Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Sen. Evan Bayh; 'Strategy Session'

Aired February 17, 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, breaking news -- some of the Americans accused of child kidnapping in Haiti, they are now free. We'll have live reports on the judge's ruling and the reaction from the missionaries' home base in Idaho.

Also, exactly one year of the stimulus. The president marks the anniversary by patting his administration on the back. This hour -- the cost, the controversy and the bottom line.

Did the program rescue the economy or waste taxpayer money?

And he says he has no love for Congress, so he's escaping from a system he calls dysfunctional. I'll ask Senator Evan Bayh if his fellow Democrats are to blame for broken government.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM

But first, the breaking news from Haiti. Eight Americans are now allowed to leave the country after being held for almost three weeks on charges of child kidnapping. Two others still are being detained for further questioning. All 10 have proclaimed their innocence, insisting they were trying to help orphans of Haiti's earthquake.

CNN's Dan Simon is in Idaho, where most of the missioners -- missionaries are based.

But first, let's go to CNN's John Vause.

He's joining us from Port-au-Prince -- all right, John, tell our viewers what happened today.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Wolf.

Well, we had this bail hearing before a judge here in this building in Port-au-Prince. It dragged on that the day. The prosecutor -- the attorney general had to present his argument to the judge about whether or not bail should be granted for these 10 missionaries.

A few hours ago, he handed his recommendations to the judge. It all happened very, very quickly. The lawyers then came out and said eight of the 10 are, in fact, free to go. They can leave the country as soon as this is processed. As I understand it right now, that processing is underway at the jail where these American missionaries have been held for almost three weeks now. It should take about another 30 minutes, maybe an hour or so, before they can actually walk out of that jail cell.

But, as you mentioned, two will be remaining behind. That is Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter. The judge, according to the lawyers, wants to know what those two women were, in fact, doing in Haiti on an earlier trip -- why they were here before the earthquake. We're told that could take a couple of days if they want to fast track it. But under Haitian law, we're told they -- the judge actually has a couple months to investigate that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, basically, the bottom line is within the next few hours, they should be allowed to go to the airport, get on a plane or drive to the Dominican Republic and get out of Haiti?

VAUSE: Yes, probably drive, because there's still no direct flights between Port-au-Prince and the United States. They -- now they're going to have to arrange a flight to the Dominican Republic. It's still very difficult.

Don't forget, this country, though, was hit by a 7.0 earthquake. So getting out of Haiti isn't that easy. But, yes, the -- the theory is that they can leave as soon as they're able, as soon as they're out.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you, John.

Thanks very much.

Most of the 10 Americans arrested in Haiti are members of an Idaho-based Baptist Church.

CNN's Dan Simon is in Idaho.

He's joining us now with the reaction.

I suppose in Meridian, Idaho, they're pretty happy right now -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you would think so, Wolf. But no official reaction yet here from the Central Valley Baptist Church. But you would expect that there would certainly be a range of emotions.

You have eight people leaving, but two people who need to stay back, Charisa Coulter and Laura Silsby. The reason why, presumably, Wolf, that they have to stay back is because they're the -- the chief organizers behind this trip. They formulated this plan to build this orphanage in the Dominican Republic some two years ago, we're told. Then, once the earthquake happened, they accelerated their plans. They went down to Haiti right away and they gathered up a group of volunteers. That's how it happened. The earthquake occurred and then word came out through this church, who wants to go to Haiti?

Well, all of a sudden, you had a number of people raise their -- their hands. And, largely, those are the eight people who are being released, Wolf.

I want to tell you that I just got off the phone with a woman named Phyllis Allen. She lives in Amarillo, Texas. Her son, Jim Allen, 47 years old, he's a welder, he is going to be released. She was very ecstatic. She was crying when I talked to her just a short time ago.

I want you to listen to some of that sound. I was talking to her by telephone from this parking lot.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: What have these last few weeks been like for you?

PHYLLIS ALLISON, MOTHER OF AMERICAN DETAINED IN HAITI: It's been awful. But we trusted in God that it would happen.

BLITZER: What would you like to say to your son?

ALLEN: I would just like to tell him that I love him and I'm so proud of him. I'm very proud of him and I can't wait to see him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: So for that mother and, obviously, the relatives of those eight people who were in Haiti, who presumably will be able to get on an airplane tonight and come back to Idaho, obviously, a -- a lot of joy. But -- but certainly sadness for those two people, Charisa Coulter and Laura Silsby -- their families. Their fate very much in limbo because it seems like they're going to have to be in Haiti for a very long time and answer these charges.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens with the two remaining Americans.

Dan Simon, thanks very much.

Let's move to other important news we're feeling. President Obama says this bill signing one year ago exactly today may have saved America from another Great Depression. He and other top administration officials are using this anniversary to declare the economic stimulus package a clear success.

And we're cutting through the spin -- trying to, at least -- tapping into weeks of unprecedented research by CNN's Stimulus Desk.

No one disputes this -- the stimulus package cost taxpayers a lot of money. The price tag for the package, $862 billion. Less than half of that money is in the pipeline. As of last month, over $333 billion had been committed to projects or already spent. Roughly a third of the total stimulus dollars are going for tax benefits, another third to contracts, grants and loans, and another third to entitlement programs. When many Republicans look at those figures, they see a money pit of wasteful spending and giveaways to special interests.

Today, the president fired right back at his critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bill still generates some controversy. And part of that is because there are those, let's face it, across the aisle who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did, even as many of them show up at ribbon cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi.

He's been all over CNN's stimulus project -- after all the research we've done, is it conclusive right now, Ali, one way or another, has the plan been a success or a failure?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It depends. I'll tell you, we have been studying this for a long time.

Has it created jobs?

It absolutely has. We have direct reports. We've been phoning companies, find out if jobs have been created.

The question, Wolf, is the return on investment -- was it worth more than $800 billion for the jobs that have been created and will be created as a result of this, when all that money that you just talked about is spent?

We have economists who have told us that when President Obama took office, the economy was at its worst point. And we know that from the -- the jobs numbers. It was in the -- the numbers were in a tough when -- when he took office.

There are a lot of people who say the cycle works that way, we were at the worst point and we'd have been better off today with or without stimulus. Others say it directly had an impact on jobs created. And yet others say that it is very hard to calculate.

Part of the problem is that the White House, for their own reasons, insist on talking about the number of jobs that were either created or saved. Here at CNN, we are trying to hone in on the number of jobs created. It's hard to do.

The other issue, Wolf, is it's very hard to know what would have happened to the economy if this money wasn't put in. So President Obama today, at the birthday celebrations, said that it saved about two million jobs and it stopped our economy from going into an abyss. It is very hard to know. You can only kind of extrapolate and -- and project from where we were.

Most economists say the -- the cycle would have brought us back, we needed help from the government. One thing that is uncertain is whether this was the most effective way to do it. But at the time, it was urgent. They spent the money. They decided how to spend it. And a lot of people say we'd be worse off if the stimulus money were not spent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because it was interesting the way the president phrased that two million figure today. He didn't say saved or created, he said two million Americans are working...

VELSHI: Two million, right.

BLITZER: -- today because of the economic stimulus package.

VELSHI: Right. That's not nec...

BLITZER: And I guess...

VELSHI: That's not new jobs.

BLITZER: Right. He said two million Americans are working today who would not be working if there had not been an economic stimulus package.

VELSHI: Right.

BLITZER: Here's the question, Ali -- is the president telling us the truth?

VELSHI: Well, it is disputable as to what that number is. The ranges -- the estimates range from 800,000 on the low end to 2.4 million on the -- on the high end. And these are economists who are making these estimates. So it's hard to know exactly what the numbers.

I wouldn't say that the president is not telling the truth. The issue is how you decide what was saved and what was created. That's the tough part, because you want to try and divide the number of dollars spent by the number of jobs created, that's a tough thing to do.

There are some -- a lot of this money was spent on extending unemployment benefits for people, food stamps and things like that that were necessary for the time that we were going through. They don't necessarily result in brand new jobs created -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. The president makes a fair point, that a third of the $800 billion or so went for tax cuts for 95 percent of working families; a third went for health re -- for health care benefits for those who are unemployed...

VELSHI: Yes.

BLITZER: -- increasing unemployment benefits for those. And the final -- the final third went for actual sorts of -- sort of projects...

VELSHI: Right.

BLITZER: -- shovel ready projects, if you will. So it's a lot more complicated than meets the eye.

VELSHI: It's substantially complicated. I did speak to Jared Bernstein, who's the economic adviser to the vice president, earlier. And I did put this question to him.

Just listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JARED BERNSTEIN, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT: For the first three months of this year, average job loss was 750,000 per month. For the first three months of January 2 -- January, February, March 2009. That's a fact. But, look, I can tell you -- and you said it yourself a moment ago -- was that at the end of this year, that loss rate had been diminished to a rate of 20,000 in -- in the past month. That's still too many jobs lost. But that's the kind of pulling back from the brink that this Recovery Act has helped to accomplish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Well, I wish -- I wish I could give you a more exact response to your answer, but the fact is, we're living in a world of estimates now as to what effect the stimulus bill had on the economy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ali.

We're going to check back with you.

No simple answers, tough questions, important questions.

VELSHI: Yes.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

Guess who wants a seat at the Tea Party?

Members of the Republican establishment are eagerly courting activists who hate the status quo.

Just ahead, what the GOP is trying to prove.

And new fuel for skeptics of global warming -- some big corporations may be giving up the fight and leaving President Obama in the lurch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack. CAFFERTY: Wolf, the facts have been staring us right in the face for a good long while now. Our skyrocketing national debt will eventually take this nation down if Washington refuses to act.

The president of the Federal Reserve bank in Kansas City warns of a new financial crisis if the U.S. doesn't address its growing debt problems. He says mounting deficits could lead to inflation. And if that happens, the Federal Reserve will be forced to raise interest rates, which will then make paying the interest on our more than $12 trillion national debt next to impossible.

At 5 percent, the interest on $12 trillion is $600 billion a year, for which we get nothing. The government must either cut spending or raise taxes or both. Those are the only ways to address the expected deficit this year alone of $1.6 trillion.

Last Friday, behind closed doors, out of sight of the prying eyes that would contribute to transparency, President Obama signed a bill raising the national debt ceiling to more than $14 trillion.

Another ominous sign that U.S. debt is unsustainable -- foreign demand for U.S. Treasuries fell by a record amount in December, with China selling off more than $32 billion in Treasuries. China is saturated with U.S. Treasuries, which could force us to look elsewhere to finance our debt -- Japan, Great Britain -- maybe for a while, but how long before they say no?

President Obama is planning to sign an executive order tomorrow that will set up a debt panel. This bipartisan commission is meant to come up with ways to reduce the deficit. It's a nice idea, but in reality, it is meaningless.

The Senate already rejected a stronger version of this panel which would have actually had the power to force Congress to act. The president's commission won't have the power to force Congress to do anything, so they won't. In other words, another empty political gesture that means absolutely nothing.

So here's the question -- how confident are you Washington will address our skyrocketing debt?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people are really, really nervous down the road, this debt is getting out of control.

Jack, thanks for raising the question.

Could it be the people Republicans should fear most are not Democrats, but angry and activist conservatives?

Some Tea Partiers are mad as ever and not willing to take it anymore. And some believe the Republican Party is abandoning conservative ideals. So the head of the GOP is meeting Tea Partiers and, apparently, meeting some of their demands.

Let's bring in our national correspondent, Jessica Yellin -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if not meeting the demands, certainly listening closely. These days, Tea Party activists seem to be the apple of the Republican Party's eye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will eat away until freedom.

YELLIN (voice-over): Tea Party activists -- they're independent, outspoken and suspicious of everyone in power.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I caution against allowing this movement to be defined by any one leader or politician. The Tea Party movement is not a top down operation.

YELLIN: Message -- the Republican Party shouldn't take them for granted. Now it's not. Party Chair Michael Steele just held three hours of Q&A with Tea Party leaders.

So how did that go?

LISA MILLER, TEA PARTY ACTIVIST: Unfortunately, in my opinion, it is -- this is not where the solutions lie. The solutions lie in your own state and in your own towns.

QUESTION: So do you all leave here as loyal Republicans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Citizens.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Citizens.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Citizens that are engaged in the process.

YELLIN: The activists called it a healthy conversation. In a statement, Steele agreed, saying: "We share a common purpose. I look forward to continuing to build on this discussion."

He's not the only one.

Also courting the Tea Party, this group of establishment Republicans, who met outside Washington to reaffirm the party's conservative credentials. EDWIN MEESE, FORMER REAGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: The urgent task of the conservative movement today is to come together and confront those in power who are trampling on the Constitution and our -- and our unalienable rights.

YELLIN: The latest CNN poll shows 11 percent of Americans identify themselves as Tea Party activists.

So why are national heavy-hitters courting them?

Well, it's a natural constituency for the Republicans -- voters they wouldn't want to lose. The last time an anti-tax and spending splinter group of Independents broke away from the party, they got behind Ross Perot -- leaching voters from Republicans and helping deliver a victory to Bill Clinton. The party does not want that to happen again.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

YELLIN: And, Wolf, our CNN poll also took a snapshot of the average Tea Party activist. And here's what we found. They tend to be male -- 60 percent male, 80 percent white, and if not white, likely Hispanic rather than African-American. Now, 40 of Tea Partiers are college graduates. The States compared to 28 percent, which is the national average. And they tend to identify as more Independent than Republican. However, overwhelmingly, they say they would vote for a Republican in the next Congressional election.

Now, some general data -- most Tea Partiers actually earn more than the average American; they tend to be suburban or rural, not urban; come from all parts of the country except for the Northeast; and, by far, the biggest religious affiliation -- Protestant or non- Catholic Christian -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting information, Jessica.

Thank you.

From Tea Partiers to another brewing debate, the back and forth over global warming.

Could new revelations provide ammunition to climate change skeptics?

Two major oil companies and another major corporation are pulling out of a lobbying group that's pushing for climate change legislation -- something President Obama wants. BP and ConocoPhillips, along with the earth moving equipment maker, Caterpillar, cite various reasons for pulling out.

Meanwhile, climate change critics may also latch onto this. The United Nations leading panel on global warming recently apologized for poorly substantiated claims in a 2007 report warning that land glaciers could melt by the year 2035.

However, the U.N. panel says this admission is not an excuse to question the legitimacy of global warming science.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen -- David, you're here in Washington. You're over at the White House right now meeting with officials, not only at the White House, but elsewhere.

Is it your sense that Congress has lost the momentum to get any legislation passed on climate change?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Yes, very strongly, Wolf, and for the reasons you cite. It's interesting, on a day when the president met with his national security advisers and had encouraging reports on Afghanistan and Pakistan, there also is a sense here among his advisers that on a -- on a front of energy and the environment, which is both international and domestic, he is running in now into a tougher environment and a tougher situation on Capitol Hill. Ever since Copenhagen, things have been going downhill, frankly, for the White House on this front.

And the most recent things, this -- this attack on the intergovernmental panel on climate change, the U.N. panel, from a White House point view, has been blown out of proportion. They say, look, in a 3,000 page report, there was one serious error in that report. And that was about Himalayan glaciers and how rapidly they're -- they're melting. And the report said they're going to melt by 2035. And, in fact, some numbers got twisted and it's 2350. It's a big difference. But that -- and that has caused these issues.

But there are other questions about the report -- the sloppiness of the report that are being seized upon by skeptics -- climate skeptics. And -- and they're putting the administration on the defensive and making it much harder to get a climate bill. I don't think they're going to get one this year.

And, in turn, Wolf, there is a -- there is a recognition here at the White House and at the State Department that if the president can't get climate legislation through this year, it weakens his hand as an international leader in trying to bring an international compact together to fight global warming.

So there is a -- this is -- it's not getting a lot of attention right now in the national press corps, but it's -- it is a significant issue for the administration.

BLITZER: Yes. And, certainly, if he doesn't get health care reform, he doesn't get climate change legislation, he doesn't get a jobs bills -- all of these could compound some of the problems this administration is facing.

We'll continue this conversation later, David.

Thanks very much for coming over to the North Lawn of the White House for us.

GERGEN: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: He was one of the most powerful lawmakers in Congress, so what exactly caused his death?

Regarding the late congressman, John Murtha, we're now learning that there is an investigation underway.

Could it result in a shocker about how he died?

And Indiana Senator Evan Bayh -- after his retirement surprise,

I'll ask if Congress is failing or if the majority Democrats are failing.

Stand by.

(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, there will be an investigation into the death of the late congressman, John Murtha. The National Naval Medical Center will conduct an in-depth review of the care he received during gallbladder surgery. A source close to the congressman tells CNN doctors hit his intestines during what was supposed to be a routine operation.

And Toyota's massive recalls could get even larger as the company investigates power steering complaints on its popular Corolla model. A Toyota executive says it's not clear what exactly may be wrong in the compact car or how many need repairs. It appears, though, that the -- those US-based executives will also be handling questions from Congress. Toyota's president says he does not plan to attend the hearings.

And the Florida strip club's latest advertising trick, well, it's leaving a -- a lusty wake. There you see it there. It's a large see- through truck filled with exotic dancers and it's making late night treks through Tampa. Las Vegas drove that very same truck out of town last year. But Tampa officials say it's not violating any laws as long as the dancers keep what little clothes they do have on and they keep it on. And they're -- they're not wearing a whole lot there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: No. It must be a popular truck, though.

Thanks, Lisa.

For New York's embattled governor, the other shoe has finally dropped, but it didn't leave much of a thud.

Did David Paterson fight those sleazy rumors for nothing?

And Senator Evan Bayh dropped a bombshell on fellow Democrats by announcing his retirement. Now we want to know if Senator Bayh blames his own party for the dysfunction he's leaving behind.

Stand by for my interview. The senator is joining us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the shocking good-bye not spelled B-Y-E. We're spelling it B-A-Y-H. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is here after his retirement surprise. I'll ask if Congress is failing or if the majority Democrats are failing. Stand by.

Virtually everyone expected a bombshell, but it's landing like a political dud. That long awaited "New York Times" piece that some thought might damage New York's governor, David Paterson -- it's now out and it may be getting stronger reaction for what it does not say than what it does.

When Senator Evan Bayh suddenly announced his retirement this week, he became the new face of discontent with the way Congress works or doesn't work. As CNN gears up for a week-long "Broken Government" investigation, we're joined now by the outgoing senator from Indiana, Democrat Evan Bayh.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The chairman of the Democratic Party, your party, Tim Kaine, was on "AMERICAN MORNING" earlier today, and he said you're completely wrong when you say Congress is not getting anything done. He has a list of all of the very important things Congress has done this year. Do you want to respond to that?

BAYH: Well, Tim Kaine is a good man. And it's true that some things have gotten done over the last year, no doubt about that, but not nearly enough has gotten done. And I don't blame the Democratic Party for that.

I was listening to your intro, and I certainly don't blame the president. He's making an honest effort to reach out. But it takes two to tango. I chalk most of this up, Wolf, to the fact that, you know, on the Republican side, they need to be statesmen and -women and step forward. They have got some political advantages now going their way.

But they need to put some of that aside to get the public's business done: with regard to getting the deficit down, for example; getting the economy moving once again.

And on our side, we have got some very fervent Democrats, they're good people, but they have got to realize that some progress is better than none, and not always have these litmus tests if you can't get 100 percent.

So, you know, I think Tim is right, there have been good things done, but a lot more needs to be done. And I think you can just look at the public opinion polls to understand the American people agree with that.

BLITZER: He cited the economic stimulus package, which he credits with helping to turn the economy around, moving it away from the brink of a great depression. He cites the equal pay for women legislation that became the law of the land, extending health care benefits for about 8 million children -- poor children, increasing health care benefits for other poor people.

Those are important things that Congress did this year.

BAYH: Those are very important things, Wolf, but those were all done about a year ago, and it has been a long time. And we've got more progress yet to make. And regrettably, the two sides are just getting entrenched. It's a little bit like tribal warfare, unfortunately, where each side is just trying to beat the daylights out of the other and forgetting, Wolf, at the end of the day, we're all Americans first, not Democrats and Republicans, but Americans. And--

BLITZER: Do you want to name names? Who is the -- who is really -- you say the president is not responsible, the Democrats aren't responsible, you say Republicans are responsible. Go ahead and name some names. Who is to blame for this?

BAYH: Well, you know, look, I'm not -- there's plenty of blame to go around. And, you know, I'm not going to call people out on national television, but I will say this. The two most recent examples, and I think Tim would probably agree with us if he were on the air here, we had a vote on a deficit and debt reduction commission that had been endorsed by many on the other side of the aisle.

The president was reluctant to offend some in Congress, but stepped forward and said, no, this is a good idea, I'm for it. The minority leader had endorsed it a year ago, said, yes, this is the kind of thing we had to do. Then when it came up for a vote, Wolf, it would have passed, bipartisan, Democrats, Republicans together, it would have passed.

But seven people who had co-sponsored the bill decided, nah, for short-term political reasons we're not going to be for it. And the minority leader decided, you know what, I don't want the Democrats to look fiscally responsible before the election. OK? It's that kind of gamesmanship that's not right.

On the jobs bill, that's the American people's top priority, top priority, and so a proposal was being worked out, Max Baucus was working with Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch was working, you know, another good Republican, many Democrats, putting together something that wasn't what everybody wanted, but it was going to make a significant difference. What happened?

BLITZER: But Harry Reid -- Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, the majority leader, he backed off that jobs bill, didn't he?

BAYH: Yes, but look, I don't think Harry is to blame on this one. I think Harry wanted to go forward and get something done. Here's what happened, Wolf. Right on the cusp of them getting something done, once again, because of short-term political calculations, the minority leader decided, you know, I like some of the things that are in there, but I'm not going to come forward and actually endorse the thing, because I want to reserve the right to kick the Democrats in the shins on the thing.

BLITZER: How much blame--

BAYH: Now -- now--

BLITZER: You're a--

BAYH: Let me be even-handed here. On our side, there were some people who -- they are good people, but they decided, you know what, there are tax cuts in there for business to create jobs and we don't like tax cuts, and you know, business has had enough, and we'd like to do it another way, even though this was the only way we were going to get something done.

So it's that kind of--

BLITZER: But to be fair, you're blaming some of your liberal colleagues as well?

BAYH: Some of them were allergic to tax cuts for businesses to create jobs. They feel that, you know, more direct government spending is a better way to go. That's a legitimate debate. My point simply is if you can't get what you want, well, this proposal was better than nothing, at a time when the American people are crying out for action for job creation and getting businesses moving once again.

Let's -- as the old adage is, the cliche, don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. That happens too much to often around here.

BLITZER: All right. Let's look ahead a little bit. You have $13 million in campaign cash, what are you going to do with that money?

BAYH: Well, I haven't decided yet. I'm going to take some of it to help whoever our nominee is in Indiana. I think we have got a good chance to win that election. And so I'd like to be very supportive financially. I'd also--

BLITZER: How much can you give that nominee legally?

BAYH: Well, I don't know. That's a job for the lawyers. And they haven't gotten back to me yet. As you can imagine, I've been kind of busy the last 48 hours. But I do want to help our nominee. That's number one.

Number two, I would like to help like-minded Democrats, you know, people who want to get things done, who are practical, who want to reach out and forge principled compromises with those on the other side of the aisle, Wolf. I'd like to use some of those resources to accomplish that as well. BLITZER: So basically what I hear you saying, the 13 million, a lot of it if not all of it, you want to give away to fellow Democrats so that they can get elected?

BAYH: Yes, that's one of the things I'd like to do.

BLITZER: And what about you personally? What do you hope to do after -- your life after the U.S. Senate? Where will you be heading? What would be the dream job for you?

BAYH: Wolf, you're channeling my wife. She has been asking me that question for the last 72 hours as well. You know, I don't know. I really have an open mind, Wolf. But I can tell you this, public service, trying to help the people of this country will always be a part of what I do, because that's a part of my DNA.

And fortunately there are ways to accomplish that without being in the United States Senate or in elective office.

BLITZER: Because some are already saying, you know, he's not ruling out becoming a lobbyist. Do you plan on becoming a lobbyist?

BAYH: I do not, no.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note. Good luck to you. You've still got time in the United States Senate. We hope you'll be a frequent visitor here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Now that you don't have to worry about getting reelected, you can speak your mind a little bit more openly, right?

BAYH: Yes, I can. Invite me and I'll do exactly that.

BLITZER: We appreciate it, Senator Bayh. Thanks very much.

BAYH: Take care.

BLITZER: Wait until you hear what happens when George W. Bush and Jeb Bush get together to talk politics. Mary Matalin and Donna Brazile, they have plenty to say about that. That's coming up in our "strategy session."

And a team of alleged killers caught on a security camera at a swank hotel in Dubai, who are they? Did they murder a Palestinian militant leader in cold blood? Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Well, former President Bill Clinton says shorting himself on sleep while working on Haiti earthquake relief probably led to his heart problems. Days after he underwent a medical procedure to unclog a blocked artery, Clinton is already back to work. He says he won't slow down, but he will try to manage his stress a little better. So far this year, this budget year, the United States is more than $430 billion in the hole. The record-breaking pace continues to plague President Obama, who is due to put together a commission this week that will hack away at the ever-growing tide of red ink. This year's deficit is projected to reach nearly $1.6 trillion this year.

If you pay with plastic, listen up. The card act which was signed into law last May makes credit card fees more transparent, but starting Monday, experts say a whole new set of hidden traps could cost you more. Some companies will now charge for purchases made outside the United States, others are raising rollover fees. Experts say the bottom line is you have to read the terms and conditions closely.

And it looks like Tiger Woods will finally break his silence, but his agent says it's going to be on his own terms. Friday the golfer will apologize for his behavior before an audience of friends and associates. It will be Tiger Woods' first public comments since his sex scandal broke in November. I'm sure a lot of people are interested in what he has to say, but the camp is guarding how they're constructing this news conference, not even calling it.

BLITZER: Let's be precise. A news conference is when reporters have a chance to follow up and ask questions. When somebody shows up in front of a camera and reads a speech and makes a statement and then walks away, that is not a news conference. That's simply a statement made to the news media. I want to make sure we're very precise on what Tiger Woods does at 11:00 a.m. Friday morning.

SYLVESTER: Absolutely. Very good point, Wolf.

BLITZER: We shouldn't call it a news conference if he's not going to take questions from reporters.

Is President Obama engaging in a game of political smackdown? Lately he's been more aggressive at taking on Republicans, but wait until you here how the president is calling out Republicans now. Is it smart it or could it backfire?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's let to our "strategy session." Joining us now our two CNN political contributors, Donna Brazile the Democratic strategist and Mary Matalin, the Republican strategist. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Mary, I'll start with you, talk about your former boss, the former president of the United States, George W. Bush. He was in Naples, Florida, giving a speech, together with his brother, the former governor, Jeb Bush. One of the reporters who covered it wrote this, "George W. Bush said more competitive congressional districts are needed so that politicians have to work harder on their campaigns. That, he said, could help diminish the partisanship as political leaders would be forced to focus more on the issues. He said those who call names shouldn't be elected." All right. So when I read that report, it sounded to me, tell me if I'm going too far, it sounds like he's being critical of the tea partiers.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I didn't read it that way at all. There's been a long discussion about redistricting creating untouchable seats, where there's no competition of ideas and it produces Congress people who can walk their party off the edge, like Nancy Pelosi. No one can touch her seat. I took it as part of that discussion. When I think of name-calling, and I'm sure what George W. Bush thinks of when he thinks of name-calling is being called a Nazi or liar or a warmonger, or names that were thrown at him for policies that have been continued by the Obama administration. I know Donna and I agree on this, name-calling is a far different kind of politics than partisanship. There's nothing wrong with being partisan. There's something wrong with vile, personal attacks.

BLITZER: Which is a fair point. Mary, he also refused to be critical of the Obama administration. It's now more than a year since the president took office. Unlike the former vice president, Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush is still holding back. I guess he thinks it's inappropriate at this point for a former president to be critical of the current president. I guess you think that's the right thing to do, right? Let me ask that of Donna.

MATALIN: Sorry.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, let me just say this. The think the former president is clearly trying to walk a fine line and demonstrate that he is ready to move beyond the politics of personal destruction, and to become an elder statesman. We need more elder statesmen, more former political leaders willing to use their time and talent to help lead the way to a better future for all of us. I also think that beyond trying to eliminate all of this hyper- partisanship, we need to overhaul our campaign finance system. I didn't get a chance to watch the smackdown between Joe Biden and Dick Cheney. I heard it was an interesting match, but I was more interested in watching Drew Brees.

BLITZER: That smackdown, they were on alternate TV Sunday shows. It wasn't a direct smackdown between Biden and Cheney. Listen to what President Obama said today on this the first anniversary of the economic stimulus bill. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: The bill still generates some controversy, and part of that is because there are those, let's face it, ace cross the aisle, who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did. Even as many of them show up at ribbon- cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does he make a fair point, Mary?

MATALIN: Well, those individual Republicans are to defend themselves, but essentially the stimulus has kicked a sleeping giant. This is also the one-year anniversary of the tea party movement. It's the first day of the Mt. Vernon statement, which is a reassertion of constitutional conservativism, so this is essentially a big conflict and a welcome one between those who would use public debt, increase public debt to stimulate the economy, and a party that says that the private sector creates jobs.

BLITZER: He was pretty political today in some of the speech he delivered going after the Republicans. Is that smart on the eve of this big bipartisan summit on health care next week here in Washington?

BRAZILE: You know, I thought today the president should have talked about how 100 million households have benefited from the stimulus, from first-time home buyers to car buyers, to those who needed a lifeline. 22,000 of our fellow citizens were losing their jobs every day a year ago when the president signed this bill. Today, less than 45,000, that's still far too many. The president should talk about how this is helping ordinary Americans. It's been a lifeline to state and local governments, and leave the politician to Mary and I. He should just rise above the petty politics and really talk about how this program is helping ordinary people.

BLITZER: We know that Donna and Mary had a great time at Mardi Gras.

BRAZILE: We had a wonderful time.

BLITZER: We have the video evidence to prove it, which we're not going to show.

MATALIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

How gun shops are trying to prevent lost or stolen weapons to be used by criminals. New rules are stirring up controversy in a stronghold with the NRA.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is how confident are you that Washington will address our skyrocketing debt?

David writes from Virginia, "Not confident at all. There are only three ways to do it, one raise taxes, two, cut spending, three devalue the currency and just print money. If you are a politician any of the above will cost you your job."

Thomas writes from Abilene, Texas, "I have little confidence once Washington sets up a panel or commission, you know that nothing will ever get done. How stupid do the politicians think we are? Now, if they named a czar, then, then we would be talking about serious stuff." Pete in Georgia says, "They will only address it after the next election cycle. We will then get a whole new and improved collection of lies and promises. Some things never change. This happens to be one of them."

Ted writes from Oregon, "Neither party has any incentive at all to bring down the debt. Arthur average who makes $35,000 a year has no weapons to fight against individual and corporate wall streeters who spend hundreds of millions to maintain the rules just as they are. We vote them in, and then the money buys them."

Steve in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, "I am confident that the people who hold our debt will address it first, and it is not going to be good."

Jay writes, "Why are your panties in a bunch, Jack. In a recession or depression, you spend money to boost the economy and taxes are down because fewer people are paying and the rest are paying less. As the economy improves tax receipts go up, and then it is time for deficit reduction programs, and not now, the sky is not falling."

Peter says, "Relax, Jack, it is only money. Cheney said that deficits don't matter. Would he lie to me?"

If you want to read more on the subject go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: And a lot of people love to read your blog, Jack and they should.

CAFFERTY: I read it every night and it makes me go to sleep.

BLITZER: I love to hear from the viewers. Thank you, Jack.

U.S.-led forces are gaining ground on the Taliban. That is what we are told. We are in the trenches with the U.S. marines in Afghanistan for this major offensive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The wait is over, but the speculation is not. We are talking about all of the rumors that were swirling around New York's governor and the newspaper piece that many believed would address those rumors. We go straight to Mary Snow in New York working the story for us. There was a development today, Mary, what happened?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that much-anticipated New York Times story you just mentioned on Governor David Paterson is out, but what rumored to be a bombshell wasn't, and now there are questions about what this all says about the media.

BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: It is what is not written about David Paterson in a front page of a New York Times story is gaining attention. In a rumor that "The New York Times" would drop a bombshell to force Paterson to resign focused on his aide. Not mentioned are many of the salacious rumors that made front page news last week. Paterson was forced publicly to announce he would not resign. He appeared even on "LARRY KING LIVE."

GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: It is like a Kafkaesque scenario, Larry.

SNOW: The Times story alleges a Paterson aide has a history of drug arrests as a teenager and alleges more recent domestic violence. Paterson defended his aide and in a statement said, "The conclusions reached by the Times report are not supported by the facts." In the end how damaging is this to Governor Paterson?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think it damages him at all.

SNOW: CNN contributor Errol Louis says if there is a string of stories like this, it could spell trouble for him, but --

LOUIS: I think it's going to get a certain amount of sympathy from people who are suspicious of the media, because this story has jerked a lot of people around, frankly. Yanked a lot of people's chains and said to be some big story that everybody in New York need to know about.

SNOW: Sympathy could come as a backlash against the media. Paterson and critics called on the "Times" to publicly dispel the rumors, but the Times says it is not responsible for what other people are reporting. And the newspaper agreed, asking "What if the next time they were looking into a scandal of a public figure, and silence then would speak volumes. The demands for comment on work in progress would be limitless." Media critic Howard Kurtz host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" agrees with the New York Times. He says the whole episode is a troubling sign for what may lie head.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The idea that publications and web sites could throw out allegations at a public figure based on a rumored story that a newspaper, might, might public represents a new low for journalism. If this is the new reality with campaigns coming up this year, I think that it shows you yet again why so many people resent the media.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: As for David Paterson and whether "The New York Times" or any other stories are planned a spokeswoman said that is something that the newspaper would not discuss.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you.