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Qureshi: U.S. Pakistani Cooperation Improves; Threats to Congress gets Political

Aired March 25, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Rick, thank you.

Happening now, new reports of violence and threats targeting members of Congress, including Republicans. The backlash from the health care reform vote growing more intense and more potentially dangerous. Republicans and Democrats are accusing one another of fanning the flames for political gain.

President Obama is trying to convince Iowans that they'll benefit from the new health care law.

But will reform cost some of them some jobs?

We'll speak about that and a lot more with the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. We'll talk about that and what's going on in U.S.-Israeli relations. Stand by for my one-on-one interview with the White House chief of staff.

And a new terror threat purportedly from Osama bin Laden -- the Pakistani foreign minister tells me why the hunt for bin Laden keeps coming up empty, but might not in the not so distant future.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


This is what the long fight over health care reform has turned into -- more and more House members are coming forward to reveal they've been the targets of threats and vandalism. Today, Democrat Anthony Weiner says a package containing white powder was sent to his New York office, along with a threatening letter about his health care vote.

Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer says he received threatening vice mail at his Michigan office, wishing he dies at a young age.

Ohio Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt also got a threatening call at her office.

We have a clip of it.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I'm glad the president passed health care. Yes. Funky (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) racist (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) Republicans hate that, don't you?

Jeanne Schmidt, when you got hit by that car or when you fell or whatever, you should have broke your back (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE). You and Bonior mother (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) and Mitch McConnell. All you racist (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) Republicans.

Why don't you all just change your all party name to racist?

Cause if one of the those (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) Tea Baggers would have spit on me, I would have shot them in the (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) face with my (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) .9 millimeter.


BLITZER: This story obviously growing more politically charged by the hour, when the number two House Republican came forward just a little while ago to reveal that Democrats certainly aren't the only ones being targeted right now. We heard that voice mail left for Jean Schmidt.

Let's go to our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana, this is a scary story.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And you're hearing, as you just pointed out, that the threats are coming not just to Democrats, but we're hearing more and more from all parties, including Republicans. And the finger pointing is also coming on both sides, specifically about playing politics with very real security threats.


BASH (voice-over): The second ranking House Republican came to the cameras to say he's been the target of violence, too.


CANTOR: A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week and I've received threatening e-mails. But I will not re -- I will not release them because I believe such actions will only encourage more to be sent.

BASH: Then the main reason he was there -- to accuse Democrats of using threats of violence for political gain.

CANTOR: I have deep concerns that some DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen and DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, in particular, are dangerously fanning the flames by suggesting -- suggesting that these incidents be used as a political weapon.

BASH (on camera): What makes you say it's political?

(voice-over): Eric Cantor would not answer questions about his accusation. But Democratic leaders have been going after Republicans, saying they're inciting threats against Democrats.

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine issued a statement Wednesday saying: "Republican leaders are themselves engaging in actions and rhetoric that previously would have been limited to fringe elements of the Republican Party. And now Organizing for America, President Obama's political organization, is even trying to raise money off threats against fellow Democrats, specifically citing an incident with Democrat Tom Perriello and asking for political donations."

Meanwhile, many Democrats are not relenting -- lashing out at Republicans like Sarah Palin for releasing this map with 20 House Democrats in rifle crosshairs and House GOP Leader John Boehner for what Democrats call overheated rhetoric.


BASH: Bonior called Democrat Steve Driehaus "a dead man" for voting on health care.

Driehaus said he understood it was political, but insists others may not.

REP. STEVE DRIEHAUS (D), OHIO: It's not how I take it, it's how somebody back home or somebody in another state might take it. We've got death threats coming into our offices, coming into other offices of members of Congress.

BASH (on camera): Given what's going on, do you maybe think that those words might have been taken out of context?

He said that...

BOEHNER: I don't think so. I -- I've...

BASH: He said they've incited things.

BOEHNER: Listen, no one saw this quote of mine in this publication until Mr. Driehaus and others made a public issue of it.

BASH (voice-over): No apology for rhetoric Democrats call incendiary, but he did say this.

BOEHNER: Violence and threats are unacceptable. They have no place in a political debate.


BASH: Now, I should tell you that both of the Democrats Congressman Cantor accused, van Holland and the DNC chairman, Tim Kaine, both say that they dismiss any idea that they are using these threats for political reasons. But, look, what we have seen today, as you can see, is both parties are playing -- accusing the other of politics. And that -- they say that that really overshadows the real issue, which are security threats. But, Wolf, something else is being overshadowed, and that is that the United States Senate completed its work on health care today, passed that package of changes and it's now heading over to the House. And by the end of the day, the president's top priority -- health care -- should be finished.

BLITZER: All right. So he'll sign that reconciliation bill into law, as well. That's going to happen fairly soon, too, right, Dana?

BASH: That's right. We assume if not tonight, then maybe tomorrow, because we expect the House to finalize it tonight -- who knows when -- but at some point before they go home.

BLITZER: So the -- the -- the law of the land will be both the Senate version plus the just passed reconciliation bill.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

Let's talk about all of this with our senior political analysts, Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

I think everyone agrees -- maybe -- I assume you agree that trying to raise political funds out of this -- these threats and the violence is inappropriate.



BLITZER: But that's -- that sounds...


BLITZER: -- that sounds so sleazy...


BLITZER: -- doesn't it?

GERGEN: It does. It is sleazy. But this whole thing has gotten to a level of nastiness that I don't think we've seen in some years. Just as the partisanship has become so hyper now, the -- the rhetoric is so hyper. And then it just -- inevitably, we get into this kind of environment. And now we have both sides are getting threats. Both sides are issuing denunciations. Both sides are pointing fingers at the other one.

I sort of have come to the conclusion that maybe -- maybe it's time for the president, before everybody goes home, to call the political leadership down to the White House...

BORGER: Well...

GERGEN: -- and ask them to jointly come out and say we all...

BORGER: Why haven't they done that before?

I mean... GERGEN: Yes, why...

BORGER: -- why do they need the president to jointly come out?

One would presume...

GERGEN: Well...

BORGER: -- that John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi...

GERGEN: I think I would...

BORGER: -- could actually get together on their own without having to have the president intervene, right?

GERGEN: I agree. But I...

BORGER: And -- and...

GERGEN: But the president is not, you know...

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: -- the White House is a player in this.

BORGER: But they should have done it. But, you know what, they should have done that.

GERGEN: Yes, but there should be some -- we would...

BORGER: Exactly.

GERGEN: -- we would agree, I think, that there should be some gathering -- some coming together of the two sides before they go home.

BORGER: Absolutely.

GERGEN: And to see if they can't calm the waters, because otherwise that's going to -- there may well be bloodshed before this is done.

BLITZER: Because even -- even, Gloria, some -- you know, something that could be seen as innocent, you know, sort of the bull's eyes that Sarah Palin put on this map, where Democrats are going to be targeted, or when -- when -- when Boehner speaks about "dead man" -- he meant -- he meant politically dead...

BORGER: Dead man walking. I mean we...

BLITZER: Yes. But it...

BORGER: We know that.

BLITZER: But it has a different connotation...


BLITZER: -- a different potential impact now that there are these threats.

BORGER: You know, I was trying -- it does. And, obviously, we live in a polarized environment.

But I was trying to think back in my history of covering politics to what I could compare this to. I was thinking of 1993 after Waco, the Branch Davidians, where the government went in and we -- and we started talking about the role of government -- the big role of government. '94, after the crime bill passed, people -- with gun control in it. People felt the role of government was too huge. After that, you had Oklahoma City.


BORGER: And you had an anger. And you had an anger out there. And now you have people not trusting their government...


BORGER: -- and -- and having more government with -- with health care. So it's really inspired this...

BLITZER: It's time for everyone...

BORGER: -- this anger.

BLITZER: -- to calm down right now...

GERGEN: It's time to calm down.

BLITZER: -- and -- and resolve this.


GERGEN: Calm it down. I -- actually, my memories go back to the '60s.


GERGEN: And that was before you were born.


GERGEN: But there were threats of violence in the air and there were fights. And this is -- when the country gets to these -- some of these real tension points, leadership -- statesmanship is required.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: I'm old enough to remember during the Vietnam War...


BLITZER: -- some of the tension that existed here in Washington and, indeed, around the country.

Guys, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Right now, Democrats are closer to finalizing their so- called package of fixes to the new health care reform bill. You heard Dana report that the House of Representatives is getting ready to pass that so-called reconciliation bill within the next few hours. And then the president of the United States will go ahead and sign it into law.

Republicans who bombarded the bill with proposed amendments were able to make a couple of minor changes, so the measure did have to go back to the House for a vote.

Democratic leaders say they expect the pass -- to pass the fixes this evening and then the president will get ready to sign that bill into law.

When President Obama signed health care reform legislation into law earlier in the week, he gave away 22 souvenir pens and praised many of his most important aides and political allies.

I sat down earlier today over at the White House with the president's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

And I asked him why he seemed to get left out of the president's round of public thank yous.


BLITZER: I know you worked really hard over these 13 months. No one in the White House -- no one in the administration worked harder. That's why I was surprised when the president was thanking everyone the other day for what they did, he didn't -- he didn't give you a shout-out.


BLITZER: Do you care?


BLITZER: It doesn't mean anything?


BLITZER: Did he give you one of those 22 pens?

EMANUEL: No. No, I mean, because...

BLITZER: Because you worked really hard to get -- I mean you had the connections in the House and in the Senate.

EMANUEL: First of all, he didn't do it -- I didn't do this so I would get thanked at -- at the signing or anything else.

Let me say this, if that's the question, you should know the night that it passed -- or the day it passed, he and I -- he came by. He gave me a high five. I have no doubt of my role in this and I feel quite good about that sense of it.


BLITZER: All right, stand by for the full interview -- my one- on-one interview with Rahm Emanuel on the president's health care victory, his next big fight, what's in step -- what's coming up here in Washington and the stunning turn in U.S.-Israeli relations. He has some thoughts about that, as well.

The full interview with the White House chief of staff airs here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour.

And now that the health care reform bill has passed, there are other developments unfolding here in Washington -- a very blunt confession from the Pakistani foreign minister that nobody has a clue where Osama bin Laden is hiding. My interview with the foreign minister of Pakistan -- that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: If you watch the NCAA tournament, the basketball team that loses usually shakes hands with the team that wins. That's called sportsmanship. You can see the same thing at National Football League games or baseball games or boxing matches.

But where you don't see it much these days is in Washington, DC. We have become so bitterly divided that people on the losing side of a political debate -- in this case the health care reform debate -- the Republicans and their supporters, have now taken to hurling insults using names like "baby killer" and using the most vile racial epithets to refer to African-American members of the United States Congress, as well as to our president.

These recent examples follow the beginning of this descent into schoolyard behavior when back during the president's State of the Union Address, a Republican Congressman yelled out "You lie!" That followed talk of death panels and the government killing your grandmother, remember?

This kind of behavior by our leaders sends a subliminal message that this sort of behavior is acceptable and eventually, well, you get to death threats and maybe even worse.

What exactly are we becoming here?

Do members of Congress begin punching each other and throwing furniture next, the way they do in legislative bodies elsewhere in the world?

In fighting against health care reform at every step of the way, the Republicans may have made the political miscalculation of the century. See, when the Republican, Scott Brown, won that election in Massachusetts for Kennedy's Senate seat, the GOP figured it had the health care debate in the bag and they didn't even have to be nice about it anymore. But they lost. And now the residue of the vile they spewed during the debate has left a nasty, bitter taste in everyone's mouth.

Here's the question -- are the Republicans sore losers?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: As you've been saying for a long time and as I said yesterday quoting you, Jack, "It's getting ugly right now here in Washington."

CAFFERTY: This is -- this is not good.


CAFFERTY: You know, the -- the people in Greece are in the streets over what they see as the collapse of their government and perhaps that civilization, to a degree, over there. That kind of stuff is not that far away here if we don't get ourselves straightened out pretty quick.

BLITZER: Everybody has got to calm down.

Jack, thank you.

President Obama still is trying to convince the American people that they're better off now that health care reform is law.

He spoke just a little while ago in Iowa, where he made a campaign promise back in 2007 to overhaul the health insurance system.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Starting today, small business owners can sit down at the end of the week, look at their expenses and they can begin calculating how much money they're going to save. And maybe they can even use those savings to not only provide insurance, but also create jobs.

This health care tax credit is pro jobs, it is pro-business and it starts this year and it's starting because of you.



BLITZER: Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, traveled to Iowa with the president and spoke to some small business owners and he's got this report -- Dan. DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a full circle for President Obama here in Iowa City, from a campaign pledge to a health care law. The president admitted that it won't solve all the problems, but insists that it will make insurance more secure and affordable. Small business owners, he says, will start seeing the benefits right away.

But as we found out, there's still a lot of uncertainty and confusion.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): At Judy Gate's bakery, deli and catery, where I finally learned how to make a good latte...

(on camera): You can tell I haven't done this, right?

(voice-over): And at Eric Bochner's chocolate factory, where I got a sample from his production line...

(on camera): Oh, this is very nice.

(voice-over): Two different views of President Obama's new health care law.

ERIC BOCHNER, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: Did I like the health care system before the bill?

No. I didn't like it at all. But I'm not sure that this solution is going to be the best one for small businesses.

JUDY GATES, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I think that what he's doing now is a step in the right direction.

LOTHIAN: But it may be one step ahead of what she can now afford for her 10 employees.

(on camera): Is it going to help you?

GATES: I don't think at this point it is, no, because...

LOTHIAN: Why not?

GATES: -- I don't have -- I do not have enough of a margin in what I do here to provide health care for my employees. If I did, I'd be doing that.

LOTHIAN: But the president is saying, listen, I'm going to give you a 35 percent tax credit right away.

GATES: Right.

LOTHIAN: And in a few years, a 50 percent tax credit.

GATES: That's still 65 percent my dime and 50 percent my dime that I don't have right now. And I don't think.... LOTHIAN: You can't afford to pay the rest of it?

GATES: I don't think most small businesses can, honestly.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Bochner is trying to figure out how the new law will apply to his fluctuating workforce, along with his bottom line.

BOCHNER: We don't know how to price our product. We don't know how to hire people. We don't know how to invest our capital. We don't know how to do much of anything.

LOTHIAN (on camera): And you're a lawyer.

BOCHNER: Exactly.

And then the robots will go and pick them up and place them...

LOTHIAN (voice-over): This self-described Independent, who didn't vote for Mr. Obama, is also worried about government's big hand in small business, even though he's not being forced to do anything.

BOCHNER: Entrepreneurial cultures and entrepreneurial people don't like rules, regulation, government. And so any time we're more free to do what we can do, we're happier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll take one of the -- one of the Smiley faces.


Fear of too much government control, truly, I do. And I understand that and I sympathize with it. I don't -- I don't share that, though. But I hear more people that are like I am that say something's got to give.


LOTHIAN: Even though President Obama has won a major victory, he'll continue to sell the law to the American people, taking more trips that tout its immediate and long-term benefits and provide political cover for Democrats who voted yes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian is in Iowa City, Iowa.

A good report.

Hundreds of thousands of people out of work and filing claims, but the news this week isn't necessarily all bad. Stand by.

And could the U.S. jobs picture be taking a turn -- turning a corner for the better?

A plane and its pilot get a security escort on the freeway. We're going to show you the pictures. We're going to show you how it got there. Much more coming up.


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

What do you have -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Well, we've got some good news to start. Well, there's a slightly rosier picture on the unemployment front today. The Labor Department says 442,000 Americans filed first time jobless claims last week. Now, that's 14,000 fewer than the previous week and the lowest level in six weeks. It's also better than the 450,000 that experts expected. One of them says it's a sign, quote, "we're heading in the right direction."

Another wrong made right today at the Pentagon. During a ceremony this afternoon, the Army paid a belated tribute to the three surviving members of its first all black team of parachutists. They broke the color barrier during World War II serving with 14 other African-American paratroopers in the 555th Parachute Infantry Test Platoon. The observance was meant to be part of Black History Month in February, but was postponed.

And this is not something you see every day. Take a look at this -- a plane under Highway Patrol escort on the freeway. The small plane landed on the Orange Freeway in Pomona, California last night. CNN affiliate kcal reported that it was forced to land because of engine trouble. Two lanes were closed for a while, but fortunately no one was hurt and there was no property damage. The plane was taken to an airfield -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Those are the key words, no one was hurt. That is quite good, indeed.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Good to hear.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, lucky for everyone.

Thank you.


BLITZER: Danger in the mail -- how federal authorities are responding to a spate of pipe bombs in mailboxes.

And a top U.S. weapon of choice against the Taliban -- Pakistan's foreign minister is here in THE SITUATION ROOM exclusively.

We'll talk about why his country hates them and wants them for itself.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, he's the president's top adviser and he's going one-on-one with me. Wait until you hear what the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, says is now -- now the president's number one priority.

And she once had a key role fighting for health care reform and says she has the scars to prove it. The secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is taking us inside the moment she learned the bill would become the law.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


New threats today believed to be from the Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden. He's promising retaliation against Americans if -- if the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is executed.

A key American ally is on the front line of this battle and it's a CNN exclusive.

And joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Minister, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Very successful talks, by all accounts, that you've had with the Obama administration this week. But let's get to the issue of bin Laden right now, the hunt for bin Laden. You know about this new audiotape that he released today.

Are you any closer -- do you believe you are any closer to finding, to capturing or killing bin Laden?

QURESHI: Well, we are doing our best to get to him. Frankly, nobody has any clue where he is.

BLITZER: Do you feel the U.S. is sharing its intelligence as robustly as it should with you on this issue of the hunt for bin Laden?

QURESHI: I think the sharing of intelligence and the military to military cooperation between the Pakistan and U.S. has improved considerably in the last, I would say, 18, 20 months.

BLITZER: Is it where you want it to be?

QURESHI: It can improve. But it's satisfactory.

BLITZER: And so am I hearing you right when you say there's been no improvement in the hunt for Bin laden? You're no closer to finding him today than you were a year ago or five years ago?

QURESHI: I can't make a value judgment on that. BLITZER: You believe he's in Pakistan some place?

QURESHI: Nobody knows where he is.

BLITZER: Nobody has any clue. Why is it so hard to find Bin laden or his number two man in Karachi?

QURESHI: Well, we have, you know, if you look at Pakistan's performance, we have picked up more Al Qaeda people and people associated with Al Qaeda and Taliban than any other country in the world.

BLITZER: And you've done a remarkable job. Especially over the last few months. So, when you interrogate these Al Qaeda operatives that you pick up, they don't have a clue? They can't point you in the right direction?

QURESHI: See, it's not very -- you know, not very hierarchical structure organization as people presume it to be, you know, to be centralized. It seems, you know, different people operating different places. But we are making all efforts. And we have made good progress. And I think the reconstitution of that.

BLITZER: Have you ever thought you had him in your sights and you launched a missile or you tried to kill him only to be disappointed that you failed?

QURESHI: Well, we've been trying, and we'll continue to try.

BLITZER: If you capture him, what will you do with him?

QURESHI: Let's get hold of him first.

BLITZER: Would you give him to the United States if you captured him alive?

QURESHI: We are allies, and we share an objective. And we are working for a similar objective. Why not? We are working in unison.

BLITZER: So, I guess the question is, do you have a plan? Is there a plan in place? You capture Bin laden alive in Karachi some place or along the border of Afghanistan some place in Pakistan. Is there a plan what you do with him?

QURESHI: Let the situation arise first.

BLITZER: You're a diplomat and so you're being diplomatic. But if you had him, you would try him. As far as Pakistan is concerned, Bin laden is a very bad guy.

QURESHI: Well, he's no friend of anyone. A lot of innocent Pakistanis have been victims of terrorism and extremism.

BLITZER: There is, though, among average Pakistanis, as you know, there is some support for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. You have to deal with that. QURESHI: I think if you look at the public opinion of Pakistan today, you will be surprised to see how conversion has taken place the last 24 months.

BLITZER: Because of the terror attacks at the hotels?

QURESHI: Because of the terror attacks, because of innocent people being killed, because of, you know, the true face of Taliban being projected by media. I think today the support for Taliban and the likes of Taliban is at its lowest ever in Pakistan.

BLITZER: Has the isi, your intelligence service, severed its relationship with the Taliban, or is there still this connection?

QURESHI: The isi has done a phenomenal job. And I think there's recognition of that. Look at the casualties, isi itself has suffered. You know, there are -- I don't want to quote a figure. But we have lost quite a few isi operators catching terrorists. Look at the attacks that isi has faced. The headquarters were attacked. The headquarters in Lahore, the headquarters in Multan were attacked. Why are they being attacked?

BLITZER: So, this dramatic change, this improvement in u.s./Pakistani cooperation on the terror front, the military front, what is the main reason for this dramatic change over the past several months?

QURESHI: Because people have seen how Pakistan has been affected. People have seen how swat was affected. People have seen how the tribal areas and how the economy is being affected. Today there's a realization, if we need economic growth, if we need jobs, we've got to get rid of terrorism. And we have to contain this menace of extremism.

BLITZER: You still have a problem with these u.s. Drones that fly over Pakistani sovereign soil and launch these missiles at Taliban or Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan? Because there have been, by our account, so far this year 22 such u.s. strikes over Pakistan.

QURESHI: Yes. The strikes have been there. And they've also taken out some valuable targets. One recognizes that. The issue of sovereignty is there. And people of Pakistan feel strongly about it. And we've been discussing this issue with our friends in the u.s.

BLITZER: And that's a diplomatic way of saying you are opposed, you just are neutral?

QURESHI: No. What I'm saying is transfer the ownership to Pakistan. Why do we say that?

BLITZER: You want these Drones?

QURESHI: Why did you say that? No. We want the ownership. We want the operation that we take the decision when to operate. For example, when we used air power in the last few months against insurgents. And we've carried out hundreds of soldiers, and these soldiers is against militant cops, and, you know, militant, you know, hide outs. Not one Pakistani has complained against them. Why?

BLITZER: Is the u.s. ready to provide you with these Military Drones?

QURESHI: We're talking about it.

BLITZER: So, you don't have a commitment yet?

QURESHI: I don't think so.

BLITZER: You want them. You think that would be a significant gesture?

QURESHI: I think it will help. It will help improve the perception. It will help improve, you know, the feelings in Pakistan.

BLITZER: President of the United States, Barack Obama. What do you think of him?

QURESHI: I think he's a popularly elected President of the United States of America. I think he has a huge international standing. I think his policy of engaging with the Muslim world has been appreciated. I think many of his policies, his statements, have been understood well. He's a great face for the United States.

BLITZER: So, the relationship has improved in part because he is the president?

QURESHI: I think he's -- you know, he's a really likable person. And I've had, you know, one interaction with him. I was very impressed by his humility and by his mannerism. And you know, he is a great communicator. And he puts across his message very well. And the international audience listens to him.

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, thanks very much for coming in.

QURESHI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck.

QURESHI: Thank you.

BLITZER: A new reality for Sarah Palin. She's now set to earn millions and millions more. Millions of dollars, we're talking about. We have details.

And if you're rooting for Tiger Woods to win the Masters Tournament, you're going to find out if most Americans are rooting with you or hoping Woods loses big time.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what do you have?

Lisa Sylvester, cnn anchor: Well, we want to go straight to, we have pictures that are coming in from our cnn affiliate, WRAL. You can see it there. A big fire. This is the actually the Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro, North Carolina. That's on fire. This courthouse was originally built in 1881.

You can see out of those massive flames, apparently according to our affiliate WRAL, this fire broke out as construction work was being done on the historic clock tower at the top of the courthouse. We have no reports of injuries at this point but we're going to keep on going this story.

In other news, move over "Survivor" and "Apprentice." Sarah Palin is getting a TV series. The Former Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential Candidate will team up with Veteran Reality TV Producer Mark Burnett to launch a new documentary on the tlc network. Palin will reportedly rake in, get this, $1 million per episode. No word yet on when the series will premiere.

And despite his shrinking popularity, most Americans will still be cheering on Tiger Woods next month when he returns to the golf source. A new cnn opinion research corporation survey shows almost 60 percent of Americans want to see Woods win the masters tournament compared with 20 percent who don't. Still, a majority of those polled, 45 percent, have an unfavorable opinion of him following his admitted extramarital affairs. Wolf, I understand you were at the White House today interviewing Rahm Emanuel. Bumped into a few other figures up there, didn't you?

BLITZER: You know, when you go to the White House, you never know who you're going to see. General Jim Jones, the National Security Adviser to the President. He was walking around the -- I guess relaxing just a little bit because the president was out in Iowa. So, I had a good chance to catch up with him just a little bit. And Roland Martin showed up as well. He had a meeting over at the White House. So, we grabbed him, said hello to Roland. And it was always good to see him. It's nice to get back -- I spent 7 1/2 years or so covering President Clinton at the White House. So I'm pretty familiar with the grounds. But it's always exciting to go back.

Sylvester: Yes. More good looking pictures there, Wolf. More pictures for the scrapbook there.

BLITZER: Yes. Our producer Linda Roth, she shot all those pictures. She's a good photographer. All right. Lisa, thank you.

Jack Cafferty is asking, are republicans sore losers? He's going through your e-mail about the health care fight and he'll be back to share some of that with you.

And vandalism and threats against members of Congress. We'll weigh the security risks and the political risks. Donna Brazile and Tony Blankley there standing by for our "Strategy Session."


BLITZER: The mood is ugly here in Washington. Threats of violence, some very disturbing stuff. Let's discuss it in our "Strategy Session" with democratic strategist and cnn Political Contributor there, Political Analyst Donna Brazile and Republican Strategist Tony Blankley who's also an Executive Vice President of Global Public Affairs for Edelman pr. The company has health care clients, but he does not.

Up front with our viewers, Tony. Thanks very much. So, you remember a time when it's gotten this ugly? These threats, the bricks going through windows, these voice mails that have been left making all sorts of horrible threats?

DONNA BRAZILE, GORE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You know, Wolf, politics is not for the feint hearted. We know based on our experience on the hill, people get hot. You know, I mean, the tempers rise. But there's no question that this has been a very corrosive, a very divisive, a very emotional debate. But I think it's incumbent on lawmakers from both political parties to lower the tone, lower the volume and encourage lawmakers and their constituents to sit down, look at the bill, discuss their differences. But we should never get to the point where we're using racist, anti-semitic, you know, homophobic slurs to denounce, to demeaning and to demonize individuals.

BLITZER: What should the leadership, democratic leadership and republican leadership be doing?

TONY BLANKLEY, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT TO GLOBAL PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT EDELMAN PUBLIC RELATIONS: Look, everybody who's in public -- gets an awful lot of stuff. My old boss Newt got death threats all the time. George Bush got death threats. Obama gets death threat, congressmen do. And when close to elections, whenever the temperature rises, people out there on all sides start saying things and sometimes doing a few things. The unwritten rule in Washington has been we don't talk about it because it only encourages the crazy people. Unfortunately this week it started getting talked about. And so, now both sides are going to see who's got more nasty calls coming in. I think we ought to cool it down and stop talking about it. Because it only encourages people. The whole copy cat business only gets worse. It's one of those little secret things that just don't talk about it. Leave it alone.

BLITZER: Yes. It's true. Because, I mean, I remember when I was a White House correspondent, there were always ugly things happening outside the gates of the White House. People throwing things inside, trying to jump over the fence to make some sort of point. You know what? We stopped reporting on it because we were afraid it would just -- the copy cat thing. It would just encourage people to do that. So, when there was something ugly going on at the fence or outside the White House, we ignored it.

BRAZILE: But this was being escalated. There's something being stirred here. When you see lawmakers standing over the rail of the United States Capitol with slogans, with signs, you know, encouraging, you know, no. I think you draw the line there. I've never seen -- look, I've organized a lot of protests up on Capitol Hill. I've never seen that.

BLANKLEY: Let me give you...

BRAZILE: I think it's important that lawmakers set the example and the tone for the rest of the country.

BLANKLEY: Let me give you one example to the country that I'm personally familiar with. When Newt first became speaker.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, your old boss.

BLANKLEY: Newt Gingrich, my old boss. When he first became speaker, democrats went up to the chair and put a big photograph that was not respectful of Newt in the chair. It was against the House rules. Bob Walker was managing the Congress, I think at the time. That kind of thing was done by both parties when the opportunity presented itself, when the temperatures got hot enough. So, the suggestion that this is a one-sided business is, I don't think, valid. Both sides, both members and the crazies out there, and all of us who chatter, our chattering level gets a little bit more energized.

BLITZER: There were, you remember, during the Bush administration, some very ugly stuff hurled at the president, President Bush. Dick Cheney, war criminal was a mild thing compared to some of the other things that were....

BRAZILE: You know, Bill Clinton could stand right here. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton will tell you some of the awful, nasty things. So, look, we're not saying that politicians should be treated like babies. We're saying that the level of tone, the vitriol, need to be lowered. Because, yes, when you start seeing racial epithets being used, when you here the Barney, what Barney Frank, Anthony Weiner, and all the other members, there's no place for that matters to do that.

BLANKLEY: There's no question that when people get angry, the way they attack you is they find something personal. You're a Jew. You're a black. You're fat. Whatever it is. And they go after that. That's the way humans are nasty at people. And so when this happens, whether it's Eric Cantor, the highest ranking republican of Jewish faith in the party, he gets something shouted at him, he gets a lot of anti-semitic stuff, whether it's an African American congressman who gets the nastiest at him, this is the way humans are. They're nasty when they're angry and when they're anonymous.


BLITZER: It's one thing for fringe people to do that. It's another thing if there's a sense out there that leaders are encouraging that kind of behavior.

BRAZILE: Sarah Palin. I'm very disappointed in her. To tell people to go and load up. Come on. Let's not do that. I think once again lawmakers need to be very responsible for what they say and what they do.

BLANKLEY: Let me give you another example of where you can get kind of on your high horse pretty easily. The use of the bull's eye. People in both parties have been using bull's eyes, I can remember in the '60s, both parties, when you had a targeted candidate, the other party, you put them in your bull's eye. You know, it had nothing to do with suggesting violence, it's a metaphor where we wanted to...


BLITZER: I guess the bottom-line is, in this climate, we have to be careful of using it.

BRAZILE: It's extremely careful.


BLITZER: All right. I believe it on that. Guys, thanks very much.

The White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been a frequent target of criticism and second, gossip. Is he likely to make it through four years on the job, later on the prospect of a second term? My interview with the White House Chief of Staff, that's coming up.

And if you had to guess what Nancy Pelosi wants for her birthday, I doubt you'd ever guess this.





BLITZER: Get back to Jack for "The Cafferty File." Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, "THE CAFFERTY FILE": The question this hour is, are republicans sore losers? I've got over 5,000 e-mails in the last hour on this question.

Richard writes, "Republicans are not only sore losers, but are also promoters of hateful rhetoric which has now been taken beyond just words. The party has spent so much time and effort convincing people that they should fear their government and yet they completely disavow themselves of any responsibility when those same people begin to act, in some cases dangerously. "

Joe writes, "I think the American people are upset that the majority didn't rule in a democracy, because of backroom deals and promises. It's like shaking the hand of the other team knowing they paid off the referees."

Manuel writes, "We have sore losers on both sides and the media's reporting is enabler making it into a three-ring circus. Don't we have an example out there of someone who passionately but disrespectfully disagrees? All we're doing is making our young people more mindless and cynical about politics." Adam writes, "Positively, I didn't remember hearing or seeing the democrats jumping up and down pouting about the Bush tax cuts, you win the election, you set the agenda. The gop keeps saying that they are in favor of health care reform, but when they controlled Congress, I don't remember hearing a single word about it. It was all tax cuts for the wealthy and spending the surplus invading sovereign countries."

Joanne writes, "Yes, most definitely they are, not only are they sore losers, I really feel that what they hate most was losing to an African American."

And Danny writes, "What a shame and disgrace that the republicans have to act like bullies because they didn't get their way. I've never done this before, but I've made a commitment that I will not vote republican ever again. Those that make up the Republican Party, the religious right, the Tea Partiers, the social elite and mostly the wealthy would have their will imposed on all of us who would disagree with them. Until we can agree to be disagreeable without being mean- spirited, we have a very bleak future ahead, for all of us."

If you want to read more on this, and there is plenty to read, you'll find on it my blog, at

BLITZER: More to come, too, Jack, thank you.

Just because the health care reform is now the law of the land, that doesn't mean the president's campaign for it is over. Just ahead, his sales pitch in Iowa, and his warning that the republicans should stop their hollering.

And some large companies like Caterpillar say, the reform law is going to cost them big time, maybe even jobs. We'll investigate what that could mean for them, and for all of us.


BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," the top u.s. General in Iraq says, just because he visited New Hampshire doesn't mean he's considering a run for the White House. He's not only the Top General in Iraq for the entire Middle East, South Asia region. The head of the u.s. Military Central Command, General David Petraeus, went even further, unequivocally saying, he'll never be a candidate for president. Political junkies couldn't help but be reminded of civil war General William Tecumseh Sherman, who flatly and famously declared, I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected. General Petraeus, says he will not run for president.

She's arguably the most powerful woman in America right now. So, what does Nancy Pelosi want for her 70th birthday tomorrow? Who would have guessed that the Speaker of the House dreams of getting behind the eight ball?


PELOSI: Do you know what I want for my birthday? I think it's going to be a stove or a kitchen. I'm just thinking. And that's good. I want a pool table. I've always wanted a pool table. I want a pool table. See how I do.