ballot box or in a wood box.
Paterson is responding to intense rumors that had been reported in recent days, all stemming from a bombshell article that was supposedly being written for the "New York Times." But it's important to note no such article has been published.
Patterson said he met with reporters from the "New York Times" today for a profile the paper is working on and that he was not asked about any rumors about his personal life, but in recent days, local media even began reporting about a potential resignation.
In fact, it got to the point where his spokesperson came out with a statement denying the governor was resigning. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: I've never seen a situation such as Sunday night, where three separate sources contact media outlets simultaneously, right at the beginning of the Super Bowl, to say that the governor was resigning.
I've never seen anything like that. It seems to be somewhat orchestrated, and it is really a shame that this much energy has to be devoted to false allegations, unsubstantiated rumors, and in some cases, straight-out lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Paterson said the rumors started as he began making calls asking for support for his plan to run for governor. Paterson was never elected governor of New York state. He took the office in 2008 when Eliot Spitzer resigned over a prostitution scandal.
And Wolf, I've been talking to people who have been in New York politics a long time. They're saying they have never seen anything quite like this that these rumors gained so much traction.
BLITZER: Yes. What a story. You'll stay on top of it for us, thanks very much, Mary.
A former Democratic governor -- a different one, not the Governor Paterson -- is urging the president to fire the party chairman and some top White House advisers. Has the president put personal loyalty ahead of politics?
Donna Brazile and Alex Castellanos is there standing by for our "Strategy Session."
And stay right here for live coverage of the super celebration in New Orleans, the parade celebrating the Saints Super Bowl win only minutes away from starting.
BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, why have we allowed one-third of our children to become overweight or obese?
Paul says, "Pretty easy answers, two working parents with less time who are less inclined to monitor and instill discipline. Cheap, convenient junk or fast food, tasty and accessible everywhere, and a society that focuses on sedentary entertainment, movies, videos games, Internet, cell phones. Put those three together you've got your answers. Kids almost have to motivate themselves to solve this problem and it shouldn't be that way."
Frankie writes, "The American public has come to be considered the American consumer. American producers and financiers are much smaller group of people do very well and can claim the economy as strong the more we consumers managed to consume. It doesn't matter if we consume unhealthy food, overpriced medicine or goods produced cheaply overseas, just as long as we consume as much as we can. After all, anything else is socialism, right?"
Gary in Oklahoma City, "Have you seen mom and dad lately? There's your the answer." Larry in California, "Perhaps you spend too much time on TV and not enough watching it. It's easier to sell things loaded with fat and sugar so the airwaves are deluged with ads for absolutely unhealthy food. In the same way that money buys political corruption, it buys obesity, diabetes and death."
Brian writes, "It's the grand scheme of thing, Jack. Hasn't gluttony and slothfulness been the downfall of every great society?" Daniel says, "One word. Cost. Why bother buying fresh food when I can just pop a filler-loaded prepackaged meal on the table for a third a cost."
Eric says, "What you see in the mirror is what you see when you look at your kids. There is no concept of overweight or obese to teach your children. People allow their children to become what they're used to looking at."
And Paul in Florida says, "Fat kids are easier to find."
If you want to read more about this subject, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: We'll do, Jack. Thank you.
The city of New Orleans celebrating more than its Super Bowl victory right now. The city is marking its comeback from the depths of Katrina. Stand by, we're going to bring you the Saints' parade live. You'll want to see this.
And the Republicans Party chairman suggests his critics may be playing the race card. What is going on?
BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN political contributions, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos.
Guys, thanks for coming in. We're going to celebrate the Saints shortly, but let's talk about politics.
First, you know Doug Wilder.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely.
BLITZER: Former governor of Virginia. He says president has to got start firing some people including the chairman of the DNC, Tim Kaine, the former Virginia governor, and some other advisers.
"Obama's West Wing, he says, is filled with people who are in their jobs because of their Chicago connections or because they signed on with Obama early during this presidential campaign. One problem is that they do not have sufficient experience at governing at the executive branch level. The deeper problem is they are not listening to the people."
This from a former Democratic governor of Virginia, an early supporter of Barack Obama.
BRAZILE: What Governor Wilder was stating, I think, is what some other people, clearly across the country, have been whispering about is that, you know, the Obama team, they won. They've been on the field, they scored, but it's time to bring some new blood, some new energy.
I think that's one of the reasons why David Ploufe, the former campaign manager, has gone over to the Democratic National Committee to help bring in more people so that they have a full compliment of talented people on the field. So I understand what the governor is saying, and I have to second his request.
BLITZER: Nothing wrong with having a bench, and going to the bench for some help if you need it.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Nothing wrong with that and you can't fire the owner of the losing team, so on occasions you fire some coaches and players. It happens in a lot of administrations. But this administrations has some problems. They're heavy on politics, light on governing. And there is a difference between politicking and governing. Sometimes the best politics is governing.
And just by definition, the people in this administration thinks politics first. That's where they come from. I wouldn't be surprised to see that change. They also have a problem in their Organizing for America or Obama for America is separate from the DNC. They've got two competing political organizations. What it does is it makes politics bigger and government smaller.
BLITZER: I read this article in the new issue of "Washingtonian" magazine about the RNC chairman, Michael Steele, and this line jumped out. Listen to this carefully, Donna, because you read the article as well.
"I don't see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation, why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman or is it because a black man is chairman?"
BRAZILE: No, you know, when Ron Brown was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he had to go out there and win. He had to go out there and lead the party, he was the cheerleader. He helped bring about the victory in 1992. So look, Michael Steele is doing a terrific job as it relates to raise the money for the party. Alex know more about the party, but he is not an establishment chairman for the Republican National Committee.
I think that's his problem.
CASTELLANOS: That is his problem. Look, you know, I on occasion offered advice, on occasion, it is listened to. But, you know, the chairman is doing a good job. He, at times, is like Peyton Manning. You know a tremendously talented quarterback, but throws an interception just at the worst possible moment.
He has here. This doesn't have anything to do with race. And it really lessens him it so. It's an excuse. He did what? He brought a lot of change to the RNC. He threw out a lot of the old cronyism and the old contracts, and guess what, a lot of the old cronies don't like it and attack him.
But fight it on its merits. Don't hide behind race. You know in America, you've got a black president and the Saints won the Super Bowl. That shows you anybody can do anything in this country.
BLITZER: Listen to the president. He had a little fun over at his little news conference today. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A little while ago I had a meeting with the Democratic and Republican congressional meetings, and it went very well, in fact. I understand that McConnell and Reid are out doing snow angels in the South Lawn together.
Can you picture that, Chuck? Not really.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was in good spirits, but he's got a huge meeting that we're going to talk about over the next couple of weeks, February 25th, this bipartisan health care summit, if you will, the TV cameras will be inside.
BRAZILE: Those snowballs are deadly. I just got (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Don't go too far away, we've got a lot of --
BLITZER: -- parade politics.
BRAZILE: I am ready for that.
BLITZER: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.