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From MBA Grad to Terrorist; Oil Hits Louisiana

Aired May 8, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: We're on the trail of the Times Square bombing suspect and his alleged terror training in Pakistan. This hour, new leads on his possible links to the Taliban and the radical influences on him within the Muslim world.

Also, an exclusive look at the oil spill creeping onto the Gulf Coast. We'll show you the threat on the shore, in the water, and below the surface.

And rival political strategists during the 2008 presidential campaign teaming up to discuss the 2010 election. Former Obama adviser David Plouffe and former McCain adviser Steve Schmidt on the Tea Party factor, and the prospect of a Democratic bloodbath.

We're going to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in "Situation Room."

The Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad has been talking and investigators now think he had help. A senior law enforcement official said investigators believe Shahzad had ties to a Pakistani Taliban group and officials say he probably did get training in Pakistan. Shahzad went back to Pakistan last year and at one point allegedly met with senior Taliban officials. Retracing some of his steps, our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson in Karachi.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): April 17, 2009, Faisal Shahzad becomes an American citizen. Had he has no known ties to terrorism. Only two and a half month later, he returns to his homeland.

(On camera): When he left the United States, he came here to Pakistan's port city Karachi to this middle class neighborhood. And within a week, according to senior Pakistani government officials, he met a man who took him to meet Taliban leaders.

(Voice over): On these streets, a neighborhood near his wife's family, Pakistani police believe are some of the clues to Shahzad's radicalization; and a new threat facing the United States.

(On camera): This is the mosque here where Faisal Shahzad is reported to have attended when he came to Karachi. And it's where also we understand at least one of the people detained by the authorities here was picked up.

And what about Faisal Shahzad? Did Faisal Shahzad come here to come to the madrassa, ever or the mosque here?

They tell us no one was picked up here. They also deny reports that the mosque has ties to an outlawed radical Islamic group connected Taliban and Al Qaeda.

(On camera): But does this mosque have a history of a relationship with the Jaish-e Mohammed in the past?

It's just a school?

(voice over): They tell us, we must be confused with a nearby mosque of the same name.

(On camera): Despite what they told us that there were two mosques by the same name, we've just run a few checks, and it's clear this is the right place.

(On camera): Shahzad did pray there, turns out the man in question was picked up a few blocks away. This is where the police tracked down the man who took Shahzad to meet the Taliban leaders, and amusement park in Karachi, and so far all the detentions have taken place have happened within a few miles of here.

(voice over): It's hundreds of miles to the Pakistani-Taliban in the tribal border region, where officials tell CNN Shahzad was taken for his meeting. The Pakistani Taliban deny they trained Shahzad but they do praise him. And following in the foot steps of Al Qaeda vow more attacks like his in the United States.


BLITZER: Joining us now from Karachi is Nic Robertson.

Nic, I know you've been investigating the level of cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistani authorities right now. What are you learning?

ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, what we are learning is coming from Pakistani intelligence sources. They are telling us there is in effect a sort of joint investigation going on. U.S. investigators and Pakistani investigators questioning today Shahzad's father, Bahar ul Haq, he was questioned, apparently he has now been released. Also those joint observation teams talking to four members of the J-Shi Muhammad, this jihadi group that has ties to Taliban and Al Qaeda. So it appears that the cooperation is happening at quite an effective level at the moment, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know for sure that his wife and children are somewhere in Pakistan right now? The wife was born in Colorado, graduate of the University of Colorado. Have we confirmed that the family is in Pakistan?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, that's something we just can't get a straight answer on from officials here. We do know this father-in-law is being held by the police at the moment. That's the father of his wife. Obviously is being held, but no word on where exactly his wife is. So obviously some routes here in Pakistan for her father, and the area in Karachi, that these arrests have happened around are an area close around where her family lives, but no firm are answers from the Pakistani officials on whereabouts of his wife so far, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do the experts you're speaking to Nic, believe this pattern of militancy which apparently developed in Faisal Shahzad represents a new threat to the U.S. and to other Westerners?

ROBERTSON: If it's as he claims, he got training from the Pakistani Taliban, which the Pakistani Taliban are denying, but if he did get training from this other group J-Shi Muhammad, who have close ties with the Taliban. The way they've worked in the past is they share these training camps. Let's not think about big training camps, here, sometimes they can they can be quite small compounds around a single house.

So it doesn't-in a way it doesn't matter what the name of the group is, because they're almost synonymous with each other or becoming that way in terms of their threat to the United States. They are threatening the United States, all of them have come into contact over various times with people coming from the United States looking for training, either Al Qaeda, J-Shi Muhammad. So it doesn't matter what the name of the group is. But the fact that there's this now very real possibility that these Pakistani groups as well as Al Qaeda are training people ready to go back to the United States and perpetrate attacks. That's means this problem is spreading, multiplying and growing, for authorities making it harder to spot and stop here in Pakistan.

BLITZER: All right, Nic Robertson is on the ground for us in Karachi, Pakistan. Nic be careful over there, we'll check back with you down the road.

There have been multiple arrests in Pakistan as authorities try to trace any links that the Times Square suspect Faisal Shahzad had with individuals or groups there. I spoke about that with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani.

HUSAIN HAQQANI, PAKISTAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: There are people being questioned in Pakistan and of course arrest implies that they are being charged with something. So there are many people who have some kind of association with either the individual, or people associated with the individual. And that is what we're trying to do, we are piece together everything.

You must remember that the head of the Pakistani Taliban came out with a statement only hours after this incident in Times Square in which he took responsibility. The Tehrik-e Taliban has killed many Pakistani targets including and kill many soldiers. We have waged war with them. And we are very successfully waging war against the extremists in Pakistan. So it is in our interest to trace all elements. And also not only deal with this particular case but also make sure there are no future people going back to Pakistan and trying to train or associate with extremists against whom we are fighting.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen our CNN Terrorism analyst said that claim of responsibility has some credibility to it. Do you believe that specific group had a connection to Faisal Shahzad?

HAQQANI: As you know, I'm an official of the government of Pakistan. So first all the dots have to be connected before I can say it with any certainty.

BLITZER: I read today, I don't know if you read it. A very tough piece by Arnaud de Borchgrave, who is a well-known foreign affairs columnist, editor-at-large of "The Washington Times". I'll read a sentence to you, because I want your reaction.

"Pakistan is still producing and estimated 10,000 potential jihadis a year, out of 500,000 graduates from Pakistan's 11000 madrasses.

HAQQANI: Mr. de Borchgrave is very prescient sort of person, with a lot of understanding of Pakistan. Pakistan has 180 million people, Wolf, and we've had a problem since the 1980s, in the last two years, the government and people of Pakistan have started addressing the problem. It will take us some time to root it out, but the good news is the United States and Pakistan are working together in doing this. We've defeated the terrorists in Swat, we fought them in Waziristan. We will fight them in other places, we'll make sure whatever the number-and whatever the people who are infect the by the virus of extremist ideology that we can marginalize them to the point where they do not pose a threat either to ourselves, our society or the rest of the world.

BLITZER: Good luck. Everyone says the cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan on the security intelligence level has improved dramatically, but they also there is still a ways to go to make sure it's complete.

HAQQANI: It's just of the magnitude of the problem, Wolf. It's not a lack of intent or will on the part of Pakistan.

BLITZER: Great problem, indeed. Thank thanks, Mr. Ambassador for coming in.

HAQQANI: Always a pleasure to be here.

Husain Haqqani is the Pakistan ambassador to the United States.

Did the federal government miss any key red flags concerning the terror suspect Faisal Shahzad? My interview with the chair of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence. That is coming up next. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get some more on the Times Square bomb plot. I spoke about that and more with the Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California. She chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence. Also joining our discussion our national security contributor Fran Townsend, she was the Homeland security adviser to President Bush and also worked in the justice department during the Clinton administration. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Does it look, Fran, like this is the start of the new round of terror plots, if you will, against the United States?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, we've seen a number of disruptions in just this year, nearly 10, Wolf. There's an interesting consistency about them. We're not seeing the attempts at the multiple simultaneous mass casualty attacks. We again and again now we see the underwear bomber on the Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day. We see the Arkansas, the one guy that goes into the Army recruiting post and shoots it up, Nidal Hasan. You see these and then this, an individual who has a crudely made weapon, couldn't do tremendous harm. But we're seeing them shift to these sort of lower -- higher probability, but lower consequence events. Still very serious. But it's a dangerous shift in tactic because these things are much more difficult to detect and disrupt before they harm people.

BLITZER: Is that relationship, that intelligence cooperation, security cooperation with Pakistan where it should be now?

REP. JANE HARMAN, (D) HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE.: It's not perfect, but it's better and better. And the Pakistanis have come to the realization that the enormous number of terror groups, in their country, have them in their target sights, not just us, and not just out troops and others in Afghanistan. And that has been a sea change. And the arrest of some senior -- in fact one, of the interesting things is that one of the people we thought we had eliminated in the tribal areas, we reported, or our intelligence reported, had been killed by a predator strike, is alive. One of the things he threatened recently is that there would be further attacks on U.S. cities. So one possibility is that he was behind this.

There is also is a-- I'm sure Fran would know this, something on YouTube claiming responsibility, a Pakistani Taliban terror cell claiming responsibility. So we will learn this, but the Pakistanis are working with us and that's a very welcome thing.

BLITZER: This guy was living in the United States, went to the University of Bridgeport, got an MBA from the University of Bridgeport, year ago became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Based on what we're hearing, Fran, it doesn't look like there were any red flags as far as he was concerned until the last few days.

TOWNDSEND: That's right, Wolf. And you can rest assured that the intelligence and law enforcement communities will go back to make sure they didn't miss something that should have thrown a red flag.

BLITZER: Is there good cooperation with the authorities in the United Arab Emirates?

TOWNSEND: There is. You have your ups an downs but this has been a very consistent relationship. During my time in the prior administration, I stopped many times in the UAE, met Sheikh Mohammed, the leader there. They are very committed, very good counter- terrorism partners, and very consistent counter-terrorism.

BLITZER: I suspect if he made his way to Dubai, the authorities there would have held on to him and made him available to the U.S.

HARMAN: I agree.

BLITZER: But I'm just guessing.

HARMAN: But, you know, this was a really story, so far. And we've had some other arrests of foreign nationals who were trying to attack both inside the American homeland and abroad. Jihad Jane comes to mind. But there were also two others. Zazi, who was going to attack in New York.

BLITZER: Najibullah Zazi.

HARMAN: Yes. And David Headley, who was casing targets abroad.

BLITZER: Another Pakistani-American.

HARMAN: Right. Let me just say one other thing about Miranda rights, because now the charge is he shouldn't have been Mirandized. This an American citizen. And it is clear that there is a public safety exception and it was applied. And he was questioned by, I am told an excellent interrogation team and he was cooperative. At some point, we don't know precisely when, he was read his Miranda rights and he is still cooperating. So I would view that as another success of applying the rule of law.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, guys. Thanks very much. Fran Townsend our homeland security analyst and contributor, as we should say, and Jane Harman. Guys, thanks very much.

HARMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: What if the federal government could revoke your citizenship? It's a question that the failed terror attack in Times Square is now raising?

And we're also getting an exclusive first-hand look at that massive oil sheen threatening the Gulf Coast from beneath the water's surface.


BLITZER: The attempted bombing in Times Square is raising more red flags about the terror threat here in the United States. Lawmakers say they can't do anything now to strip Faisal Shahzad of his citizenship, but what if-what if they could revoke the citizenship of Americans who may support terrorism in the future? There's a new bipartisan bill that would do just that. Here's our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: California-born Adam Gadahn in an Al Qaeda recruiting video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will now proceed to destroy my American are passport.

BASH: But the Al Qaeda operative on the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list is still a U.S. citizen.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: If we captured Gadahn today he could make a claim as an American citizen to be tried in a federal district court with all the rights of citizenship.

BASH: This bipartisan group wants to change that with legislation revoking the citizenship of Americans the State Department deems aligned with foreign terrorist organizations.

SEN. SCOTT BROWN, (R) MASSACHUSETTS: If they've been identified through their actions or specific statements that they no longer want to be United States citizens, well, by golly, let's help them.

BASH: The bill would update a little-known World War II era law still on the books allowing the secretary of State to revoke citizenship of Americans supporting foreign armies or states. Authors say their goal is not only to strip Americans like Adam Gadahn of legal rights U.S. citizens but to thwart and Al Qaeda strategy to train Americans with U.S. passports.

LIEBERMAN: Recruit American citizens whose can train overseas an then use their American passports to re-enter our country for the purpose of planning and carrying out attacks against us.

BASH: Senator Joe Lieberman insists the bill is constitutional, some legal experts disagree and call it dangerous.

PROF. STEVE VLADECK, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: The government has such a broad understanding of what it means to provide material support to terrorism these days that really the most innocent benign activity could subject the most harmless Americans to this extreme sanction.

BASH: Politically the idea is not being received the way you may think. The House Republican leader skeptical.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I don't know how you would attempt to take their citizenship away. It would be pretty difficult under the U.S. Constitution.

BASH: The Democratic House speaker open to it.

NANCY PELOSI, (D) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Something like this sounds like a good idea. I don't object to the spirit of it. But I do think it's important to know on basis.

BASH (On camera): White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says he has not heard of anyone inside the administration who supports this idea. Now it would be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, under the bill, would determine are if someone is aligned with a foreign terrorist organization and stripped of citizenship. She said she would take a, quote, "hard look at it." But other State Department officials worry about revoking someone's citizenship before they're convicted of a crime. Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


BLITZER: How like likely is it that the massive oil spill along the Gulf Coast will finally be contained? I'll ask the commandant of the United States Coast Guard Thad Allen.

How much of a factor will Sarah Palin be in this fall's midterm elections? I'll ask the masterminds behind the 2008 Obama and McCain presidential campaign managers in their first television appearance together.


BLITZER: Oil from that gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico has now hit several barrier islands off Louisiana's coast and there are fears the slick could spread far beyond that. Workers continue to drill a relief well that could take months. So for now, hopes are resting on a 100-ton concrete and steel box called a containment dome. I spoke about that with the Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen.

Is it your estimate that gushing is still coming out, what at 5,000 barrels a day? 10,000 barrels a day? Is it going up or going down? What's the estimate right now?

ADM. THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: Wolf, we're using a working estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. But I've been careful since this event started not lock in on a specific estimate, because all we know is what we see with the ROVs on the bottom of the ocean. When it hits the surface, there's still some in the water column, ultimately we'll have to reconcile what we've been able to burn off and with in situ (ph) burning, what we've been able to hit with dispersements from the air and mechanical skimming, but the calculus on exactly what was spilled and how much was out there is going to take a while to develop. But the working assumption is 5,000 barrels a day.

BLITZER: The ROVs are those remotely operated vehicles that you are using down there, right?

ALLEN: That's correct. One of the challenging things about this response is we're working in an area that has no human access. And we've never had a spill of this significance and this complexity at this depth where everything we did had to be done through remotely operated vehicles.

BLITZER: What's your assessment? Can this four-story containment dome as it's being called, once it's lowered over this gushing well can that contain the situation?

ALLEN: Well, I think it's a very encouraging development but I think we've learned throughout this event as it's progressed and things have changed that we shouldn't bank that this will be a final solution or we'll be ultimately completely successful. We're looking at something that while it's been successful in 200 or 300 feet of water following hurricane Katrina and Rita, it has never been done at this depth and there are a number of technical difficulties associated with it that will have to be overcome.

BLITZER: When will we know whether or not it has succeed?

ALLEN: They plan to put it down some time later this weekend but one of the problems we have is we're bringing warm oil product, which is also mixed with natural gas and water, up from 18,000 feet and as it passes through the sea floor it's surround by water in low 30 degrees. There's a chance that the gas could actually form into ice crystals in the pipe. So, they're actually creating a jacket around the drill pipe and pumping surface water at 78 degrees down to keep it warm to preclude that from happening. But basically, these are techniques that have never been tried at that depth before.

BLITZER: What I hear you saying, it's still a have very, very iffy situation as it's unfolding right now. B.P., I know you've met with some of the top executives of British Petroleum, are they doing everything they need to do right now to help you?

ALLEN: B.P. is working very, very hard at this. There are a number of engineering solutions that they are working on, they continue to work on. This is not the only thing that's being attempted.

We're also looking at the application of dispersants at the leak sites, on the ocean floor, to disperse the oil before it gets to the water column. As you know, the relief well, they've started drilling that and had made progress over the last several days.

No one single solution short of capping this well is going to be successful and our guidance to British Petroleum is leave no stone unturned. And they are turning over all the stones.

BLITZER: I know you always worry about contingency plans, assuming -- and we hope it succeeds -- but if this containment cap fails, what's plan B?

ALLEN: Well, we're going to have to look at oil coming ashore and oil that's out there no matter what happens because we already have oil in the water. And as you noted earlier, oil has started to contaminate the Chandeleur Islands, which are barrier islands to the east of the Louisiana coastline.

We're working very, very close with the state and local governments and especially the parish presidents in Louisiana. I've directed our Coast Guard commanders to work with them, to understand the requirements and what is most important to protect. And then direct British Petroleum and other contractors that are involved to provide them those resources.

We've been working this issue extremely hard since we met with president in Venice last Sunday. BLITZER: Thad Allen is a commandant of the Coast Guard -- good luck to you and everyone else involved in this operation, Commandant. We appreciate what you're doing.

ALLEN: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: But some of the worst fears are coming true in Louisiana, where oil from that sunken rig in the Gulf of Mexico is now washing up on some of those delicate islands off Louisiana in potentially disastrous amounts.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin has more.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look at what we found in the water. This is the oil. This massive orange sheen is the oil. We're 25 miles south of the Gulf Coast.

Let's take a closer look and see what it looks like. It is all over this side of the Chandeleur Islands. This kind of orange, almost goo.

Captain George Pelaez is good enough to drive us out down here to check out the oil.

And we just came upon this. When you see this, what did you think?

GEORGE PELAEZ, CHARTER BOAT CAPTAIN: It's a little discouraging now, because right now, we are at a very popular fishing location. We fish the Chandeleur chain and we're already in the oil. So, it's on this side of the island right now and we're going to keep on going south.

BALDWIN: As you take a look at some of the oil here in the water, we've noticed that it's at least about 18 inches deep. I've seen some fish already swimming through it. So, to get a better glimpse as to what it really looks like under there, let's take a look with our underwater camera.

One of the biggest concerns here with this oil spill, of course, is the wild life and now, we have a front row seat to what these experts are talking about. This is New Harbor Island. There are hundreds of pelicans here -- this is nesting season -- the pelicans, their babies. And you can see here just about 10 feet from that shore, the authorities have put out this protective booming to do precisely that, to try to protect this habitat.

Today, we have perfect conditions. But here's one of the criticisms: this is a close look at the booms. The booms are supposed to keep all of this oil from going anywhere closer to these eco- habitats in the islands. This massive criticism is that the wind on any other day is worse. It could easily go over the boom. Another worry is because some of this oil is so broken up, underneath these booms are only about this thick it could go right on under.

PELAEZ: And what I've seen from these booms, anything above a 15 knot wind, it's over. I mean, it's not going to serve its purpose. When do you go back to work?

BALDWIN: You don't know.

PELAEZ: That's it. We don't know. And right now, what I've seen out there, it's going to be later than sooner.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Brooke Baldwin, CNN, Chandeleur Islands, off the coast of Mississippi.


BLITZER: And there's new fallout from that oil spill in the Gulf, a fishing ban is in effect in certain areas along the coast. It's a devastating development for the region and one that could impact the entire United States. Americans eat an average of 16 pounds of fish and shellfish each year.

The U.S. is the world's fourth largest producer of seafood with much of it coming from the five states that that make up the U.S. Gulf Coast. Together, they produce more than 188 million pounds of shrimp alone in 2008, worth more than $366 million -- almost half of that from Louisiana alone, by the way. And with so much at stake, the industry is trying to reassure consumers that the Gulf Coast seafood is safe.


MIKE VOISIN, LOUISIANA OYSTER TASK FORCE: Louisiana seafood is still safe. And there are many more areas so that, you know, that aren't impacted. We want to get that message out.


BLITZER: But many shrimpers and fishermen say the impact of the oil spill could be worse for them than the worst hurricane.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never experienced nothing like this in my life. Mr. Bruce has been around a lot longer than me. I mean, my opinion it's going to be devastating. No more crabbers, no more work. No more -- I mean, you got to change a life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I rebuilt this place after Katrina. Rebuilt it after Gustav, and this, I might not to be able to rebuild it this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: There are fresh leads in the case of the man suspected of planting a car bomb in Times Square. Did he get help from Islamic terrorists in Pakistan? And is Pakistan becoming a breeding ground for extremism?


BLITZER: In Pakistan right now, U.S. and local authorities are trying to trace the movements of the Times Square bombing suspect during his recent five-month stay in Pakistan. They're trying to answer two of the most critical questions in this case: what was Faisal Shahzad's motive? And did he get help from Islamic terrorists?


BLITZER: And joining us now: Fareed Zakaria. He's the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" which airs here on CNN every Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.

Fareed, the radicalization of Faisal Shahzad -- educated, coming from a relatively well-to-do Pakistani Muslim family. How does this happen?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": It's the million dollar question, Wolf. And it's not just him.

If you look back to many of the attacks in London, you remember the 7/7 subway bombings, it's the same phenomenon. These guys are assimilated. They come from relatively well-to-do by which one means middle-class, you know, not impoverished backgrounds and something in their life goes wrong and they crack or get radicalized, and then they'd reach out through the Internet or they go to Pakistan.

And so, at some level, there's something psychological here about these characters. They are loners and they somehow break. And so, I think, one has to look at the individual psychology. But what's interesting to me is, most of them do seem to come out of Pakistan. You know, it's not like they're coming out of all over the Islamic world. There are a few here and there, but overwhelmingly, these guys have been coming out of Pakistan.

BLITZER: How do you explain that?

ZAKARIA: I think Pakistan is a particular problem in the world of Islam with regard to these things. It's founded as an Islamic state. Remember, there are only two countries founded really as Islamic countries in their core, in their DNA, in their constitutions, and their state ideology, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. And in both countries, you've had the same problem, which is the state creates an atmosphere in which jihadist ideology is permitted, encouraged, instruments of the state have funded aspects of it.

You only have to read the history of Pakistan written by Hussein Haqqani, who you had on your program, the current ambassador to Washington, when he was a more -- more of a kind of a dissident scholar. And he points out that Pakistani military has funded this sort of culture of jihad and militancy for 40 or 50 years.

So, there's something there where you've created a -- you've created recruiting pools that make this more and more likely to happen.

BLITZER: Is it possible -- do you believe that the Pakistani Taliban actually not only recruited Faisal Shahzad but trained him and said, go back to Times Square and detonate this car bomb?

ZAKARIA: I think it's most interesting about this case is it seems as though it's not they who reached out to him but he who reached out to them -- if you see what I mean. This seems to be a bottom-up phenomenon. It is the lone would-be terrorist contacting some organization, perhaps asking they will for some resources, for some training. And then, yes, they might have come up with an idea.

But I think he probably had -- this is not a particularly original idea. I think that this is more about him than it is about them. But clearly, he got some help in Pakistan and there are groups in Pakistan that are delighted to offer lone terrorists like him or would-be terrorists all the help they can give.

BLITZER: Is the Pakistan government -- the current government -- doing enough to help the U.S. and others in this struggle?

ZAKARIA: It's a complicated question, Wolf. They are doing things they haven't done before. I want to be clear about that. Pakistan is taking more steps than they have taken against these terrorist groups than they have ever done before.

But, you know, here's the key -- this guy went to North Waziristan. The north is very important because the Pakistani government, so far, has only gone after terrorist groups in South Waziristan.

I know this gets complicated but the big deal is this -- for terrorist groups in South Waziristan tend to kill Pakistanis and so the Pakistani military has turned on them, and is going after them quite aggressively. The ones in North Waziristan tend to go after Afghans, foreigners, Indians, American, Brits. Those people have been left entirely undisturbed so far.

So the real test of whether Pakistan has had a change in its strategic orientation will be when they go after the groups in North Waziristan and that is where this man, Faisal Shahzad, was radicalized or trained, and that's probably where he probably most of the support he got to do the Times Square attack.

BLITZER: Great analysis, Fareed. Thanks very much. Fareed Zakaria joining us -- he is the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" airing Sunday mornings at 10:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

ZAKARIA: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: The 2010 political season is proving to be critical for both major parties, especially for incumbents. And there's a wild card this year. I'll ask two key players in the '08 presidential election, will the tea party movement make a real difference?


BLITZER: They were fierce rivals in the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign. Now, they're teaming up for a special cause and they're sharing their collective wisdom about the midterm are election this coming fall.

And joining us now from the University of Delaware, Center for Political Communication, two special guests: David Plouffe was the top strategist for President Obama in his successful campaign. Steve Schmidt was the top strategist for John McCain in his unsuccessful presidential campaign. But they both have something in common. They both were students at the University of Delaware.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me pick your brain, Steve, first. Is there one piece of advice you have for Democrats right now looking ahead to November? How can they avoid a political bloodbath?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I think Democrats have a challenge heading into the 2010 election. It's often the case for the first midterm of a president's term. The economy is not in great shape.

So, I think, as you look out, across the country, that Republicans are going to do very well in the midterm are elections. You know, I think that if you're a Democratic candidate out there, obviously, you want to try to localize the election and talk about what you're doing in Congress for your constituents and try to get out of that national trend.

BLITZER: How do the Democrats, David, avoid losing control of the House and maybe even the Senate?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: First of all, we have to make sure that a lot of those first time voters who came out in 2008 understand why their vote is so important in 2010. Republicans right now are more enthusiastic.

So, I think we have to do two things. We have to get traditional off year Democratic voters a little more enthused. I think we can do that. And we've got to get all these first time voters, 15 million- plus of them, to the polls.

The other thing we have to do is, you know, we just have to run good campaigns. We had a lot of people win in 2006 and 2008 in ideal electoral circumstances. You can get by running a mediocre campaign. Not this year. Democrats aren't going to win who don't run excellent campaigns.

BLITZER: And the Democrats aren't going to win, Steve, unless there is enthusiasm among the Democrats. It seems so much of the enthusiasm right now is with a lot of the conservatives and the Republicans.

Putting on your hat as a top political strategist right now, how do you energize that Democratic base without President Obama on the ticket?

SCHMIDT: Well, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't suppose to give advice to David on how to energize the Democratic base.

But I would say this for Republicans. There is a lot of excitement out there amongst Republican voters. We had two very difficult election cycles in a row -- 2006, when we lost control of the Congress; 2008 when the White House went to President Obama.

I think 2010 is shaping up structurally to be a good Republican year. Enthusiasm and the intensity in the electorate is on our side right now. But as David points out, there's a long way to go to election day. It's important for Republican candidates to run really good campaigns.

As you see, events can happen that change the dynamic very suddenly in today's world, whether it's this oil spill on the Gulf Coast, whether it's the arrest in New York City. You know, events are determinant. In elections, we saw that when the economy imploded in September of 2008.

You never know what's going to happen. It looks good from this place right now for Republicans, but it is a long way to the election. And there's going to be a lot of tough contests out there.

BLITZER: And I'm sure the economy and jobs, David, will be among the top issues if not the key issue in 2010. If unemployment is hovering around 9 percent or 10 percent in November, it doesn't look good for the Democrats. I assume you agree.

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, obviously, we've had some pretty positive economic news. I don't think any of us should expect the employment rate to drop dramatically between now and November. This is going to be a gradual decline.

But what's more important is how people view the economy. Do they feel more optimistic? Do they think not just in the short term but in the long term on things like energy and education? Are the Democrats and the president really providing a good road map for our future? Providing real leadership as opposed to just playing politics.

BLITZER: Where does health care fit into this, looking ahead to November, Steve? As a net plus or a net minus for Democrats?

SCHMIDT: I believe it's a net minus for Democrats because it was such a divisive battle all through the -- all through 2009 and into the early part of the 2010. But I understand the case that people make when they say it would have been a lot worse for Democrats had they -- had they not passed it, had they not prevailed. You know, and , in fact, if you look back at President Clinton and the health care debate that took place at that time, there's a -- there's a strong case to be made.

BLITZER: David, how worried are you about the tea party movement?

PLOUFFE: Wolf, first on health care, I actually think that the health care story in terms of how people view health care is going to go on for a very, very long time. But I do think people are going to begin to see some benefits, showing the things they were told to fear by Sarah Palin and others aren't going to come to pass and I do think it's an energizing thing for the base of the Democratic Party. A lot of those first time voters feel that their vote mattered because we got health care passed.

In terms of the tea party movement -- listen, I'm never going to criticize anybody for organizing. I think there's too much focus in our politics on money and advertising and, you know, clever sound bites, not enough on the ground. I think that -- so, organizing is good.

The question is: the tea party movement, for the most part right now, is exclusively Republican. So, they're not getting a lot of independents and Democrats into it. So, it's kind of the faithful. We don't see a lot of evidence of really, a tremendous amount of door knocking and voter contact happening on the ground.

BLITZER: Steve, where does Sarah Palin fit into all this between now and November?

SCHMIDT: Look, I think she's a figure on the American political scene. She has a significant fan base out there. I don't suspect that she's going to be a major issue in the most competitive races that are out there. She certainly has a constituency.

BLITZER: One final question for both of you. You both were students at the University of Delaware. You have something in common. You never finished your course requirements to get your respective degrees. It's about time you both got a bachelor's of arts degree, right, David? When is that going to happen?

PLOUFFE: Well, actually, I could still mess it up, I guess. But I'm scheduled to finally graduate at the end of this month. I've got two classes. So, as long as I pass those, I will finally, 21 years afterwards, finally complete my degree.

BLITZER: And, Steve?

SCHMIDT: I'm on schedule for the fall, Wolf. So, almost 20 years after I should have graduated. Hopefully, we'll have it wrapped up by December as I complete my last remaining math class here at the university. It's a great university and, you know, and I know that both of us are just thrilled to have an opportunity to come back here to be involved in campus life, get a chance to talk to all the young kids, encourage them to actually finish their degrees. And, you know, it's great to be back.

BLITZER: It's nice that the two of you are joining forces to promote that and to help this new institution at the University of Delaware, the Center for Political Communication.

Guys, thanks very much. Good luck with those degrees, by the way.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Wolf.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: Swiss guard standing at attention at the Vatican -- just one of our "Hot Shots." That's coming up.


BLITZER: Here's a look at "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the "Associated Press."

At the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the new Orion capsule is catapulted into the air on a practice launch to test new safety features.

At the Vatican, Swiss guards stand at attention during an annual celebration commemorating the 1527 Sack of Rome.

In South Africa, a bicycle rider performs tricks outside a soccer stadium in anticipation of this summer's World Cup.

And in Beijing -- look at this -- a young girl plays with a Chinese flag while standing against a brick wall.

"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. And at this time every weekend on CNN International.

The news continues next on CNN.