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Interview with Senator Lamar Alexander; Ugly Scenes during Health Care Debate; Clinton's New Message to Israel

Aired March 22, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Happening now, President Obama poised to sign health care reform into law tomorrow morning. The Democrats still have a fight on their hands as the Senate takes up changes to the bill. We'll take you behind the politics and beyond the politics and explain how it all affects all of us as well as our own medical coverage.

Also, a Republican Congressman now confesses he's the one who shouted "baby killer" while a Democrat was speaking during the health care debate. We'll discuss why the angry rhetoric in Washington keeps getting uglier.

And CNN has learned that Taliban fighters are getting a dangerous new kind of help from inside Iran. We're investigating the aid, the threat and whether it's been approve at the highest levels.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

To hear President Obama saying Americans woke up to a whole new world for health care in this country. A lot has changed over the course of the past 24 hours after a landmark votes for reforms in the House of Representatives. Right now Democrats are savoring a major, major victory, but have a lot of work to do in the days ahead as a package of so-called fixes to the reform bill are packaged, now it goes now before the Senate.

Republicans believe they now have important new ammunition against the president's party in November. There are already bombarding voters with attacks on Democrat who supported reform. As for the public, the biggest winners, no doubt, the 32 million uninsured Americans who over the next few years will start getting coverage. There's still a huge debate about the impact on the rest of the country for better and for worse.

Let's start with our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, she's been looking at this including what happened at that marathon session yesterday.

So, this is the day after the vote. President will sign it into law tomorrow, but there's still a lot of reaction and explanation coming from the hill, now.

DANA BASH, CNN SR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right and specifically looking ahead to what's next and that is the Senate has to take up that package of changes you talked about, and it is going to be a parliamentary minefield, but one that Democrats really do have to complete in order for their claims to have done everything that they're talking about in health care to come true.


(voice-over): One more victory lap for House Democrats. Photo op to sign the Senate health care bill and send it to the president.

REP NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: We are making history in progress through the American people.

BASH: But the reality is it's not over until the Senate pass as bill of fixes, some of the promises Democrats have been making will not happen. Take this one, for example.

REP JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: This bill would immediately begin closing the doughnut hole for prescription medications fon seniors.

BASH: Democrats may say they've closed a Medicare loophole that makes seniors prescription drug coverage often run out by year's end.

It's actually the yet to be passed fixes bill that closes the doughnut hole why 2020 and the Senate's road to passing that bill through the process known as reconciliation is not easy. Marty Paeon is a parliamentary expert, a top Democratic aide for 30 years.

MARTY PAEON, FMR DEMOCRATIC SENATE SECY: In order to qualify for its use, the provision has to affect either federal revenues or outlays. So you have to have something that's related to the budget of the federal government.

BASH: So Republicans are scrubbing the bill for violations and can raise unlimited objections. GOP senators can also slow things down by offering unlimited amendments.

(on camera): And it's just amendment after amendment after amendment after amendment. And if any of those amendments pass?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then it goes back to the House. So, you can see, that's a nightmare scenario.


BASH: A nightmare scenario you know, before you get there, Republicans are hoping to raise objections, in fact doing that as we speak before this bill even goes on to the floor. Wolf, what's going on throughout the day is that Republican and Democratic aides, they are meeting today with the all-powerful Senate parliamentarian and Republicans are trying to convince him this has enough problems that the entire bill should be thrown out.

This entire fix-it bill, before, again, before senators can even take it up which they are hoping to do on the Democratic side tomorrow.

BLITZER: Yeah, we're going to be speaking this hour to Lamar Alexander the Republican senator from Tennessee, one of the Republicans leaders. And he's making sort of making that case, as well.

We also learned today, Dana, the name of the Republican Congressman who shouted those out those words "baby killer" when Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Democrat was speaking, yesterday. Explains what he said in his defense.

BASH: Well, first of all he came forward, this is something that happened after reporters were looking up and down for exactly which Republican screamed this yesterday, and the answer is, it is Randy Neugebauer, he is a Republican from the state of Texas, and he did issue a statement coming forward saying he was the one who screamed it and this is what he said in the statement.

He said, "In the heat and emotion of the debate I exclaimed the phrase, "it's a baby killer" in reference to the agreement reached by the Democrat leadership." And he went on to say, "I deeply regret my actions were mistakenly interpreted as a direct reference to Congressman Stupak himself."

You remember when we all heard that, it was Bart Stupak who is an anti-abortion Democrat who was making a speech about the issue on the House floor. Now, does this end it? Well, depends on which Democrat in the leadership you ask. Jim Clyburn, who is the majority whip, he told reporters that he believes that Mr. Neugebauer needs to go to the well, meaning needs to go to the House floor and formally apologize, but the Democrat who's a little bit more senior than he is, Steny Hoyer, he said, well, he believes this case closed. Some Democrats want to move on. Others say they want a more formal apology.

BLITZER: Dana Bash working the story on the hill, she'll follow all the events going on in the Senate this week. Thank you, Dana.

Many of the main provisions of health care reform won't take effect until 2014. But, Democrats stressed Americans will get some benefits within six months after the president signs this health reform into law tomorrow morning.

Check out some of the provisions on the fast track: Insurance companies can no longer drop people from individual plans when they get sick. And they couldn't exclude sick children from being covered under new plans. People who haven't been able to get coverage because they are already sick would be eligible for what's called a high-risk insurance program.

And look at this, our brand new poll shows almost half of Americans, 47 percent, think their families will be worse off under the health care bill. Only 19 percent think they'll be better off. A third say they'll come out about the same. This CNN. Research corporation poll, by the way, taken before the final vote in the House of Representatives, last night. Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, she's helping us appreciate what's going on.

So would American families be better or worse off as a result of this new law?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it depends on who you are and that maybe the most important thing to rember about held care reform is it affects everybody in different ways.

So, we have devised three examples here of people who will be affected by health care reform. Let's take a look at this family. They own a mom and pop shop and they're not doing very well. They're making, say, $30,000, they've got two kids. What health care reform does for them, is it gives them subsidies so that when they go to buy insurance, it's going to cost them only about $1,000 to get insurance. That's substantially less, about $9,000 less, than it would cost in today's dollars if they were to go buy it on their own.

All right, let's take a look at another person. This is bad back bob. You can see his back is hurting him. And his problem is, he has a pre-existing condition, and no one wants to insure him, or if he has found insurance, it's ridiculously expensive. What this bill does is, it pretty immediately, in about six months, will allow him to join a high-risk pool. So, this is a pool that is designed for people like him who are a high risk to insurance companies, and so, hence, they don't want him, but now this high-risk pool will have to take him at a reasonable cost.

Let's look at this last family. Young Yvette, you can see has just graduated and she has not found a job is going to get her benefits and she now can stay on her parents' insurance. She'll be covered. The way it works now is that her insurance, her parents' insurance, would likely kick her off, but now covered until the age of 26 as her parents dependant -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of senior are e-mailing me, or their kids, e-mailing me, they're wondering if the Medicare benefits that they rely on are going to be cut now, because there is going to be about a $500 billion cut over the next 10 years in Medicare?

COHEN: All right. Wolf, this is a common concern. We hear it all the time. We get e-mail answer this, too. And it gets a little complicated, but I'm going to walk you through it.

Medicare has been growing at a rate of about four percent per person, per year, and what this bill does is it tries to get the growth down to more like two percent. And so the folks who like this bill say, see, isn't it great, we got rid of all the waste. And on the other side, Republicans say, wait a minute, you're making cuts in Medicare, senior are going to feel it. So one side says seniors will feel the cuts, the other side says, it's just waste and seniors will never feel these cuts.

Now, the Congressional budget office was asked to weigh in, as sort of the ultimate in analyzers and what they say is, look. It's possible to know. We just don't know whether seniors will actually notice these cuts or whether they won't notice these cuts. So Wolf, the answer to your question, only time will tell.

BLITZER: The AARP, which represents a lot of seniors, they endorsed this health care bill. They seem to think it will be OK for seniors. All right, Elizabeth, thank you very much.

Many affluent Americans are expected to take a financial hit because of the health care reform law. By 2013, families with yearly incomes above $250,000 a year will have to contribute more to Medicare, they'll also face an additional tax on their investment income. People with pricier insurance companies, so called Cadillac plans, will be slapped with a new 40 percent tax. That would take effect in the year 2018 under the changes being considered by the Senate.

And if you're a fan of deep bronze skin, for example, get ready to be burned a little this year and beyond by a new tax on tanning salons. Interesting little nugget.

President Obama says health care reform is about helping the American people, not about his own White House career, but there are some very real consequences for the president politically. We're taking a closer look at where he stands to gain and lose. Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Only a few moments ago, maybe two minutes, that box containg the health care reform bill passed by the Senate, arrived at the White House. It's being delivered into the White House. The president will sign it into law tomorrow morning. There it is., now that 2,000-plus page document, the Senate version which the House passed last night.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Perhaps gloating just a little in the wake of the passage of health care reform yesterday, President Obama said, "This is what change looks like." There were serious doubts he could pull it off, but after more than a year of an often bitter debate, the health care sausage is made.

Whether you support it or not, this bill is a big deal with some likening it to the passage of social security and Medicare. David Sanger in the "New York Times," "Mr. Obama proved he was willing to fight for something that moved him to his core. He showed that when he was finally committed to throwing all his political capital on to the table he could win, if by the narrowest of margins".

The president succeed where others failed, but the real question is -- at what cost? For starters, the president has likely lost for good his campaign promises of a post-partisan Washington. Consider that for the first time in modern history, a major bill passed without one single Republican vote. Even LBJ got almost half of the House Republicans to sign on to Medicare in 1965.

Some top Republicans are already calling for the repeal of health care reform. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says the legislation will not stand and that this is "only the beginning of a fight."

Gingrich insists that 2010 and 2012 elections will be an opportunity to save America from a "left-wing machine of unparallel corruption, arrogance and cynicism." Well, if you think it's ugly now, and it is. Just wait.

For his part the president acknowledges he doesn't know what the political future will bring, but insistent the legislation is a victory for common sense. So, here's the question. What will passing health care reform mean for President Obama? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thank you very much.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst David Gergen, right now, and talk a little bit more about the impact on President Obama. He needed this win, and he got it. It's a huge victory for him -- David.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a significant victory that will galvanize his base, it sends an important message to members of the Congress on the Democratic side that if we're in a big fight over immigration or financial reform, or whatever the other fights are going to be that are coming, he can go in the weeds and fight it out for them. That's very important. At the same time, of course it has also galvanized the opposition and the CNN poll today shows that that opposition is very stiff, indeed.

But Wolf, there's another point and I think it's about his change of leadership, and what we've seen their, as well.

BLITZER: Talk about that.

GERGEN: Well, there was a -- I think, a growing question in Washington of whether he could make the transition from campaigner to chief executive and to a true presidential leader. And I think we saw in this fight, especially over the last few weeks, saw him grow into the role of leader -- presidential leader. And that is that he, instead of leading from behind, as was his tendency, sort of herd people along, he picked up the banner himself and led from in front.

He said, here's the direction we must go. He put out a paper about what the White House wanted in this bill. And then he went out and really took it not only to the country, but went to the members one by one by one and twisted arms. That's part of presidential leadership, playing the outside game and playing the inside game.

And finally, Wolf, he focused. You know, this is an administration that's almost has attention deficit disorder when it comes to the issues in fronts of us as a country. And he managed to focus not only his party, but he focused press, frankly, and the country on this bill, and that's very important on a big major issue like this. Get everybody focused, create a sense of drama and then put it across the goal line.

BLITZER: So there's a -- so the important lessons he should learn from this going forward, whether on energy, or education or jobs or other critical issues, comprehensive immigration reform?

GERGEN: Absolutely, Wolf. I think he's in the process of hitting a reset button on his presidential leadership and very much needed to do that. It will apply. But, you know, he did it so late in the game here, Wolf, that by the time he got into the arena and really fought for it, you know, he'd lost the message war, opposition had built up enormously and he lost the Republicans. So, he now has a huge continuing controversy on his hands just to convince people, this is a good idea, with a rock 'em sock 'em election just over the horizon in November as a result.

BLITZER: See how they can recover from some of the setbacks over the next few months. David, thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Next step for health care reform happens this week in the U.S. Senate and Senator Lamar Alexander is here. He'll explain to us what the Republicans plan to do to try to halt it.

And wait until you see this video. Look at this, a car, a trailer truck and an unbelievable ending. Check it out.


BLITZER: Word in on a developing story that will resonate with a lot of folks out there. What are we learning -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, ACORN is disbanding. The board took a vote yesterday and they have decided to break apart this group so that ACORN will exist no more. One of the reasons that they're citing is falling revenues. And you may recall that there were conservative activists actually targeted this group. Two individuals posed as a prostitute and a pimp and are seen, according to A.P., at least, this is the report, but in that they were seen videotaped, essentially giving them advice, giving them advice how to operate their business. Congress immediately cut off their funds and the result, as you can see, according to the "Associated Press," is that they are going to be closing shop now -- Wolf.

And in other news also, tax refunds for many Americans are bigger this year and the Obama administration, they're taking credit for this. Vice President Joe Biden says the average refund is almost 10 percent bigger. That's mostly due to tax credits in last year's stimulus package. The IRS says the average refund up $260, a 9.6 percent increase from last year.

And, Wolf, take a look at this video. The driver of this car in (INAUDIBLE) is taken for the ride of her life. This is unbelievable video. Her car got clipped by a tanker, and then stuck on to its bumper, but the truck driver didn't even seem to notice. The woman says she tried everything, she was beeping her horn, flashing lights, even calling police, but amazingly, it all ended safely and the driver has been suspended -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a lucky lady that is in that car. That's pretty frightening to see that.

SYLVESTER: Yeah, that is what you call one bad day for that woman.

BLITZER: Well, you know what? It could have been worse. SYLVESTER: Yeah, could have. That's true, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

SYLVESTER: All right.

BLITZER: A day after the big health care vote in the House of Representatives, investors on Wall Street are casting their vote on health care reform. The outcome may surprise you. We'll speak about that and more when the Republican senator Lamar Alexander. I'll ask him whether he can do anything at this point to stop the Democrats.


BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. happening now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a strong message for Israel and it includes the words "rock solid." You might be surprised to hear what she's saying now in the wake of some recent tensions. And it's earning plenty of accolades.

And Tiger Woods, he's speaking out in his first interview since admitting to infidelity in his marriage. Wait until you hear what he's saying about his lowest point over the past four months and what he's learned about himself during treatment.

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

House Republicans reunited in voting against health care reform, but couldn't stop Democrats from passing landmark legislation last night. Now, GOP senators are ready to take their shot as that Senate chamber considers an important package of changes to the bill.

And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee. He's one of the leaders in the Senate.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Clearly, the Democrats, Harry Reid told -- reassured over the weekend, the Democrats in the House, they've got 51 votes to pass this. What realistically can you do to stop this, assuming want to try to stop it?

ALEXANDER: Well, of course we can't stop the health care law, it's passed the House. The president's going to sign it. So we're going to get the taxes, the Medicare cuts, increase in the deficit, all of that.

BLITZER: Also, excuse me for interrupting you, you get all the benefits. Pre-existing conditions will no longer be a factor, people will able to keep their children on their health insurance until they reach the age of 26.

ALEXANDER: But, Wolf... BLITZER: There will be no caps on -- if you really get sick, the insurance companies won't be able to dump you. I just want to be fair. There's two sides.

ALEXANDER: Well, you're being fair, but to be really fair, what you'd say is that's in every Republican proposal that's ever offered. I mean, we're all for that and it's in all of our proposals. And we want the insurance reforms. We don't want are dumping more people into Medicaid, new costs to states, increases in premiums, the big new tax increases and Medicare cuts. That's the difference between us. The insurance reforms we're all for, but what we can do in the Senate is enforce the rules of the Senate, because the reconciliation bill, this part that's coming over here this week has more taxes, has more Medicare cuts. Now these are cuts to benefits...

BLITZER: But some of the so-called reconciliation bill, the fix-it bill, as it's called, has improvements over what will be, once the president signs health reform into law, improvements in the Senate's, the original Senate version. Is that right?

ALEXANDER: It might have a few. I don't...

BLITZER: For example, eliminating the Nebraska cornhusker kickback, for example. You would consider that, eliminating that giveaway an improvement?

ALEXANDER: Well, of course I would, but I don't think $50 billion more in taxes an improvement and $61 billion more in Medicare cuts improvement when one out of four Medicare recipients have Medicare --

BLITZER: All right, so walk me through --


BLITZER: Walk us through what you're going to do this week to try to -- whatever you're going to do. I don't know if you want to derail it, the reconciliation bill, or delay it? Because they certainly have 51 votes.

ALEXANDER: Well, they may have 51 votes, but we have 41, and if we win a point of order, then they'll -- they won't be able to override that. If all 41 votes stay together.

So what we'll try to do is enforce the rules of the Senate and if we're able to succeed we'll stop them from making a bad bill even worse. For example, in this provision is the latest Washington takeover of student loans, 19 million student loans, and those students are going to be very disappointed to learn that the federal government is actually going to be overcharging them when their student loans help pay for health care.

BLITZER: But correct me if I'm wrong. This is reconciliation. You don't have the ability to filibuster. And as a result, the 60 votes super majority to defeat something is not necessary.

ALEXANDER: Well, that's correct, except in some cases under a section called 310g, if our point of order raised by Senate Gregg, for example, were to show that the bill had impact on Social Security, which under law it can't, and the point of order is upheld, the whole reconciliation bill would fall.

BLITZER: And then what would be -- assuming it fell, law of the land would be what the president is going to sign into law tomorrow, and that would just be the law of the land? Right?

ALEXANDER: That's correct.

BLITZER: All right. Let me ask you this. The hospitals, the American Hospital Association, the drugmakers, pharma, as you know, the doctors, the American Medical Association, seniors, the AARP, they all support this health care reform that the Democrats passed. Why are they wrong and you're right?

ALEXANDER: Well, let's take the drugmakers. They got a deal. They're going to get to keep brand name drug for a longer period of time and make what some consumer organizations say is five billion more dollars rather than go to generic drugs.

BLITZER: What about the doctors?

ALEXANDER: And in response to that -- in response to that, they ran $150 million worth of ads in support of the bill. So they got a straight out deal. The doctors got a deal that they would increase the physician reimbursement. That should be done, but not in a way that reduces the deficits.

They've left that out of the bill to make it look like it doesn't raise the deficit. When they put it back in, that's $371 billion more over 10 years and throws the whole bill out of whack in terms of deficit.

BLITZER: What about seniors?

ALEXANDER: The seniors? Well, seniors that I run into and went I got up this morning and went to the airport, almost everybody in the airport stopped me to thank me for opposing this bill and many of them are seniors worried about Medicare cuts.

BLITZER: So why does the AARP supportive?

ALEXANDER: Well, the AARP makes more money by more customers. I'm not going to question everybody's motivation, who supports it. But I can say, if there are 1 out of -- if there are 10 or 11 million seniors in the country who have Medicare advantage, their benefits are going to be cut. They're not going to be happy.

And the rest won't be happy when they learned that you're taking all this money out of Medicare. Half trillion dollars and not spending it on Medicare. You're spending it on new programs.

BLITZER: One final question. As we speak right now, Wall Street seems to be OK with this new law of the land that will go into effect tomorrow. How do you explain that? ALEXANDER: Well, the drug companies will do better. The insurance companies will do better. Many of the hospitals will do better. So there were a lot of deals cut. All of them in the backrooms. You couldn't go, I couldn't go, the American people couldn't go, but the deals were cut and they'll be coming out as we learn more about it.

BLITZER: We'll be watching every step of the way as it unfolds on the floor of the Senate this week.

Senator Alexander, thanks for joining us.

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have the White House response coming up in our next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll interview the president's senior adviser David Axelrod. That's in the 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

A warning about ships from a potential al Qaeda plot. What's going on? The U.S. government is concerned about another maritime attack like the one that damaged the USS Cole. We have details.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Lisa. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lisa, what else is going on?


Well, new warnings that American military and commercial vessels along the coast of Yemen could be targets of al Qaeda. A notice issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation specifically targets areas around the Gulf of Aden in the red sea.

The warning says the new attacks could resemble the deadly attack on the USS Cole back in October of 2000. It also suggested more sophisticated methods of attack including missiles or projectiles that could be used.

And the Food and Drug Administration is issuing a warning about a popular drug used to treat a diarrhea causing virus in babies. The agency is asking pediatricians to temporarily is suspend the use of GlaxoSmithKline's Rotarix after discovering it was contaminated with a benign pig virus.

The action is precautionary since vaccines are supposed to be sterile. In the meantime, doctors have been told to use a competing vaccine Merck's RotaTeq to treat the virus.

And tighter standards on drinking water are on the way. The Environment Protection Agency says within the next year it will impose stricter limits on four chemical compounds known to cause cancer. Two of them are used in industrial processing. Two others are impurities that can slip in during the water treatment process. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

Republicans are venting their anger at Democratic leaders in some surprising ways after that landmark House vote for health care reform last night. Is there any shred of civility left in Washington?

I'll speak about that and more with Paul Begala and Bill Bennett. They're here for our "Strategy Session."

And the health care reform bill signed, sealed and delivered to the White House. There it is in that box. Just got to the White House a few moments ago.

I'll talk to the president's senior adviser David Axelrod. He can hardly contain his enthusiasm.


DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: I haven't seen the president so happy about anything other than his family. As long as I've known him and worked with him. Even election night, he was not as excited as he was last night.



BLITZER: As we told you earlier, Republican congressman from Texas has now revealed that he's the one who shouted, "It's a baby killer" during the House debate on health care reform.

Randy Neugebauer says he's apologized to his colleagues. But this is just one example of red hot anger over the issue.

Take a look at some of the startling examples of the weekend.


REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: It is the Democrats who have stood up. It is the Democrats who have stood up --

REP. DAVID OBEY (D), WISCONSIN: Suspend. Those shouting out are out of order.


REP. RANDY NAUGEBAUER (R), TEXAS: Mr. Speaker, I ask to revise and extend my remarks in opposition to this flawed health care bill.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Randy Naugebauer who represents the 19th district of Texas has come out and said that he is the one who said this.

We should mention, though, he explains in a statement. I'm going to read it. He explains that he was saying, "It's a baby killer," and not calling Stupak a baby killer.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John Lewis, civil rights icon who said that a racial slur was probed to him by protesters.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What was the analogy they used?

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: My colleagues heard it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they've heard it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill the bill, and then the N word. Several times.

LEWIS: I think there's a great deal of frustration and just outright anger. People being mean to each other.

BASH: Congressman Barney Frank, who is openly gay, and another slur was hurled at him.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Individuals are responsible for themselves. There are leaders in the Republican Party and elsewhere who kind of egg these people on, who legitimize not simple disagreement with the bill, which is of course what people should be doing, but denunciation of people's motives. Your personal views. That's really unfortunate.

BASH: You heard about Congressman Cleaver, Emanuel Cleaver, and he said that he was actually spat on.


BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. We're joined by our CNN contributors, the national radio talk show host, former Reagan education secretary, Bill Bennett, who is there on the right, and Democratic strategist Paul Begala who also does some consulting work for the Service Employees International Union, which has run ads supporting health care reform, want to be upfront with our viewers.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. They're very happy today.

BLITZER: On the left. I'm sure they are. We're going to get to an interview that our affiliate, by the way, Bill, KCBD in Texas did with this Texas congressman, Republican Randy Neugebauer. He says he shouted out, "it's a babe killer," as opposed to just baby killer when Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Democrat, was speaking on the floor yesterday.

But you saw some of these other things that are going on. You've been around Washington for a long time. Give us some perspective. How ugly is it?

Well, if these things were said, they are contemptible and disgraceful, and I condemn them. I see Barney Frank said Republican leaders egg people on. I don't know if I'm a Republican leader, but if I am, I don't egg anybody on to do anything like that.

All morning I did my talk show. Tons of people called who were there. Nobody heard any of this. I'm not saying people who said they heard it didn't hear it. But if it was said by people, this is an infinitely (INAUDIBLE) small group of people who said and condemned by everybody I talked to. This is not respectable discourse. It has no place in America.

BLITZER: And some over the weekend, the epithets, the anti-gay epithet against Barney Frank or the anti-black epithets against some distinguished members of Congress, it's pretty ugly.

BEGALA: Well, John Lewis -- I know you know this, but our viewers should now, he led the march from Selma to Montgomery on Bloody Sunday, crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge where he knelt in prayer in front of George Wallace's thugs and they cracked his head open. And he says that -- he knows that word very well, and he says that word was used so we know it was.

I think what Bill says is exactly right, though. If the face of the Republican Party are people like Secretary Bennett, principled opponent of the health care plan and other proposals, that's honorable and that's good for the Republicans.

Opposition should oppose but they shouldn't be calling Mr. Lewis the N word. But the problem is, the risk they face --

BLITZER: Let's be precise. These were not members of Congress.

BEGALA: Correct.

BLITZER: These were protesters outside the conference.

BEGALA: Absolutely. And there's a great tradition --


BEGALA: Great tradition of American citizens hollering at their politicians, that's a good thing, but there are some words that cross the line, and this does. And this is the problem the Republicans are going to have now, though, if that becomes the face of their movement and the voice of their movement.

It will alienate moderates. And what they need to is what you did. Call them down, call them out, say that it's wrong and I want to hear more of that. I think what Bill does is exactly right.

BENNETT: This can't be the face of the movement because this isn't the movement. This is the people I work with every day and talk to every day. And again, if this was said, if people said it, it has to be roundly condemned.

The mass -- I have been called all sorts of thing, I can't repeat some of them on TV. I never suggest that that's typical of Democrats or typical of liberals. It just happens. It's a big country and there are a few nuts. But let's just say -- you know, say it's disgraceful, say it's contemptible, stop. Again, everybody I talked to on the show today, who called in, they screamed and said did you hear any of this? People said, no. And I think my listeners would have stopped it and condemned it.

BLITZER: We have this interview, by the way -- to remind our viewers and we'll play it at the top of the hour -- with the Congressman Randy Neugebauer in which he explains what he wanted to say, what he said, his background, why he -- why he was so passionate about this.

BEGALA: He needs to apologize, not explain.

BENNETT: He did. He did. He did. And so it should be over. He apologized. He said "it's a baby killer."

BLITZER: Does he need to go into the well on the floor and formally --

BENNETT: Well -- what?

BLITZER: Does he need to go on the floor of the House?

BENNETT: No, no, no. Steny Hoyer said it's over. Forget it. I mean he apologized --

BLITZER: James Clyburn wants him to do that.

BENNETT: Of course he does, and James Clyburn and others would like to suggest this is typical of Republican and conservative views. It's not.

BEGALA: Well, I do want -- I want to hear, for example -- and maybe he has. May have missed it. I want to hear from, for example, his leader in the House, John Boehner. Right?

When these things are said, his responsibility of leadership to disavow them. There's this -- the pop singer, rap artist, remember he -- Kanye West? When he said George W. Bush doesn't care about black people. Those are horrible things to say.


BEGALA: Bush doesn't have a racist bone in his body. I condemned it. More importantly Donna Brazile, the vice chairman of my party, a long leader in African-American community, she condemned it.


BEGALA: And that's what -- is required of leadership when fringe elements of your larger movement speak out and say those hateful things leaders have to disavow them.

BLITZER: You agree with that.

BENNETT: Sure. Absolutely. Disavow them and move on. BLITZER: That's -- unfortunately what we have to do now is move on. Guys, thanks very much.

BENNETT: We're done?

BLITZER: We're done. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty is asking, what will it mean passing health care reform for President Obama? We're going to have your e-mail, that's coming up.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is giving Israel a dose of some tough love. You'll hear what she's saying on this day.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour is what will passing health care reform mean for President Obama?

Phil in Long Beach writes, "It means he'll go down in history as the president who presided over the financial collapse and ultimate destruction of America. With the stroke of a pen, our credit rating drops, our debt goes up, our liberty erodes, our taxes pile higher, and we ensure yet another dependent underclass."

Jack writes, "Passing health care reform means Obama will be a two- term president. Once the dust settles, the enormity of this accomplishment will be clear. And Obama will be perceived as one who stood up for the little guy, against the carnivorous insurance companies and their Republican water carriers."

Phil writes, "He'll be returning home four years earlier than he originally planned."

LB writes, "This is a bad bill. The majority of the people didn't want it. It was passed in a sleazy way. Do you really feel like that's the change -- what change should look like? This president may be the most divisive president of my lifetime. The anger between people has come from him pushing his agenda down our throat in a deplorable way."

Omar in Iowa writes, "This passing is a moral victory for this entire country. For too long, the country's policy have pitted the haves against the have-nots. The poor, the degraded, the desperate, the victimized have for too long not had a majority of Congress who would willingly and openly fight for their rights, their freedoms that are both obligated and protected by our Constitution."

Chuck writes, "It means that the patients I see who insurance companies refuse will be cared for. It's funny, not one Republican had a friend or family member bankrupted by illness. I think the insurance company is lining too many of their pockets for them to see clearly." And Rob writes this. "It means that my two sons will have to live with a little less so that I can support someone else's family as well as my own. When they're old enough to understand, I will explain to them why that makes me bitter."

If you want to read more on the subject, you'll find it on my blog at

BLITZER: You've got to give the president credit. A few weeks ago -- it was only a few weeks ago after the Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, Jack, a lot of people thought health care reform was dead.

CAFFERTY: I was reading something over the weekend that in the wake of that Brown upset in Massachusetts, a lot of the Democrats, including President Obama, were ready to scale this thing back, and do mini health care, and it was Nancy Pelosi who said, "Boys, we can get this done. Follow me, and I'm going lead you to the promise land." And she did.

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi. Jack Cafferty praising Nancy Pelosi.

CAFFERTY: Well, I just said -- I was recounting something I read.


CAFFERTY: I wasn't praising anybody.

BLITZER: You can praise -- you can praise her a little bit.


BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi, she got the job done in the House of Representatives. You've got to give her credit.

CAFFERTY: Well, I just read it.


CAFFERTY: It's an interesting take on this whole thing that the men in Washington, a lot of them, influential Democrats, were ready to scale back this whole thing.


CAFFERTY: And this she was the one who said let's go in and see if they'll got a whole card that's worth looking at.

BLITZER: It's a good point. Jack, thanks very much. Jack Cafferty will be back.

Taliban fighters -- we're learning some new details from military intelligence sources about where they are training right now and who's helping them.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she's taking a new tone toward Israel, and it includes the words "rock solid." You'll want to hear what she is saying today.


BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is declaring America's commitment to Israel rock solid.

Take a look at this picture. The State Department just released it. A photograph of the secretary and the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He's here in Washington tonight. He's got a meeting with the president of the United States tomorrow over at the White House.

The two countries are trying to move past a very public diplomatic spat.

Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's been watching this story for us.

All right, Jill, what is the secretary saying today?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a way, you could almost say she would say what a difference a week has made because after all, Hillary Clinton using everything in her tool bag, diplomatic and political, both as a secretary of state and as a former senator, trying to bring this relationship back on track.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): The secretary of state got eight standing ovations from America's most powerful and conservative lobbying voice for Israel. Not hard, with crowd-pleasers like this.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring and forever.

DOUGHERTY: Another sure-fire applause line, brass knuckle criticism of Iran and its nuclear program.

CLINTON: Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite.

DOUGHERTY: A more tepid response when she gave the audience a dose of tough love on the issue that more than a week ago sparked a feud between the U.S. and Israel.

CLINTON: New construction in east Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines that mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides say they want and need.

DOUGHERTY: But Clinton also had some tough love for the Palestinians, urging them to avoid provocations and violence.

CLINTON: When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loved ones over the years in this conflict.


DOUGHERTY: And that meeting between Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded just a short time ago. An Israeli official telling CNN it was a very long meeting, about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, one-on-one, and then it was joined by the Israeli defense minister.

Also, Wolf, we are expecting a statement from Secretary Clinton on that meeting and a speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu is still being written, we understand.