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Democratic Congressmen Face Threats of Violence; GOP Attempts to Derail Senate Reform Fix

Aired March 24, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, we're going to stay on top of this story. Happening now, violence and threats against some Democrats who voted for health care reform. New fears about the level of anger across the country.

Plus senators strap in for a round-the-clock vote-a-thon. Republicans are taking their next best shot at derailing the Democrats in their reform fix-it plan.

And the white house is making no apologies about the president's hush-hush meeting with the Israeli prime minister. We're getting a closer look at what went on without any cameras, behind closed doors.

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

The threat of violence is causing a huge amount of concern here in the nation's capitol. One Congressman was over at the white house today to watch the president make good on a promise to him and other Democrats who oppose abortion. That would be Congressman Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan leading antiabortion Democrats. Our senior white house correspondent Ed Henry is standing by. Tell the viewers what happened.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're absolutely right. This was really the critical piece of the negotiations on Sunday. That's why Congressman Bart Stupak, 12 of his house Democrat colleagues were here. They all opposed abortion rights. This was a pivotal point on Sunday where throwing their support behind the president's health care reform is what pushed it over the top but they wanted in exchange this executive order from the president. This afternoon he followed through on it. What's significant is the president's own aides say this really is not new federal policy. They still insist that the new health care law does not change the fact that there is a federal ban on federal taxpayer funding of abortion. As you know, Republicans were insisting the new law could open the door to federal funding for abortion that put democrats like Bart Stupak in a tough decision. What this executive order basically does is sets up new enforcement mechanisms to make sure federal funding is not used. That's why white house aides say it's significant, Wolf.

BLITZER: What was the thinking behind the decision not to let the live coverage of this signing of the executive order? What was the thinking of the white house on that issue? HENRY: We never got a clear answer on that. I pressed Robert Gibbs on this very point today because I said why is there no coverage of this, which is significant national policy. It was pivotal to Sunday's vote, of course. He said, there will be coverage in that official white house photographer Pete Suza will have a photo that the white house will put out. As you know that is not independent coverage. That is somebody - while Pete Suza is a great photographer, he's on the white house payroll and so I want to disclose to our viewers that CNN and our Washington bureau has made the news decision that we're not going to use the photo from the white house because this was an event that we believe should have been open to cameras. There have been several of these events recently. The king of Spain was recently here. That was closed press. Last night you mentioned the Israeli prime minister was here. That was closed to cameras as well. This administration has spoken a lot about transparency. We believe in this case the cameras should have been allowed in.

BLITZER: I have a rare interview with Rahm Emanuel, the white house chief of staff, tomorrow over at the white house. I'll ask him about it. Thanks very much Ed Henry, standby. We have more to discuss later on what's going on with U.S. and Israeli relations.

Right now, though, some members of Congress as we've been reporting are living in fear about the security of their staff, their families and themselves on this day after health care reform became the law of the land, we're learning more about vandalism and threats against Democrats who voted for health care reform. House Democrats called an urgent meeting with security officials today to discuss the danger. Let's go to Capitol Hill. Our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash is working the story for us. Dana, what do we know?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know according to the house majority leader Steny Hoyer coming out of that briefing that he said a significant number of Democrats, at least ten, have received threats in one way or another. We have some pictures of some vandalism we have seen across the country in the office of Gabriel Gifford. She is from Arizona. Her Arizona office a window was broken. Louise Slaughter, her New York office she believes a brick was thrown through the window. The house majority whip, Jim Clyburn, he told us he has received threatening phone calls at his home, even a fax to his office with the picture of a noose on it. Several members have also just received threatening phone calls including Steve Driehaus. He's a freshman from Ohio. He took a tough vote, from his perspective, on voting yes. Listen to what he said and then followed by the house majority leader.


REP. STEVE DRIEHAUS (D), OHIO: We have death threats coming into our offices, coming into other offices and members of Congress. I've had the Cincinnati police in front of my house and patrolling my neighborhood on a regular basis. I think it's a shame. It's a shame. If you look at the bill, about providing health care for seniors, about helping people with preexisting conditions, you know, that's not what this is about at all. Yet, they win through fear, and that's what they're perpetrating. And so I'm going to protect my family. I'm not worried about violence against me personally. But I'm going to protect my family. That's unfortunate that it's gotten to that point.

BASH: Do you feel your members are really at risk in terms of their security?

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes. I think that we've had very serious incidents that have occurred.

BASH: How are you dealing with that? What actions are you taking?

HOYER: The capitol police just briefed members. If they are in any way suspicious or fearful or see actions occurring to report those immediately. And the capitol police will respond and try to determine whether crimes have been committed.


BASH: Now after the briefing that Steny Hoyer was talking about, the briefing with representative from the FBI, the capitol police and the sergeant at arms office in the house, he said that they told members who are feeling threatened to take precautions, like not subjecting themselves or their families to physical harm. Anything they need to do to try to avoid that.

BLITZER: It's really getting ugly out there. Dana what are the Republicans saying about this?

BASH: It's interesting. In the case of Steve Driehaus who you heard from there, he's lashing at out at the house Republican leader John Boehner because in an interview, he was talking politics, but he did say Driehaus may be a dead man. Now Driehaus says he understands it should be taken in political terms but he said look, some people out there might be taking it as a trigger to incite violence. Several Democratic leaders today said they were not happy that the Republican leadership had been silent on it. Well, we reached out to the house minority leader John Boehner. We asked for an interview. They declined but released a statement from John Boehner so I want to read that to you Wolf. He said, "I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren't listening. But as I've said, violence and threats are unacceptable." He went onto say, "Call your Congressman, go out and register people to vote, go out volunteer on a political campaign and make your voice heard, but let's do it in the right way." This you see John Boehner coming out, and looks like trying to calm things down, but it's been hard to get interviews with the republican leadership on this.

BLITZER: People are passionate out there and some way, way too passionate. Standby, Dana.

Let's get to the political threats right now against health care reform and the Democrats' package of changes to the law signed by the president yesterday. This hour the Senate launches a marathon round of votes on republican amendments, some of them pretty unusual. The one getting the most attention would prohibit coverage of a Viagra and similar medication for convicted sex offenders. It would also prevent Medicare and Medicaid payments for drugs prescribed by or for dead people. Another would affect the members of Congress directly, enrolling them in Medicaid. Let's go to our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar to lay out what all of this is about. What's the strategy here, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, ideally Republicans would like to kill the bill, but seeming that's unlikely, their strategy here is to delay it. And delay it by putting up for votes proposed changes in amendments that are really difficult for Democrats to say no to. Because if some of these amendments or any of these amendments pass, the bill is changed and cannot go straight to President Obama for a signature. It would have to go back to if house for another vote. The other thing is this is a way to score political points. It allows Republicans to put Democrats in tough spots, put them in bad positions, and then they can use that against them in this very tough election year. Take, for instance, this amendment of the so-called Viagra for sex offenders proposed by Senator Coburn. Here are both sides of the debate from the Senate floor a short time ago.


SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: This amendment would prohibit new health care exchanges from providing coverage for E.D. drugs for convicted child molesters and convicted rapists. It's pretty simple.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Some of these amendments may seem like common sense. But each one is designed for the purpose of derailing this legislation, of sending it back to the house, of undercutting the most significant reform of health care in the last several decades.


KEILAR: Now Democrats are calling these efforts by Republicans ridiculous, political stunts, but you know Republicans also have another option here, and they actually consider it their best bet for getting some changes in this bill. And that's to raise issues about what is in the bill and whether certain particular parts should be even going through the process of reconciliation, Wolf, where Democrats only need 51 votes to push it through. That would actually come down to the senator parliamentarian saying either they have a point or they don't have a point. So far Republicans have been unsuccessful in this strategy. But who knows. We may see something later tonight or tomorrow.

BLITZER: Technically the president of the Senate who happen toes s to be the vice president of the United States can always overrule the Senate parliamentarian. But how do we expect all of his to play out?

KEILAR: This is going to take hours and hours. They don't call this vote-a-rama for nothing. We know the republicans have dozens of amendments. They're playing it close to the vest as to exactly how many they have. I spoke with a Senate Republican leadership aide who told me they are prepared to go overnight and into midday tomorrow. And the house right now, Wolf, hanging around. They really don't have a whole lot more to do. They're waiting to see if the bill changes. Democratic leaders say they would go ahead and pass any of this before they go on their two-week spring recess.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you. The Democrats anxious to get this reconciliation bill through the Senate without any changes so it doesn't have to go back to the house of representatives and open up that door. Brianna Keilar on capital hill, excellent explanation.

Back at the white house, the white house press secretary Robert Gibbs is defending the decision to keep the president's meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister super low key. Gibbs denied he gave Benjamin Netanyahu the cold shoulder by keeping him behind closed doors and away from the cameras.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it comes as a great shock to you and me. Not everything the president does is for the cameras and for the press.

BLITZER: Gibbs did reveal more about the tensions between the two countries. We'll have a full report in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM. Ed Henry will be joining us, full discussion coming up on that.

The state of black America. The urban league is out with a sobering report. What it's asking the president to do about it.

Plus, there have been hearings and debates. We've heard from generals and enlisted members. Now the pentagon is getting ready for a major announcement about gays in the U.S. military.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A wise person once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. By that definition the American people are insane because we reelect the same clowns over and over again and expect that this time it's going to be different. This time they'll do right by us. Here's another sign of what low regard we hold the Congress in. A new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that just about half after those surveyed say most Republicans and most Democrats in the Congress are unethical. The poll also showed only 1/3 of Americans approve of how Congressional leaders overall have handled their jobs. Another poll by CBS News shows even worse results for the party leadership, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. 11%, that's it, have a favorable view of Nancy Pelosi, 8% for Harry Reid. And both of these polls were taken before the vote on health care.

All of this seems to suggest that maybe this will be the year to vote the incumbents out. Even though history suggests strongly otherwise. Another survey we recently told you about in the Cafferty file asks this question. If there was a single lever in the voting booth that would allow you to vote out every single member of Congress, including your own representative, would you do it? Half the people surveyed said yes. But we never do. Insanity. Here's the question. Why do Americans keep voting the same politicians into office if we disapprove of the job they're doing? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

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

And this just coming into CNN right now. A new example of the threats against members of Congress who voted for health care reform Sunday night, CNN has obtained the audio from a phone call made to the office of Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan. He's the antiabortion Democrat who only agreed to vote yes after an arrangement was made with the white house on language prohibiting federal funding for the procedure. Listen to this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Stupak, you are one big piece of human [ bleep ]. And think about this. There are millions of people across the country who wish you ill. All of those thoughts projected on you will materialize into something that's not very good for you. We don't have to do anything but sit back and wish you go to hell you piece of [ bleep ].

BLITZER: Wow. Let's bring in our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. I don't remember an audio tape like that from a voicemail that has been released and given the extent of the concern, this is a pretty worrisome development.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it is. And I think it's just kind of just the tenor of the debate right now. I remember baby killer on the floor, and the debate was on health care reform and if you were listening to it along with me, it got very angry at times. The troubling part to me is when the elected officials don't stand up together and say, look, this is the kind of debate we cannot have but in fact seem to participate in it. Then we really have some problems here. Some people have to go out there. Whether Democrats, Republicans, tea party leaders and say this has got to stop because it's unhealthy for the country. It's not the way we do business.

BLITZER: Republican leadership in the house issued statement. You heard Congressman Boehner release a strong statement. You know what, we can argue, we can debate, we can have protests, but there can't be threats of violence.

BORGER: And Democrats are blaming the Republican leaders for not standing up enough. I think what we need to see is the Democrats and the Republicans standing together and saying together, you know, you can issue a statement, sure, but why not stand together and say this is something we won't tolerate. Because we encourage debate. Somebody won, somebody lost. Republicans will try to fix it or change the bill, repeal it, whatever they want to do. That's all part of our civil discourse in this country but the other stuff is something that we don't like and won't tolerate.

BLITZER: Let's get to the other business right now. The prospect of the Republicans derailing the so called fix it bill, the reconciliation bill. It will take the Democrats 51 votes to defeat every one of those amendments, so it doesn't have to go back to the House of Representatives. Will the Democrats stay united in the face of this onslaught?

I was talking with Senate Republican leadership aide last night who said he felt pretty good about it. You know, what's going on here, Wolf, is Republicans are pushing every button on the console. They want to force Democrats to take pretty uncomfortable votes. While people may not be paying a lot of attention to the vote-a-thon as we call it, these votes can clearly be used against senators when they go home to campaign. This is a diversion nary tactic for them. When you look beyond the 2010 midterms Republicans have to give people a reason to vote for them. That's going to have to come when they start proposing different solutions and they get presidential candidates. Right now this is all about getting out the base for 2010.

BLITZER: You'll have a special report. Briefly tell our viewers what's coming up.

BORGER: We did a look, and it's going to be on Campbell Brown at 8:00, we did a look at the lawyers on opposing sides in bush versus gore. Ted Olsen represented George Bush. David Boies represented Al Gore. Now, Wolf, they are on the same side of a case that's likely to go to the Supreme Court. They want to overturn proposition 8. They are fighting for the right to same-sex marriage. A case that's right now pending in San Francisco, and so it's fascinating look at the two of them and their relationship, and how it that has developed in the decade since bush versus gore.

BLITZER: I remember being down in Tallahassee to cover that debate. We look forward to your report on Campbell Brown.

Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are antismoking advocates going too far? It may soon be illegal to smoke in cars. Find out what's happening. We have information for you.

Plus reaching out to the younger generation of veterans. How new technology is now actually saving lives.


BLITZER: We're back with more threats of violence coming in against some members, Democratic lawmakers who voted for health care reform. We'll have much more on the top story coming up.

Let's check in with Lisa Sylvester monitoring the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Sheer terror in the streets of Colombia. Take a look at these pictures. That bomb killed at least six people and injured dozens more. The explosion blew cars to bits and damaged buildings. So many people, in fact, were injured the hospital reportedly declared a state of emergency. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Smokers in Great Britain may soon be banned from lighting up in their cars. A doctor's group is recommending the British government impose the ban in a report on the effects of second-hand smoke on children. The report says second-hand smoke causes tens of thousands of cases of respiratory infections in asthma every year.

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton is pushing the reset button on U.S./Pakistani relation relations. Today she announced a new era between the two allies. Clinton says the United States is ready to move beyond past misunderstanding and disputes with Pakistan and work together on common goals. Pakistan's prime minister expressed hope the U.S. will help Pakistan develop new nuclear power plants to ease the electricity shortage. Wolf?

BLITZER: Important meetings here in Washington, significant developments, Lisa. Thank you.

We're going to have a lot more coming up on this development of U.S./Pakistani relations tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The Pakistani foreign minister he will be my guest. We'll talk about what's going on along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the hunt for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

A major announcement by the pentagon. Expected to be a change in how the military handles openly gay troops. The story coming up.

Plus, Israel is known for having some of the toughest airport security in the world. Now U.S. could soon be adopting some of those very same standards.


BLITZER: A major announcement is expected tomorrow from the pentagon and the military's controversial don't ask, don't tell policy. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She is working the story for us. What are you learning?

STARR: Well Wolf, Pentagon sources tell us tomorrow Defense Secretary Robert Gates will announce at a press conference some changes in how the don't ask, don't tell policy is implemented here at the pentagon, the policy in law that prohibits gays from openly serving in the military. First thing, let's be clear, we're not talking repeal of the law. That is a debate, a very controversial debate still going on on Capitol Hill. Secretary Gates is going to say there will be new directives amending how it's implemented. He will say this is more fair, more appropriate. He will call for investigations, if you will, of people who are suspects, who have been charged with being openly gay in the military, all that to be handled at a much higher level by senior commanders so there's more fair application of this across the force. Third party outings by people with a grudge or an ax to grind may no longer be evidence to be considered without the grudge also being considered. There will be some movement on this, Wolf. But the overall effort by President Obama to get the law changed once and for all, still very much in debate.

BLITZER: What are you hearing about the troops from all of this?

STARR: This reflects the debate in society to a large extent. The pentagon, sources will tell you many troops are in fine with it and in favor of appeal. We have an interesting comment from a three- star general who wrote a letter to the editor and I want to read part of it to you. This is Lt. General Benjamin Nixon, the head of U.S. army forces in the pacific. He says, "I suspect many service members, their families, veterans, and citizens are wondering what to do to stop this ill advised repeal of a policy. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy." General Nixon, a three star putting himself square at odds with the president of the United States who says he wants the policy repealed. At least one three-star general says he doesn't agree.

BLITZER: The debate will continue. I suspect this train is leaving the station once the commander in chief says he wants it. That policy change, it will eventually happen. All right. Barbara, thanks very much.

Imagine being interrogated before everybody flight you take. That's what they do in Israel, and that style of security could be coming to an airport near you right here in the United States, and soon.

And inside one of the most dangerous cities in the world. CNN is in Juarez, Mexico to show you just how bad it really gets. The ground zero for the drug war is coming up.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. California could be on its way to becoming the first state in the country to legalize the possession of marijuana for non-medicinal purples. Advocates say they now have the number of signatures needed to allow adults to have up to one ounce of the substance.

Lawmakers are turning up the heat on tanning beds. A Congressional hearing is exploring links between indoor tanning and the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma. It comes on the eve of a public hearing by the Food and Drug Administration which will review what it says the dangers of tanning beds are.

Former New York Mets Pitcher Dwight Gooden is facing charges for driving under the influence of drugs with a child in the car. Police arrested Gooden yesterday after his car crashed in northern New Jersey. Other charges include endangering the welfare child and leaving the scene of an accident. Wolf? BLITZER: Thank you, Lisa.

Take a look at these very disturbing numbers. African-Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to be without a job. The National Urban League is out with a huge report today. What it's asking the president of the United States to do about all of this. Donna Brazile and Roland Martin on the state of black America 2010 when we come back.


BLITZER: This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We've received more audio tapes of threatening phone calls to Bart Stupak's office after the Democrat's decision to vote yes on health care reform Sunday night. Listen to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stupak, you murderous scum bag pile of steaming crap. You and your family are scum. You ought to fill your pockets with led and jump in the Potomac. That's what you are, Stupak. A piece of crap. We despise you and every punk like you, Stupak. Get off our property!

BLITZER: Wow. Let's discuss this and more with our CNN contributors, Donna Brazile and Roland Martin. You know, you hear that kind of voicemail, you know, you get nervous. I can understand why capitol police right now, the leadership, the house, they're worried about what's going on.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, Wolf, I was a Congressional staffer when we debated the first gulf war. I was on Capitol Hill during many other debates. I've never seen anything like this. I believe what Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn said today along with the statement that Mr. Boehner put out, it's time that lawmakers come together and raise the level of civil discourse on Capitol Hill and across the country.

BLITZER: We're speaking to Congressman Clyburn in the next hour. He's coming over to THE SITUATION ROOM. I know he's worried. Roland, give us perspective on. John Boehner has issued a strong statement that all these issues, protests, but the violent threat is out of bounds.

ROLAND MARTIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You also have to go beyond a sheet of paper. You have to also check your own members of Congress who yell "you lie" at the state of the union address. You have to check somebody when they yell "baby killer" on the floor of the house. You have Republicans saying communism is to socialism as if soviet tanks will be rolling down the streets of the United States. So they contribute to this climate, then they ratchet it up, then they play into these base fears of these folks out here who have no sense of self-control whatsoever. I would hope the people who are Republicans or tea party activists who are hill to protest civilly, they would look to someone scene say we're not going to allow that behavior here with our protest. Get out. A lot of them won't do it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's move on. We'll have much more of Congressman Clyburn coming in. We'll talk about this with him. We've invited the Republican leadership to talk about him as well. This is worrisome. I've been in Washington a long time. The Capitol Hill police get involved. It's a worrisome development which we'll cover thoroughly. Let's talk about what we invited you to come talk about, the state of black America, 2010. Let's look at some of the snapshots from a new study by the National Urban League. On the economy, the unemployment rate for white Americans stood at 8.8 percent last month, compared to more than 15 percent for African Americans, more than 12 percent for Latinos, median household income, more than $37,000 a year for Latinos. This is pretty disturbing. I think we should be very surprised by this, but it's still disturbing to see the discrepancies in the year 2010.

BRAZILE: What's even more disturbing is we all have a policy prescription that can help to reduce the level of unemployment across the country for blacks, whites, Latinos. One senator recently, of course, said, no way we're going to put money for youth unemployment. Black youth unemployment is almost approaching 50 percent. That's another concern. If we're worried about the future, worried about the next generation, then we have to put money behind the programs.

BLITZER: Look at these numbers, Roland. As far as Americans without health insurance, whites 10.8 percent. Blacks 19.1 percent. Hispanics 30.7 percent. Are you surprised by those numbers?

MARTIN: You have to tie lack of health insurance to lack of jobs. I was in D.C. today speaking to the Department of Transportation's small business summit. $46 billion spent on the stimulus program. 1.7 percent went to Latino businesses. 1.1 percent went to African American businesses. I challenged them on not just the D.O.T., but also unions. African-Americans and Hispanics are routinely shut out of those kinds of jobs. So here we have the Department of Transportation trying to push the money to the states. Who doesn't get hired? These are jobs providing benefits sending kids to school, so I challenge the same unions who want black and Hispanic votes, how dare you lock people out of those particular jobs? It goes beyond government. It's also private industry playing a critical role in the numbers.

BLITZER: And Donna, turn around and take a look at these numbers behind you. You can see them. 25-year-olds with bachelor degrees, 32.6 percent among whites, 19.6 percent, among Hispanic, 13.3 percent, a survey that came out today. What's worry some is the gap still exists.

BRAZILE: That's why the Urban League for more than 100 years have been championing the issues and trying to close the economic gap, the housing gap, there's so many gaps. Roland has been a strong advocate the last few weeks in terms of pushing student aid and the Pell Grant funding. That's important. If we're going to close these gaps, we need more federal assistance. I also want to echo what Roland said about the private sector. The majority of the jobs created over the last three years come from the private sector.

BLITZER: Is the president doing enough now?

MARTIN: I think the president can do more.

BLITZER: What do you want him to do?

MARTIN: First and foremost I would like for the president to sit here and call his cabinet secretaries together and say, look, we want a fair share amount of dollars going to all communities in this country. And I want the president and the secretaries to lean on these states and say we're not going to send you billions of dollars for you to sit here and ignore disadvantaged businesses, for you not to provide contracts. They need to step up as well. You can't have politicians talk about high crime rate, talk about building more prisons, talk about all of these, you know, negative things in our society, but then turn around and say, well, folks can want get jobs. They have to say if you don't want to do this here, cut the money off, do what Atlanta Mayor Jackson did when he said I understand the power of political power and I combine it with economic power. Having a black president is one thing. But having African Americans with economic equality is a whole different issue.

BLITZER: Is there frustration in the African American community especially the Congressional black caucus? We've been getting conflicting reports as you know, Donna.

BRAZILE: They are advocating for more change, more resources, apprenticeship, I mentioned job programs for young people. At the end of the day African American institutions will have to step up to filling the gap to provide services like the urban league is providing all across the country.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation. I just want to point out, Roland Martin, our own contributor has a brand new book out. It's a book with a lot of pictures and you have a DVD in here, the whole nine yards.

BRAZILE: I want to know if Roland put the DVD of the two of us dancing after --

MARTIN: No, no, no. On the DVD is my interview with the president and Michelle Obama. There are photos in the book of the two of us.

BLITZER: I believe I'm involved a little bit there. I think they'll see all of us getting into a little bit of music. It really was a moment.

Thanks very much.

It's one of the most strange meetings we could remember for a world leader, a friend of the United States, an ally of the United States visiting the white house. Just what happened when Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama met. We'll try to report on what's going on. This is not an easy story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack for "the Cafferty file." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is why do Americans keep voting the same politicians into office if we disapprove of the job they're doing? And we do disapprove, according to all the polls.

Alex writes, "When more people vote on "American Idol" than in our elections, it's not the people keep voting the same Congress in, it's that the people who want to vote them out simply don't bother to vote."

Terry in Arizona, "We've become a nation of Kool-Aid drinkers. Members of Congress have the same control over us voters as the Reverend Jim Jones had over the people in Jonestown. And the idiot running against the incumbent idiot might be an even bigger idiot. I'm not going to mention any names, but here in Arizona we have this scenario taking place now, and it's getting national attention."

Chris in Pittsburgh writes, "The issue's not the politician. It's the two-party system. We can keep re-electing new politicians, but if they're more loyal to the party than their constituents, the same results will happen again and again."

Alice writes, "It's always throw the bums out, but when people get into the voting booths, they whisper to themselves, not my bum. He always brings home the bacon. He's a really good guy. He spoke to me at the fund-raiser."

Jerry said, "It's easier than you might think. The voting booth is more sacred and reflects the real truth of how someone feels."

And Jordan in New York offers this, "We hate the other guy's representative, but not our own. A New Yorkers aghast at a Texan yelling baby killer while a Texan is fuming at a New Yorker who is fighting for health care reform. We don't hate Congress. We hate each other. Washington represents our national opinions and dialogues, it doesn't create them."

If you want to read more on this, I got a ton of mail on this question, you'll find on it my blog at

BLITZER: Remember a book you wrote called "It's Getting Ugly Out There"?

CAFFERTY: Vaguely.

BLITZER: I think it's pretty ugly right now what we're seeing.

CAFFERTY: It was prescient, wasn't it?

BLITZER: Yes it was, Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty file.

He's President Obama's top choice to head the TSA and he has a whole new strategy for keeping you safe in the air. You're going to want to hear what's going on.

And more than 100 people arrested in Saudi Arabia for alleged terror plots. We have the details about what's going on.


BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," new hints that Congressman Mike Pence may be mulling a possible presidential bit in 2012. The Indiana Republican will address an anti-health care reform rally put on by the Iowa Republican party later tonight. He'll appear long distance via the internet. Pence is reaching out to GOP leaders in the lead-off presidential caucus state on this the eve of President Obama's visit to Iowa to promote health care reform. He'll be in Iowa City tomorrow.

Look who's planning to skip a major gathering of possible Republican presidential contenders next month, that would be Minnesota Governor Mike Pawlenty. His spokesman tells CNN Pawlenty will instead attend a ceremony welcoming back U.S. troops from Iraq. He had been scheduled to take part in the southern Republican leadership conference in New Orleans along with Sarah Palin and other possible white house hopefuls.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out

He's President Obama's top choice to head the transportation security administration. And he has a whole new plan for trying to keep you safe when you fly. Kate Bolduan's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the details. What is going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know this. Israeli airport security is considered some of the toughest in the world, and moving toward the Israeli model is part of the strategy president Obama's nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration says he wants to implement in U.S. airports. Retired Army Major General Robert Harding is who we're talking about, and he has just finished a second day of confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.


MAJ. GEN. ROBERT HARDING (RET.), TSA NOMINEE: I agree with you that we should move even closer to an Israeli model, where there's more engagement with passengers. I think that increases the -- the layers and pushes the layers out. I think that's a very important aspect of providing security is engaging the public.


BOLDUAN: Now, what it comes down to here is passenger engagement, as they call it. Harding says he wants to head in the direction of the Israeli model, but exactly how far, he didn't say. The Israeli airport security system is marked by aggressive questioning of passengers. What we're talking about here are face-to- face interviews with every passenger, and the questioning is conducted before they even check in. And, Wolf, it even goes in to the purpose and nature of the travel and can even extend into the background of passengers.

BLITZER: Well, can they make that work here?

BOLDUAN: And that's a very good question. And I actually spoke to the former head of security at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, and he says that the Israeli system may not be a perfect fit for the U.S. because of certain privacy concerns as well as the sheer volume of passenger -- of passengers traveling through U.S. airports compared to Israeli airports, but more human interaction as part of airport security, he says, is a good thing no matter what -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We'll see how he does. See if we're a little bit safe.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. We'll see.

BLITZER: All right. Kate Bolduan reporting.