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In the Middle of the Blizzard; Soaring Cost of Toyota Recall; Honda Expands Recall; New York Governor Takes on Rumors Again; Al Gore's New Home; Terror Suspect and Political Blame

Aired February 10, 2010 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Rick, thank you.

Happening now, the biggest, deepest, most dangerous snowfall that some Americans have ever seen. An historic winter storm hammering much of the East Coast right now. We've been in the middle of a blizzard here in Washington, DC, so we know firsthand how bad it has been out there.

Also, African-American leaders confront the president about the jobs crisis for minority workers this hour. Their relationship with the Obama White House and whether they expect any special treatment.

And the first TV interview with an openly gay service member since he was called back to his military unit.

Does First Lieutenant Dan Choi see a difference right now, now that "don't ask/don't tell" possibly could come to an end?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right. When a hardened snow veteran like me tells you this storm is enormous, even overwhelming, you can believe it. I'm originally from Buffalo, New York, after all. And the snow is causing huge problems for millions of people across much of the East Coast right now, from North Carolina up to New York and beyond.

There's also snow right now across a big chunk of the nation's midsection.

We could go on and on about the blizzard here in DC. It's our second huge snowfall in just a matter of days. It's knee deep or higher. I've been out there. I know. The snow's been blinding and blowing sideways.

In fact, let's walk outside and see what's happening right now. We're going to take you out to the balcony here from the studio around THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll put on a little coat and make sure I'm not going to freeze out there. We're going to see what's happening on the nation's capital -- in the nation's capital on the streets. We'll walk outside. Let's go out here to the balcony.

All right, let me tell you what's going on right now. You can see this street behind me. Take a look outside. See if we can get a shot of -- of what's happening.

There are only a few cars on the street. I see a police car coming down right now. It is extremely slippery. The snow -- this street has been cleared, pretty much. But if you don't have a special vehicle, you -- you certainly should not be on the road right now.

Normally at this time, rush hour here in Washington, DC, this car -- this street would be jam-packed with traffic both ways. You barely see a car.

By the way, just for some reference, that's behind Union Station -- that building over there right behind Union Station here in the nation's capital, right up on Capitol Hill.

All right. Let's bring in our severe weather expert, our meteorologist, Chad Myers -- Chad, what we're seeing in Washington, it's finally stopped snowing here, but we've been packed. I think this is a record and historic for Washington, DC.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The most snow ever in one year as long as there have been records in DC. And it's been a long time. It's snowing now in Boston, in New York City, down through Philadelphia. But the back edge of the snow -- the driest part now starting to get into the southern suburbs of DC. And that's good. At least the snow is over.

The wind for D.C. is not. Winds will still gust to 40 miles per hour tonight. It's snowing in Elizabeth all the way down to Levittown, all the way up -- all the way to the Hamptons. This could be 40 to 60 mile per hour winds out here tonight. And we have blizzard-like conditions all the way up and down from Connecticut, even into New Jersey. That's going to be the case for the rest of the day.

We still have a few planes moving around. This is JFK. Twenty planes still in the air trying to land at JFK. And they've been getting in without being diverted -- planes getting in and getting out slowly. Now, there's only three planes in the air to LaGuardia and only two right now to Newark. So, yes, they are getting in and they're going slow. And there are some, though, at least, are coming down.

Look at this wind, look at this flag. Here's the problem -- the big Capitol in the background. This flag is really blowing. As it starts here, winds are 25 when it looks like that. When it really loses its little shape up on top, Wolf, that's when the winds are going to be gusting to 40. And anywhere -- everywhere -- everywhere that the wind is blowing, from north to south, any east-west roadway will certainly be closing again with drifting snow tonight -- Wolf, are you still outside or did you go back in?

BLITZER: No, I'm still outside. I'm -- I'm admiring it. It's clear -- it's going to get dark pretty soon. It looks like the snow has stopped. I believe it's not going to be starting up once again. But we have a lot of snow on the ground. It's very cold. It's icy and, as you point out, windy. So it's still dangerous. I'm hoping tomorrow it starts getting warmer, not only here in Washington, but up and down the East Coast, so the airports can reopen and people can start moving around.

Is that what's likely to happen tomorrow?

MYERS: It is likely to get better. I don't believe every airport is going to be open by tomorrow afternoon. There's too much snow to move out of the jet way areas and push it out of the way for the planes to get back in.

Another thing that I've noticed today, we were talking to the fire chief in D.C. not that long ago. He said 22 -- 22 buildings have had partial roof collapses in D.C. today because of all the weight on the top. If you hear your building start to crack and moan, you need to get out and call a professional or even call somebody to get you out of there, if you can -- Wolf.

Very windy out there.

BLITZER: It's very windy, Chad. And the wind is really blowing the snow around so they can go out and plow a little bit and clean it off. But within a matter of only a few minutes, the wind comes and -- and -- and reverses literally all of that.

MYERS: Well, you know that -- you know that living in Buffalo, what wind will do. That wind, although you have it in DC, you also have wind all the way up the East Coast. Some of that wind is coming off the ocean. And you're getting ocean effect or ocean enhanced snowfall, just like East Aurora used to get lake enhanced snowfall. But the ocean is much bigger than Lake Erie -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people have asked me if this reminds me of the blizzard in Buffalo in '77.

MYERS: Yes.

BLITZER: You remember that blizzard.

MYERS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: There really wasn't all that much snow. It was the wind that cause so much problem.

MYERS: It -- it was the wind. It was -- it was -- I -- I remember tunnels where literally you couldn't see the houses as you would drive down the street. But the snow had been piled up so high, you knew your house was there, but you're driving down this tunnel of snow and -- and trying to make it to school.

People would -- if you remember this old time, these -- these orange flags with a big triangle flag on top you'd put on the back of a bicycle. People were mounting those to cars so that people could see your car coming because you literally, around the corner, you couldn't see it because the snow was piled so high. You were looking for the flags so that you didn't hit anybody.

BLITZER: All right, Chad, stand by.

We're going to check back with you.

MYERS: OK.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger is here in the District of Columbia -- Gloria, I know you're home right now, but give our viewers a little flavor of what you're seeing and feeling from the warmth from within your home.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I'm standing here in my den looking out in my backyard. And we have a deck. And there's about a four feet inch gate sort of way -- all the way around the deck. And the snow has drifted all the way to the top of that.

I'm looking at rooftops that are piled high with snow. And these are old houses, Wolf.

And so I'm sure everybody has the same concern that we have, which is how much snow can the roofs of these houses really hold?

I live near the National Cathedral and you don't see a lot of snow plows around here. You do see drifts, though, I must say, at sort of four feet -- even -- even higher. And it's very, very hard to even get out to try and shovel your walk or shovel your car.

The snow itself seems to have stopped pretty much, but the wind is really intense.

BLITZER: Yes, and it's biting, as I can tell you. I'm going to go outside in a minute, but it's still very, very cold outside.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other well -- weather developments right now -- Lisa, what's going on?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, thousands of flights have been canceled and several Northeast airports are shut down due to the blizzard. Here in Washington, officials say Reagan National and Dulles International Airports are closed, but they are expected to reopen tomorrow morning.

In New York, the airports are open, but airlines have canceled most of the flights in and out of the LaGuardia, Newark and JFK. Most airlines have also canceled flights in and out of Baltimore's BWI Airport.

And with snow causing treacherous driving conditions, some states are closing major roads. Pennsylvania's governor, Ed Rendell, has announced that several Interstates around Philadelphia are now closed to all non-emergency vehicles, including Interstate 76, 476, 676 and 176.

Also, CNN affiliates are reporting that Baltimore's mayor has now banned travel on all city streets for non-emergency vehicles.

Now, for those of you who are relying on train service during the Northeast blizzard, Amtrak is offering limited service for Boston, New York and Washington. Most of the service south of Washington is canceled.

And as Chad Myers just mentioned, this winter season is officially one for the record books. The following places have set snowfall records -- Baltimore-Washington Airport, with more than 72 inches; Dulles Airport, outside of Washington, had 72 inches; and Wilmington, Delaware with almost 60 inches falling so far. Philadelphia and Atlantic City are close to breaking their all time records for snow, as well.

And let's go to Hazleton, Pennsylvania now, at the junction of I-81 and I-80. It was supposed to be closed five hours ago, but there's still traffic moving. And we're going to toss it back now to Wolf because -- let's see, Wolf, are you back indoors now?

I know that you were pretty cold out there on the balcony.

BLITZER: It's good to be back inside, Lisa.

Good to go outside, better to come back inside.

Stand by.

I want to talk about this weather with WBRE reporter Jeff Chirico.

He's out there.

How bad is it where you are -- Jeff?

JEFF CHIRICO, WBRE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's coming down like it has all day, Wolf. And a little bit south of here, I know they're talking over two feet of snow in the Sculpow County (ph) area.

BLITZER: If you take a look at the -- there's been some accidents where you are and the -- the driving is really horrible.

What's the latest on that front?

CHIRICO: Yes, the driving is bad. We actually, earlier today, saw a plow truck crash. Another plow truck come to try to pull it out. They got stuck. Treacherous -- driving is treacherous.

What's interesting is I'm at the intersection Interstate 81 and 80. Now, all traffic south of this point right behind me is supposed to be closed. But although the governor ordered this part -- part of the road closed five hours ago, you can see right behind me, people are still coming and driving.

I asked Penn Dot why the road has not been blacked -- blocked off. They can't give me an answer. And the state police right behind me, they say they don't have the answer.

So five hours later, after Governor Ed Rendell orders it closed, traffic is still flowing through those portions of 81 that are supposed to be closed.

BLITZER: It's an awful situation there in Hazleton. WBRE's Jeff Chirico.

Guy, thanks very much, Jeff's joining us.

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's down on the National Mall right now here in Washington, DC.

At least you can see the U.S. Capitol behind you -- Brian.

Earlier in the day, it was a whiteout. It was total blizzard conditions. It's eased up.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's eased up a little bit, Wolf, and the snow may be tapering off, but it's very hard to tell because, as you mentioned, the wind gusts are just amazing. And that has really cut down visibility.

It's been a commuting nightmare in Washington all day. This is what a government ghost town looks like -- the Capitol closed. Congress not holding hearings. They're postponed. You've got the streets here -- many of them are pow -- are plowed, but still, you've got -- you know, you've got the ice underneath. You've got snow pack here, drifts all over the place.

They're going to have a hard time finding a place to put this stuff. Look down here, the -- the National Mall down by the Monument completely empty. Just a few brave souls walking around.

You know, this is the most sweeping government shutdown, we're told, Wolf, since 1996, that other blizzard that you and I both lived through in this town 14 years ago. About 270,000 government workers are in this town. That's only about 13 percent of the entire government workforce, we're told. But it is a sweeping shut down. And you can -- it's reflected in the traffic. Not many coming in or out of this town right now.

BLITZER: I was shocked when I was driving in earlier in the day. I actually saw some joggers out there -- some very, very hearty souls.

Brian, we're going to check back with you.

Thanks very much.

Other important news happening even as we're focusing in on the weather. African-American leaders have braved the blizzard to tell President Obama what they want.

Just ahead, the meeting and minority jobs on the line.

And is the Obama administration in crisis?

David Gergen has helped past presidents survive political nightmares. His advice for the White House -- we'll get you the latest on what's going on.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All job seekers desperately want to find a job. But for African-Americans, the picture -- the pictures of economic pain run especially deep. The lines of joblessness and frustration are especially long when you look closer at these numbers.

The unemployment among whites is just under 10 -- under 9 percent, I should say, and just under 13 percent for Latinos. But for African- Americans, the jobless rate is a whopping 16.5 percent.

That's why some African-American leaders braved the bitter cold and the snow to get to the White House today, to tell President Obama, you must do whatever you can to help chronically poor and jobless communities.

Let's go to the White House.

Our correspondent, Dan Lothian, has more on what's going on -- Dan, what happened?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Wolf, I can tell you that this meeting came together very quickly, according to one of the leaders. They sent a letter to the president just before the State of the Union Address and then the White House responded with an invitation to come here.

That's why you saw the Reverend Al Sharpton, also, the president of the NAACP and the National Urban League come here to the White House.

In light of those numbers that you pointed out, this gap in unemployment, much higher for Latino and African-Americans. And so what they want the White House to do is pay particular attention to this group, as they look to creating more jobs, especially to this group that they call chronically unemployed.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE PRESIDENT: There's no doubt that targeting to the chronically unemployed, targeting to the urban communities is something we're going to continue to press. That's why it's very important that we share and we talk with the leaders in Congress and that we sit down with them. Because we want people to know how this great recession -- the worst recession we've had since the Great Depression -- is impacting all communities, but having a very severe impact on urban communities and on the chronically unemployed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Now in the past, some in the African-American communities, including the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have been critical of this administration, saying that the president has not done enough to help African-American communities.

And when the president is asked about this, he will also -- always point out that he's not the president of just African-Americans, but all Americans and that everything that they do to lift Americans and to lift the unemployment situation here will help these inner city communities.

These leaders today say that they realize, they're not asking for special attention just because he's an Africa African-American president. They just want to make sure that when they're looking for this job creations bill -- this job bill -- that African-American communities, these hardest hit communities, are not forgotten -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan Lothian over at the White House.

In the next hour, we're going to be speaking with Al Sharpton. We'll take a -- he'll take us inside into that meeting with the president on what happened.

Dan, thank you.

The Obama administration says creating jobs is job number one.

But might the hardest job be working against a perception -- a perception that the White House is heading into crisis?

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen -- is this a crisis, David?

You've advised four presidents, Democratic presidents, Republican presidents.

Is this a crisis right now?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Wolf, we're seeing the president descend almost slow motion into a crisis. And he has to reverse this arc fairly soon or I think he's going to be in deep trouble.

You know, even as these snows have been falling in Washington, he's been pounded over the last 24 hours from left and right. The labor unions -- labor leaders jumped on him today for inaction on the labor agenda, like Card Check and the failure yesterday of a -- a major nominee to head the National Labor Relations Board. We learned today that in his meeting yesterday with Congressional leaders talking about a jobs bill and what the administration wanted to do to create jobs with tax credits for employers, it was Nancy Pelosi who said, Mr. President, I don't think this is going to work -- feeding into a conservative perception that this is not a -- not a good idea.

On bonuses, he was quoted today in an interview with Bloomberg that's coming out in the next couple days in "Business Week" saying he didn't begrudge these big bonuses on a couple of major banks that have been paid out in the last few days. And then he got jumped on from the left. And Paul Krugman from "The New York Times," the liberal columnist, called Obama -- President Obama "clueless." He said this is -- you know, how he -- he said this is -- we're doomed if -- if this is what the president really believes.

And, of course, there are new polls out -- the latest ABC/"Washington Post" -- which show this arc downward. His -- his -- and if you look at the -- at the averages of the polls in recent days, his disapproval rating has almost passed his approval rating for the first time.

So these are dangerous times for this president.

BLITZER: What does he need to do?

GERGEN: Well, Wolf, there's a lot of focus on shaking up his team. There was a piece by Ed Luce in the "Financial Times" that has caused a lot of -- prompted a lot of conversation in Washington in the last few days.

It's clear to me the president does not want to shake up his team and shakeups don't do any good unless the president wants to do it.

There's an old joke about how many -- how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer -- only one, but the light bulb must want the change. And I see no evidence he wants to do that.

I do think he's got to find some way to -- to shake up the national conversation in the politics. This -- this summit that he's doing on health care is -- it looks increasingly like it may be political theater, as opposed to sort of a game changer in the health care debate. I think he has to -- I think they have to find now one or two initiatives in the White House that move in -- that change this conversation, because he's now -- he's drifting downwards in a way that I think is -- is -- is perilous for him.

So this is when the imagination of a president and his team is really called into question. And I think they have to now be very, very thoughtful about what they do. There are going to be some international events, as we know, tomorrow in Iran, or how -- how to handle that big demonstration -- that massive demonstration in Iran tomorrow; a big, big question, how to handle the nuclear program that the Iranians are launching. They've got this big offensive now that's about to be launched in Afghanistan. Maybe they can find some things there.

But I think they have to find something at home, as well.

BLITZER: It's a critical moment right now is what I'm sensing.

GERGEN: A critical moment.

BLITZER: All right, David.

Thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: David Gergen helping us better appreciate what's going on.

They're not just rumors that New York's governor is talking about, but rumors about rumors.

How bizarre is that for a sitting governor like David Paterson to be denying potential bombshells that haven't even been dropped?

And do you want to track consumer complaints made to the government about Toyotas?

We're going to show you how.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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 shooting at an elementary school in Knoxville, Tennessee, where police say the principal and assistant principal were shot and wounded. Officials say they've both been treated and have a, quote, "good chance of surviving." They say a school employee is now in custody as the only suspect. Now, most of the students had gone home for the day at the time of the shootings.

And NASA is postponing the launch of a rocket carrying a solar observatory. The launch, which has now been delayed three times because of windy conditions in Florida, is set for tomorrow. NASA says the first of its kind observatory will study the sun in greater detail than ever before. Among other things, it will look at the sun's role in safe weather events like solar flares.

And another House Republican is on his way out. Congressman Vern Ehlers of Michigan, who's 76, says he will not run for reelection in November. Ehlers, who is serving his eighth term in Congress, says he wants to spend more time with his family. So far, 15 Republicans and 13 Democrats have announced plans to leave the House, either to run for another office or retire.

And the inspiration behind the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" has died. A Texas hospital says the 12-term Democratic congressman died after suffering cardio-pulmonary arrest. Tom Hanks, you may remember, he played the larger than life Wilson in the 2007 movie. It told the story of Wilson's push to provide weapons to Afghan fighters after the Soviet invasion. Wilson was 72 years old -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I knew him when he was a congressman, a great, great American, a great congressman from Texas, a real larger than life figure and did amazing work. He single -- almost single-handedly helped Af -- Afghanistan set back the Soviet Union after the invasion. And our deepest condolences to his family. SYLVESTER: Yes.

BLITZER: He was a great American.

SYLVESTER: Yes, he was, by all accounts, just this really charismatic figure. And -- and it captures that in the movie. That is one movie that I did see.

BLITZER: Yes.

SYLVESTER: So it's a great portrayal of him.

BLITZER: He was a fabulous, fabulous guy.

All right, thanks very much, Lisa.

Don't go far away.

A top adviser to the president of the United States is coming under fire over the administration's handling of the Christmas terror suspect.

Are critics playing politics with national security?

I'll speak to two influential House members.

And a blizzard of jokes about Al Gore and global warming -- the snowstorm here in Washington, D.C. inspiring the former V.P.'s critics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the so-called snowstorm that we have here in Washington -- it's not a snowstorm by any means. It's a huge snow disaster. It's a blizzard that's been going on here in the nation's capital. It's beginning to let up right now, but the blustery blast of cold and snow is keeping flights on the ground, cars in their places and people in their homes. How long might this last? Stand by.

Also, imagine scandalous rumors if they're floating about you, but you don't even know exactly what's being said? That's how the governor of New York essentially feels. Wait until you hear how he's battling rumors about rumors.

And find out how to track consumer complaints made to the government about Toyota.

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

Before we get the latest on what's happening with Toyota, I want the latest on what's happening with this weather. It's been a horrible situation up and down the east coast. Bill Waddell of WJAC is joining us, one of our affiliate reporters. Where are you, Bill? And what are you seeing? BILL WADDELL, WJAC: Wolf, good evening. We are in Clearfield County, west-central Pennsylvania. We have been battered by the weekend's storm, dumping more than a foot of snow, blizzard conditions throughout the day. We're going to take a live look at interstate 80. What you're looking at is what's left of two separate china chain- reaction crashes. Now, this stretch of highway has been closed down since 9:30 this morning. 15 crash victims were rushed to nearby Clearfield Hospital. At least 30 people in all were injured. We have confirmed that at least one person was killed, and again these emergency responders here in Clearfield county have been dealing with two separate chain-reaction crashes, again 30 people injured, at least 50 tractor trailers and cars involved.

BLITZER: It's been a horrible situation up and down the east coast. Bill thanks.

Let's move on to Toyota. Estimates that it will pay about $2 billion to fix those gad pedals and brakes on recalled vehicles. The cost of the recall, though, could be much, much higher. There are already more than 30 lawsuits in the United States again the car maker for gas pedal problems alone, and Toyota's recall troubles keep growing and growing. Lisa Sylvester is tracking the newest complaints. What are they?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It first started off with the floor mats and then there was a problem with the accelerator, then they recalled earlier this week Prius vehicles for a software glitch that causes braking problems, and at the same time they recalled 7,300 2010 Camrys for problems with a power steering hose. You can go to the national highway traffic safety administration, go in and put in your vehicle, you can go in, put in the vehicle, your year, make, mode model, and up will come the different complaints. We want to give you some of the examples.

You can see people talking about it, this particular individual was talking about braking going over the bumps. This is a common complaint and that's what led to the Prius recall earlier in the week. There was more recently a new problem. This is a problem dealing with Toyota Corollas, 2009-2010. This consumer wrote in saying that the problem is the cars tend to either veer right or left when they're driving, seems to be somewhat of a steering problem. NHTSA says they're aware of it, though they emphasize at this point it's not a full investigation. They want to look into it to see if it warrants a broader review.

BLITZER: Stand by, Lisa. More is coming up on this story.

Also out today, a new alert for Honda owners, the car maker is expanding a recall to replace hazardous air bag inflators, almost doubling the number of vehicles affected worldwide to more than 950,000, it includes 2001, 2001, Accords, Civics, Odysseys, and select Acura TLS.

The U.S. capitol right now, I can personally testify, looking a lot like a ghost town. We'll go through almost the empty halls of Congress where frankly there's not a lot being accomplished right now. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New York Governor David Paterson declaring today and I'm quoting him, I'm black, I'm blind and still alive. His defiant message delivered on the radio as rumors about him keep swirling. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York following the controversy.

It's getting bigger up there, isn't it, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and this controversy has been a bizarre chapter in New York politics. Now New York's governor is addressing rumors stemming from a story about him that to date doesn't exist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: I don't know why I would be resigning.

SNOW: One day after declaring he's not resigning, New York governor David Paterson is on the offensive, beating back a rumored scandal that's mushroomed onto the front pages of new York's tabloids, all rooted in speculation that an upcoming article may drop a bombshell about his personal conduct, but after being interviewed by the Times, Paterson went on "Imus in the Morning."

PATERSON: I was not asked any questions about any of these salacious stories that were so about as outrageous as uninformed sources could produce, and creating what for any public official is a dismal, almost Kafkaesque situation, because you could respond to the rumors about the rumors.

SNOW: It's not the first time he's addressed questions. In 2008, they revealed they both had extramarital relations in the past. Paterson says it was an effort to be transparent when he took over as New York's governor when Eliot Spitzer resigned over a prostitution scandal. By publicly addressing new rumors, Paterson is opening the door to questions like these --

DON IMUS, HOST: Now, my question for you is, since that time, have you in any configuration, had any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with anybody other than your wife?

PATERSON: No.

SNOW: In the interview he dismissed a gossip item that a state trooper found him in a utility closet with a woman.

PATERSON: We don't have a utility room in the executive mansion, and state troopers do not patrol inside the mansion.

SNOW: Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf who was not aligned with any gubernatorial campaigns say the rumors may not have gained as much traction if New York state politics weren't in so much chaos and if the governor wasn't facing such a tough election. HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's not that he's unpopular, people see him as not being up to the task at the moment. That's a very big difference. What it may do if it works out one way or the other is to in fact create a great deal of sympathy for one David Paterson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And he's been critical for the "New York Times" for not speaking out. His office wrote a letter to the newspaper, but the "New York Times" came out with a statement saying obviously we're not responsible for what other news agencies are reporting and it's not coming from the times.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Paterson by the way will be a guest on "LARRY KING LIVE" tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. eastern here on CNN. Mary Snow, thank you.

A Republican skeptic of global warming is calling it Al Gore's new home. A gentle jab at Al Gore and all this cold and snow, our political strategist is standing by to weigh in live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session. Joining us now our CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile the Democratic strategist, and Mary Matalin the Republican strategist. Thanks to both of you for yesterday. Great coverage of the super bowl parade in New Orleans as well. But that was yesterday. Today we're talking Donna about your former boss Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States. A lot of skeptics of global warming are having fun with him right now because of the snowing, blizzard conditions, ice-cold stuff. Senator Inhofe had an igloo built saying it's Al Gore's new home. Is this fair criticism of Al Gore?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There are so many people right now who are in their homes, especially in this region without electricity. I'm sure they understand the difference between day-to- day weather changes versus the long-term implications. Our planet is heating up, the polar icecaps are melting. There's no denying climate change. I hope that Senator Inhofe is having a great time at home, and I hope that pretty soon that Congress will pass real true energy reform.

BLITZER: Maybe the phrase global warming should amend to -- climate change because there are fluctuations.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There has been climate change and ever after will be climate change, but the notion that somehow in under 100 years because of the developments and harnessing of hydrocarbons that man is going to destroy the earth just does not set well with people. The environmental movement has always been about alarmism and exaggeration and the fact that so much of the IPCC has been proved to be refuted in the deletion or distortion of manufacturing of data to make the case for global warming is -- is -- it's not only dead politically, it's flat dead on the political concerning -- the list of political concerns, but people understand they need to continue to harness and develop hydrocarbons which President Obama said in the state of union. He wants further forming of energy that are more mass produced than riding your bike to work with a solar panel on your back.

BRAZILE: President Obama also said in the state of the union, Mary, that he wasn't going to allow the United States to become number two in harnessing the power of the green economy and green jobs and helping transition our economy from an oil-based dependency to one where we can harvest so many of our own natural resources. There's no denies that we have to begin the transition out of the past where we've exploited so much of our planet.

BLITZER: In November of last year, only a couple, three months ago, there was a 16-point spread between who's doing a better job coping with problems facing the nation. How come the Republicans are narrowing that gap? What has happened since November?

BRAZILE: The voters are clearly frustrated Wolf. No question it's about the economy. They want to see our economic growth to continue. They know that Wall Street might be rebounding, but they're worried about Main Street. There's a political gap out there that might be closing, but the economic gap is clearly not closing. Ultimately that will be the driving force this coming electoral season.

BLITZER: What do the Republicans need to do, Mary, to narrow that gap even more?

MATALIN: Well, this is an opportunity, it's not a guarantee of an outcome. This is really a movement not necessarily to Republicans, but away from Democrats. It's moving to independents who any pollster will tell you are not really independent. They're conservative leaning, and the Republicans have to prove they won't just be for jobs, jobs, jobs and produce jobs, but they'll stop this explosion of debt. It is jobs, debt, an agenda that belongs to Obama and Pelosi Reid factions in Congress, and it's up to the Republicans to gather them up and say, look, we're going to get back to basics, back to where you were when you elected us to the majority.

BLITZER: Hold your thought, Donna. We're out of time, about you we'll continue this conversation, Mary Matalin and Donna Brazile.

Over a month after the failed Christmas day bomb attack, there are new complaints about the politics of fear. Are lawmakers engaged in finger pointing, putting our security at risk? I'll ask two key house members, very influential on terror and intelligence issues, Democrat Jane Harman and Republican Pete Hoekstra, they're standing by live.

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BLITZER: The white house today is rejecting calls by Republican lawmakers for the president's top counterterrorism adviser to step down. The deputy national deputy adviser is under fire for the handling of the suspect of the attempted Christmas day bombing attack. Brennan has fired back claiming that they are mixing politics with national security. Let's discuss what's going on with two influential members of the house. Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman is on the Homeland Security Committee. She is chair of the subcommittee on intelligence and Republican Pete Hoekstra is the ranking member of the house intelligence committee. Thank you both for coming in. Congressman Hoekstra, why do you want the president to fire John Brenan?

REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I think you know over the last two days I think that this white house staffer he has crossed the line. What he has said on the Sunday morning shows attacking the Republicans is uncalled for and then following it up with a op-ed piece again attacking the Republicans and saying we are providing comfort for al Qaeda, but what this white house individual is forgetting is that Chuck Schumer has said that the trial of him in new York is a mistake. Arlen Spector came out this week and said that the Christmas day attempted bomber should have been mirandized and they both have specific critiques of the administration. We can debate public policy, but we don't have to make it personal. Jane is with us tonight. Jane and I have worked together for years and we have had strong disagreements in the past and we have never made it personal.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead to make it personal, Jane.

HOEKSTRA: Yeah.

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, are you asking for my response, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. He says that John Brennan should be fired, but I assume you don't want him fired.

HARMAN: That is right, I don't. Peter and I have worked closely over the years and we have had our disagreements and a few weeks of not speaking to each other, but we have always made up like an old married couple and worked on keeping the country safer, but the war of words is not going to keep the country safer. I have said for years that the terrorists won't check the party affiliation before they blow us up, and John Brenan is somebody that Peter and I have known for years. He was the first head of the national counterterrorism center and did well there and worked at the CIA for 25 years and he is doing an admirable job in the white house, and what we need to be thinking about now are ways to improve the ability to do intelligence well, and the message that all of this squabbling is sending to hard-working people in austere places around the world are getting it right. Understand that the Taliban in Pakistan has admitted that we have taken out the leader, Massoud who was partly responsible for the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan. We are doing better and we should not demoralize and create risk aversion by the people working out there by creating a circus in Washington.

BLITZER: What did he say on the Sunday show, Congressman Hoekstra, that was not accurate?

HOEKSTRA: Well, he totally mischaracterized what happened on Christmas day saying he briefed the four leading Republicans in the house and the Senate on what happened with Farouk, the Christmas day bomber and that clearly Republicans knew that this guy was an FBI custody and he would be mirandized even though he did not specifically outline that.

BLITZER: Did he call you that day?

HOEKSTRA: I talked to him on Christmas night.

BLITZER: Did he tell you that the FBI arrested him?

HOEKSTRA: He said that the guy was in custody and talked about the attack on Christmas day, and that this guy was being questioned. And that was about it. He did not have --

BLITZER: Well, let me press you on that Congressman, Hoekstra, because if he says that the FBI has him in custody, can you assume he is mirandized?

HOEKSTRA: No, you can't. Because when the Obama administration was talking about setting up the high-value interrogation unit what they said when they set it up is it is led by the FBI and the high-value interrogation group would decide whether or not this person would be mirandized or not and whether they would go through the civilian process or be put into a military tribunal, so that kind of variability even under FBI control is something that this administration was saying the high value interrogation group would have the discretion to do.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, hold your thought, because I have to take a break, but quickly when he said that the FBI has him in custody, did you ask him specifically about whether or not he had been mirandized?

HOEKSTRA: Oh, you are talking to me.

BLITZER: Yes, on the phone call when John Brennan said he was in FBI custody, and Abdulmutallab, did you ask whether he had been read his Miranda rights?

HOEKSTRA: No I did not.

BLITZER: Was that a mistake?

HOEKSTRA: Well, there were a lot of questions that were not answered. It was a quick cursory overview and as John Brennan said himself on Sunday, we will stay in touch with you Congressman as we move forward.

BLITZER: Both of you hold your thoughts, as we will take a quick break and continue this conversation on the other side. We will be right back.

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BLITZER: We are back with Congressman Jane Harman and Congress Pete Hoekstra both key players on terror and security. Congresswoman Harman agreed with Congressman Hoekstra that the Christmas day bomber should be tried as an enemy combatant say 76 percent, and 19 percent say he should be charged as an ordinary criminal as the Obama administration wants. Who is right?

HARMAN: Well, this argument is wrong and let me tell you why, Wolf. We missed the opportunity after 9/11 to put a clear set of rules around interrogations and detentions of all of the folks arrested after that date. We missed it, and we have been in a hodgepodge system ever since. This man was arrested on U.S. soil, and every single case of someone arrested on U.S. Soil means that he goes into the criminal justice system. There was not just an FBI but an FBI-CIA -- it is a phony argument.

BLITZER: You are in the minority of the 19 percent.

HARMAN: Well, let me respond to some of to things that Peter said in the last segment.

BLITZER: Well, let Pete Hoekstra respond to that. You are in the majority 76 percent, but I take it that he was treated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab exactly the way that Richard Reid, the shoe bomber was treated and he was read the Miranda rights within minutes he was treated in the criminal court, and let me allow Congressman Hoekstra respond to that? Were you responding to that in the bush administration?

HOEKSTRA: Well, you identify exactly the problem, Wolf. Richard Reid was treated that way. There were no alternatives. Since that time, Congress has passed legislation that would allow the Christmas day bomber that there would be a decision that could be made that would put him into military custody, and that way we could have had more valuable information that perhaps would have been actionable and we could have done things in Yemen -- in going after al Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula. We missed the opportunities.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, to be continued. Unfortunately, we're losing your satellite connections right now, but I promised --

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Wolf?

BLITZER: -- both of you will be back to continue this conversation. A little frustrating because of the timing. But we will continue. I promise.

HARMAN: It's frustrating for me, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know it is, Congresswoman Harman. But go ahead, make your final -- we just lost her satellite. That's what I was afraid of. But we will continue this conversation down the road.