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Toyota Ignored Pleas from Consumers; Politics to Paul-Itics

Aired February 23, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thank you.

Happening now, dramatic apologies and dramatic details of cheating death all unfolding at a government hearing into Toyota's problems, as the lawmaker -- as the automaker acknowledges mistakes, one woman describes her car's out of control ordeal. She says -- and I'm quoting her now -- "I prayed to God to help me."

Also, the doctors are in -- Congressman Ron Paul and his son, Dr. Rand Paul. They'll talk about health care, the health of the nation and how to heal a broken government. And wait until you hear how else the son wants to be like the father.

And baby boom -- scientists want to follow 100,000 unborn children from the womb to age 21.

How can children of today help children in the future?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Imagine if it were you -- trapped in an out of control car, worried you'll die. That's one woman's gripping story at a House panel hearing on Toyota's problems. She described how her Toyota- built Lexus zoomed out of control in 2006. It's enough to cause chills.


RHONDA SMITH, TOYOTA-MADE LEXUS ZOOMED OUT OF CONTROL: I put the car into all available gears, including neutral, but then I put it in reverse and it remains in reverse as the car speeds to over 100 miles per hour down the interstate. I place both -- both feet on the brake after I firmly engaged the emergency brake and nothing slows the car.

I figured the car was going to go its maximum speed and I was going have to put the car into the upcoming guardrail in order to prevent killing anyone else. And I prayed for God to help me.

I called my husband on the Bluetooth phone system. I knew...


SMITH: I'm sorry. I knew he could not help me, but I wanted to hear his voice one more time. After six miles, God intervened. As the car came very slowly to a stop, I pulled it to the left median.


BLITZER: What a nightmare.

Asked who's to blame, she says this.


SMITH: This failure is surely shared by Toyota and NHTSA today. In our view, they've demonstrated an uncaring attitude and disregard for life. The results have been tragic and today, I must say, shame on you, Toyota, for being so greedy. And shame on you, NHTSA, for not doing your job.


BLITZER: There are more steps to this story. The House subcommittee chairman also called out Toyota.


REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: In summary, what we found was quite troubling. Toyota all but ignored pleas from consumers to examine sudden, unintended acceleration events. They boast in a briefing of saving Toyota $100 million by negotiating a limited recall. They claimed that they first became aware of sticking pedals in late October of 2009, when, in fact, they had received numerous complaints many months and years earlier.


BLITZER: Stepping away to a gathering of Toyota dealers, they're urging fairness.


PAUL ATKINSON, CHAIRMAN, TOYOTA NATIONAL DEALER COUNCIL: So my question for you today is, how did we suddenly overnight become the villain?

I don't get it.


BLITZER: Toyota's president testifies to a separate panel tomorrow. Part of his prepared testimony says -- and let me quote now -- "Our customers have started to feel uncertain about the safety of Toyota's vehicles and I take full responsibility for that."

Our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has been covering all of this for us -- all right, Brianna, tell us what happened, other than that.

It was -- it's been a very dramatic day on the Hill. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a dramatic day, certainly that, with -- or the -- the head of Toyota U.S. James Lentz, was a the hot seat very much. And he was -- he apologized, Wolf. He said that he was sorry and he said that it took Toyota too long to come to grips with what the problem was. And he blamed that, in part, on what he said was a lack of communication within Toyota across many countries. Here's what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't Toyota take immediate action to prevent the much later accidents that Toyota clearly knew the problem existed as far back as 2000?

JAMES LENTZ, TOYOTA USA: I can -- I can tell you that a weakness in our system has been, within this company, we didn't do a very good job of sharing information across the globe. Most of the information was one way. It would flow from the regional markets like the United States, Canada or Europe, back to Japan.


KEILAR: And Lentz stressed, however, that the problem with Toyota is mechanical, that it's not electronic. And, Wolf, that runs very much counter to what many engineering experts and certainly lawmakers here are afraid of -- that this isn't a problem with the foot pedal or any sort of mat in the car, that it really is a problem with the computer in the car.

And as we speak right now, the committee is in recess. We're waiting to be hearing hear some of that tough Q&A, no doubt, that they're going to be asking of Ray LaHood, the Department of Transportation secretary.

BLITZER: So I take -- I take it he said that this has not been necessarily resolved, that it's still under investigation?

KEILAR: He said they're still in...

BLITZER: Or did he say case closed?

KEILAR: He said they're still investigating and he said it's going to be very difficult to figure out the problem. And he admitted, Wolf, that at this point in time, they may not have figured out what the final answer that is causing what -- what really have been runaway vehicles.

BLITZER: Brianna, stay on top of this story for us.

We'll have a lot more on this story coming up.

Let's get an update now on a story we reported here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- worries about the former vice president, Dick Cheney's, health. We told you he had been hospitalized following chest pains. Now Dick Cheney's office says he did, in fact, suffer a, quote, "mild heart attack." That would be Cheney's fifth heart attack.

Doctors gave him a stress test, inserted a catheter. His office says Cheney is feeling good and should be out of the hospital soon. No word on how soon that might be.

Let's bring in Dr. Raj Makkar.

He's a cardiologist and director at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

Doctor, thanks very much for joining us.

What -- what does that say to you, over these past many years, this would now be a fifth heart attack?

They describe it as a mild heart attack.

What's a -- what's a mild heart attack?

DR. RAJ MAKKAR, CEDARS-SINAI HEART INSTITUTE: So, Wolf, it is not uncommon for patients who have chronic coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis to frequently end up in hospital with episodes of chest pain. And often, when blood tests are actually done, there is evidence of what is called a minor heart attack. And what, basically, it is, is damage to the heart muscle which results in leakage of a certain enzyme called troponin.

So it's not an uncommon situation for patients to come back often to the hospital.

BLITZER: So what does is the treatment now?

What -- what does he look forward to in the immediate hours, days and weeks ahead?

MAKKAR: Well, you know, from what I understand -- I'm not privy to all the investigations that were done on the Vice President Cheney, but from what I understand, a stress test was done and perhaps even an angiogram. And it was decided that no further procedures, such as stents or bypass surgery, is indicated at that time. So he will be managed using a combination of medications.

And these medications are often medications that lower cholesterol, medications that affect the lining of the arterial wall and medications that affect the platelets, which are important blood cells that often lead to the -- the occurrence of this particular condition. So medications such as aspirin and Cloparavil (ph) or Plavix are often medications that are actually used.

BLITZER: Should -- should he reduce his activities, avoid stressful situations?

He's 69 years old right now, now a history of five heart attacks.

MAKKAR: Well, I -- I think currently I wouldn't say that 69 is actually old. So he's actually relatively young and an active individual. And he should follow the instructions of his doctors. It's always a good idea to reduce stress acutely in these situations. But I am quite hopeful that with the combination of medications and the excellent medical care that he'll get, he should be able to bounce back and -- and do his usual activities.

BLITZER: Dr. Raj Makkar.

Doctor, thanks very much for better -- for helping us better appreciate what's going on.

Thank you.

MAKKAR: Thank you.

BLITZER: Vice President Cheney is also getting well-wishes from his successor and his former boss, the vice president -- the current vice president, Joe Biden, and George W. Bush both called Cheney to deliver get well soon messages, that according to a source.

Of course, we join all those people who wish the former vice president a speedy recovery. We hope he's out of the hospital soon.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next.

Also, doctors' orders -- Congressman Ron Paul is a doctor, so is his son. And they're both here.

What prescription might they write to fix a broken government?

And wait until you hear how else the son now wants to be like the father.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Our government is broken. The Department of Homeland Security still has not installed a single airport scanner paid for by President Obama's economic stimulus bill more than one year ago. $25 million was set aside to buy the kind of screening machines that would be able to detect the explosives that that Christmas Day clown was carrying in his shorts.

Politico reports it took Homeland Security seven months just to order the 150 screening machines -- seven months. The company that builds the scanners says they've since delivered more than 100 of them to the Transportation Security Administration and now they're sitting somewhere in storage.

By way of an explanation, Homeland Security Spokeswoman Amy Kudwa says they're, quote, "very active working on a deployment plan," unquote.

A deployment plan -- you know, like put them at the airports? TSA Spokesman James Fotenos says it is, quote, "in the process of accepting delivery of the initial 150 units purchased" and that it is "staging for their deployment," whatever the hell that means. He also says, "they're working closely with airports to install these units."

We pay these people to say this stuff.

Some of the nation's busiest airports still don't have these scanners. They would include New York's JFK, LaGuardia, Chicago's O'Hare, Washington's Dulles. The machines are in storage.

Here's the height of government arrogance and dysfunction. To mark the anniversary of the stimulus bill, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano inspected a scanner at Washington's National Airport. They've been in use there for more than a year. You've got to protect the politicians, you know.

Late this afternoon, in response to the embarrassing nature of this story leaking out, a Homeland Security official says they think they can get these things installed by the end of June.

Pass me an airsick bag.

Here's the question: What does it mean if the government hasn't installed a single airport scanner, paid for more than a year ago with your stimulus money?

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

BLITZER: You can't make this kind of stuff up, Jack, can you?



All right, Jack, stand by.

All week, as part of our Broken Government series, we've been looking at the gridlock here in Washington and talking about how to fix it, if possible.

I'm joined now by a father and son who say they want to be part of the solution.

Republican Congressman Ron Paul has served in Congress for more than two decades. He ran for president twice.

And now his son, Rand Paul, is running for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky.

Thanks to both of you very much for coming in.

I assume both of you agree that the government is broken.

Congressman, do you agree the government is broken? REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Oh, it certainly is. I might define it a little bit differently. I think the mechanism is broken because the government is broke. And that's a big difference. When you have a lot of money, you can be inefficient and you can do things and everybody gets what they want. But once a government becomes broke and the people are really broke, too, because there's not enough people working to feed the cow, then there's this inefficiency.

And by that time, by the time you go broke, the government is too big. It's already very inefficient. And that is the reason we actually met this bankruptcy.

I don't think we can solve this until we admit that bankruptcy can do something about it, which means you cut way back...

BLITZER: Wait a minute.

RON PAUL: -- on spending.

BLITZER: Wait a minute. Congressman, you want to see the U.S. Government -- the American taxpayer, in effect, go bankrupt?

RON PAUL: Well, you have to admit you can't pay the bills. Once the government gets as much debt as we have, the liquidation of that always happens. You can't avoid it. It's just a matter of questioning. No, I'm not advising that we don't -- that we renege on paying on the -- on the Treasury bills and sending out Social Security. But what is going to happen, though, the debt will be liquidated by paying back money that doesn't have as much value.

All you have to have is a 10 percent inflation rate and you've wiped off a trillion dollars of debt.

BLITZER: Well, that would be a nightmare...

RON PAUL: So, not to...

BLITZER: That's -- that would be unacceptable...

RON PAUL: Well, then...

BLITZER: -- because most people's life savings would be lost in that kind of a situation...

RON PAUL: That's not...

BLITZER: -- within a -- a few years.

Let me...

RON PAUL: That's why we have...

BLITZER: Let me get your son...

RON PAUL: -- to avoid it.


RON PAUL: That's why we must avoid it.

BLITZER: Let me just get your son into this conversation.

Rand, do you agree the government is broken?

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: Yes. And I think that if you talk to voters in Kentucky, they'll ask, how are we going to spend a trillion dollars on health care and yet it's not going to add anything to the debt?

Nobody here believes that. I don't think many people in the country believe that...

BLITZER: But that's what the Congressional Budget Office...

RAND PAUL: -- a trillion dollar program...

BLITZER: -- the Congressional Budget Office came up with that assessment, that they -- there are certain ways you can cut some of the growth, in Medicare, for example, among other things, and that way you'll have basically no increase in the debt.

You don't believe in the CBO...

RAND PAUL: Well, the argument is...

BLITZER: You don't believe in the CBO numbers?

RAND PAUL: Well, the argument is that they're going to get a lot of money out of waste and fraud.

But my question to them is show me the government program that's ever come in under budget. Look at the Medicare prescription drug plan. CBO predicted that it would cost $400 billion. Within a year, they revised their estimates to say it was going to cost a trillion.

So I think notoriously, government underestimates the cost of programs. And when something is free, people tend to over use it and it costs a lot more than they projected.

BLITZER: Congressman, do you trust the CBO?

RON PAUL: Well, I trust them that they're trying to do their best. But I don't think anybody can project the future, because you don't know what the revenues will be, you don't know what the interest rates are going to be, you don't know how much abuse there's going to be and who -- who lines up at the trough.

So, no, nobody is -- nobody can do that. And that's why government always fails once they get involved in doing these things and the market works, because the market irons these things out. The people who are inefficient get shoved aside or they have to declare their bankruptcy or they have to revamp...

BLITZER: All right...

RON PAUL: But when government does it, they have nobody to report to and all they do is go back and tax the people even more and that's why it fails.

BLITZER: So if you were in the Senate right now -- and you want to be the Republican candidate from Kentucky, Rand Paul, in the United States Senate. You want to get that Republican nomination.

You would reject the president's effort to come up with some sort of health care solution, is that what you're saying?

RAND PAUL: Well, what I would say is I would reject what the president is proposing. But I would also say that we, as Republicans, need to articulate a vision for what we would do. I personally am worried about the expense. And people come up to me everyday and are worried about the expense. I'm worried about pre-existing conditions. I'm worried about if Wolf Blitzer grills me on these questions and I have a heart attack today but I survive that my rates could triple.

So I'm concerned about the price. But my question is, is it that we need more government involvement or less?

Over half of what I do as a physician is already paid for by government. And the problem is, is that when government sets the price for health care, the patient quits caring about the price and there is no price competition.

BLITZER: All right.

RAND PAUL: You need to have price competition to make health care work.

BLITZER: I think on this issue, of health care, I think the two -- the father and the son basically agree. I do think that there is an area of disagreement on national security issues.

Congressman, first to you. You would basically want to see the U.S. Pull of Iraq, Afghanistan, shut down GITMO, is that right?

RON PAUL: Well, I don't think we disagree on national security.

Who would be against national security?

There might be...

BLITZER: Well, on some (INAUDIBLE) of national security.

RON PAUL: Yes, there might be some disagreement, but -- but we agree that we shouldn't be fighting wars that we don't declare and we get ourselves into too much trouble. And now we're in a mess because we didn't follow the rules and we didn't follow the Constitution. Somebody might have a strategy slightly different than mine, but -- but still, not many American people enjoy war and want the presidents to go to war endlessly and carelessly. Yes, my proposal is that it's not in our best interests, it's not in our national security interests and the sooner we end this, the better...

BLITZER: All right...

RON PAUL: -- because it's participating in our bankruptcy and it's part of our economic crisis that we're facing.

BLITZER: You would agree or disagree with your dad, Rand?

RAND PAUL: I would say that the most important thing that the federal government does is take care of our national security, bar none. It's the most important enumerated power of our government, is national defense. It's something we can't privatize. It's something that we need the national government to do.

I also would say that when we go to war, it's the most important vote that any congressman or senator will ever take. And I will treat that seriously. I will make them debate over whether we declare war or not. We have not done that since World War II, and I think that's an important debate and there are a lot of details on that debate on when our national security is threatened. It's not enough just to say our national security is threatened, we need to have a full scale debate over when our national security is threatened and that's an important debate that our country should have.

BLITZER: But having said all of that, right now, given the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, we -- are you with your dad, you know, basically get out quickly or would you let the -- the generals and the -- the sort of the time line that's in place work its way?

RAND PAUL: Right. I think that the actual decisions on troop deployment is the prerogative of the commander-in-chief and not necessarily of Congress. And I don't think that Congress, if they vote to increase troops by 100,000 or reduce troops by 100,000, I don't think that's actually going to be declared Constitutional. I think the president has to declare where the troops are, in consultation with the generals.

Now, of the overall picture, we have to ask some important questions. For example, it troubles me and many veterans I talk to that we're paying the Taliban. We have a works program for the Taliban. We'll pay them $8,000 per fighter not to fight. We pay the Taliban to take their weapons back from them. And I had a Marine recently here in Kentucky tell me, look -- he says, look, I'm a Marine. I'm trained to take weapons from our enemies. I'm not trained to pay for them.

BLITZER: Well, the same...

RAND PAUL: And there...

BLITZER: They used the same strategy...

RAND PAUL: -- is some disagreement... BLITZER: By the way, they used the same strategy in -- in the al-Anbar Province. They paid some of the Sunni insurgents not to fight. It seems to have worked, at least for the time being. We'll see how long that -- that strategy works.

Unfortunately, we're all out of time.

And I hope I'm not going to give you a heart attack, Rand Paul.

I -- I assume the questioning was not that tough. You'll -- you'll survive. If you can survive this, you'll survive.

RAND PAUL: All right.

BLITZER: You proud -- are you proud of your son, Congressman?

RON PAUL: Yes. He's doing good work. I'll soon retire...

BLITZER: Did he...

RON PAUL: He's doing such a...

BLITZER: -- did he do a good job?

RON PAUL: He's doing such a good job I think I'll just sort of fade away.

BLITZER: No you won't.

Ron Paul and Rand Paul, a good father-son combo.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

RON PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'd love to have -- we'd love to have on Trey Grayson, Rand Paul's opponent, at some time. We hope that will happen. We want to make sure we give everyone an equal shot.

President Obama's inner circle -- are some rivalries heating up right now?

David Gergen is standing by live. He'll join me for a look behind the scenes at the latest White House intrigue.


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

What else is going on -- Lisa?


Well, an unexpectedly large drop in consumer confidence rattled stock markets today. After three straight months of improvement the closely watched Consumer Index took a tumble in February. The Dow closed down 100 points, or one percent, while both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq lost more than one percent.

The State Department is renewing its Mexico travel alert because of drug violence there. U.S. citizens are urged to continue to delay unnecessary travel to several regions of Mexico, including the Chihuahua state, because of attacks, including murders, abductions and carjackings.

And 450 people have become ill on a Caribbean cruise. They're suffering from what appears to be a stomach bug. The ship, which is the Celebrity Lines' Mercury, left Charleston last Monday and is due back Friday. An extra doctor and two nurses came aboard in the British Virgin Islands to help treat passengers. The CDC says last winter, there were two outbreaks of stomach flu on the same cruise ship -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.

Now that the Massachusetts Republican, Scott Brown, has shown he will give Democrats his vote, might he turn out to be a crucial swing vote in the Senate?

Stand by.


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

Happening now, Toyota in the hot seat on Capitol Hill -- what the automaker's U.S. president has to say after a woman tells her story of highway horror -- how not even her emergency brakes or throwing her runaway Toyota-made Lexus into neutral could reverse the situation and slow it down.

Is NATO's Afghan detainee policy putting the nation's troops at risk on the battlefield?

You're going to hear what General David Petraeus says about the so-called 96-hour rule.

And jobs versus health care -- a Democrat expresses surprise the president is pushing to pass the full health care reform bill again.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The president has seen falling poll numbers, an ongoing backlash from Republicans, even grumblings from some Democrats.

Might someone inside the White House bear some of the blame -- most of the blame?

Critics say, yes. They point -- a lot of them do, at least, to the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. But is that anger misdirected?

Is that criticism fair at all?

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen, who's taken a closer look -- David, thanks very much for coming in.

You worked with Rahm Emanuel in the early years of the Clinton administration, you know him quite well. I'm going to read from this article that Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post that's generated a ton of commotion out there. Milbank writing, "Sacking Emanuel is the last thing the president should do. Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow the chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter." All right. Give us your assessment.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, if your chief of staff and people call for your head, that goes with the job description. We've seen this with lots of chiefs of staff. What's interesting about this, for about a year, the Obama team, the White House staff and national security team enjoyed very close relationships. There were very few leaks and tensions. When they hit the wall over the health care at the end of the year and then lost Massachusetts, the rumbling started outside the White House, and a lot of that criticism is being directed at Rahm Emanuel, because he is the chief of staff, he is in charge of the White House, and Dana Milbank in this very controversial piece in "The Washington Post" seemed to be channeling the response, if you would, the backlash from the Emanuel people. He said he never talked to Rahm, and I think most people generally agree it didn't come from Rahm, but clearly prompted by some of the allies, and the argument that some are making is, look, he didn't want to do this big, comprehensive health care bill back in year 1 that has cost so much. He did not want to try to run so fast on Guantanamo, but what the -- the Rahm critics are saying, the Milbank piece puts Rahm out there, but at the defense of the president. If he had taken the advice he would be in a much better position. So you can imagine that's really stirred the pot.

BLITZER: That article that Dana Milbank makes Rahm Emanuel looks very smart and savvy and makes the other officials in the White House less so, whether David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett or Robert Gibbs, for example, and Dana Milbank basically names those names.

GERGEN: And I think they're friends of the other Chicagoans that took great umbrage of the criticism. If this major gamble that the president is taking on health care with a summit, trying to put a comprehensive bill, if that fails we'll see more of these kinds of stories coming. Once again, the allies of Rahm will be saying he didn't want this big comprehensive bill. So we're at the early stages of what could be a bigger controversy at the White House, but we should keep in mind that there are two things. One is there are always tensions, as there are here, between say the David Axelrod wing, which wants to be the keep are of the flame, the idealists who would like the package passed which the president promised, versus Rahm Emanuel, who is the pragmatist, has to get the deals done, and understands the politics on Capitol Hill. There's always a tension between the keepers of the flame and the pragmatists, and the other thing to keep in mind is Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are very close.

BLITZER: They certainly are. They may disagree, but I'm sure they're good friends and they have to work together every single day. That column generated follow-ups in the "Wall Street Journal," Politico, I suspect there will be more of this coming out.

GERGEN: Well, stay tuned.

BLITZER: All right. David, thank you.

Talk about criticism, our polling center shows how many people say our government is broken. Take a look at this poll. We took a closer look and asked if people trust different levels of government always or most of the time. 26 percent said yes, regards the federal government, 33 percent for state government, 52 percent said for local government. We also asked people trust the federal government to do what's right 26 percent said always or most of the time. Sixty-nine percent said sometimes, five percent said never. Then there's trust in state government. Thirty-three percent said always or mostly, while 62 percent said sometime, five percent said never.

Our newest installment in our series "Building up America." Wait until you see how one small business is thriving. What lessons might otherwise be able to learn. Why is one Democratic criticizing or characterizing the president's latest push?


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

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf, a scare for earthquake survivors in Haiti, a magnitude 4.7 aftershock struck overnight. Another aftershock of the same magnitude was recorded yesterday morning. Today's quake was centered about 20 miles from the capital of Port-au- Prince and toppled some already damaged buildings, but there are no reports of any further injuries.

Former New Jersey Nets basketball star Jayson Williams was sentenced to five years in prison for fatally shooting his limo driver eight years ago. He avoided a retrial for reckless manslaughter by pleading guilty to aggravated assault. He's eligible for parole after 18 months. The prosecution claimed Williams was recklessly handling a shotgun when it discharges. Williams apologized in court.


JAYSON WILLIAMS, FORMER NBA PLAYER: To my friends, including those within the community, the church and NBA, I regret ever letting you down. I'm grateful for your support and despite all my thoughts. To the Cristoffi family, I'm not a bad man, but I acted badly on February 14th.


SYLVESTER: And "Playgirl" is apparently offering quarterback Michael Vick $1 million to pose for the magazine. A spokesman tells "Life & Style" all the money, however, would be donated to the animal rights group PETA. Vick served 20 months for dogfighting before joining the Eagles last week "Playgirl" --

BLITZER: I think he'll redeem himself on the football field.

SYLVESTER: I think that's probably what a lot of fans are thinking.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for that.

Is your stimulus money being wasted? Jack Cafferty wants to know. What does it mean that not a single airport scanner has been installed, paid for a year ago with stimulus money?

And we're going to show you one business that's thriving despite the recession or maybe even because of it.


BLITZER: Returning to a story we told you about earlier, the consumer confidence index shows Americans more pessimistic than at any time since April. Some businesses are thriving, despite the recession or maybe even because of it. I'm joined by CNN's Tom Foreman, who as part of our "Building up America" series has been looking at businesses out there with high potentials during hard times. You're with the CNN Express in Austin, Texas. What are you finding out, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, if consumer confidence is down, there's certainly plenty of people here who have a great deal of confidence. Despite the hard times, and some of them, because they have adapted their whole business view to not merely fight the recession, but to take advantages of some of the conditions it has created.


LISA GAYNOR, TEXAS RESIDENT: I would imagine if you're really creative, you could make a bunk bed out of them.

FOREMAN: If it's one thing Lisa Gaynor knows is this.

GAYNOR: There's a story behind everything.

FOREMAN: Hers is about foresight, opportunity and building up when everything seems headed down. About ten years ago, Lisa's family moved back to her home state of Texas. Her husband a consultant traveled for work. She had a good job with a big corporation in Austin, but then came bad news. Lisa was let go.

GAYNOR: Really knocked the wind out of my sails. I had no idea where to go. That was my identity, that's who I was. FOREMAN: She started decorating her new home by shopping in consignment shops, but few had the nicer items she wanted. She had seen high-end consignment shops in other cities and thought it might be a good time to open one here.

GAYNOR: People are having to be smarter with their money and having to make different choices so historically only 10 percent of the consumer population is really aware of or open to the idea of consignment shopping. I think what the recession has done is changed that.

Can I help you find anything?

FOREMAN: She had never owned a business before, but with the encouragement of local business groups and friends, Lisa launched Design it with Consignment.

GAYNOR: I sell things that are owned by other people, or having previously owned by other people. It doesn't mean antique, it doesn't mean used, it doesn't mean beat up.

FOREMAN: It does mean bargains.

GAYNOR: Retailed for $13,000, and we've got it for $3,500. This is what, $800?

Even if it was thousands just a few years ago, these things now sell for like $300.

FOREMAN: Most sell for 50 percent to 75 percent less than they did new.

GAYNOR: Lots of "sold" signs. I like that.

FOREMAN: And the recession that has taken so many jobs has been turned into an opportunity for Lisa and her five employees.

GAYNOR: Ironically it has been a boost to my business. We were just reviewing numbers, and we have gone up 30 percent over the last two years.

FOREMAN: It's hard work, she's at it six days a week, but it is working.


FOREMAN: Wolf, when you talk about ideas that can be taken to other communities, that's one we've heard from all over this town from the successful businesspeople here. They say instead of banging your head against the recession and being frustrated, adapt, change, see what opportunities have been opened up because of the recession and take advantage of them. That's one reason this area is doing better on unemployment, better on home sales, better on a lot of things right now. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lessons for the rest of the country to observe. Tom, thanks very much. We'll have more on this tomorrow.

Could he become the Democrats' new best friend? We're talking about Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. After helping Senate Democrats in a crucial vote yesterday, could he become a crucial swing vote down the road?


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is joining us once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Question this hour is what does it mean if the government has not installed a single airport scanner paid for more than a year ago with $25 million of your stimulus money? Here is some of what you are saying. We got a lot of mail on this.

Edward from Maine writes: "It means nobody is serious about security. They can do laughable things like make little old ladies take off their shoes, but real security takes effort. The problem is the apathy that's brought on by the fact that nobody will get fired if it doesn't get done."

Parker in West Hartford, Connecticut:, "Our country is in a shamble and if we had a terror attack, all they would do is to point fingers. I'm sick of it. This is not the kind of government I wanted. Hopefully we will see some change after the next election." Don't hold your breath.

Lori writes: "Just another example of why we don't want government to run health care. Each government entity is so quick to commit to spend America's money, but there seems to be no follow through. In this case, Janet Napolitano should be fired. The buck has to stop somewhere."

Tom writes: "What does it mean? It means nothing has changed regardless of the word change being shouted from the mountaintops of Washington throughout 2008 and 2009. It's gotten to the point where I am actually considering Ron Paul as a viable option."

Julia writes from Dallas: "It means business as usual in Washington. Never finish anything and what's worse, not care whether it is finished or not. The only one coming out ahead on this deal is the storage company that's getting the rental payments."

J.C. writes: "It is the same administration that wants us to trust the national health care system and job creation programs in their hands. Simply astounding."

And Peter writes: "Yesterday you asked if the government was broken beyond repair. This story is your answer."

If you want to read more on this you'll find it on my blog at

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. One Democratic senator likens President Obama's latest push for health care reform to a Hail Mary pass. We'll talk about it. We're going to tell what he says his party should be focused on instead.

And at a Congressional hearing on Toyota's recall problems today, there was extremely emotional testimony from a woman who lived through a terrifying incident when her car accelerated out of control. We will replay for you her story in her own words coming up right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get to strategy session right now. Joining us is the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile and former Republican Congressman Tom Davis who is the president of the Republican Main Street Advocacy Group. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Did I get that right, Congressman?


BLITZER: OK. Good. We want to get those names right. And Scott Brown, four other Republicans, they go with the Democrats yesterday to get a procedural vote passed for the jobs bill. Is this something new or is it basically one-shot deal?

DAVIS: Well it's tax cuts. It is about tax cut and reauthorization of transportation and you look for the members who voted for it, you know not everybody is an Alabama Republican. They have to go back to their own states and unemployment in Massachusetts is high and I don't think this bill is going anywhere at the end of the day.

BLITZER: You don't think they can reconcile it?

DAVIS: Well, it will be a different final version. He is showing some independence and if he has a longer than two-year horizon in politics, he has to go back to Massachusetts under different circumstances and win.

BLITZER: Because he's going to be up for re-election within two years.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And as Congressman Davis said in the greenroom, he said he did not sign up for a two-year job. He showed yesterday that he cares about the voters in the state, that clearly wanted to come to Washington, D.C. to break the gridlock and get things done on jobs. I don't know what the future lies in terms of making these two bills come together, but he will put pressure on the other moderate Republicans in the Senate to at least play ball with the Democrats on important issues if he continues to vote for this.

BLITZER: Given the support he got from the Republicans and the tea partiers, it took guts for him to cast the vote with the Democrats yesterday. BRAZILE: Well, it did, but he is from Massachusetts. The end of the day, there is a swing vote in Massachusetts and it swung his way this time, but it usually doesn't, and he has to show independence if he wants to stay around.

BLITZER: And let's talk about the president's plans on Thursday about the health care summit that we will have extensive coverage here on CNN. Here's what Heath Shuler, he's a Democratic Congressman, former quarterback for the Washington Redskins and blue dog and moderate conservative Democrat from North Carolina what he says. "I was actually surprised that they were pushing it again," referring to health care. "The most important thing is jobs, jobs, jobs. We need to focus on jobs. I don't think a comprehensive bill can pass and I hate to use a football analogy, but first downs are a lot better than throwing the bomb route of the Hail Mary."

BRAZILE: Well, I disagree. He voted against the health care bill in the House and let him go out and other critics of the health care package go out and defend a 39 percent rate hike increase across the board. I think it's important for the president to sit down on Thursday and talk about the areas of agreement not between the House and Senate forms of the bill but in terms of some of the proposals that the Republicans have.

BLITZER: Is that likely to happen?

DAVIS: No, I don't think so. Look this health care bill is dead. I think comprehensive health care bill is dead. You may be able do something incrementally that everybody agrees on it, but we have had a referendum on this and elsewhere in Massachusetts. Unemployment is still hovering around 10 percent. And everyday the Democrats are talk about health care and something else and not jobs. It will come back to haunt them.

BLITZER: It seems that only the way that the president can get some remnant of health care passed is to forget about some big plan and forget about the 60 votes, but go with the 51 votes, so-called reconciliation process that will irritate a lot of folks. Is that likely to happen?

BRAZILE: Well, I hope that reconciliation is on the table. It was on the table in '96 when we passed welfare reform and in 2001 and 2003 for tax cuts and should be on the table for health care. Tom, I hope that health care is not dead. What is dead is the number of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet and can't afford to pay the rising premiums.

DAVIS: Well, they bit off more than they can chew incrementally. And this is tough policy to hold the different constituencies together and the Democrats are paying a price for this.

BRAZILE: We are at third and goal and why should we bring the ball back to the 20 yard line when we are third and goal line. We should just take the ball and let the president bring it in.

DAVIS: If you want to push through the unpopular health care plan, be my guest. You won't be able to redefine this bill at this point.

BRAZILE: Well, there are a lot of elements in the bill that many Americans will support.

DAVIS: It is not all bad, but the way this has come down at this point, the American people have rendered a judgment and you could do incremental things and call it victory, but we have to move on to jobs.

BLITZER: We have to leave it there, guys. Thanks very much. We will continue Thursday.

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