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Public: President, GOP Not Reaching Out; Government Price Tags Balloon Out of Control

Aired February 24, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Rick, we're going to have a lot more on that incident, as well.

Also happening right now, the apology heard around the world -- Toyota's chief takes center stage and says he's sorry for a chaos and deeply saddened by the deaths as a result of his cars. But that did not stop lawmakers from grilling him and grilling him hard.

Also, a provocative argument. One governor writes: "Toyota is an American car company" and he wonders if the federal government might attack Toyota just to promote G.M. and Chrysler, which the government bailed out. The Mississippi governor, Hailey Barbour, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to explain.

And did an employee for the company formerly known as Blackwater take weapons intended for the Afghan national police using a name from the animated show "South Park?"

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


With all the recalls, worries, deaths and a public relations disaster over Toyota, this was the man so many people have been waiting for -- the president of Toyota explaining it all to lawmakers. But he was also talking to you.

A Congressional panel is investigating the recall of more than eight million vehicles over issues of sudden acceleration and unresponsive brake pedals.

Akio Toyoda began with an acknowledgment.


AKIO TOYODA, TOYOTA MOTOR CHIEF EXECUTIVE: In the past few months, our customers are started to feel uncertain about the safety of Toyota's vehicles. And I take full responsibility for that.


BLITZER: Then an explanation and apology over the deaths.

TOYODA: We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization and we should sincerely be mindful of that. I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today. And I am deeply sorry for any accident that Toyota drivers have experienced. Especially, I would like to extend my condolences to the members of the Lastrella family for the accident in San Diego. I would like to send my prayers again and I will do everything in my power to ensure that such a tragedy never happen again.


BLITZER: And the grandson of Toyota's founder essentially said he'll fight to ensure there's no lasting shame on the family name.


TOYODA: My name is on every car. You have my personal commitment that Toyota will work vigorously and unceasingly to restore the trust of our customers.


BLITZER: Let's go right to our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

She's up on the Hill watching all of these hearings unfold -- Brianna, have they wrapped up now for the day?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they're still going, Wolf. And, you know, one of the concerns that lawmakers have had here and that some engineering experts have backed up is that maybe the problems with Toyota vehicles go beyond floor mats, go beyond gas pedals and have to do with the car's computers -- electronics, what's called the electronic throttle control system or the ETC.

Here is what Akio Toyoda said about that.


KEILAR: What you were supposed to hear there was the English translation. And basically what Mr. Toyoda was saying was that they have tested the -- they tried to test the computer, they've done some preliminary tests and he's confident that it's not an electronic problem.

But even so, Wolf, one of the fixes that Toyota is talking about is a computer fix. It's a brake override, where if you were to press on the brake while the car is going really fast it would essentially halt the car and make it go much slower. So that's one of the fixes they're proposing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And -- and something else, they're -- one of the internal documents said that the company was going to save, what, $100 million by avoiding a broad recall?

I know that came up in the hearing today. It's caused a lot of concern out there. KEILAR: A lot of concern in the last couple of days. And what we heard, Akio Toyoda said this is a document that does not reflect the -- the -- the company overall.

We also heard from Yoshimu -- Yoshimi Inaba. He is the head of Toyota North America. And he sort of downplayed this document, saying it was prepared by some lower level executives in the U.S. for him, that it's not something he prepared. Both of these executives distancing themselves from that document -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They seem, also, to be distancing themselves from even knowing about all of these problems at the highest levels of Toyota in Japan.

KEILAR: This was one of the most fascinating things that really struck me, because when lawmakers questioned them when -- what did you know, when did you know, we heard from them they didn't really know about widespread acceleration issues or reports of them until late December. In fact, you've heard the secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, really tout this meeting that the NHTSA went out to Japan December 15th and really got the ball rolling so that it led to this much larger recall in January.

Mr. Inaba and Mr. Toyoda said they weren't aware even of that -- the content of that meeting. They were just sort of aware that it was going on, but they weren't there and they weren't aware of what happened in it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar watching this up on the Hill.

We're going have a lot more on this story coming up. We'll speak with the Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood. Also, Hailey Barbour, he's the governor of Mississippi, who's got nice things to say about Toyota.

We'll get back to Brianna, as well.

Let's go to the White House right now. They're getting ready for a health care summit that begins tomorrow. It'll be televised.

Is this an honest effort for Democrats and Republicans to find some common ground or simply a public relations or political stunt?

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is setting the stage for us.

What can we expect -- Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, first of all, preparations well underway for that big summit at the Blair House, Wolf. And White House aides telling me that the president will have some opening remarks. And that will be followed by lawmakers on both sides also delivering some comments. Then the focus will turn to four key points. You can see them on the wall -- controlling costs, insurance reform, reducing the deficit and expanding coverage. The White House says that it's very optimist that this meeting will be productive.

But did their strategy leading up to the summit set the right tone?

I went to a Harvard expert on negotiations, Professor Bob Bordone, to get that answer.


PROF. ROBERT BORDONE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: The idea of throwing a proposal out two days before a big summit -- a proposal that essentially mirrors the -- the proposal the Democrats passed in the Senate -- makes it quite hard for the Republicans to actually come to this with an open spirit.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, I look forward to a good exchange of ideas at the Blair House with some legislative leaders.

BORDONE: If the president wants to really work with the Republicans and if he really thinks the Republicans want to work with him, it seems to me it makes a lot more sense to actually come in and say, let's identify the issues where we disagree and let's try to jointly draft something together, instead of essentially throwing something out there and then having the Republicans try to -- to sort of nibble away at that.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If the president hadn't put anything on -- on there, wouldn't you -- wouldn't you guess, Major, that we would hear, well, is the president not bringing any ideas to the summit?

BORDONE: I think in some sense, the president may be using this summit as a way to signal to the American people, A, I am being reasonable and I am trying to work with the other side; B, what's in my proposal, what -- what the Democrats are trying to push forward is critically important for the health of the American economy.

OBAMA: I hope everyone comes with a shared desire to solve this challenge, not just score political points.

BORDONE: The president is walking a tightrope. Transparency matters. And certainly the Republicans have used that to bludgeon him. On the other hand, from a negotiation perspective, it's hard to imagine very serious and detailed progress happening in a fully transparent setting.


LOTHIAN: Now the summit has been called the last hope for health care reform. But Robert Gibbs said that he hopes that's not the case, that it's just one avenue to reach a consensus.

And just a few more details about that summit. We're told that it will last from 10:00 a.m. tomorrow until 4:00 p.m.. Everyone will be seated around long tables that are arranged in a large square. There will be a lunch break. And, of course, all of this will be live not only on C-SPAN, but right here on CNN -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'll be anchoring our coverage starting at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. We'll have coverage all day of this historic health care summit at Blair House, across the street from the White House.

Let's return now to the breaking news we've been following for the past hour or so, the tragedy at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. The trainer was pronounced dead at the scene when paramedics arrived only minutes later.

Brian Todd has been looking at the details -- walk us through, Brian, what exactly happened because there's a tragic death involved.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. We know that this afternoon, paramedics were called to the scene at SeaWorld in Orlando. What we're learning is that when they got there, that this trainer was already deceased. They describe her as a woman, 40 years old, not giving her identity at the moment.

Just a short time ago, there was a news conference in Orlando. The -- a spokesman for the Orange County Fire and Rescue Department, Jim Solomon, did give some basic detail about the incident. Here's what he had to say.


JIM SOLOMON, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Basically, at about 2:00 today, Orange County Sheriff's Office and Orange County Fire and Rescue responded to a report of an injury at the Shamu Stadium. Units got on scene and realized that the -- the victim in this case was deceased.

What apparently happened is we had a female trainer back in the whale holding area. She apparently slipped or fell into the tank and was fatally injured by one of the whales.

We're on scene, along with forensics, our homicide investigators and we're conducting a -- a death investigation.


TODD: Now, some of the details are going to be forthcoming in the minutes ahead. But we did learn from Dan Browne, the president of Orlando Parks, just after that that the victim, apparently did drown. So not quite clear whether the whale might have inflicted some harm on the trainer or maybe dragged her into the water and thrashed around a little bit and she drowned. There was an eyewitness to this. This apparently occurred in a rear holding area of SeaWorld.

And an eyewitness described what she saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WKMG) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We walked out. There was a lot of people there. And there was a trainer standing there by the window just talking about the whale. And people were asking questions, how much does he weigh, things like that.

And then the whale wound his -- like floated upside down. And the trainer out there said, oh, yes, he's -- you know, he's giving him a belly rub. He really likes that. And I could tell it was Tilikum because you could tell by the huge, huge fins.

And the trainer downstairs then called out to the trainer upstairs, OK, so and so, we're ready. And then Tilikum just took off like a bat out of you know where. He just kind of just took off really fast. And then he came back around to the glass, jumped up and grabbed the trainer by the waist and started shaking her violently.

And her shoe -- the last thing I saw was her shoe floating and then sirens immediately started. And then everybody down (INAUDIBLE) -- not the trainer, but the other people that kind of stand around those -- the glass area started telling us that we needed to get out, get out.

The sirens were going off. People were running out. Like I've never seen so many SeaWorld employees come out of the woodwork. There were people in suits, people in dress clothes. And they were just yelling at us that we needed to get out.


TODD: Now, clearly, from that account, you can see that this happened in front of an audience of people. Again, we're told it was in a rear holding area, but that the trainer was explaining to people what they were about to see in the show when this incident occurred, Wolf.

What we know now -- we're getting some preliminary reports from local stations and others that the whale involved -- his name was Tilikum -- 11,000 pounds, 22 feet negotiating, one of the biggest whales in captivity. And some -- some of the initial research that CNN has done from our reports in the past, this whale has been involved in the drownings of at least two other people in years past. One of them was at least 10 years ago. The other one, we're told, was 1991.

Again, probably in those incidents, we think that these were incidents of people falling in the water or somebody may have been joking around and climbed -- and just jumped in the water. But, you know, the whale was involved in other incidents of people drowning in the past -- 1999 and 1991, from the initial reports we're getting right now.

BLITZER: That's why they call them killer whales...

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: -- because if you jump in the water, you're going to be -- be killed.

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: This looks like it was a tragic accident.

TODD: That's right. I mean they're saying that there's no foul play suspected. They're treating it like an accident. Again, you know, some object either slips in the water, falls in the water. Whether this whale came out and grabbed this -- this trainer, I think we're going to get some details in the hours ahead.

BLITZER: All right, Brian.

Thanks very much.

We'll stay on top of this story and get more information as it comes into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Will they play a game or will they blink at first?

President Obama versus Republicans at tomorrow's health care summit.

But which side do you think is being more uncooperative?

Wait until you see our new polling. It's really a sign of broken government.


BLITZER: All right, we're going to update you a little bit more later on what's going on in Orlando with the death of that trainer by the killer whale. Stand by for that.

Let's check in, though, with Jack Cafferty right now.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: President Obama is taking a lot for granted. Politico is reporting that top White House advisers are quietly working on plans for the 2012 reelection campaign. For now, the planning is made up of private closed door meetings among aides at all levels.

I guess when you have the economy and health care reform and the deficits under control, then you can spend your time worrying about the next election -- even if it's almost three years away.

The article's sources say the president has given every sign he plans to run again, wants the next campaign to look a lot like the last one.

Well, my guess is it won't turn out quite the same way.

It's believed the re-election campaign would be managed by the White House deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, and possibly be run out of Chicago, which is a good way to remove it from beltway politics and locate it, instead, in that bastion of good government.

The planning still in its early stages, but some say it would likely launch in about a year. Nonetheless, there's still a long way to go. President Obama's approval rating hovering at around 50 percent. And a majority of Americans say he doesn't deserve to be re- elected. The American people were promised change and a lot of them think this administration is just more of the same. And if the jobs don't start coming back soon, well, he may want to see if that community organizer job is still open.

Here's the question -- is it too early for President Obama to be planning his re-election campaign?

You can go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

President Obama's health care summit kicks off tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m..

Joining us to talk about it, our senior political analyst, David Gergen, and senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Some new poll numbers from CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation poll. Only 25 percent of people polled support the current version of health care reform. Forty-eight percent say Congress should work out a new bill. Twenty-five percent say they should stop working on the issue.

These are not very encouraging numbers for the president and the Democrats.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, they're certainly not. Over 70 percent of the people in the country either want to drop this bill and start over or forget it all -- altogether for a while. So the president has his work cut out for him.

But I -- I do think it's a serious endeavor, Wolf. I think it's a serious morning and after -- early afternoon, because the -- the White House very much wants to make sure people understand what's at stake and get beyond all the stories about the sausage making up on Capitol Hill and to get to the substance. And they hope that this can revive momentum for health care and then they'll go ahead and get it passed. You know, their preference is to move now with a reconciliation.

But the Republicans -- I've been up talking on Capitol Hill today. They very much think this gives them an opportunity to show the country, look, we're sensible people, we have -- we get the problems, but we want to go on a more step by step basis. We don't want to do this great big omnibus bill. It's arrogant, as Lamar Alexander would put it, for 100 senators to think that they can control 17 percent of the economy.

So they want to make those kind of arguments and the American people can have a chance to judge.

BLITZER: But isn't it likely that with all those TV cameras inside and a lot of people watching, politicians instinctively will posture?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they will be on their best behavior, simply because that's exactly what people are expecting. I think we are not likely to see the sorts of things that we might be able to see where -- were behind closed door meetings open, and that is that's when people butt heads.

I think because this is all about who's being bipartisan, who's really going to come to a compromise, I think both sides don't want to be the ones that sound like they're intransigent, that they're bullying the other side.

I just think most people believe at this point, at least on Capitol Hill, that you're not going to get a lot of substance coming out of this meeting. You may get an airing, as David says. And that may be valuable. But this is not the place to negotiate. I mean I -- I love transparency, but they're not going to negotiate.

GERGEN: Yes, yes. One person said to me, if -- if we've got any chance at negotiation, no cameras for the next meeting.


GERGEN: This is it, one time only.

BLITZER: Well, you guys will be with me. We'll be all here tomorrow watching it with our audience out there, our viewers. They'll get a chance to see what happens at Blair House, across the street from the White House.

Guys, thanks very much.

10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning -- at least six hours, maybe seven hours of discussions, negotiations, whatever you want to call it, on health care reform.

We're going to take a closer look at what's happening in Orlando's SeaWorld right now. It's a tragedy. A show featuring killer whales was about to get underway when witnesses say one of the whales grabbed a trainer in its mouth.


BLITZER: This week, we're putting a spotlight on businesses that are finding ways to thrive as the economy shrinks. As part of our Building Up America series, we look at the owner of a company who was able to overhaul her family's business after it burned to the ground.

Let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. You know, one of the problems with a recession is that the rest of life doesn't stop for it. You still have the same issues of taking care of your house and your car and your family, things like that. And they can all be problems along the way you have to deal with.

The woman we're looking at today in our Building Up America segment had more than her fair share. Things really went very badly for her a few years ago, but she focused on solutions. And despite the recession, look at where she is today.


FOREMAN (voice-over): In all of Central Texas, there may be no one who knows more about rebuilding than the woman who runs this lumber company out on the edge of Austin, because for the past few years, that's all her life has been about.

LAURA CULIN, AUSTIN LUMBER COMPANY: Hey, there, what you got for me?

FOREMAN (voice-over): A dozen years back, Laura Cullen took over her dad's business. And even as a single mother, she was making a go of it until New Year's Eve 2005.

(on camera): And so then calamity strikes.

What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A massive fire. Everything that Laura owns burnt to the ground.

FOREMAN (voice-over): A million dollars worth of buildings, equipment and inventory gone. Laura had no insurance, little savings, but she did have conviction this would not defeat her.

(on camera): So Laura moved into a house on the edge of the property and day by day started to rebuild. Now remember, while this was happening, the entire construction industry in this country took a nosedive. So she didn't have to just rebuild, she had to remake her entire business plan.

This is cotton insulation?

CULIN: This is made out of recycled blue jeans.

FOREMAN (voice-over): To cash in on new construction trends, she began stocking more green products, recycled plastics, sustainable woods.

(on camera): By selling things like this, sustainable lumber, you're able to get a niche of the market that really nobody was serving quite that well.

CULIN: Yes. Nobody.

FOREMAN (voice-over): She tapped into a government program that pays young people to learn trades, augmenting her small staff.

CULIN: You'll be working in the hardware store.


CULIN: You'll be learning retail sales.

FOREMAN (on camera): So you're also now renting out property?


FOREMAN (voice-over): She cut down on the space she uses, making some available to other struggling small businesses.

JOHN BRAUN, BUSINESS MENTOR: What I'm doing right now is virtually impossible, which is a one man shop.

FOREMAN: And she joined a business group and meets every few weeks with a mentor, John Braun, who owns a much bigger construction company.

(on camera): So the basic idea is it's better for the whole business community if more established businesses help out those that are just coming along?

BRAUN: Yes. You should always be willing to grow the next generation.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Laura knows the economy is bad, but she's not afraid.

(on camera): Do you think you have fully recovered at this point?

CULIN: No. No. But I am on the way up.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Because each time she winds down from another day of building up her corner of America, Laura knows she'll be right back at it tomorrow.

CULIN: We are going to survive.


FOREMAN: And that is something we're seeing all over this part of Texas. Many of the people who are doing well say they're pulling in everything they can -- their own initiative, their own ideas, their own ability to innovate, support from the community. And that's how they're getting through not just the hard times of the recession, but the normal hard times that come along during a recession, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman with the CNN Express in Austin, Texas.

Thank you, Tom.

Good report.

Is the White House treating this year like it's already 2012? A report says there are already plans to re-elect President Obama.

Is that true?

If so is it, too, early?


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

Happening now, a defense of Toyota -- Mississippi's governor warning Congress against targeting the automaker to prop up U.S. competitors. Stand by.

Government projects coming in at twice the estimates -- we're taking a closer look at why cost overruns are now so frequent.

And blistering Senate criticism -- private contractors in Afghanistan accused of engineering the U.S. mission there -- endangering it, as well.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


More than 8 million vehicles have now been recalled. An untold number of people feared driving their cars, and tragically people have died. Let's get more on Toyota's problems as the company's chief testifies on Capitol Hill. One governor is making a provocative argument, saying Toyota is an American car company and he wonders if the government might attack Toyota just to promote General Motors and Chrysler, which the government bailed out. We're talking about Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour, who is joining us now. Governor Barbour, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Shouldn't -- a lot of people say Toyota has itself to blame for these problems. Does it?

BARBOUR: Well, sure. Toyota's -- has made mistakes. They've been very aggressive about fixing those mistakes. They've been very aggressive about recognizing those mistakes. They made an enormous, enormous recall even though there have been very, very, very few incidents that have been reported. They've shut down factories to work on making sure that problems are being addressed appropriately. The dealers have been aggressive. I don't remember any automobile company in history, when a recall was made, that's gone to these lengths. In fact, if you look at all the recalls in the last 20 years of the United States, Toyota is 17th out of 19 companies in the number of cars recalled based on the numbers of cars sold based on market share. They've been very aggressive.

BLITZER: We should point out that Toyota has a plant. They're building Priuses in Mississippi. They employ a lot of people in Mississippi and they have subcontractors who employ even more. So Mississippi, obviously, you have an interest in making sure Toyota remains robust and strong.

BARBOUR: Well, we have a plant that is being built in Mississippi. It isn't open yet. But Toyota employs 200,000 people in the United States. If you take the company, its suppliers and dealers, 200,000 Americans are employed by Toyota. There are millions and millions of Toyotas on the road in the United States. In fact, of all the Toyotas sold in the last 22 years in the United States, 80 percent of them are still on the road.

BLITZER: But even the president of Toyota testified today before Congress that they now realize they were slow in recognizing the enormity of this crisis, that they were slow in dealing with it, and they made major mistakes.

BARBOUR: I thought the president came over here very cheerfully as well as voluntarily and said, look, we've made mistakes; we've been very aggressive in trying to correct them. We're going to continue. He talked about their processes and changes they've made in their processes. But, look, the problem here is 60 percent of General Motors is owned by the United States government. A very significant share of Chrysler is owned by the United States government. We need to be sure that this is a fair hearing and that also the goal is problem solving, not trying to beat up a competitor.

BLITZER: All right. Well, on that issue, governor --

BARBOUR: And if you watched much of what went on today, you can see why I was concerned about that.

BLITZER: I raised that issue. I spoke with Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation. The points he made in the article in "The Washington Post," the op-ed you wrote, and he says you're flat- out wrong. Listen to this.

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: What Haley said in that article about the idea that we may be too close to GM or Chrysler because the government owns is absolute baloney, and I told him that personally when I saw him this weekend, when he was at the governor's conference and I was there, too. I don't believe it. He shouldn't believe it. And the American people shouldn't believe it. We recall cars when they're not safe, no matter what who the manufacturer is.

BLITZER: All right. That's what he says about your point.

BARBOUR: Yeah, Wolf. Let's talk about what I said. I said in my op-ed piece that Ray LaHood was an honorable, fair-minded guy. What I said was Americans should be concerned about these Congressional hearings, not about what secretary LaHood was going to do. In fact, I went out of my way to say he was a fair person. What I said --

BLITZER: You did raise an issue of --

BARBOUR: These Congressional hearings could lend themselves to just trying to bash Toyota. And I think if you watched them you'd see why I had that concern.

BLITZER: But you did say in the article, and isle read it to you, "The way that Congress and the Obama administration respond to this controversy will have real economic consequences," and you suggested that there was already a rush to judgment. Those were your words.

BARBOUR: I said exactly how -- that -- how they respond. But my concern in there is directly aimed at these hearings.

BLITZER: Not the Obama administration.

BARBOUR: If you go back, you'll see that's what that sentence says.

BLITZER: You're not concerned about the Obama administration.

BARBOUR: I am much less concerned about the Obama administration than these hearings, which is why I wrote it when I wrote it, to coincide with the hearings. I do believe people who watch the hearings can understand my concern. In fact, I would ask them, here's the president of a big Japanese company that's an international company, of course, comes over voluntarily to testify before Congress. What if an American CEO that did this is in Japan or China, went over to testify before their legislature, and got treated this way? What would we think of it?

BLITZER: When you say "got treated this way," he was shown respect during these hearings today, wasn't he?

BARBOUR: I thought he got beat up -- I thought there was a lot of edge in what several of the people said. But I will say he comported himself in a way that made it plain, look, I'm here, I want to answer your questions, Toyota doesn't have anything to hide, we're proud of this company and the quality of work it does. I do think if you listen through there you could hear plaintiffs' lawyers' echoes in the background who are hoping this is going to be a great big payday for the plaintiffs' bar. I think you also know that some of the people there, who are very involved in this, are very big promoters of the Detroit automobile companies, which are great companies that we buy lots of cars from in Mississippi, but the government is the biggest stockholder in general motors.

BLITZER: All right. Haley Barbour not backing away from that point even in the face of criticism from Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation. Go governor, thanks for joining us. Come back.

BARBOUR: Hey, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Tomorrow at that health care summit it will be President Obama versus Republicans. Which side do you think is being more uncooperative? We have some new polling numbers. Stand by.


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

What else is going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A Sea World Orlando trainer is dead after being attacked by a killer whale. A witness said the trainer just finished explaining what would happen in the show when the whale came out of the water and grabbed her around the waist. Guests were told to leave and the park was closed. The same whale was involved in two other incidents, one in 1999 that left a man dead and another involving the drowning of a trainer from British Columbia. Sea World in San Diego has announced it is closing and suspending their shows. We'll continue to monitor the story.

In other news, a Colorado teacher says he always wondered what he would do with if a school shooting broke out. Well, yesterday, David Bahnke found out. He tackled the gunman as he was about to reload his rifle at a middle school just two miles from the columbine high school. Two students were shot, one is still in the hospital. Bail for the 32-year-old suspect is set at $1 million.

And secretary of state Hillary Clinton says domestic political battles are hurting foreign policy and damaging the United States' image. In testimony to a Congressional committee, Clinton said the fight between the white house and Congress have led to gridlock on appointments to critical positions. She says it's getting harder to explain to countries why there isn't anyone in a position to interact with them. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. Lisa will be back. Is it too early for the white house to be planning president Obama's re-election campaign? James Carville and Ben Stein are here to talk about that.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get to our "strategy session" right now. Joining us the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville and "Fortune" magazine columnist Ben Stein. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. This is a strategy session. Let's talk about some numbers that we're getting from our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll. Is Obama doing enough to cooperate with the GOP? Right now 52 percent say yes, in November 49 percent. Is Obama not doing enough? Excuse me. Is Obama not doing enough to cooperate with the GOP and it's increased dramatically. 52 percent, James, saying he's not doing enough. Back in April it was 36 percent. The American public increasingly believes he is not doing enough to cooperate with the Republicans.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think that's why you're seeing this sort of health care summit, if you will, on the course of the other side of the coin. Talking about larger margin, the Republicans not doing enough. But I think the American people are understandably frustrated with gridlock and they're not happy about that. You saw this jobs bill pass with more Republican support than people thought, you saw the president calling the summit, saw him go to Republican caucus so, I suspect they're kind of looking at some of the numbers in the white house and trying to adjust to this. BLITZER: A lot more Americans think the Republican, Ben, aren't doing enough to cooperate with president Obama. It's been fairly steady back in April, 61 percent, now 67 percent. So it's gone up there. So, Americans don't believe the Republicans want to cooperate either.

BEN STEIN, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Well, there's a fairly steady drug maker bat drumbeat coming out of the white house, the bully pulpit, saying the media is largely with what the white house says. This is true. And I blame the Republicans very much for it myself because they have not come up with any alternatives, any really meaningful alternatives for health care. I mean this stuff about cutting off lawsuits and having people be able to sell insurance in the interstate. That's trivia. They probably should be coming up with their own alternative plan, and I think if they did that, if there were meaningful plans, probably a higher opinion of Republican cooperation.

BLITZER: James, what's the prospect, the likelihood, if you will, that the Republicans and the president and the Democrats and Republicans will emerge from tomorrow's six or seven hours of talks at Blair house and say we're on to something, we're going to work together and reach a compromise on health care?

CARVILLE: You know, not highly unlikely but they say here's three things that we can kind of agree on, and that they might be quasicosmetic and I don't think it would be something that would satisfy either Ben or I, but I think that when you look at numbers like this and both in the Republican Congress and the white house and the Democratic Congress, I think that it's in the interest of both sides to come up with something and something of a little more than window dressing that they could agree on.

BLITZER: Is it in the interest of the Republicans -- Ben, is it many the interest of the Republicans?

STEIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Nobody wants to come out of the meeting tomorrow looking like he is the thug or the train wrecker or the person who's sabotaging Congress. Everyone wants to look like he or she is the one trying to make progress and the other guys are the intransigent ones. I think everyone will put on a face of bonnamie (ph) and friendship, but we'll see who's cooperating. I think Mr. Obama has got to realize this idea of comprehensively smashing the health care system and rebuilding from the ground up, that isn't going to fly. He has to try a more moderate approach. That's my humble opinion. Americans are scared to go to the doctor, with good reason, doctors hurt you. They help you, too, but they hurt you.

BLITZER: James, did you see that lengthy article on that informally the white house already gearing up for 2012, planning to have campaign headquarters in Chicago, they've got a team in place, they've got staff ready to go? Is that normal or is it a little early to be doing all that?

CARVILLE: Well, you know, we could argue whether or not it's too early, and it might be, but what is inarguable is someone shouldn't have run their mouth to Mike Allen about it. And if I'm the president of the United States, I would be, like, bouncing off the walls or more appropriately bouncing some staff people off the walls here. I've always admired the president's operation and campaign. They were very disciplined and tightlipped. But why in the world would somebody -- and I know Mike Allen, he wouldn't make this up, why somebody would be running their mouth to him I have no earthly idea. And this is the last story that this white house needs right now.

STEIN: But it makes a lot of sense because after all, Mr. Obama can't control the North Korean, the Russians, can't control Hugo Chavez, can't control the Congress, cannot control the economy. He can control starting up his campaign, so he might as well do that.

BLITZER: Ben Stein, James Carville. I guess nobody should be surprised he's thinking about 2012 but James thinks he's made a good point but they shouldn't necessarily be leaking that information.


BLITZER: Thanks, guys.

You've heard what Ben and James say about campaigns to re-elect President Obama. Next your thoughts on Jack Cafferty's question. Is it too early for President Obama to be planning his re-election campaign?


BLITZER: Right back to Jack for the Cafferty report.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour: Is it too early for President Obama to be planning his re-election campaign?

Cliff in Regal Park, New York says: "Every politician in both parties starts to run for re-election on the first day in office. The only solution to enhance selflessness and limit corruption is term limits. If the milk I buy has a date to prevent spoilage, why shouldn't the same apply to the legislators?"

Dave in Oregon writes: "Why not, let's just hopeful that Cheney and Palin don't start planning."

Scott in Illinois: "I think President Obama needs to worry more about the economy, jobs, the deficit, health care and getting Republicans to work the Democrats instead of worrying about his re- election bid. He won't be re-elected unless things change between now and 2012."

Richard in Texas writes: "Of course it isn't too early for Obama to start campaigning. In fact, I have a couple of catchy slogans he can use. Isn't it time you were disappointed again? Read my lips, no new tax cuts."

Tommy writes: "It's not too early for Obama to start planning for the re-election, after all, his opponents on the conservative side have started to plot his ouster." Thaddeus in Milwaukee: "How about he follows through with his first campaign promises before moving onto additional hogwash? So in short, yes, it is too early."

And Pete says: "Election campaigns are what Obama lives for. He is like a dog chasing a car, he doesn't have a clue what to do if he catches it."

If you want to read more, go to my blog on

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

The military first started developing this aircraft with a projected price tag of $4 billion, and just wait until you hear how much the price tag has gone up.


BLITZER: All week in the "broken government" series we have been focusing in what is wrong with Washington and what can be done to fix it. Lisa Sylvester is back and looking at why so many government projects end up costing so much more than we were originally told. Lisa, what are you finding out?

SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, the country is facing a $1.3 trillion deficit for this year. Yet, there are government projects coming in way over budget.


SYLVESTER: With 580,000 square feet and three levels and marble floors and two theaters and the largest cafeteria in Washington, the Capitol Hill visitors' center offers guests a grand welcome. Taxpayers shelled out $621 million, more than two times the original estimated cost. One example of a cost overrun. When the price tag for a project approved by Congress balloons out of control.

PETE SEPP, NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION: It is always the natural tendency of bureaucracies and the politicians who benefit from them to sell us something at one price and then Jack that price up later, and in hopes that we won't notice.

SYLVESTER: According to the Government Accountability Office, the military's B22 osprey development cost increased over 200 percent from $4.2 billion to $12.7 billion between 1986 and 2007. The stimulus project originally passed Congress with $787 billion price tag, but later the Congressional Budget Office revised that number upwards to $862 billion, due to higher costs for unemployment compensation. The yucca mountain site for burying nuclear waste has been plagued by delays and cost over runs, leaving the Obama administration to put the brakes on the program. The GAO's projected cost, $67 billion. Why are we seeing these cost overruns?

MANDY SMITHBERGER, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: What you are seeing with the joint strike fighter program and the osprey fighters is that it will be way too optimistic and not realistic. SYLVESTER: Cost overruns happened in the private sector and not reported as frequently as the government. But the Cato institute, a group that favors smaller government says there is not enough oversight of federal spending.

CHRIS EDWARDS, CATO INSTITUTE: Congressional oversight is not a sexy thing to do and members would rather spend on new projects and when you think of a new member of Congress with weapons contractor in their district, they are not very concerned about cost overruns.

SYLVESTER: But when the projects exceed their expected cost, it is not Congress' money at stake, it is the taxpayers.


SYLVESTER: Cost overruns tend to happen in large spending programs from energy to NASA to the pentagon, but last year lawmakers passed and signed into law a measure that adds more oversight to the defense department's procurement process which calls for tracking growth before they proceed on a project, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are talking about billions and billions and billions of dollars. Thank you, Lisa for that report.

SYLVESTER: Thank you.