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President Obama, President Sarkozy Meet

Aired March 30, 2010 - 17:00   ET


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this requires effective coordination by all nations. And to that end, I updated the president on our efforts to pass financial -- financial reform. And I look forward to the Senate taking action on this landmark legislation so we never repeat the mistakes that led to this crisis.

We must provide sufficient oversight so that reckless speculation or reckless risk-taking by a big -- a few big players in financial markets will never again threaten the global economy or burden the taxpayers. We must assure that consumers of financial products have the information and safeguards that they need so that their life- savings are not placed in needless jeopardy. And that's why I press for the passage of these reforms through Congress when they return and I will continue to work with President Sarkozy and other world leaders to coordinate our efforts, because we want to make sure that whatever steps we're taking, they are occurring on both sides of the Atlantic.

We agreed that sustained and balanced growth includes rejecting protectionism. France is one of our largest trading partners and we need to expand global commerce, not constrain it. With that regard, we think it's important that Doha trade negotiations move forward this year. And we need all interested parties to push for a more ambitious and balanced agreement that opens global markets. And we look forward to France's presidency of both the G8 and G20 next year.

So Nikolai is going to be very busy.

To address climate change, we agreed that all nations aligned with the Copenhagen Accord must meet their responsibilities. And I would note that President Sarkozy's leadership has resulted in significant new resources to address deforestation around the world.

Upcoming meetings of the United Nations and the Major Economies Forum will be an opportunity of -- for nations to follow up their Copenhagen commitments with specific and concrete actions that reduce emissions.

We reaffirmed our commitment to confront the greatest threat to global security -- the spread of nuclear weapons. And I updated President Sarkozy on our new START Treaty with Russia.

I look forward to welcoming President Sarkozy back to Washington in two weeks for a summit on securing vulnerable nuclear materials so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

We discussed our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On this, the United States and France are united -- are inseparable. With our P5-plus-1 partners, we offer Iran good faith proposals to resolve this matter through diplomacy. But Iran thus far has rejected those offers.

Today, the international community is more united than ever on the need for Iran to uphold its obligations. And that's why we're pursuing strong sanctions through the U.N. Security Council.

And finally, we discussed our efforts to advance security and peace around the world, including in the Middle East, where we agreed that all sides need to act now to create the atmosphere that gives the proximity talks the best chance to succeed. I shared my impressions from my discussions with President Karzai on the urgent need for good government and development in Afghanistan. As I told our troops, we salute our coalition partners -- and that includes France, which is one of the largest contributors to the NATO mission and which has given its most precious resource -- the lives of its young men and women -- to a mission that is vital to the security of both our countries and the world security.

So I thank President Sarkozy for his visit and for the progress that our countries have made today, in large part, because of his extraordinary leadership. We are global partners facing global challenges together. And I think that Nikolai will agree that when it comes to America's oldest ally, we've never been closer.

So I'll simply close with words that one American leader expressed to another French partner more than 200 years ago, because Washington's words to Rochambeau reflects the bonds between our countries today: "We are fellow laborers in the cause of liberty and we have lived together as brothers should do, in harmonious friendship."

In that spirit, I welcome President Nicolas Sarkozy.


SARKOZY (through translator): Now, there are the words, there are the statements and then there are the facts, the acts and that is a fact. And I will not repeat what the -- what President Obama so eloquently said on Afghanistan. We support President Obama's strategy. We cannot afford to lose, not for us, not for ourselves, but for Afghanistan and for the people of Afghanistan, who are entitled to live in freedom.

Of course, the road is arduous. Of course, nothing is -- can be anticipated. And of course we are so sorrowful for the loss of young lives. But we have to have the courage to go to the end of our strategy and explain that there is no alternative strategy. Defeat would be too high a price for the security of Americans, the French and Europeans.

By fighting in Afghanistan, what we are fighting for is -- is world security, quite simply. Now, on Iran, I am very satisfied with what President Obama has said. The time has come to take decisions. Iran cannot continue its mad race. Now, we don't want to punish Iran, which deserves better than what it has by way of leadership today and therefore, gets stronger, tougher sanctions at the Security Council, but take the necessary decision is what you have.

I have said to President Obama that with Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown, we will make all necessary efforts to ensure that Europe as a whole engages in the sanction regime.

On the Middle East, excellent news to hear that the United States are (INAUDIBLE). Of course, peace in the Middle East is something which concerns primarily the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the absence of peace in the Middle East is a problem for all of us, because what it does is keeps feeding terrorism all over the world.

And I wish to express my solidarity with President Obama in condemning the settlement process. Everybody knows how engaged and committed I am vis-a-vis Israel's security. But the settlement process achieves nothing and it contributes in no way to Israel's safety and security. There comes a time when you have to take initiatives in favor of peace.

Now, on financial regulation, again, it's great news for the world to hear that the United States is availing itself of rules -- adopting rules so that we do not go back to what we've already experienced. And during the French presidency of the G20, Timothy Geithner and Christine Lagarde are going to be working hand in glove in order to go even further in regulating world capitalism and, in particular, raising the issue of a new world international monetary order.

On all these subjects, there's much convergence of views. And, of course, I want to say to President Obama how glad we were for him and for the USA to hear of the successful passing of the health care reform.

And insofar as the president has revealed a secret, namely, where I had lunch today, I should say that I have a good friend in Washington who had actually recommended that restaurant. When I walked in, I saw a huge photograph of President Obama. But I am afraid that when you go back to that restaurant, you may see a smaller photograph of the French president.

OBAMA: All right. We've got -- we've got time for a couple questions.

I'm going to call on Ben Philip. There you are, Ben. A.P.

BEN PHILIP, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Sir. Thank you for your -- your patience.

President Obama, you've talked about the importance of having co- conquestions (ph) for Iran over its nuclear program.

But is there ever a real deadline?

What is your specific timeline for U.N. sanctions on Iran?

And is it -- is it one that the American people can believe in?

And -- and...

OBAMA: Well...

PHILIPS: I'm sorry, sir. I just wanted to ask President Sarkozy...

OBAMA: Sure.

PHILIPS: You said yesterday in New York that the world needs an open America, an America that listens.

I'm wondering if you can elaborate, specifically, if you think President Obama is open to the world and is listening to you?

OBAMA: Well, let me answer the second question, even though that was to Nicolai. I listen to Nicolai all the time. I can't stop listening to him.


OBAMA: On Iran, we came in with a very clear approach and a very clear strategy. And it was an open book to the world. We said we would engage Iran and give them an opportunity to take the right path -- a path that would lead to prosperity and opportunity for their people and a peaceful region and one in which they would allow themselves to become a full-fledged member of the community of nations. The alternative path was further isolation and further consequences.

We've mobilized the international community around this approach, including partners like Russia that, in the past, might have been more hesitant to take a firmer stance on Iran's nuclear program.

What we said, though, was that there was going to be a time limit to it and that if we had not seen progress by the end of the year, it was time for us to move forwards on that sanctions track.

My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring. So I'm not interested in waiting months for a sanctions regime to be in place. I'm interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks. And we are working diligently with our international partners, emphasizing to them that, as Nicolas said, this is not simply an issue of trying to isolate Iran. It has enormous implications for the safety and the security of the entire region. We don't want to see a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. A -- a conflict in the Middle East as a consequence of Iran's actions could have a huge destabilizing effect in terms of the world economy at a time when it's just coming out of a very deep recession.

The long-term consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran aren't acceptable. And so Nicolai, myself and others agree that we have engaged, the door remains open, if the Iranians choose to walk through it. But they understand very clearly what the terms of a diplomatic solution would be. And in the interim, we are going to move forcefully on a U.N. sanctions regime.

Now, do we have unanimity in the international community?

Not yet. And that's something that we have to work on. We think that we are in a much stronger position to get robust sanctions now than we were a year ago, prior to us initiating our strategy. But it's still difficult, partly because, let's be honest, Iran is an oil producer and there are countries around the world that, regardless of Iran's offenses, are -- are thinking that their commercial interests are more important to them than these long-term geopolitical interests.

And so we have to continue to apply pressure, not just on Iran, but we have to make sure that we are communicating very clearly that this is very important to the United States.

We think that we can get sanctions within weeks.

SARKOZY (through translator): Well, I've read many comments. And I must say, I've been quite amused -- the relations between European leaders and the president of the United States. I say I'm amused because I thought to myself, well, when we speak to one another, people must be listening to our phone calls, because I have seen reports on conversations and discussions which in no way resemble anything that has ever taken place between Barack Obama and myself.

Now, why is it easy for us to work?

And I speak on behalf of Chancellor Merkel or Gordon Brown and other -- other leaders. Well, because President Obama, when he says something, keeps his word. His word is his bond. And that is so important.

There's a joke among us, we don't like surprises. Well, from that point of view, there's no surprises. When he can, he delivers. When he can't, he says so. So there are no surprises. And we try to be likewise. Furthermore, second, in all topics -- and there have been some pretty tough topics. I mean, for instance, bonus tax -- taxes on bonuses, regulation, financial regulations, pretty heavy going stuff, Copenhagen. I mean I happen to think that President Obama is a step ahead of public opinion in the United States on this.

But we're constantly talking about it. It's even President Obama who wanted us to have a conf -- a coconference, a visitor conference virtually every month with Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown.

Now, this doesn't mean that we're absolutely agreed neck and neck on everything. But we talk amongst ourselves. And this is a novelty, from the point of view of Europe, with the way we look at the United States, that everything is put on the table, anything can be discussed, everything can be discussed. What matters, you see, is not whether we agree once systematically before we've even started discussing things. That's -- that suspicion is to say whatever divergence of view we have, we can talk about it among ourselves. And I say things very frankly to you. And this is what all of we European leaders believe and think.

I've also had it said that Europe was less interested in the United States. Well, for heavens sake, how many times do we have to come over to show that we are interested?

What would it mean if we were interested?

So very frankly and very honestly on this, not only is it not an issue, not a problem, but it's great to be able to work under such conditions. I would say that what I have to say about President Obama is the same as what Bernard Kouchner could say about Hillary Clinton or Christine Lagarde about Tim Geithner, that we're constantly having a dialogue. I could even take you -- give you an example of something on which we don't necessarily agree, such as Syria -- or we didn't agree.

France took an initiative, as you know. Well, I'll say this to you, at no point -- no point has President Obama turned his back on what we were doing. Constantly, he's watching, he's listening. We're constantly exchanging information on the subject. Even when there are more complex topics, including in our relations with the Russians, before even we inform our Russian -- or the Russians or our partners, I pick up the phone and I call President Obama and he knows exactly what we're going to do and why we're going to do it.

Do you follow me on that?

So there may be disagreements, but never for the wrong reasons. And as we are very transparent on both sides, this confidence, this trust, I mean I really think I can say that. There's a lot of trust.

Now, trust always helps one overcome perhaps di -- diverging interests. But it may be that the United States of America have slightly different interests to those of France. But the -- the bedrock of trust between us is something that he also has with all European leaders. And I don't say that to please you, I say it because it's true. And I took two examples of two topics that could in other tide -- at other times, have led to head-on collision, and which, in this case, on the contrary, I looked at on both sides of the Atlantic as a situation where we are complementary.

Perhaps you said, well, maybe on Syria, France is on the right track and maybe one day we'll have the opportunity to do likewise. And that's exactly the way we work.

Go ahead. I'm not the one with the mike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Since you've been just talked about the United -- relations between Europe and the United States, didn't you get a, perhaps, surprise -- a nasty surprise on the Pentagon's decision on the tanker planes, which reversed the decision which had originally been taken in favor of Airbus?

Did you raise this subject with President Obama?

And if so, did you try and put together a new approach so as to ensure that the -- the competition would be fairer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new version of this contract with the Pentagon and don't you think that it would be probably fair to share this contract with the Europeans since they are now full members of NATO and that they share the price of the war on the ground?

SARKOZY (through translator): What I just told you would be meaningless and senseless. Of course, we've talked about it. And President Obama will give you his answer.

But I said to him, I trust you. And I do trust him. If you say to me that the request for proposals -- the co-contenders will be free, fair and transparent, then we say, EABS will bid and we trust you.

OBAMA: And what I've said to President Sarkozy is, is that the process will be free and fair and that the trust is justified. Now it's important for my European friends to understand that at least here, the secretary of Defense makes procurement decisions. The president does not meddle in these decisions. And that's a longstanding policy. So I maintain an arm's length approach.

But I have assurances from Secretary of Defense Gates that, in fact, the re-bidding process is going to be completely transparent, completely open and a fair competition. That's in our interests. It's in the interests of the American taxpayers. And it's also in the interests of our young men and women, who rely on this equipment in order to protect this nation.

And it's important to note, I think, for those of you who don't know Secretary Gates, this is somebody who has actually taken on the military and weapons systems establishment and initiated some very significant procurement reforms that nobody ever thought would happen here in Washington. So he's somebody who's willing to call it like it is and make difficult decisions. And he will do so in this situation, as well.


Thank you very much, everybody.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: There they are, the president of the United States and the president of France, wrapping up opening statements, taking one question from an American reporter, one question from a French reporter.

The president making, though, some significant news, saying he fully expects a sanctions regime to be imposed against Iran, he says within a matter of weeks. He says it's not easy, it's by no means a done deal. There are countries still opposed because Iran is a major oil exporting nation. But he says within weeks, he wants this tough sanctions regime against Iran imposed because of its work in the nuclear field. Let's assess what we just heard from these two presidents.

Gloria Borger and David Gergen are standing by -- our senior political analysts -- David, a significant statement from the president. His earlier commitment that this would be -- that the Iranians had an end of year deadline last year. That has now come and gone. And now the sanctions pledge from the president that they will be imposed against Iran.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It was significant, Wolf, because up until recently, the president has not -- has tried not to put a timeline on the sanctions. He was encountering resistance from China and some resistance from Russia about exactly how tough the sanctions would be.

Today, he seemed to think that there would be a finite time -- a matter of weeks -- to move forward.

And -- but the larger issue here in terms of this French relationship, it was so interesting, because there has been a strain of relations between the U.S. and France in -- in recent months. Everybody has acknowledged it on both sides of the Atlantic. And there was a sense in Europe that President Obama was looking past Europe, wasn't taking Europe very seriously, looking more toward Asia as the -- as the area -- the region of the future.

But I think the president went a long way -- and this -- clearly, this meeting and the dinner tonight, to warm up that relationship, to heal it, at a very mar -- at a time that's really helpful for President Sarkozy, who just lost these terrible elections -- these recent elections in France. So I think he -- he's done a favor to Sarkozy that I'm sure Sarkozy will appreciate.

BLITZER: But you saw the president of the United States put his arm around the president of France as they were leaving. And Sarkozy saying, "President Obama keeps his word." He was very effusive -- it was also interesting, Gloria, that you heard a very strong statement from President Sarkozy congratulating -- his word -- congratulating the president for condemning Israel's settlements in East Jerusalem...


BLITZER: -- he said, in the West Bank. He says, this -- these contribute to -- to serious problems in the peace process. It was a strong statement from Sarkozy.

BORGER: A very, very strong statement of support there, Wolf. What -- what was interesting to me is what we didn't hear. While Sarkozy said that he supports the United States' actions in Afghanistan, it's very clear that President Obama wants to ask this president for more support to help train the Afghan Army, to help train the Afghan police. That's clearly something that's come up.

France now has over 3,000 troops in Afghanistan. But it's clear the United States wants more of a commitment there. That may be a topic for dinner. It's a larger topic. And I know from talking to folks in the White House, that this is something the president would like to see from France. We didn't hear that yet.

We did hear lots of support, as you mentioned, on -- on condemning the settlements. And we heard the support -- you know, France has been very, very loud on Iran sanctions. And we saw the president join him today in that, saying it's going to happen in a few weeks.

But I'm very curious to see what's going to happen on the third leg of this stool, which is more troops -- more folks to help train Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: He did say, Sarkozy, we cannot lose in Afghanistan.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: He made that statement rather bold.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is over there in the East Room. The body language was certainly cordial and friendly -- they had their private meeting, Dan, in the Oval Office. Then they came into the East Room for this statement, followed by two questions. And now they're getting ready -- they'll be going off to dinner -- a private dinner, not a formal state dinner, a private dinner tonight.

It's an important relationship -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really is an important relationship. And I just wanted to follow up on the issue of whether or not, you know, the president will reach out to Mr. Sarkozy to commit additional troops to Afghanistan. And I asked Robert Gibbs about that today and he said that that would not be happening, that the president would not be directly requesting additional troops.

You might remember, last year, the president did make that request. And France has been resistant to adding additional troops in Afghanistan right now. They have about 3,700 or so troops there. So perhaps they'll talk about it. But what we're being told is that there will not be an official request for additional troops.

One other thing that jumped out at me, Wolf, is the question -- that second question to Mr. Sarkozy about his statements that he made yesterday in New York, where he's really talking about the United States looking beyond its own borders to being more inclusive, to -- to focusing more on dialogue with France. And it almost seemed to be he was going back on what he said yesterday, because while yesterday he seemed to be criticizing the United States for not including them more, today he said that every decision that's made, that he does consult with President Obama, that he is being included in the dialogue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I want all of you to stand by.

Guys, we're going to take a quick break.

Significant news -- I would call it breaking news that we just got from the president of the United States, saying he expects a sanctions regime to be imposed against Iran within a matter of weeks because of its nuclear program.

Much more on that coming up.

Also, Tea Party activists are traveling around the country, trying to spread their anti-big government message. President Obama is today weighing in on what they're doing and saying. We have a live report.

And stuck in midair -- the carnival ride that was not much fun.



Happening now, fears of flooding in the Northeast -- a massive storm packing heavy wind and rain already prompting rescues and evacuations. Officials are saying the worst is still ahead. We'll have the latest.

And he was the man at the helm of the FBI for almost half a century. Now we're getting a closer look inside J. Edgar Hoover's most secret file room. And you might be surprised by what's in it.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Health care and education on the president's agenda. Earlier today, he signed into law the final piece of health care reform -- the Democrats' so-called package of fixes to the overall -- the enacted law last week. The measure also makes some significant changes in the college student loan program by cutting commercial banks totally out of the system. Under the new law, students who take out a federal loan will make the deal directly with the U.S. government instead of a private financial institution.

Mr. Obama emphasized the loan reforms during a signing ceremony at a community college in Northern Virginia.


OBAMA: Today, two out of every three students graduates with help from a loan and often they take on a mountain of debt as a result. Here in Virginia the typical student carries almost $20,000 in debt. Across the country, the average student graduates with over $23,000 in debt. I know what that's like. Michelle and I had big debts coming out of school -- debts we weren't able to fully repay until just a few years before I started running for office. Today we're making it easier for responsible students to pay off their loans. Right now if you're a borrower, you don't have to spend more than 15 percent of your income on loans, but starting in 2014, you won't have to pay more than 10 percent of your income in repaying your student loans.


BLITZER: A lot of students will be affected by this change. Almost half of all undergraduates receive financial aid from the U.S. government in the 2007/2008 school year. The average federal aid package was $6600. When you figure in state grants and aid from schools, two-thirds of undergraduates in the United States get some kind of financial aid.

Other news we're following. Members of the tea party movement are trying to make sure they are counted by President Obama and other officials here in Washington. The grassroots group is rolling across Utah right now, a new cross-country bus trip throughout the nation including in Utah. A televised interview earlier in the day, the president said many tea party members do indeed have some legitimate concerns about the size and scope of government. Ed Lavandera is traveling alongside the tea party on our bus, the CNN Express. Ed, any reaction from those in the tea party to the president's latest comments?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been interesting, Wolf. We're here at the state capitol in Utah in Salt Lake City where the tea party rally is just about coming to an end here this afternoon. And the president went on to say in a televised interview this morning that he thought he could win over some of the tea party members by focusing on questions of the deficit. That actually went over not very well here at this rally here this afternoon. In fact, someone just a while ago had mentioned the president's quotes here. And they got quite a few groans from the several hundred people that turned out at this rally here in Salt Lake City here this afternoon. We spoke with people afterwards. And they said they just don't see any way how president Obama can win over any of these tea party members. And one of the leaders of the tea party express movement spoke with us a little while ago and talked about that. And actually had more poignant comments about the president's comments this morning.


MARK WILLIAMS, CHAIRMAN, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: He's shown us no sign whatsoever that he's inclined to even read the document much less abide by it. So at this point, yes, it's no. If the guy comes up tomorrow and says, oh, geez, I just rediscovered the tenth amendment and I'm calling off my liberal goons, then we'll be OK. Maybe we'll cut you some slack. But I say that knowing full well it ain't going to happen.


LAVANDERA: So while the president remains hopeful that he can win over some of these pea party member, Wolf, clearly what we're hearing from the initial rallies after these comments, that's going to be a long hard road for the president to achieve.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera and the CNN Express will go along. We'll check back with you tomorrow. Ed, thanks very much. Anti-war protesters heckle Republican strategist Karl Rove and even threaten to handcuff him. I'll ask Mary Matalin and Hillary Rosen which side is to blame for the very partisan bitterness across the nation right now.

President Obama reveals that his supersecure blackberry keeps him plugged in to a higher power.


BLITZER: A very heavy burden for U.S. troops to bear. Fighting on the front lines in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For so many there's a deep psychological and emotional toll. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the story.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is growing concern in the military that the troops are simply taking too many pills.


STARR (voice-over): In combat overseas and stressed at home by the trauma of war, U.S. troops are now using prescription drugs at record rates. In the Army alone, last year more than 360,000 individual prescriptions were written for anti-depressants, anti- anxiety and sedatives like Ambien. 70,000 more prescriptions than the year before. One of the Army's top doctors, Assistant Surgeon General Richard Thomas, says there's always concern drugs are being abused.

BRIG. GEN. RICHARD THOMAS, U.S. ARMY ASSISTANT SURGEON GENERAL: We're seeing, actually, I think, a lot of soldiers that are taking narcotics, a lot of soldiers are taking anti-depressants, psychotropic class medications.

STARR: Military doctors suggest one reason for the increase is troops are more willing to seek mental health help. But there's growing worry too many stressed-out and wounded soldiers are living day-to-day on pills as well as alcohol to alter their moods and stop their pain. Former Army Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan suffered expensive injuries in Iraq, returning home with post-traumatic stress.

LUIS MONTALVAN, WOUNDED VET: I drank to go to sleep. I kept it hidden from the military, obviously.

STARR: Luis now has a service dog to help calm him, but for him, things got much worse before they got better.

MONTALVAN: I was popping, you know, in the Army we call Motrin ranger candy. We so frequently take these pills to mask pain so that you can do a mission.

STARR: So what were you like?

MONTALVAN: I was taking every type of over-the-counter pain killer that I could get my hands on. I was drinking Nyquil to go to bed and drinking alcohol to go to bed because I couldn't fall asleep. STARR: In 2009, Army doctors wrote six percent more pain medication prescriptions than the year before. To curb potential abuse, the military is now limiting the number of pills prescribed so a service member is forced to come back to a physician more often for more refills.


STARR: In the war zones, it's now estimated that up to five percent of the troops may be on a narcotic drug prescription at any one time -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, underling an important, important issue. Thank you.

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

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. A couple of people on a ride at the Dade County Fair and Expo, they got a little bit more than they bargained for. Take a look at the pictures here. The carnival ride featuring an extended arm carrying a pod of cars stopped. The riders were stranded side ways. When a cherry picker didn't work, ride operators managed to ease them down low enough to get them back on the ground.

Government regulators are asking NASA scientists to help determine if electronic feedbacks are causing some Toyota vehicles to speed up suddenly. Nine NASA experts will help the national highway and traffic administration understand why it might cause Toyota's acceleration problems. The national academy of science will also conduct a separate study. The transportation department is spending about $3 million on both of those studies.

Weather is stalling rescuers intent on reach a man believed trapped on California's Mt. Shasta. A sheriff's department spokesman says that climber Thomas Bennett is believed to be on the north side of the 14,000-foot mountain. She says his climbing partner was found yesterday and he told rangers that Bennett was in rough shape when he left him to seek help. Rangers tried to reach Bennett yesterday but winds exceeding 50 miles an hour held them back.

The so-called "Dating Game" killer has been sentenced to death for the murders of four women and a 12-year-old girl in the late '70s. The sentence was handed down to 66 year old Rodney Alcala. He was convicted in February for the killings that took place between November of 1977 and June of 1979. In 1978 Alcala was a winning bachelor on TV's "The Dating Game."

BLITZER: That's a shocking story indeed. Lisa, stand by.

It's been a huge embarrassment for the Republican Party. Now we have new information coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. In the outing that went on at a risque nightclub out in L.A. and why the RNC originally paid for it. Stand by for that.

An undercover investigation reveals that many appliances that are supposed to save you energy aren't.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look what you did. You outted a CIA officer. You lied to take us to war. You ruined a country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only comfort I take is that you're going to rot in hell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all due respect, this goes to show the totalitarianism of the left. They don't believe in dialogue. They don't believe in courtesy. They don't believe in first amendment rights for anybody but themselves.

BLITZER: Karl Rove having quite an exchange there at a book signing event out in Los Angeles yesterday. Let's talk about this and more with our CNN political contributors Hilary Rosen of the Brunswick Group and Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Guys, thanks very much. Who is more to blame for this really nasty tone that's out there right now on the left and on the right? Hilary, this is pretty ugly what's going on?

HILARY ROSEN, BRUNSWICK GROUP: It's pretty intense. I have to say Karl Rove I think was really just wrong talking about this being the fault of the left. I actually think both sides have gone a little overboard over the last couple of weeks. Although my favorite thing about it is that people are so engaged. I mean, I hate the spitting on Congressmen, I hate the cutting off their electricity, I hate the death threats. But the fact that people feel so passionately about what's going on in this country and want to be so involved, on some level is a good sign and that we have to find ways to channel that energy into something really productive.

BLITZER: Well, it's always good to have people engaged in the political process, Mary, but it's another thing when they go way overboard. I think on both sides, it's a tiny fringe element but they get a lot of publicity out there.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well said, Wolf, because as you know, full disclosure, I'm involved in the publishing of Karl's book, which we've printed hundreds of thousands of copies that he sold. He's made every list. He's done scores of events. And there were ten super kooks who invaded that event last night. Those were some ignorant kooks at his event last night. Speaking to those goofballs that invaded I had event. But I'm inclined to agree with Hillary on the passion that is endemic and inherent in the dialogue out there. Sometimes it's more the decibel is higher than we like, but the level of involvement, the intensity of those who are involved, many for the first time is a good thing.

BLITZER: Here's some numbers, Hillary, for you as a good Democrat to digest right now. In our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, registered voters, we asked who is your choice for Congress come November? Forty-nine percent said Republicans, 45 percent said Democrats. That's a pretty dramatic change from 2008.

ROSEN: It is a dramatic change. Democrats have had the burden over the last year of delivering on our election promises. And you know, we're starting to do that, passing health care was a big deal. And I think that over the next six months when we pass regulatory reform and we tackle climate change and these numbers get better and the economy picks up, I think that this -- that outcome is going to change. But there's no question that Democrats right now have the pressure from the country on delivering.

BLITZER: And these other numbers, Mary, this will be music to your ears. We asked in this new poll are you extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this year? Back in January, Republicans were at 49 percent. Now they're at 55 percent. Democrats were at 31 percent, 36 percent. So Republicans are clearly at least now much more enthusiastic about the prospect of voting in these midterm elections.

MATALIN: Equally impressive and inspiring if you're a conservative is that that number holds true for independents. Of course, Republicans and Democrats are interested in their own way, but the swing voters are always the independents and they're typically less involved in midterms. They are by double digits close to 20 points in favor of Republican solutions which relative to health care would include -- and there's evidence of that about in that poll -- either repealing or replacing those elements of the health care reform that are too expansionist. It will be a good midterm.

BLITZER: That's going to be a huge problem unless you can turn around those independents, Hilary, it will be a huge problem for the Democrats.

ROSEN: Look, I still think that there is just a huge amount of misinformation and a huge amount of money. We've heard the chamber of commerce announce this week they're going to spend another $50 million spreading falsehoods about Democrats who have voted for the health care bill. That the fact is that we have to work harder to get this message out. When people see the opportunities that this health care bill gives to them and their families, I know they're going to come around. But this is a big challenge that Democrats have over the next couple of months.

BLITZER: You want to respond to that, Mary?

MATALIN: The president's been saying and has said this has been the most debated piece of legislation in history. He's been talking about it for a year. To say people still don't understand it or after a year of this debate is to say that the American people are ignorant. The more they've heard about it, the less they like it. And I can't imagine anything more they're going to hear that will make them like it more.

BLITZER: I think what Americans want -- hold on, Hilary. I think what Americans want to see now is the impact of this new health care reform law and how it affects them between now and November because they've heard all of the arguments. Makes a fair point. We've heard for the last year-plus all these arguments. Now people want to see will it help them. Will they be able to get insurance. Will they have better opportunities to deal with doctors and hospitals or won't they.

ROSEN: And as importantly, will disaster strike the way Republicans have been predicting, and I don't think it will. We've seen the lie for the last year that this costs a trillion dollars instead of the fact that it is revenue neutral over the next ten years. So, there are a lot of things that are going to happen over the next couple of months, and the most important thing that will happen is that this won't be the disaster the Republicans predicted, and then, I think, they're actually in more trouble.

BLITZER: Yes, well, that's a fair point, too, Mary. Because if things aren't apocalyptic over the next few months, the Democrats will say you know what? We told you it would be just fine.

MATALIN: Well the Democrats' characterizing the Republicans' response to this as apocalyptic. There is nobody, not the CBO, no economists that say over the long term of this it's financially sustainable. It's not. The way they same up with revenue neutral for ten years was to collect revenue for four years and deliver services for six. It's unsustainable. It's a huge new entitlement, the country cannot sustain it. We cannot even sustain our current entitlements, so to say it's revenue neutral, people don't believe it, because there's no history of it there's no evidence from any of the numbers that it could possibly be true.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, but John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House, did warn of an apocalypse developing if it became the law of the land. That's why I used that word. We'll continue this conversation, I am sure, because there is a lot to talk about. Guys, thank you very much.

A new number coming out this week about the number of jobs in America.

Plus, why the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, is now seeing signs of hope.

And damage control after a Republican National Committee embarrassment. Someone gets the ax. We'll have the latest on the voyeur club. The incident. What happened? Stand by.


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

What else is going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. A key law enforcement group is urging President Obama to nominate the air marshal director to be the next head of the TSA. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association is recommending Robert Bray to fill the post. The agency currently has no permanent director. Two Obama administration nominees have withdrawn their names from consideration for the post.

And U.N. Secretary, General Ban Ki-Moon, will delay the release of a report detailing the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. The request was made by the late prime minister's widower, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The new release date will now be April 15th. Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 while campaigning for return to power.

And two people are in the hospital at this hour after a small private plane they were traveling in crashed in Roanoke, Virginia, today, FAA said the plane experienced control issues after taking off. It struck power lines and plunged into U.P.S. freight terminal. One of the passengers was ejected about 100 feet from the plane. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Lisa. Don't go too far away.

We all know President Obama is very attached to his blackberry, as are so many people out there. Now we know the new reason why he wouldn't want to start his day without it.

And why the solution to Toyota's problems may be found in outer space.


BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," we're learning more about an embarrassment for the Republican National Committee. At issue, a February outing to a risque Hollywood nightclub called voyeur. An RNC staffer was fired for getting the party to pick up the almost $2,000 tab. CNN has now learned that the staffer, Alison Myers, was director of the young Eagles program to recruit donors in their 30s and 40s. The nightclub outing happened after a young Eagles event. The RNC hasn't publicly identified Myers, but it says the person fired knew the outing was not eligible for reimbursement.