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Tension Among Former Bush Aides; President Obama's Cabinet on Display

Aired March 10, 2010 - 17:00   ET



SANCHEZ: There's something weird about that microphone, huh?

It almost sounds like he's got...

OBAMA: Great to be back in...

SANCHEZ: Like it's going up and down, like a little (INAUDIBLE) there.

Well, there's the president. We're going to be monitoring this for you, obviously.

And Wolf Blitzer is standing by in THE SITUATION ROOM to take you through all of this and then some -- there you go, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Rick, thanks very much.

We'll monitor what the president is saying.

Also happening now, Karl Rove relives some of the worst mistakes and biggest controversies of the Bush administration. Stand by for my in depth interview with the former presidential adviser. I'll press him on a wide range of hot button issues, including the WMD error in Iraq and whether he personally dropped the ball in the lead-up to the war.

Also, the chief justice versus the commander-in-chief -- John Roberts is openly complaining about attending the president's State of the Union Address, that he likens to a political pep rally.

Who's to blame for this new level of tension between the high court and the White House?

And find out why cigarette smoking may actually help certain people. Yes, you heard that right. A surprising new medical study out this hour. We have the details for you on that.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We're monitoring the president of the United States. He's speaking out in Missouri. We're watching what's happening. Right now, he's thanking a whole bunch of local politicians. We'll make sure any news that he -- that goes forward from this event, we'll share it with you. Stand by for that.

And at this time, when he's trying to get some important health care legislation through both houses of Congress, there may be some valuable lessons he could learn from the Bush era. Few people know as much about the ups and downs of the last administration or about politics, for that matter, than the president -- the former president's long time adviser.

And joining us now, Karl Rove.

He's the author of a brand new book entitled, "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight."

Karl, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: This is a very long book you've written, about 600 pages, 40 pages of footnotes alone, a long index. I went through it. Let's talk about some of the controversial issues that you discuss in the book, beginning with the war in Iraq. You acknowledged there was an intelligence blunder. You say the president of the United States got bad intelligence.

And then you write: "So, then, did Bush lie us into war?"

And you say: "Absolutely not."

Who -- who do you blame for that intelligence blunder?

ROVE: Well, I'm not certain that I would -- I don't know if I used the word blunder in there. I think that may be your word.

But I -- look, I understand we now know, in retrospect, why Western intelligence agencies all across the board thought he had WMD. He wanted us to think he did. He felt that the presence -- that if we thought we had -- he had WMD, it made him strong in the neighborhood, it kept him in power and because his own people knew he had used it on them and that he thought it was a deterrent to the West.

And we do know, because of Charles Duelfer and David Kay and their reports, that he remained, you know, intent upon acquiring these weapons. He thought that the weapons -- the sanctions program of the United Nations would -- would erode away and he was keeping together the dual use facilities and the engineers, scientists and technicians to reconstitute these programs quickly, once the West lost interest in him, as he felt they were and would.

BLITZER: But the president makes no more important decision than to send young men and women off to war. And you make the point in the book that if -- without the case for WMD, weapons of mass destruction, he wouldn't have been able to get approval to go to war. So the question remains, somebody said to the president, you know what, there are stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq.

Was that George Tenet of the CIA; the vice president, Dick Cheney; Colin Powell, the secretary of State; Donald Rumsfeld?

Who -- who -- who told the president...

ROVE: These -- these...

BLITZER: -- that this is...

ROVE: -- these...

BLITZER: -- that this was a done deal?

ROVE: These were the intelligence professionals who laid out their evidence, not only to President Bush and his national security apparatus, but also to the leaders of Congress. Because, as you recall, rule -- Wolf -- Wolf, 110 Democrats voted for the authorization of the Use of Force Resolution. Sixty-seven of them stand up on the floor of the House and Senate, including John Kerry; John Edwards; Hillary Clinton; Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Jay Rockefeller, a ranking member on the committee...

BLITZER: I understand...

ROVE: -- and they say...

BLITZER: -- but who's to blame...

ROVE: -- he has WMD.

BLITZER: -- is Tenet -- was he the CIA director...

ROVE: Well, look...

BLITZER: -- was he to blame for this bad intelligence?

ROVE: No, look, the intelligence agencies both here and abroad believed he had WMD. Now, you may want to figure or pick out one and sort of go hang him, Wolf. But what I'm interested in is, is that intelligence gets it wrong. They got it wrong in Iraq one way. They, also, as you recall, got it wrong on Libya the other way. That is to say, they underestimated how dangerous Libya's programs were, both chemical, biological and nuclear. And when he gave them up in the interim, between the fall of the Taliban and the beginning of the Iraq War, we found out that Western intelligence had underestimated the -- the dangerousness of his programs.

BLITZER: But you had the highest security clearances.

Did you just accept that intelligence at face value or did you personally go back and look at the intelligence to make sure it was right?

ROVE: Look, throughout the administration, key policy makers questioned this all the time. You -- I talk in the book, for example, how Colin Powell, a skeptic, went out to the CIA and parked himself for days, in which he brought the analysts and the experts in and questioned them closely. And even an acerbic critic of the war, his -- Powell's chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, admitted that these visits were determinative and conclusive in Powell's mind. And that happened throughout the government...

BLITZER: So it's fair to say you had...

ROVE: The Democrats and Republicans...

BLITZER: You had -- you personally had no doubt -- I guess with hindsight, do you wish you had paid more close attention to the intelligence -- the raw intelligence itself?

ROVE: The raw intelligence was carefully reviewed by Democrats and Republicans who came to the same conclusion...

BLITZER: But what about you?

ROVE: -- Hillary Clinton and Al Gore and others, that this was -- that he had WMD. And it -- look, we -- we had to act on what we knew at the time. It's nice in retrospect to say oh, well, you know, somebody should have known. But everybody did examine this carefully.

I don't -- I don't -- I was with Howard Dean last Saturday, who said Bush lied about it. And when I said, well, you know, Howard, if Bush lied about it, then what about all these Democrats who arrived at the same conclusion?

And he dismissed it by saying all those Democrats simply accepted Bush's word at it.

I disagree. I know how carefully people on both sides of the aisle examined this information and examined these conclusions, because this was a question of war or peace. This was a question of whether our country was going to go to war and send our military, our brave men and women, into combat. And -- and this is not a decision that anyone in -- in our government, Democrat or Republican, takes lightly.

BLITZER: I -- no, I asked the question only because more than 4,000 young American men and women have died so far in the war in Iraq. A trillion dollars, at least, has been spent. And -- and as you look back...

ROVE: I think...

BLITZER: -- at your personal...

ROVE: I think you're conflating Iraq and Afghanistan, but I accept your point...

BLITZER: No, well, listen...

ROVE: -- in these conflicts. BLITZER: -- in Iraq, 4,373 as of today...

ROVE: I think that includes ...

BLITZER: -- men and women have died.

ROVE: I think that includes combat and non-combat injuries.

BLITZER: It includes -- yes, that's the number of U.S. Military personnel and about a dozen civilian DOD personnel have died in the war in Iraq. And -- and, as we all know, this is the most important decision a president can make.

The only thing I'm asking is, do you wish you personally, as the deputy White House chief of staff, had gone and reviewed the intelligence more closely?

ROVE: Wolf, it was carefully examined from top to bottom. (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: I know that others did...

ROVE: The right, the right...

BLITZER: -- but I'm wondering what you did.

ROVE: The right decision was made, Wolf, and -- and the world is a better place for Saddam Hussein being gone from power and for the -- for the emergence of a democracy in the heart of the Middle East. It will be a powerful force for good and -- and for America's security interests in the years to come.

BLITZER: Here's what you write in "Courage and Consequence": "The failure to find stockpiles of WMD did great damage to the administration's credibility. Our weak response in defense of the president and in setting the record straight is, I believe, one of the biggest mistakes of the Bush years."

Explain exactly why you think the -- the failure to respond to the criticism was such a big mistake.

ROVE: Because on July 15, 2003, in a speech, Senator Ted Kennedy, who had previously said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, said Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Later that day, Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, at a pen and pad press conference, reiterated the charge.

The next day, John Edwards made the charge in a committee hearing and John Kerry made the -- made the charge in a speech. And later that day, Congresswoman Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, joined in the criticism.

You don't have five senior Democrats like that begin to launch a crusade against President Bush on a question of having lied about WMD unless there was a conscious decision at the highest levels of the Democratic Party to make this a political issue. BLITZER: Well, why didn't you respond more aggressively?

ROVE: Well, as -- as I explain in the book, it was a mistake, for which I am -- I am principally responsible, because I should have raised the warning flag. This was discussed, but, you know, some people said, well, you know what, if you wrestle with a pig, you're going to get muddy. Don't -- don't go down that. Don't re-litigate the past. You know, some people were simply worn out and wanted to move on.

But we should have. We should have, in retrospect, treated this with great seriousness and stood up and said, with all due respect, Senator Kennedy, Senator Edwards, Senator Kerry, Congresswoman Harman, Senator Daschle, you said yourselves that Saddam Hussein had WMD and if -- and if President Bush lied about it, then what did you do?

Did you lie or were you derelict in your duties and not look at the intelligence and arrive at your own independent conclusions?

And this was -- you know, as I repeat, 67 Democrats stood up on the floor of the House or Senate during that debate and voted for it and said I -- Saddam had WMD. Even opponents, Barbara Boxer and -- and Ted Kennedy said Saddam had WMD. Al Gore gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club in September...

BLITZER: All right...

ROVE: -- of 2002 and said WMD. You cannot make the argument about Bush and isolate these other Democrats who mirrored...

BLITZER: Was that...

ROVE: -- and echoed his comments.

BLITZER: Was that your biggest mistake?

ROVE: I -- I think, over -- in the -- over the course of the eight years, that was the biggest mistake, not to respond to that, because it was close and it ate away at people's credibility, confidence in the president's credibility and it affected a lot of other things besides simply the conduct of the war.


BLITZER: All right. That's part one of the interview with Karl Rove.

Much more coming up. Part two will focus in on Valerie Plame, the former CIA clandestine officer -- the release of her name, his involvement in that episode. Stand by for that.

But let's get some analysis now from our senior political analysts, Gloria Borger and David Gergen -- David, he really didn't want to take personal responsibility for failing to go through the intelligence himself. Even though he had the highest security clearances, he was relying, he points out, apparently, on others. DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, I think that's -- you know, he was not the national security adviser and he was -- you know, he was more of a political person in the White House.

But, Wolf, I must tell that you after we went in and couldn't find the WMD, I was very suspicious that the Bush administration and the president personally had lied to us. And then I had the opportunity to talk to several people high up in the Clinton administration, both in intelligence and at the White House.

And I can tell you that those people -- these Democrats in the previous administration, including the president, Clinton, himself, believed that there was likely to be WMD in Iraq based on intelligence. They -- the intelligence -- we had here a massive intelligence failure. And while I -- I think there are many other mistakes the Bush administration made with regard to Iraq -- and I do think they inflated the threat of a nuclear -- a nuclearized Iraq, you know, the -- the mushroom cloud analogy they kept using to scare people -- that that was wrong.

But on the fundamental point Karl Rove is making, that it was intelligence, not lies, not mendacity, I think he very much deserves the benefit of the doubt. I think he's basically right.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, Gloria, a lot of critics say there was plenty of other evidence saying there -- there was limited, if any, weapons of mass destruction and it really didn't represent a major threat to anyone outside of Iraq. That intelligence was effectively, they say, ignored.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and -- and there was also a charge that was made later on, which is that the administration essentially cherry picked the intelligence that was presented to them. The intelligence that looked like Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was, some think, some charge that they paid more attention to than the intelligence, which was later revealed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, that showed that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction.

It was interesting to me that -- that Karl Rove mentioned Colin Powell, because, of course, you'll recall that Powell testified very strongly before the United Nations about the presence of WMD and now refers to that testimony as the low point in his career. And later on, he says that he realized that some of the intelligence that was supplied to him was supplied by someone who was unreliable, who, in the intelligence community, was known as Curveball.

So while Karl Rove didn't want to blame George Tenet, it's very clear to me that Colin Powell felt that he believed that he was being fed some bad information.

BLITZER: I want both of you to stand by, because part two of the interview is coming up.

We -- we go through the whole Valerie Plame incident and Karl Rove's involvement in that.

We'll assess that, as well.

Stand by.

The last Kennedy serving in the United States Congress launched an angry riff on the House floor today.

So what's Congressman Patrick Kennedy so angry about?

Stand by for that.

And the president sends his Health secretary into the lion's den of insurance executives.

Is he using his cabinet effectively?

Mary Matalin and Paul Begala -- they'll join us for our Strategy Session.

And the actress Reese Witherspoon -- she's here today, in THE SITUATION ROOM, talking about the very important work she's doing to help women around the world.


REESE WITHERSPOON, ACTRESS: One in three people -- one in three women in are being affected. That's someone everyone knows. It might not be in your household, but it might be your sister or your neighbor or someone in your community.



BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, finally some good news for Detroit. With Toyota recalling more than eight million vehicles worldwide, a new poll suggests that fewer Americans are now set on buying foreign cars. A Gallup Poll shows just 6 percent of those surveyed said they would only consider foreign brands when buying a car. That number is down from 15 percent in 2008 -- December of 2008, when the government first considered bailing out the U.S. auto industry.

Meanwhile, the percentage of people who would consider only American cars stands at 36 percent. Young adults represent the biggest drop in a preference for foreign cars. Eighteen to 34-year- olds used to be the most likely to say they would buy only foreign cars.

Also, young adults are now much more likely to say they would only consider American brands. And That's a good sign for the big three American car companies, since these young people will be buying cars for many years to come.

The Gallup Poll also finds older adults are the most loyal to U.S. car companies.

There could be many reasons why people are less interested in foreign cars these days, from the safety issues at Toyota to a renewed support for American makes after the bailout by the government.

Whatever is behind the trend, new car sales at Ford, Chrysler and G.M. were all higher last month compared to a year ago, when the industry, as you'll recall, was on the brink of collapse.

So here's the question -- in light of the Toyota scandal, are you less likely to buy a foreign car?

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

BLITZER: It gets a little murky out there, because so many of the foreign cars, whether the Japanese cars or the German cars, are actually manufactured in the United States, employing tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of American workers.

CAFFERTY: And many of the parts for the so-called American cars are made in plants...

BLITZER: Excellent point.

CAFFERTY: -- outside the United States.

BLITZER: That's a good point, too. So that's...

CAFFERTY: But I didn't want to get into all that, because it would have ruined my question.


BLITZER: All right. Jack, thanks.

Stand by.

And also stand by for more of my extensive interview with the former Bush senior adviser, Karl Rove. He's refusing to get drawn into a fight with a former colleague in the Bush White House.


ROVE: Comparing me to some Japanese soldier stuck in a jungle on some Southeast Pacific island is just a little strange. So I'll -- I'll let his words stand by them -- for themselves.


BLITZER: We'll have more of the interview coming up.

And stimulus money that's supposed to be going to small towns apparently is going to a luxury resort -- we're tracking taxpayer dollars and whether they're being misspent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More of my interview with Karl Rove coming up, including his comments on Valerie Plame, the outed CIA clandestine officer -- his role in that and much more. Stand by for that.

In the meantime, let's check in with Mary Snow.

She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Mary, what's going on?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's mixed news on the unemployment front. According to a government report out today, January saw fewer states claiming rising joblessness. Thirty states and the District of Columbia are on the list. And that figure is down from 43 states the month before. That same report, however, also shows January's unemployment rate is higher than the same period last year in all 50 states. Now, states faring the worst include Michigan, Nevada and Rhode Island, all suffering double digit joblessness; while North Dakota boasts the lowest rate in the country.

The three American hikers detained in Iran have phoned home. The families of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal say they received the calls yesterday and that they seemed to be doing well. Iranian authorities captured the hikers in July, when their families say they accidentally crossed the border into Iran from Northern Iraq. Iran says they're spies. U.S. officials are demanding their release.

Here in New York, the landmark restaurant Tavern On the Green shuttered its doors on New Year's Eve, but it's not gone for good. Today, a judge ruled the city has a right to use the name for a new Central Park eatery, even though the bankrupt previous owners claim the name belonged to them. A new restaurant operator hopes to reopen the refurbished tavern by this spring.

And a judge in Georgia is throwing out most of a remaining legal dispute among the children of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. More than a year ago, Dexter King's siblings took him to court for mismanaging their parents' estate, shutting them out of decisions and refusing to hold shareholders' meetings. Dexter King has denied those allegations. The judge's order also puts an interim custodian in charge -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, stand by.

Thank you.

President Obama has a favorite new target -- health insurance executives. And today, he sent his Health secretary to stare them down. Just ahead, Mary -- Paul Begala and Mary Matalin will debate the president's strategy.

And later, a frustrated chief justice and anger at the White House laid bare -- John Roberts opens up about his problem with the president.

And we're learning more about the Pennsylvania woman allegedly known as Jihad Jane and the indictment accusing her of conspiring to support terrorists. We have an exclusive interview with the suspect's former boyfriend.


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

Happening now, a war of words -- two former Bush administration officials at odds over the leak of a CIA operative's name. We'll have more of my interi -- interview with Karl Rove.

High speed Internet -- rural areas are fighting for access, but why -- why are some of them losing out on government grants?

We're going to tell you who's getting the money.

And you'll be surprised at the results from a new medical study. There may be a benefit -- yes, there may and benefit to certain people to smoke cigarettes.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


But first, let's get back to my in depth interview with long time Bush senior adviser, Karl Rove.

After eight tough years in the White House, there are some hard feelings among some former members of the Bush administration and lots of unanswered questions.


BLITZER: You write at length in the book, also, about the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson releasing -- identifying her as a covert CIA operative and your role in all of that. You were eventually cleared by the special prosecutor.

Earlier in the week, you told Matt Lauer that you don't have to -- you have nothing to apologize to -- to Scott McClellan, who was then the White House press secretary.

He then came back last night and he said this.

Listen to what Scott McClellan said.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN: The interesting thing is that Karl Rove actually did apologize to me on three occasions. Back in July of 2005, Karl personally called me on the phone, said I apologize for -- for what you're going through. The next day in the senior staff meeting, he apologized to me in front of the entire senior staff.

And then, later that day, I came back to my office after the press briefing and found a handwritten letter in my chair written by Karl Rove, apologizing yet again.


BLITZER: Is that true?

ROVE: Yes, look, I -- I said I'm sorry you're having to go through all of this, because he was right in the front taking blows left and right.

But, again, Scott McClellan correctly informed the press. I did not give Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak. I didn't even know her name. Robert Novak talked to -- talked to Richard Armitage, the undersecretary of State, who told him about Valerie Plame. My conversation with Robert Novak inval -- involved Novak telling me about his contact with some unnamed party who told him this. And when he told me Valerie Wilson -- or Valerie Plame said her -- works at the CIA and sent her husband to Niger, I said, I've heard that, too.

If he had said to me, can you confirm that, I would have had to say no, I can't confirm that. But that was my -- that was my participation in it.

I thought it was interesting that when everybody thought I leaked Valerie Plame's name to Bob Novak, people camped out in front of my doorstep. Some of your CNN colleagues were frequent visitors in front of my house.

But when, in August of 2006, America found out that it was Richard Armitage who had leaked the name to Robert Novak, what we got was an exculpatory editorial from "The Washington Post." And the media didn't camp out on his doorstep. There were no drumbeats for sending him off to prison. This thing went away. But as long as they thought it was me, there was an interest. I very early on get every signal from the FBI, then the prosecutors, that I was not in jeopardy because of anything that I might have said to Robert Novak about Valerie Plame. They were interested in side issues which I describe in the book which were really extraordinary. When they finally laid them out on the table, and my attorney told them what was behind that, Fitzgerald's comment was "you've rocked my world." But it is very odd.

BLITZER: I guess the question is, were you totally up front with Scott McClellan in describing the nature of the conversation with Bob Novak.

ROVE: I said, "I did not leak her name, I didn't know her name. I had a conversation with Novak." Look, I'm sorry he went through what he went through but I told the chief of staff and the White House counsel and the president called me about it and I told the FBI when I first met with them every detail about my conversation with Robert Novak. For two years it was clear, they simply said you aren't a target, you're simply a witness. It was only after two years when they developed a convoluted theory having nothing whatsoever to do with Valerie Plame or Joe Wilson that I got into jeopardy. It was over a very odd issue involving a member of the press.

BLITZER: This is how Scott McClellan summed up you in that interview he did with MSNBC.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER BUSH W.H. PRESS SECRETARY: Karl Rove is someone who's always had this mentality that politics is war. And he believes in winning at all cost. And that means embracing political spin, political manipulation to achieve what your goals are. And it's kind of like the Japanese soldier long after World War II is over, they just refuse to accept or believe that World War II has ended. How do you reason with someone like that?


BLITZER: You want to respond to Scott McClellan?

ROVE: No, I really don't. I mean comparing me to some Japanese soldier stuck in a jungle on some southeast pacific island is just a little strange. I'll let his words stand by themselves.

BLITZER: We'll assess what we've just heard from Karl Rove. Gloria Borger and David Gergen will join us.

Also, by the way, more of the interview will be coming up later in THE SITUATION ROOM. Does Karl Rove agree with Liz Cheney or with Ken Starr when it comes to those justice department lawyers working for President Obama? Much more from the interview but our analysis with Gloria --


BLITZER: Stand by for more of my interview with Karl Rove. We'll have that in our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour right here. We'll talk about, among other things, some Republican lightning rods, including Liz Cheney and Michael Steele, his own personal mistakes. Stand by for that.

Let's get back to our senior political analyst David Gergen and Gloria Borger right now. On the Valerie Plame issue, Gloria, you didn't see him backing down at all. Even in the face of that really angry response from Scott McClellan who was, after all, the White House press secretary at the time.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think you saw Karl Rove there being Karl Rove. Pretty much this is someone whom everyone assumed was going to be indicted in that case. Testified for five or six hours before the grand jury, ended up rocking the prosecutor's world as he put it in his book. I think the fact that he sent three notes to Scott McClellan really lets you know that he did feel badly, that Scott McClellan was out there, but he clearly does not believe that he lied to Scott McClellan or misled Scott McClellan because, as he says, he did not give Valerie Plame's name to Bob Novak, nor, he says, did he serve his confirmation in that story. It is one of these things where you can understand why Scott McClellan would be really, really angry at Karl Rove, and why Karl Rove would say, I understand what you're saying but I didn't make you lie.

BLITZER: From Scott McClellan's point of view, he feels he was left out to dry. He was telling reporters that Karl Rove had absolutely nothing to do with this and apparently he did have that very sensitive conversation with Bob Novak the late columnist.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, there are two issues here. On the first, I had many differences with Karl Rove, but I'm fundamentally sympathetic with him on the large issue, and that to is for months he was beaten up in the press and elsewhere as being the guy who put the finger on Valerie Plame and outed her as a CIA agent and looked like he was going to be indicted, and it turned out he was not the guy who leaked it. It turned out it was somebody else, Richard Armitage. He'd taken a brunt of a huge amount of criticism so I think he's justified in now coming forward and saying, wait a minute, I'm not the guy, I didn't do this, here's what happened. I think he's right about that. There is a second issue of whether he should have been more straightforward with Scott McClellan his colleague in the White House and press secretary. In that, McClellan probably has a case where he didn't get complete information. I have worked there, Wolf. And being someone who was speaking for the White House and prying information, complete information, out of your colleagues can be a very hard task. It is like playing reporter inside the White House. Sometimes you don't get all the information and you go out there and you are left hanging out to dry. I do think that Scott McClellan's got a legitimate beef about that.

BORGER: And particularly, David, it is difficult to get information out of someone like Karl Rove when he's facing an indictment. And so -

GERGEN: Well, that's right. I'm sure his lawyers were telling him to shut the heck up.

BORGER: His attorney was saying to Karl, OK, you can only go so far with Scott McClellan. You can't really talk about this. So you know, this is something you can see actually from both people's point of view here.

GERGEN: I agree with that.

BORGER: If I were Scott, I'd be mad. And if I were Karl, you know, my lawyer was probably telling me to keep my mouth shut.

GERGEN: If I were Scott, I'd start letting it go.

BLITZER: He's clearly still very angry because his job was to have credibility with reporters out there, with the American public and he felt that Karl Rove pulled the rug out from under him.

GERGEN: If you work in the White House very long, you're going to get knives in your back. It just goes with the territory. Eventually the wounds have to heal and you have to move on.

BLITZER: Is that happening now in this White House, David?

GERGEN: That's an interesting question. Isn't it? I think there's some very fresh wounds in this current White House, Wolf. BLITZER: You agree, Gloria?

BORGER: Yes, I think there are. I think the question asked about Scott McClellan was why didn't he leave sooner, you know, why did he wait until he wrote his book to tell this story. Was it a matter of making money? His loyalty, he said, was always to George W. Bush and not to Karl Rove, but you know, these people worked together day in and day out, as Davis says, 20 hours a day. They're going to have some tensions between them just as in the White House right now.

GERGEN: Right. I do think -- Wolf, I thought you were talking about the Obama White House. I think the wounds are still fairly fresh. Probably by now in the last White House they should be healing by now. It takes a little while. You can get really banged up in there, as you know. It can take a while to heal.

BLITZER: They're still healing from earlier administrations, including the Clinton administration which I covered for seven years. All right, guys, stand by.

BORGER: It is a lot easier to be on this side.

BLITZER: More of the interview with Karl Rove coming up, including what he thinks about Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president and her controversial ad going after some Obama justice department lawyers. You'll be interested in what he has to say on this.

Also, fears of a new disaster in Haiti are now growing at the highest level. Stand by to hear by President Obama and the president of Haiti are so worried right now.

And should members of the U.S. Supreme Court stop attending the state of the union addresses before a joint session of Congress? It could happen after the chief justice's new complaint about what he calls a political pep rally. His spat with President Obama just ahead.


BLITZER: Right back to Mary Snow monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama's reaching out to the president of Haiti as the two leaders stood at the White House rose garden following an oval office meeting, Mr. Obama pledged America's commitment to help the embattled nation recover. Mr. Obama emphasized that the crisis there has not passed and warned that a second disaster could strike as Haiti now enters the rainy season. Many people are still without homes after January's deadly earthquake.

With tax day fast approaching, the House has passed a bill to allow taxpayers to write off charitable donations to earthquake ravaged Chile this year. The current law requires donors to wait until next year. To claim the deduction, donations would have to be made by April 15th. The measure now moves on to the Senate. Congress passed a similar bill for donations to Haiti.

Sixty-five years later, recognition for women who served during World War II. As civilians in the U.S. war effort, the woman air force service pilots, or W.A.S.P.S., did not receive war benefits and were paid $250 a month. But today the remaining few were awarded the Congressional medal for backing up the troops state side.

Today the popular internet search engine Google debuted biking directions. The feature helps cyclists find the most bike-friendly routes through cities but the internet giant can't claim all the credit. The idea came via a 50,000-signature campaign asking Google to use its mapping data for the function. Wolf?

BLITZER: That's going to make a lot of biking fans very, very happy.

SNOW: Sure will.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary.

Congressman Patrick Kennedy takes a huge swipe at the news media.

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: The press of the United States is not covering the most significant issue of national importance!

BLITZER: You'll find out why he's so fired up right now. The issues he says reporters should really be covering.


BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session right now. Joining us, our CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin. Paul, is President Obama using his cabinet, using his vice president effectively to help him get these various initiatives through the vice president's in Israel right now, Kathleen Sebelius, his health secretary's meeting with health insurance executives. What do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think you're seeing this week a bit of a change in strategy. I think it is one the president needs to use. By one count, CBS keeps track of every detail of the presidency, says that President Obama has given 52 speeches on health care. That's great. I'm all for that. He is a remarkably gifted speaker. But today he sent his secretary of health and human services to go and wag her finger at those big, bad insurance companies. Good for them. That means they're starting to use their cabinet more. The vice president of the United States is in Israel. There's no more important mission for him. I think they're beginning to use their team more and I think that's a very good thing. You can't have the president alone carrying all of the communication load for every issue.

BLITZER: There is a good point, Mary. There is a limit to what one guy can do. MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That's right. Take setting this administration aside, it is a difficult thing to do. You always want to have a magnifying force of the cabinet but the nature of a cabinet personality and the nature of the culture is -- makes that not always as easy as it should be theoretically. For instance, these cabinet members often think they're as smart as the president. They're certainly as smart as the chief of staff or anybody who's trying to coordinate what they say and do from the White House, so they go rogue, as we say, or the culture -- some culture is against the FBI against the CIA and it is a big job inside of the White House and the cabinet secretary who tries to herd all of the cats, and it is hard to do.

BLITZER: But there are cabinet secretaries, Paul, and there are cabinet secretaries. Some are clearly much better, more effective than others. There are a few superstars, a Hillary Clinton as secretary of state or maybe a Robert Gates as the defense secretary and Arne Duncan as education secretary, but some others not necessarily superstars.

BEGALA: Well, right. But look, when Mary worked in the Bush White House, Colin Powell took the job on day one as nothing but respected in the Bush administration, and it was nothing but as equal as secretary Clinton and some of the folks that you named. He put the folks in there, and he needs to use them and the attorney general has to stand up and explain why he wants to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

BLITZER: He has a low profile.

And as you know, people in lower Manhattan and New York where they are talking about having the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed think it is dangerous, and destructive, and it is the attorney general's call, and I like Eric Holder and it is a big job and I love the president, and I'm a great admirer of his and a great talent, but he needs to use the cabinet more and more.

BLITZER: Mary, based on the experience of the Bush White House, give this current White House some advice.

MATALIN: Get off of health care and move on. I know they are having a big fight. They are doomed if they do and doomed if they don't, but the notion to get it done is going to solve all of solve all of the problems is wrong. Be done with it, and move on. There are other people in that White House like Arne Duncan, a very important issue education and he's a superstar and Shean Donovan, the H.U.D. secretary is a superstar and he knows how to work with Arne Duncan and broaden the horizon and focus on the job and it is simple, but they cannot get it done.

BEGALA: And also, the Nobel Prize winner in the secretary of energy, Stephen Chu, and for a propeller head, he is a good speaker.

BLITZER: Let's move on ourselves. Here is Patrick Kennedy, the outgoing Democrat from Rhode Island. Listen to this guys. He got really agitated. KENNEDY: If anybody wants to know where cynicism is. Cynicism is one, two press people in the gallery. We are talking about Eric Massa 24/7 on the TV and war and peace and $3 billion and 1,000 lives and no press? No press! You want to know why the American public is fit? They are fit because they are not seeing the Congress doing the work they were sent here to do and it is because the press of the United States is not covering the most significant issue of national importance and that is the laying of lives down in the nation for the service of our country, and it is despicable, the national press corps right now.

BLITZER: Wow! All right. Paul, does he have a point? You work for the national press, and that would be CNN, but go ahead.

BEGALA: Well, obviously, he has a temper. I like and admire Patrick Kennedy. The hardest thing for grown ups is to maintain a open mind in the face of criticism, but it is true that the media is the least scrutinized of any of the major institution, and in other words, when business or academia or sports or government messes up or church, the media is there to hold a light. Like we have the brag on CNN, but we have Howie Kurtz who is doing a good job to try to police them and you have ombudsmen that are with "The New York Times", and there needs to be more of it. And so fundamentally Congress Kennedy makes a good point, and the press needs to be more responsible.


MATALIN: Well, Wolf, Paul and I agree on nothing more than religion and our kids are the best in the whole world than this, when Paul left the White House we did such a Kumbaya, I feel the pain. If you are sitting on the other side of this, it is a difficult job, but better to light the candle than curse the darkness. It is there to stay there and more outlets and if people want to know about the war, I bet that Omar and Heck Matir has their own blog, and you can find out what you need to know about the information age and to have this attitude is counterproductive for the Congressman.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mary and Paul.

BEGALA: Thanks.

BLITZER: The actress Reece Witherspoon is here in THE SITUATION ROOM today speaking out on behalf of women around the world. You want to hear what she has to say.

And cigarette smoking, surprising new details just emerging about why it may, it may actually be beneficial to some people, some people's health.


BLITZER: Let's get right over the Jack with the Cafferty file. Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: In light of the Toyota scandal, are you less likely to buy a foreign car? John in Philadelphia says: "I bought a Lexus because at the time I needed a car and it was the best deal in town. Without a doubt my next car is going to be American. Toyota has shown such arrogance and disregard for the customers, that they deserve a butt whipping in sales. They did exactly what got the U.S. carmakers in trouble, they got fat and lazy and forgot that they needed customers if they want to remain in business."

Jim in California: "I'm 53 and I had two American cars prior to my 2008 Prius, and I love my Prius and I would never buy another American car ever based on how much trouble I had with them. Also, there is an organized effort to Toyota-bash in this country."

Andrew says: "I am not less likely to buy foreign cars. This recall is going to be a great thing for consumer a as whole. It will cause Toyota to re-evaluate the product and retool to build a better vehicle and rebuild confidence. In the short term that means that the consumer wins with lower prices and in the long term, the consumer wins with a better product."

Trish says, "I think generalizing to all foreign cars is silly. Am I less likely to buy a Toyota? Definitely, but other foreign brands like BMW or Nissan? No. My opinion of them is based solely on their performance history."

And Reggie says, "My 14-year-old Toyota Camry with 240,000 miles runs pretty well and the maintenance costs have been reasonable. I'll have to find a friend with a GM, Ford or Chrysler who has as good or better experience before I want to make a change."

And Pete says, "I'd rather buy a Toyota built in the United Stations that a Ford built in Mexico."

If you want to read more on this, got lots of emails, go to my blog, Wolf?