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Tiger Woods Apologizes; Suicide Flight into Building; Health Care "Knocking Me Around;" Red Meat for Republican Right

Aired February 19, 2010 - 17:00   ET


T. HAGGARD: That's why with Tiger, we need to have grace on him and encourage him...

SANCHEZ: I understand. And I'll tell you what, you guys have been through hell and back. And I understand that you've lost everything and -- including your friends, your church associates and everything else. So it's courageous and instructive for you to come on and share your story, as you have with us here on CNN.

Ted and Gayle Haggard, good luck to you.

Good luck, Gayle, with the book and hopefully we'll be able to catch up once again.

T. HAGGARD: Thank you.

G. HAGGARD: Great. Thanks.

T. HAGGARD: We'd like that.

SANCHEZ: Here now is Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf, over to you.

BLITZER: Rick, thank you.

Happening now, the world heard Tiger Woods' apologize for his infidelities.

Are his fans and his critics buying it?

This hour, veteran sports reporters Pat O'Brien and Christine Brennan on what's next for Tiger Woods, his family and his career.

Woods joins an elite group of powerful men who acted as though the rules didn't apply to them. We'll talk about the temptations of power and the challenges of crisis management without our strategists, Paul Begala and Leslie Sanchez.

And people who fly small planes could face big changes after the suicide flight into a Texas office building. New demands for a crackdown on pilots with potentially deadly problems.

Are aviation officials listening?

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

For about 13 painful minutes, the world's greatest golfer finally faced the world and owned up to his stunning fall from grace. Tiger Woods apologized repeatedly. He acknowledged cheating on his wife, sought privacy for his family and eventually redemption by his loved ones and his fans.

Listen to some of the most powerful moments from Tiger Woods' carefully scripted appearance in Florida.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I want to say to each of you simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in. I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children.

And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say.

Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will come in the form of words, it will come from my behavior over time.


BLITZER: He certainly blames himself, but he also took a shot at the news media.


WOODS: I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made -- have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before.

It's now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made. It's up to me to start living a life of integrity.

I once heard -- and I believe it's true -- it's not what you achieve in life that matters, it's what you overcome. Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count.

Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids. I owe all those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry.

I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children. They have been kept separate from my sponsors, my -- my commercial endorsements. When my children were born, we only released photographs so that they -- so that the paparazzi could not chase them. However, my behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom.

Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone.


BLITZER: And you saw his mother sitting right there in the front row.

Let's bring in our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti.

She's in Florida. She's on the scene there.

This was all very, very carefully orchestrated -- Susan, set the stage for us a little bit.

What happened?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it certainly was. You know, the media presence here was simply massive -- more than 200 reporters from as far as away as Japan and -- and even Norway. But they couldn't have been that far away, because we didn't get very close to Tiger Woods at all.

You see that building over my shoulder?

That's a hotel ballroom that's at least a half a mile away from the clubhouse where Tiger made his apology. Everything, as you said, tightly controlled and arranged by the PGA.

I'd like to show you inside that ballroom. This is where the media was kept. And that was part of the arrangement made by Tiger Woods' representatives and the PGA.

Inside that room, you could hear a pin drop, as reporters watched Tiger make his statement without taking any questions at all. You could hear a pin drop in that room. They took notes on their computers and writing down, of course, every time he said, "I'm sorry."

And after that apology was over, the PGA commissioner came to the ballroom, talked to reporters. And I asked him how he felt personally being in the room with Tiger when he made his apology.


TIM FINCHEM, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: At the end of the day, you know, he's a human being. We all make mistakes, we all have made mistakes. And -- and when we're lucky, we learn from those mistakes.


BLITZER: He did leave open the possibility that even this year, he would return to playing golf -- Susan.

CANDIOTTI: That's true. Tiger said he's starting therapy again tomorrow. He's already been getting therapy, he said, for 45 days. But he said he wants to return to golf. He won't be pinned down, however, about a date.

And the thing is, we're also curious to hear from other players on the tour. Some of them have been critical of Tiger Woods this week, saying they're sick and tired of hearing about this. Others said at the big tournament, the Accenture tournament in -- in Arizona that the timing of this was bad, right in the middle of this play -- player tournament going on out there.

One of the all time champs who weighed in on it, Nick Faldo.


NICK FALDO, GOLFER: Well, it was a pretty complete apology and very -- you know, extremely embarrassing, I can imagine, to stand on a world stage and have to apologize for what he'd been up to for the last however long. So that must have been extremely difficult for him. So that -- you know, he did his -- he did his best job there. But still, he still left the big question that we, as golfers, all wanted to know, when he's coming back to golf.


CANDIOTTI: You know, Wolf, make no mistake about it, the players want him back, the PGA wants him back and I'm sure a lot of fans want him back, too. I mean the game has been taking a hit financially without him -- loss of revenue and TV ratings are down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti.

We're going to check back with you.

And I want our viewers to know they can see and hear Tiger Woods' full statement in our next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM and, also, later this hour, we'll get analysis and reaction from Christine Brennan and Pat O'Brien, two veteran sports reporters who know this subject well.

Meanwhile, another apology today, this one from the wife of the man who flew his plane into a Texas office building. In a statement, Sheryl Stack expressed her sincere sympathy to the victims and their families. Joe Stack's suicide attack left at least one other person dead and two people in the hospital. And it raised a lot of questions about security for smaller planes and their pilots.

Our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is looking closely into that.

What are you learning -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two bodies have now been recovered in the rubble of the IRS office building. Their identities have not been made public. And the National Transportation Safety Board today transferred control of the investigation to the FBI given the apparent criminal nature of the event.

One question being asked, could another event like this be prevented?


MESERVE: (voice-over): A small Piper Cherokee did all this -- renewing questions about whether there should be tighter security regulation of small aircraft.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: It's an -- an issue, obviously, that Congress needs to look at in terms of -- of protecting not only federal buildings not only federal buildings, but the American people.

MESERVE: McCaul says he does not favor regulation, but new security requirements for large general aviation aircraft, like charter jets, were already in the works. Small planes like the one that flew into the IRS offices in Austin will not be included. The people who own and fly them say they shouldn't be.

CRAIG FULLER, AIRCRAFT OWNERS & PILOTS ASSOCIATION: I don't believe that tighter regulation is going to deter these rare, rare instances of individuals determined to kill themselves, whether they use an aircraft or another kind of vehicle.

MESERVE: In order to fly, pilots need to pass a medical exam, which includes psychological questions. Pilots' names are continuously run against terror watch lists. Eighty-five percent of general aviation airports have programs similar to Neighborhood Watch to detect suspicious activity and many have perimeter security like fencing.

But none of it stopped Joseph Andrew Stack from slamming into a building Thursday morning.


MESERVE: Pilots have argued for years that an SUV packed with explosives could do more damage than a small plane. But the Austin crash did plenty -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of speculation out there, Jeanne, that this plane and the regular fuel -- even though it had a full fuel tank -- couldn't have done this kind of damage, there must have been some other stuff on that plane, whether explosives or whatever, that could have caused that kind of damage to that building.

What are you hearing?

MESERVE: Well, it's a key part of the investigation, Wolf. I'm told that that plane probably carried about 80 gallons of fuel. And people who are familiar with what fuel can do, think this looks a little bit bigger. But nothing definitive from investigators yet as to whether they've found anything else in that wreckage in Austin -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And when you say two bodies have been recovered, we assume one of those bodies is Joseph Stack; another body, an employee who was working in that building, whose identity has not -- not yet been made known, is that right?

MESERVE: That is, indeed, our assumption -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK. Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much for that.

Meanwhile, a surprise today over at LAX, at Los Angeles International Airport, when a small plane made an unauthorized landing there. The FBI says the -- the plane was registered to an aviation brokerage firm in Marietta, Georgia. Authorities reportedly are interviewing the pilot.

President Obama admits he and some fellow Democrats have been knocked around and his political bruises are showing. During his trip to Las Vegas today, we'll talk about his support in the West and why it's going south -- at least right now.

And later, conservative activists are sounding upbeat about their future.

Are they relying on controversial fringe groups to prop them up?

I'll ask an author who's written extensively about the far right.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, same old/same old when it comes to Iran -- "we're not seeking nor do we believe in nuclear bombs."

Ayatollah Khameini says that the Islamic Republic's religious beliefs consider weapons of mass destruction to be symbols of genocide and therefore, they are forbidden.

How different from a draft report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency that suggests just the opposite?

The International Atomic Energy Agency report says that Iran may be working secretly on a nuclear warhead for a missile and lists ways the country has been defying U.N. orders. For the first time, the IAEA states concerns that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons right this very minute.

Iran continues to insist that its nuclear program is meant only for civilian energy and medical use -- sort of like, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

The U.N. keeps passing resolutions against Iran -- three so far. And some nations are now pushing for another resolution.

What do the resolutions mean exactly? I don't understand.

President Obama gave Iran a deadline of the end of the year last year to show they were making progress.

What did that deadline mean exactly?

I don't understand.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows six in 10 Americans think the U.S. should take economic and diplomatic efforts to get Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

Haven't we been doing that already?

I don't understand.

Only about a quarter want the United States to take immediate military action. But if diplomacy does not work, 60 percent support military action; 71 percent think Iran already has nuclear weapons, which is just swell.

Here's the question, what now if the United Nations is right about Iran building a nuclear weapon?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, one week from today, Broken Government -- a Jack Cafferty special. We're going to be talking a lot about this.

Jack, I'm just teasing our viewers a little bit, but one week from tonight, they will see you with a one hour special. Don't tell me anything about it now. In the next hour, we'll talk.

CAFFERTY: I -- I may not tell you anything about it the next hour either.

BLITZER: Or maybe the hour after that.

CAFFERTY: I might keep it all secret.

BLITZER: Maybe the hour after that one.

CAFFERTY: It might be a need to know thing.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Jack Cafferty, thank you.

President Obama was back on the offensive on health care reform in a town hall meeting in Nevada today. He emphasized the importance of not squandering this chance to overhaul the system and he pressed Republicans for their proposals ahead of next week's bipartisan health care summit here in Washington. At the same time, he acknowledged that he and other Democrats have paid a price for prioritizing the issue. One of them is Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, whom the president praised.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You could not have a better fighter on behalf of the people of Nevada than Senator Harry Reid. And I am just proud...


OBAMA: -- I'm proud to call him a friend.


BLITZER: Joining us now, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger -- clearly, the president is doing whatever he can to try to help him get reelected.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Harry Reid is in some real trouble right now. He's polling behind all of his potential Republican opponents in the state. And he's trying to tell the folks in Nevada, look, it's really good to have the Senate majority leader on your side, don't forget that, because he's got a lot of power.

But it's a little tricky, Wolf, because while Harry Reid pushes the president's agenda, he's also differed with him on the size of the jobs bill. The White House was kind of surprised when Harry Reid went from $85 to $15 billion. So there are some things the White House and Harry Reid have to work out.

BLITZER: He's got a bigger problem than Harry Reid, obviously, in the West.

BORGER: Yes, he does. You know, the Democrats have made a lot of gains in the West. In 2008, as you know, the president won Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. They even thought they could have won Arizona if John McCain hadn't been the candidate.

But now they're worried about seats like Harry Reid's in the West. They're worried about Colorado. The White House says the demographics have changed. This isn't your father's West. But folks out there don't like big government. They don't want more taxes.

So it's the economy, but there's also a real ideological edge out there that the White House has to be very, very careful about.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, thank you.


BLITZER: Conservative activists planning their comeback at the CPAC convention that's continuing here in Washington.

But are they attracting the all important Independents or simply turning them off?

Stand by.

And Tiger Woods making his emotional apology -- did he accomplish what he set out to do and when will he return to golf?

We'll get inside from a pair of veteran sports reporters.

Stick around.



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, the FBI has closed its long-running investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings. It concluded a government biodefense researcher acted alone. The FBI believes lone suspect, Dr. Bruce Ivins, sent anthrax-laced letters to lawmakers and news organizations, which killed five people. Ivins killed himself in 2008, as authorities prepared to indict him.

Clear, hold, build -- that's what NATO says is its strategy in taking back the Taliban haven of Marjah. Afghan police are taking over security in parts of Marjah, as U.S. and Afghan troops clear the town of militants. The Marjah offensive is now in its seventh day. This is the biggest one since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

And Haiti's prime minister says the government will take over private lands to build camps for earthquake victims. Aid groups say hundreds of acres are needed to get tens of thousands of quake victims out of crowded makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince. Haitian law provides for the takeovers if they're in the public interest and owners are compensated.

China says President Obama seriously harmed US-Chinese relations by meeting exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama. Beijing summoned the U.S. ambassador today to protest. Still, the White House went to great lengths to limit the impact of the meeting, keeping it low profile and holding the meeting in the Map Room instead of the Oval Office. And, as you can see from this photo, he left via the back door. China accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing Tibetan independence. And you can hear from the Dalai Lama himself on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's Monday here on CNN -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A good exclusive for Larry.

Thank very much for that, Lisa.

Plenty of red meat for the Republican right during day two of the CPAC convention outside of Washington. Conservative activists are planning their comeback and they're hoping to capitalize on voter frustration that we've seen in the polls in recent elections and within the Tea Party movement.

Joining us now from the conference, John Avlon.

He's is the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Highjacking America."

John, thanks very much for joining us.

Is there any indication Independents are flocking over to these conservatives -- the conservatives at the CPAC convention?

JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "WINGNUTS": Well, CPAC is all about conservatives talking to conservatives, Wolf. And -- and you raise a great point because they have a way to bridge. The Independents are fiscally conservative and that's the way that fiscal conservatives here can bridge to them.

But the problem is, this is a conservative movement that's focused mostly on division, not addition, at this point. They are very focused on kicking the Rhinos of the Republican Party out. They're focused on demonizing the Democratic opposition.

So the bridge that they can and I believe should build with fiscal conservatism to translate to a win in November is a secondary thought at this. This is a family gathering. This is conservatives talking to conservatives.

BLITZER: When you say Rhinos, you mean Republicans in name only. That's what the conservatives consider some of the more moderate or even liberal Republicans.

But some of them sort of have a -- a presence at this CPAC convention, don't they, like Governor Tim Pawlenty?

Is -- he's a little bit more of a moderate Republican.

AVLON: Well, that's right. I mean the reality is, is when some conservative speakers today have condemned pragmatism and they said it's the opposite of principle. But you've got Mitt Romney yesterday, who gave a well-received speech, who, of course, was the governor of Massachusetts; riding Scott Brown's coattails, who's a pro-choice Republican.

You've got Tim Pawlenty, a blue collar, blue state governor.

The reality is, is that for a political party to be competitive, as you well know, they need to win the center. They need to practice the politics of addition.

But movement politics tend to be all about ideological enforcement. And this is very much an ideological -- you know, there's an element of ideological purification that runs through these sorts of rituals. So you've got attention. You've got the centrists who can win elections outside the base and you've got an ideological movement that wants to focus primarily on playing to the base.

BLITZER: John Avlon.

Thanks very much, John, for helping us better appreciate what's going on at the CPAC convention.

One veteran journalist says Tiger Woods has now hit rock bottom. A lot of opinions today about Woods' statement and whether fans should accept his apology. I'll talk to sports reporters Christine Brennan and Pat O'Brien.

And Woods might want to take a few tips from Bill Clinton. Just ahead, lessons on making a comeback after scandal -- Paul Begala will share his experiences from the Clinton era. He and Leslie Sanchez -- they're here in our Strategy Session.


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

Happening now, close call in the skies -- air traffic controllers scrambling to avert an in-flight collision between two planes approaching a major U.S. airport. You'll hear the terrifying recording. Stand by for that.

A massive cyber attack uncovered -- tens of thousands of computer systems at companies around the world have been hacked and experts say traditional security systems no longer work.

What's it all mean?

What does it all mean to national security?

Stand by for that.

And the wife of that pilot who flew a small plane into a building in Texas yesterday is speaking out now for the first time. We'll tell you what she has to say and update you on the investigation.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Returning now to our top story, an emotional and very public apology by Tiger Woods. With his mother looking on from the front row, his wife absent, the golfing great apologized for his extramarital affair and the scandal that sidelined his career. He spoke about the therapy he's undergoing, his Buddhist faith and his plan to return to golf someday.

Let's talk about it with former sports anchor and entertainment anchor, Pat O'Brien and "USA Today" sports writer, Christine Brennan.

Christine, what did you think?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, "USA TODAY": Well, I'll tell you, we are seeing a man at rock bottom, I think, Wolf. He -- you know, compare the visual of Tiger winning a golf tournament, which is how most people see him. And then to see this today was really an eye-opener. And how far away from golf he is. And, you know, when he mentions golf in, what, the 12th or 13th minute of this thing and a quick mention and hopes to come back someday, this really makes all the talk about, you know, The Masters or the Arnold Palmer Tournament, Bay Hill, you know, just look ridiculous, all this speculation.

This is a man in trouble. I think it was a good first step for Tiger Woods. He has a long way to go. And yet there were still those controlling moments, you know, defiance -- because that's Tiger.

But all in all, I thought it was -- it was kind of breathtaking, some of the things he was saying and the things he had to say, as I -- again, as a first start. Maybe the -- you know, he's on -- it's the tee shot. That was not a hole in one. That's just the beginning of his coming back to, you know, wherever he ends up coming back to.

BLITZER: And I want to go through some of those specifics with you.

The same question, Pat, to you.

What did you think?

PAT O'BRIEN, FORMER SPORTSCASTER: I agree with Christine on a lot of things. I was -- I thought he went a little further than -- than I thought he was going to go.

You know, we put these athletes and celebrities on Mt. Rushmore and expect them to be role models. And I think the role model point today that Tiger did for kids who look up to us -- or all of us who look up to him -- is that it's now how you fall, it's how you get up. And I think Christine is right, this is the very first step of him getting up. And I thought he got up today quite well.

BLITZER: What was his immediate objective on this day, Christine, and did he achieve it?

BRENNAN: I think he probably did. You know, it makes you wonder why we didn't hear this in December or January, although if he's -- as he said, he's been in rehab. So, clearly, that's part of the process here. So I understand why it's now. But you wonder with that vacuum of three months, wouldn't this have been valuable to him in the recovery process, say, in early January?

But here we are in mid-February. I think, you know, grandmothers in Dubuque who changed their Sundays so that they could watch him play golf, you know, do they maybe feel just a -- a hint of -- of, you know, sadness for him?

And, you know, if that's the case -- and I'm guessing there were probably some people that do feel that way, Wolf, then I think that he probably achieved that, again, first step. I mean it's -- the freefall has been so terrible and -- and such a massive fall from grace -- self-induced, of course, that, I mean this is a long story that is now just, you know, beginning to be written. BLITZER: He thought the rules didn't apply to him. He acknowledged that, Pat.

Let me play this little clip.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled.

Thanks to money and fame, I didn't not have far -- I didn't have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me.


BLITZER: I thought that was a pretty impressive statement he made, Pat.

O'BRIEN: You know, of all the people that have been involved in one of these things, including me, I've never heard the word entitlement said so gracefully. I mean that's what it's about. And you -- that he felt entitled that all this was -- was coming to him. And I think the grandmothers in Dubuque will be happy that -- I hope they teach their grandkids that you have to own up to your mistakes.

And he used words like selfish and foolish and, you know, entitlement and -- and I was wrong. He did all the right things.

He also, by the way, answered a lot of questions that I was hoping headline answer, especially about the confrontation with Elin -- confrontation the night -- 70 nights ago; where he's been, Christine, 45 days. That's why we haven't seen him. He's been in -- in rehab.

And I could tell that he -- having been in rehab, I could tell that he's been there and he's been listening. And that's a key thing.

BLITZER: Let me play this other clip, Christine, for you, because it gets to an issue a lot of golf fans want to know about.

Listen to this.


WOODS: I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year.

When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.


BLITZER: Now, he said he's going back to rehab right away now.

How far-fetched is it to -- to think he might play in The Masters this year in April?

BRENNAN: Wolf, I think that that -- now, that is incredibly far- fetched. I would have thought -- and, of course, there was a lot of speculation, as you and Pat know, has been on the Masters and playing maybe a tournament right before that to get warmed up.

Boy, I don't know about you guys, but this sounds like it's a long way off. I -- I mean, I think that the big takeaway from this today Wolf, for sports fans -- for the golf side of this, which, of course, that's what Tiger is, he's a pro-golfer and people want to see him play golf.

I think the big message here is it's going to be a while. I mean to have it mentioned so -- almost as an afterthought, so well into his -- his statement and then to have it be, you know, I plan to come back and maybe this year someday?

Wow! I think we could easily be seeing -- again, I have no idea. This story has -- the twists and turns are amazing. But I think we could easily see the entire year being lost for Tiger Woods.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Pat?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I -- I definitely agree. That's a good point, Christine. You know, I think it's -- I don't think he's going to make the Masters. I mean this is a mind game, golf. And his mind is so far away from golf.

Christine makes a good point, that it was very late in this press conference -- or, press conference -- very late in his statement that he mentioned golf.

You know, he said a very key thing, too, I need to take care of myself on and off the course. And I think that's what he needs to do. Golf, by the way, to him, is pro -- maybe the farthest thing from his mind right now. I think he wants to get his family back together, wants to make sure the media stops hounding his kids. And I think he took the -- the right first steps here.

You know, in -- in recovery, you have a prayer that says grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. And I think he's following that -- that prayer.

BLITZER: He really went on the offensive, Christine, when he told the media, back away, not necessarily, he said, from myself, but from my wife and from the children. And -- and I think that will resonate with a lot of folks out there.

BRENNAN: Well, it certainly resonates with the three of us and where we are work and the kind of standards we have journalistically. I -- I think because it's the 21st century and because of the -- the paparazzi and because of the Internet and all the these Web sites that we never heard of that are now bookmarked on millions of golf fans', you know, computers because of the Tiger Woods saga, I'm not so sure how that's going to go for him.

I mean I hope -- you know, again, I'm not going to chase after him nor his family. I never would. You never would, Wolf. Pat, you wouldn't. But I do think that the reality is that the -- the Internet world -- the tabloid world will have another idea completely on that one.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right.

Pat, give me your final thought. We're out of time.

O'BRIEN: Yes, good luck on shooing the media away and the blogosphere -- blogosphere world. That's impossible. But I think he made a great first step. I've known him for a long time and I was very proud of him today. And, you know, it's -- like Christine said, this is going to be a long, long road. But he's made the right first steps.

BLITZER: Pat O'Brien and Christine Brennan.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

We're going to have the full Tiger Woods statement. We'll air the entire thing -- if you missed it, if you want to see it again -- in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also this hour, we'll get some analysis on damage control -- how should Tiger Woods really be dealing with all of this?

That's coming up, as well.

And later, the cartoon spoof that left Sarah Palin angry and speechless -- now an actress from the animated show, "Family Guy," is firing back.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of only two areas, we have one of only two lakes in the world with...



BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on -- Lisa?


Well, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denies his country is seeking a nuclear weapon. He spoke after touring Iran's new guided missile destroyer. Yesterday, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency warned for the first time that Iran may be working on developing a nuclear warhead. But Khameini insisted Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons, saying Islam forbids weapons of mass destruction.

Senator Frank Lautenberg has been diagnosed with cancer. His office says the New Jersey Democrat has curable lymphoma of the stomach, which will require chemotherapy treatment over the next few months. He is expected to return to work at the Senate between treatments. At 86 years old, Senator Lautenberg is the nation's second oldest U.S. senator.

Well, we are -- a former secretary of State, retired general Alexander Haig, has been admitted to the hospital. A spokesman for Johns Hopkins Hospital confirms the 85-year-old is there and in critical condition. He gives no further details. Haig served in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and was also supreme Allied commander of NATO.

And it's a little girl's best friend -- 3-year-old Victoria Bench's dog Blue may have saved her life -- keeping her warm and safe in the outdoors after she wandered away from her Arizona home yesterday. A search helicopter spotted them early this morning less than a mile from her home. And the hero canine, who you can see here, is a Queensland Heeler.

So very nice to see. What a sweet looking little girl. And we're so glad that she's safe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Thank God for that little dog that helped out in that situation. A happy ending, indeed.

Thanks very much, Lisa.

A rising star in the Republican Party says Americans are fed up with the (AUDIO GAP) confidence in the GOP.

What do conservatives need to do to change that?

We'll talk about it in our Strategy Session.

Stick around.



BLITZER: Let's get to our Strategy Session right now.

Joining us, the Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Paul Begala; and Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez -- Paul, you advised former President Clinton during a crisis involving infidelity.

If you were advising Tiger Woods right now, what would you tell him he needs to do?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, honestly it would be shut up, zip up and tee up. We don't need to hear from him. He doesn't owe me an apology. He doesn't have teammates who he owes. He doesn't have shareholders. He's not a corporate official or he's certainly not a politician.

So I think, you know, he's got to heal himself and he's got to -- my heart goes out to the guy. I'm not a golf fan, OK, but my heart goes out to anybody who's in that kind of pain.

And he certainly looked to me -- I respect Christine Brennan. I'll defer to her. She's an expert on -- on sports reporting. But I agreed with her, that it looked like a contrite thing.

And I think the contrast between him and a politician is pretty extreme. We've now heard more details from Tiger Woods about his problems than, say, we've heard from Senator David Vitter, who has been accused of being -- well, he wasn't accused, he was on the D.C. Madam's list. The D.C. Madam, of course, running a prostitution ring here. He's a United States senator. He should be accountable to the citizens. He should be answering questions about what he was doing on the list of a prostitution ring, people who had been phoning into it.

I don't think Tiger Woods owes us anything.

BLITZER: So you just want him...

BEGALA: He's not a senator.

BLITZER: You just want him to go back and play golf?

BEGALA: Go back and live his life and play golf and -- and, you know...

BLITZER: What do you think?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, GOP STRATEGIST CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's interesting, I spoke to Stephanie Wei, who's a golf blogger, very respected. And she said the best way for him to protect his brand and rebuild it is to go play golf again. I agree with Paul Begala on that.

I think what he did was correct. He did look contrite and sincere. But it should have been done a month ago. That -- in terms of damage control, that would have helped. And there is a different standard for public figures. He has a profession people enjoy watching, versus politicians, which (INAUDIBLE)...


BLITZER: Right. But a lot of fans. You know, he has a responsibility to his fans, too, right?

BEGALA: No. Not -- not to talk about his private life. I just disagree. He has a responsibility to himself, to his game, to his fans, I suppose, to play golf and to play it well. He seems to be extraordinarily good at that. He might be the best there ever was.

But he doesn't owe me anything.

BLITZER: Well, let me play...


BLITZER: Let me play this little clip, Leslie, then we'll pick it up.

Listen to this.


WOODS: I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to.


BLITZER: That's pretty, pretty blunt talk from him in terms of accepting responsibility. He said, I ran straight through the boundaries. You know, that's pretty tough stuff.

SANCHEZ: It's tough stuff. You know, and he said he -- he thought only of himself. I will tell you, there is a bitter pill in this. Just the fact that a lot of the media -- golf media -- is very upset about the way he organized it. But he also held this on the first day of the world Masters, like an national -- an international golf championship, sponsored by Accenture, which was the first group to -- to drop him.

So they're -- they felt it was very selfish. All the media limelight is again on Tiger Woods. And they're bittersweet about the whole thing.

BEGALA: But the media, I think it's hypocritical, right?

Why -- I don't think -- I don't think, as I said, he has any duty to answer.

Why don't the media ask Senator Vitter, though?

He's up for reelection. He's a public official. He crusades and holds himself out as a great conservative Christian conservative leader and yet he's accused of consorting with prostitutes and he won't answer any questions about it. And we in the media have stopped asking.

You know, I think that's -- that's where the questions ought to be focused on...


BLITZER: Quickly, because I want to move on to something else.

SANCHEZ: And as somebody who had to defend Bill Clinton... (CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: -- through all of this...

BEGALA: Who answered everything.


BEGALA: Good lord, the pornography in the Starr report, it was all out there.

SANCHEZ: And we will...

BEGALA: We don't know anything about what Vitter has done to us.

SANCHEZ: We will never forget -- you know, we will never forget about that. It's trying to -- to divert attention to something else. I think the question is there is a different standard for both (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what Eric Cantor said at the CPAC convention today.

I'm going to play a little clip.

He's the -- I think he's the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, the minority whip.

Eric Cantor of Virginia.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: We understand the country is fed up with the Democrats, but is not confident yet that we, as Republicans, will be any better. The people need to see our commitment to enact a reform agenda.


BLITZER: Pretty blunt talk from the number two Republican in the House, that the Democrats are bad, but we, as Republicans, he's not sure, will be any better. The people have to see that.

SANCHEZ: Very true. The approval rating of Congress right now very low. If you're an incumbent, you have a problem going into this election.

But the silver lining in that is that I think both parties are starting to respond. You're seeing the Democrat, I think, give the ruse that he wants to work with Republicans. Republicans understand that they do have, you know, an effort in this fight. They want to be at the table when it talks about the costs, government invasion into health care -- intrusion into health care and -- and the ramifications. We want to be at the table.

BLITZER: He's an impressive guy, Eric Cantor. BEGALA: He's very impressive. The Republicans are -- are lucky to have him. He's -- he's smart. I think he's right about this, too.

If you look at '94, as the Democrats went down, the Republicans were going up.

Now, I didn't agree with Newt Gingrich, but he was about ideas. The Republican Party today, it's -- it's doing fine as the Democrats slide, but they haven't put forward ideas, except for Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, a congressman from Wisconsin. He has put his ideas out there and we should debate them -- privatize Social Security, turn Medicare into a voucher program, return to tax cuts for the rich. This is what Republicans believe in and we should have an honest debate about that.

BLITZER: All right...

BEGALA: Democrats don't agree with those, but at least Republicans have their ideas.

SANCHEZ: Well, a rising star. A big fan.

BEGALA: Big time.

SANCHEZ: One to watch.

BEGALA: Big time rising star.

BLITZER: Also an impressive guy...


BLITZER: A very smart guy. And I'm sure you -- you believe the Republicans are lucky to have him, as well.

BEGALA: They -- they are very lucky. We need a debate about...

BLITZER: We'll have a debate.

BEGALA: -- privatizing Social Security, Medicare...

SANCHEZ: And I like him.

BEGALA: -- vouchers...

SANCHEZ: I like him.

BLITZER: There's going to be a big debate at the White House next week...


BLITZER: -- on health care.

All right, guys, thank you.

Jack Cafferty, he's coming up with your e-mail. That's ahead.

Also, much more on Tiger Woods' remarkable public apology today, including his whole statement. We'll re-air it in its entirety.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is, what now, if the United Nations is right about Iran building a nuclear weapon?

IAEA says they may be working on a warhead even as we speak.

Tim in New York writes: "Military action will only feed the existing resentment toward America's lack of even-handedness in the region. If we're going to insist that the region be free of nuclear weapons, we have to disarm everyone -- friend and foe alike. Otherwise, it's just going to add more fuel to an already incendiary cause."

"If the U.N. is, in fact, right," says Joe, "then we've all just entered an even more dangerous situation. So much for diplomacy. We need to support the movement within Iran that's looking to change the power structure. But at the same time, we need to increase sanctions. We have to make it known that we're friends to Iranians, but not to their leaders or their government."

Terry in Indiana writes: "Iran has called for nuclear weapons states to disarm and for the Middle East to be a nuclear weapons free zone. Has this happened? Do they have a right to protect their country? I know the guy running the country is crazy, but he's got a point, doesn't he?"

Margie writes: "I wish our government would bite the bullet and deal with Israel's nuclear program, which is also illegal and unregulated. If you look at the problem from Iran's point of view, they need nuclear bombs to protect themselves from Israel in a mutually assured destruction kind of mentality."

Nabeel writes: "I wouldn't be surprised if the U.N. got the information about Iran building a nuclear weapon from the same place they got the intelligence about WMD in Iraq -- the same lies, a different time. For those countries yelling the loudest and thumping their chests about Iran, maybe they ought to handle the problem themselves and leave the United States out of it."

And finally, Cliff in East Rockaway, New York says: "At some point, implied threat is the only deterrent. To paraphrase former President Clinton, a nation's best day might be the day that they use a nuclear weapon, but their worst day is the day after."

If you want to read more on this, you'll find a lot of it on my blog at

It's a problem -- Wolf. BLITZER: A very serious problem.

Jack, thank you.


BLITZER: Stand by.

CNN has obtained a recording you may want to hear before you fly again. We're going to have the chilling moments that when two planes nearly collided at a major U.S. airport.

And President Obama issuing a challenge to America's high schools -- and he's offering a pretty impressive prize.


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker right now, President Obama has a new assignment for America's high schools. He wants to hear what sets them apart from other schools in giving students an excellent education and preparing them for college. Six finalists will be featured on the White House Web site and -- get this -- the winning high school will get President Obama to speak at their graduation this year.


In Indiana today, Congressman Brad Ellsworth confirming he'll run for Evan Bayh's U.S. Senate seat. Bayh announced this week he's retiring. Like Bayh, Ellsworth is a Democrat with a moderate voting record. Ellsworth could wind up facing off against Republican Dan Coats, who once held the very same Senate seat.

A rapper has a bad rap on former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Sky Blue of the group LMFAO says he was the person who got into a confrontation with Romney aboard a flight from Vancouver this week and he says it was the Republican who first touched him, not the other way around. In an online video, Sky Blue says Romney grabbed his shoulder after loudly telling him to straighten his seat.

Romney's spokesman had -- had said it was the other passenger who became physically violent. Eventually, two police officers escorted the rapper off the flight.

A new episode in Sarah Palin's showdown with the makers of "Family Guy." The animated TV show recently had a character with Down Syndrome who declared she was the daughter of the former governor of Alaska. Palin, whose youngest son has Down Syndrome, said he was -- said she was too livid to comment, but her daughter did, slamming the mocking portrayal.

Now the actress who voiced the character is speaking out. She has Down Syndrome herself. She tells "The New York Times" she thought the show was funny and that apparently Palin doesn't have a sense of humor.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Tiger Woods breaking his silence, apologizing for his affairs and the ensuing scandal that's put his career on hold.