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President Warns of "Cancer" in Pakistan; What Elena Kagan is Going Through; U.S. Captives' Moms Heading to Iran; Video of Gushing Oil Released; Interview with Bill Maher

Aired May 12, 2010 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, President Obama and the Afghan president appear -- they appear to put tensions behind them. At least in public. Did Hamid Karzai get what he wanted from these talks over at the White House today?

This hour, we'll have the inside story on the meeting, and what it means for Americans at war.

Plus, he's the only survivor of a deadly plane crash and he's only a child. How did he make it out alive when no one else did? We're going to the scene.

And supreme theater. High court nominee Elena Kagan begins the traditional round of courtesy calls to senators. Does the comedian Bill Maher think Kagan is ready for the job? He's standing by live to talk about that and much more this hour.

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

To hear President Obama tell it, reports of a rift between the United States even the Afghan President Hamid Karzai were exaggerated. Mr. Obama reaffirming his support today for his ally in the war against terror.

Their relationship perhaps even more critical right now after the failed bomb attack in Times Square and given what lies ahead in the war in Afghanistan.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry.

Quite an event they put forward today over at the White House, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really was, Wolf. And the president today claimed that the U.S. is starting to reverse the momentum of the insurgency. But he also admitted there are still trouble spots not just in Afghanistan, but across the border in Pakistan as well.


HENRY (voice-over): Just days after his aides charged the Pakistani Taliban was responsible for the Times Square attack, the president declared terrorists have become a cancer inside Pakistan's borders.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what you've seen over the last several months is a growing recognition that they have a cancer in their midst that the extremist organizations that have been allowed to congregate and use as a base, the frontier areas to then go into Afghanistan, that that now threatens Pakistan's sovereignty.

HENRY: That came in response to an Afghan reporter who suggested Pakistan has not been an honest broker.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Pakistan has two faces regarding Afghanistan.

HENRY: The president was careful to balance his comments.

OBAMA: Part of what I've been encouraged by is Pakistan's willingness to start asserting more control over some of these areas. But it is not going to happen overnight.

HENRY: But the focus on Pakistan was another sign of the suddenly warm relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, despite the fact the U.S. recently considered pulling the plug on this state visit.

Both men tried to put the best face on Karzai's recent rhetorical blast at the west, including his threat to join forces with the Taliban unless the U.S. stopped interfering.

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: That frankness will only add to the strength of the relationship and contribute to the success that we have.

HENRY: The U.S. has such a large commitment in Afghanistan -- 87,000 troops now, with 10,000 more on the way -- there is little choice but to deal with Karzai.

VANDA FELBAB-BROWN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: However flawed and deeply flawed the presidential elections were, President Karzai has been selected as the president of Afghanistan, and will remain the president for another four and a half years.

HENRY: While there was talk of progress in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama noted the battle for Kandahar coming in June.

OBAMA: There are going to be ups and downs. And one thing that I've tried to emphasize is the fact that there is going to be some hard fighting over the next several months.


HENRY: Now all of this leads to the question as to whether the U.S. will still be able to, as planned, begin withdrawing U.S. troops in July of 2011. The president suggested that is still on track.

But he made clear that is not an end to the war, the U.S. will not be pulling out altogether in the summer 2011. He called it a long-term partnership which means the U.S. will be there for years to come -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How did the Afghan president, Ed, walk around the whole issue of this very good relationship with Ahmadinejad in Tehran? He recently went on a visit there. There were hugs and kisses. Ahmadinejad was in Kabul for a warm visit. What did he say about that?

HENRY: Well, he walked a fine line. Our colleague Suzanne Malveaux asked him a pointed question about that and what the Afghan president was trying to say is, look, I want to be friends with both the U.S. and Iran especially since Iran is a neighbor. But nobody should see that as an affront that basically he wants to make sure his neighborhood, essentially, as he called it, is peaceful.

And right now that's clearly not happening between Iran's nuclear ambitions, as well as Pakistan's own troubles, the president calling it a cancer inside Pakistan's borders. So he walked a very fine line there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry is over at the White House. Thanks.

Let's move on to another important story that's happening today. An inside look over at the Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. What she's going through today. She went to Capitol Hill for the traditional meet and greet with key senators who will be instrumental in the confirmation process.

We have seen these kinds of photo opportunities certainly before but not in the way we're going to show them to you right new.

Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash just came here to the Washington bureau to THE SITUATION ROOM from Capitol Hill.

Walk us through this day.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a surreal ritual, Wolf. We reporters and our cameras followed Kagan around all day today as she went from meeting to meeting, and by tradition, the Supreme Court nominee talks only behind closed doors with senators.

In fact, just moments ago our cameraman Barry Slagle (ph) asked Kagan if she had a nice day. She said everyone has treated me well. And paused and joked, that's the most I said all day.

That's for sure.


BASH (on camera): Elena Kagan's very first meeting here in the Senate is in friendly territory, right here in the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. We're going to follow her.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: I feel grateful you've agreed to accept this assignment from the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you very much. BASH: Why are liberals so skeptical of you?

Well, we tried to ask a question of Elena Kagan, but didn't get very far. She didn't actually say anything in that meeting which is not unusual. That is very much the tradition of these meetings.

The ritual is that the Supreme Court nominees come, they sit, they smile with senators, and don't say a whole lot.

Miss Kagan, how does it feel to be here?

We're now waiting for Elena Kagan's second meeting here in the capital. And it's a different audience. It's Republican leader Mitch McConnell who just moments ago went on the Senate floor -- right over there -- and said that he's worried that President Obama nominated Kagan in order to rubber stamp his policies while on the court.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: I know this will be a challenging process to go through. It always is, for a lifetime appointment of this consequence.

BASH: Will you reassure the senator you won't be a rubber stamp for Obama policies?

Now behind that door, the real meeting is taking place. So what we saw was just the beginning. And she may not have answered our questions, but one on one with the senator, without the cameras there, it's a different story.

How are your meetings, so far?


BASH: Now she's going to meet with the man who has been in charge of her confirmation hearings, the Senate judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: This is right -- somebody will ask a wild question, but that's what they're paid to do, but then --

KAGAN: Just ignore it.



BASH: How about this question, are you dying to talk?

Senator Sessions, how important are these meetings today?

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think they're important. I think it gives an opportunity to really see the human being behind all the print and the media and the TV hype that's out there and I look forward to it. I think it is helpful.


BASH: Now Senator Sessions came out after their private meeting which lasted over an hour and told us they discussed many of the concerns that he and other Republicans have from her efforts to block military recruiters at Harvard because of the Pentagon's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy and her lack of judicial experience.

He said that she didn't allay his concerns but did call Kagan responsive and, a, quote, "pleasure to talk with" and a good conversationalist.

Wolf, today was the beginning of a number of meetings that she will have. In fact, by tradition of these Supreme Court nominees do tend to have a courtesy call with almost all of the senators who will decide her fate.

BLITZER: All right now, the president, as you know, made a big deal about Elena Kagan being a New York Mets fan. But that's not necessarily the case.

BASH: You know, you never know what you're going to learn in these meetings and Senator Durbin -- Dick Durbin -- did have one of the meetings with her today. He came out and said that what she revealed to him was that all of her time at Harvard also made her a Red Sox fan.


BASH: Wonder why the president didn't mention that?


BASH: You know there aren't very many New England Republicans anymore. It's all politics.


BASH: You never know.

BLITZER: That's it. All right. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thanks.

BLITZER: Good work. Glad you shouted out those questions even though we didn't get very good answers.

BASH: We tried.

BLITZER: The long awaited unveiling of a Senate bill designed to curb global warming and ease America's dependence on foreign oil. That came forward today. The measure proposed by Democrat John Kerry and independent Joe Lieberman excludes expanded offshore oil drilling.

But after that massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the bill was tweaked to allow coastal states to actually veto new federal drilling. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who pulled out of the plan to co- sponsor the bill says he will review it, but he's questioned whether it can actually pass after the historic gulf spill.

Executives of the three main companies involved in that oil rig accident testified today before the House a day after facing senators. The panel chairman Henry Waxman says BP knew of problems with the well hours before it exploded last month. Lawmakers also criticized failed efforts to cap the spill and some of the unusual alternatives being proposed.

Listen to this.


REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: After the failure of the containment dome, we are now hearing of plans to stuff the blowup preventer full of a mixture of golf balls, old tires and other junk.

When we heard the best minds were on the case, we expected MIT and not the PGA. We already have one hole in the ground and now their solution is to shoot a hole in one.


BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on the hearing and the latest moves to try to plug the gushing oil leak. What it means. That's coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM including my special interview with CNN founder Ted Turner.

The mothers of three American hikers jailed in Iran are a step closer to seeing their children right now. There is a lot of excitement now that their visas are finally in hand. But they have some very real fears about what they may find once they get there.

And more than 100 dead in a plane crash, but only a young boy manages to come out alive. Our CNN contributor Fran Townsend is in Libya right now. She'll have the latest on this story, the tragedy, and the survival.

And Republicans pick the place where they will choose their next presidential nominee. We have that for you and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is joining us with "The Cafferty File." Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Americans are increasingly likely to name immigration as the top problem facing this country. A new Gallup Poll shows 10 percent of those surveyed cite immigration as the nation's most serious problem, that's up fivefold from just 2 percent a month ago.

It is also the highest level Gallup has reported on this particular issue in more than two years. The poll shows increased concern over immigration is the highest in the west and among Republicans and conservatives. This comes as the federal government considers suing Arizona over the new immigration law that it passed.

Attorney General Eric Holder says possible grounds for that lawsuit would be that Arizona's law might lead to civil rights violations.

So the federal government is thinking about suing Arizona over something that hasn't even happened yet. All this does is further muddy the issue. After all, it was a lack of federal enforcement of the current immigration laws that led Arizona to pass this thing to begin with.

Meanwhile, as Arizona's long-time Senator John McCain tries desperately to be re-elected -- he's in a lot of trouble -- he's all over the place on immigration. After years of criticizing a border fence, McCain now calls for completion of what he calls the danged fence.

Gee, that's a phrase a maverick might use. Difficult to know what John McCain believes anymore except that he's willing to say anything now in order to try to get re-elected. Whether it conflicts with his earlier positions or not. He ought to lose the election just based on his willingness to sell out his principles.

McCain didn't used to be this way.

Anyway, here's the question. What does it mean if the number of Americans citing immigration as the nation's top problem is at its highest level in two years? Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack, for that. Jack will be back.

Relief and hope for the mothers of three American hikers jailed in Iran. They have the paperwork now allowing them to finally visit their children. They're rushing to make travel plans and keeping their fingers crossed.

Mary Snow is in New York. She's covering the story for us.

It's a heart wrenching story, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. And you know, this latest development comes six months after the mothers first applied for visas. Today, one of the mothers in the group travelled to Washington to obtain the visas. And CNN cameras were on hand as she came one step closer to seeing her son.


SNOW (voice-over): Laura Fattal clutched roses as she and her son made their way to meet with Iran's representatives in Washington, bringing the flowers as a goodwill gesture.

More than two hours later, she emerged with three visas. One for each mother of the three American hikers detained in Iran since late July.

LAURA FATTAL, HIKER'S MOTHER: We have these wonderful passports with a fantastic Iranian visa in it. We are very, very excited.

SNOW: Fattal's son Josh, along with Sarah Shourd and Shane Bauer, have been jailed in Iran after their families say they accidentally crossed the border between Iraq and Iran while hiking. Iran has accused them of spying.

FATTAL: They were in Iraqi Kurdistan.

SNOW: Throughout the last nine and a half months, the mothers of the three Americans have put their lives on hold, fighting for their release, petitioning the Iranian government, meeting with U.S. government officials.

So far they have only gotten one phone call from their kids. Fattal said she cried during her morning trip to D.C.

FATTAL: All of a sudden, like, the reality hit that, oh my god, I will really, really be able to see them and hold them and -- it's been so long.

SNOW: But along with the anticipation of seeing the three kids comes concern.

ALEX FATTAL, HIKER'S BROTHER: There are some health issues now with Sarah still being held in a cell by herself. There are psychological issues. I think they're all very despondent that their case has not moved forward, but again, you know, this was a glimmer of hope in what has been a very dark nine and a half months. But we're tremendously grateful.

SNOW: As to why the visas now? Iran semiofficial news agency says the decision was made on a humanitarian basis and that it was made before Ahmadinejad visited the United Nations last week.


SNOW: Of course, Wolf, the families are hoping to come home with their children. But they have not been given any indication that that might happen.

Now the mothers expect to travel to Iran early next week and they expect to be there for about a week -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Did she actually talk about what it might be like to see her son?

SNOW: You know, she did. And that is a difficult part, she said, and one that she is bracing herself for. But she said, she's reminding herself that her job is a mother, to be reassuring and to listen, you know, particularly because her son and then the others have been in isolation this whole time.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much. Good luck to the moms of these kids.

A new poll suggests the majority of Americans support Arizona's controversial new immigration law. So why is it drawing so much heat? The comedian Bill Maher, he's here live. He's getting ready to weigh in.

And the vice president's son Beau Biden recovering from a mild stroke. We'll have the latest on his condition.


BLITZER: CNN's Ed Lavandera has been prodding BP to finally release some video that they have of that massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Ed is joining us on the phone now.

Ed, we've got the video. Explain to our viewers what we're seeing.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Wolf, after weeks of requesting this video, this is the first time we have been able to see video images of what's going on 5,000 feet on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

It is a 30-second video clip taken by robotic vehicles, cameras mounted on these robotic vehicles. This shows the riser, which is the pipe that goes from the ocean floor to the surface of the rig that exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico.

This is the 30-second clip that you're seeing of what this oil leak looks like. This is the oil coming out of the riser. You can see in this 30-second clip that it changes colors. So we're in the process now of tracking down environmentalists, scientists and those types of folks that can kind of help us get a better understanding of what we're looking at.

But it is the headline here right now, Wolf. This is the first time we have been able to see in three weeks what is going on under the Gulf of Mexico.

BLITZER: And in part thanks to your excellent reporting and pressuring of BP. Ed, thanks very much.

We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Meanwhile, Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what else is going on?


Well a young plane crash survivor rushed into surgery. The Dutch boy is believed to be 8 years old and is the only person who got out alive. More than 100 people were on the Libyan airliner when it plunged into the desert while trying to land in Tripoli.

Many passengers were Dutch tourists flying home from spring vacations in South Africa.

CNN contributor Fran Townsend is in Tripoli right now and she will give us a full report ahead.

And we are told Delaware attorney general Beau Biden is making favorable progress after suffering a mild stroke. State officials say the 41-year-old son of Vice President Joe Biden will get more medical therapy in the days ahead.

Beau Biden is recovering in a Philadelphia hospital. No word on how long he will stay there. His doctor says, though, that he is fully alert, stable and he is expected to make a full recovery.

The space shuttle program's final Atlantis mission is cleared for takeoff. The launch is scheduled for Friday afternoon and forecaster say there is a 70 percent chance the weather will cooperate.

Atlantis will be transporting spare parts for the International Space Station. And in case you're keeping track of this, only two shuttle mission remain after this one.

A giant gray whale tangled in long ropes near a California harbor is now free again. The whale which is estimated to weigh around 40,000 pounds got caught while swimming over the last couple of days.

The National Marine Fishery Service says the whale is about a month behind the rest of its pod migrating to Alaska.


BLITZER: Good luck to that whale. Thanks -- Lisa, thank you very much.

Some are describing the president's meeting with Hamid Karzai today as a love fest. Is the Afghan president the kind of guy Mr. Obama should trust? The comedian and political commentator Bill Maher, he's standing by live to give us his take on that and a lot more.

And he was an environmentalist long before a lot of other people were. The CNN founder Ted Turner, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about America's addiction to oil and coal and a whole lot more.

Ted Turner coming up.


BLITZER: The Afghan President Hamid Karzai joins President Obama over at the White House today for what some are calling a love fest of sorts.

Let's talk about that and a lot more with the comedian Bill Maher. He's the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" that airs every Friday night on our sister network, HBO, 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Very good show. Bill, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: What do you think about this love fest between the president of the United States and the president of Afghanistan? Because only a few weeks ago it got pretty testy.

MAHER: Well, first of all, I'm just very flattered that I'm your go- to guy on Afghanistan and Karzai --

BLITZER: Can you imagine?

MAHER: -- because, you know, who better? Yes. Well, actually, you know, I think the love fest apparently in the Bush administration as far as Afghanistan goes is with George Bush. Because it's basically the same policy that they're pursuing as George Bush would -- did.

And you would think that they'd understand this was a bad idea because it was something Bush was doing. So I -- you know, I said it on my show last Friday, I think liberals and Democrats and all the people who like Obama -- and I'm certainly one of them -- should really ask themselves why is this man pursuing basically the same policy?

Because when Bush was in office, we used to laugh and laugh and laugh whenever he would say we're fighting them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here. But that's basically what Obama is doing.

We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here.

BLITZER: Well --

MAHER: Except memo, they're already here. They're already here. We found that out in Times Square. We found that out in Fort Hood. We found that out with the guy who tried to blow up his underuse going to Detroit. They're already here so what is the point in being in Afghanistan to begin with?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president has deployed a lot more troops to Afghanistan since taking office, going from around 30,000 or 40,000 during the Bush administration, close to 100,000 U.S. troops. But he wants to start withdrawing basically a year from now hoping the Afghans can get the job done. Is this strategy a good strategy in your opinion or a bad strategy?

MAHER: Gee, let's think. I would say a bad strategy. I mean, the idea that one year is going to make a difference, that all these people are going to die and all this money is going to be spent, I think we're blowing about a hundred billion dollars a year in Afghanistan. That's perfectly good money we could be hand out as bonuses to the guys at Citibank and Goldman Sachs. I don't know what we're wasting it over there for. Especially on a country that has a GDP of about 10 or $12 billion. We're spending 10 times what this country makes in a year on this country? I don't even see the -- we went into Helmand province recently and apparently we'll turn it around down there with the Taliban. We're strong. That didn't seem to work. I'm not saying that people aren't trying, you know. I know McChrystal is a very impressive guy and has good ideas, but this is Afghanistan. They called it the graveyard of empires for a reason. And I'm just very disappointed that this president who seems to be so on top of everything and understand everything and this was a new way of doing things and a breath of fresh air and, you know, it is just the tenor of two evils.

BLITZER: You don't like that strategy. What about the way the Obama administration has handled this massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

MAHER: Well, there is another area where the president has not exactly shined. I mean, you know, he is the guy who said about three weeks before the oil spill happened that he was for opening up new drilling on the east coast. So, again, not one of -- one of the places where I'm a big fan. How have they handled it? I don't know what else they could have done. It is more a question of how the country has handled oil. In the '70s, we were talking about getting off oil. And we never did. And I bring this up because when people say, well, we should stop offshore drilling because of the spill, there is always a conservative who then says, but we need the oil. Yeah, we need the oil as long as we keep saying we need the oil. And as long as we put off the day as we have for so many years now when we get on to some other form of energy. I guess we're just going to wait until the oil runs out. That's the only way we'll get it to stop.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers the video being released of the actual spill that BP released, the disaster over there. It is so dramatic. Quickly, Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court nominee, is she someone that you think is ready for a lifetime appointment on the U.S. supreme court?

MAHER: Well, she's absolutely ready. I mean, and she's relatively young by Supreme Court standards. I mean, 50 years old is practically jail bait on the Supreme Court. The question is is she the right person?

BLITZER: What do you think?

MAHER: I don't understand -- well, I don't know. She's such a mystery. I was hoping that since the Democrats won two elections in a row, rather handily, they would say to themselves, you know, we need to put one of our people on the court, a liberal. The Republicans have no trouble doing that with conservatives. I mean they didn't put a question mark on the court. They put people like John Roberts and Alito. These are bona fide, dyed in the wool extremely conservative people and everybody knew it. Why can't the Democrats do the same thing? I don't know if the Americans realize how right-wing this court is. And this woman, I -- nobody seems to know anything about her. I was just thinking we could do a lot better than a question mark when it came time to start balancing this court.

BLITZER: Stand by, Bill. I want to continue this conversation. We have a lot more to talk about including Arizona's controversial new immigration law. A lot of anger out there. Is there anything to laugh about, though? And will some known politicians be next to succumb to the anti-incumbent fervor under way now. James Carville and Bill Bennett, they're here in our strategy session. They'll share their predictions.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I was going to give a commencement speech in Arizona, but with my accent, I was worried they were going to deport me back to Austria, so I canceled that idea right away.

BLITZER: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger mocking the controversial immigration law in Arizona. We're back with Bill Maher. Despite that, that Pew Research Center poll that came out on the Arizona immigration law, 59 percent of the American public approve of it. 32 percent disapprove. 8 percent say they don't know. There is strong support for that Arizona law out there.

MAHER: Doesn't mean it's right. It means the American people are bullies. They pick on the people who are least able to defend themselves, people who, by the way, do all the jobs that we're a little too busy or important to do. I never understood the American attitude toward immigration, especially Mexican immigration. The people who pick the crops, and give the sponge baths and, you know, do all these less than minimum wage jobs without complaint. Yeah, that gravy train has to end, Wolf. We have to get these people in line. You know, immigration, illegal immigration, legal immigration, same thing as outsourcing. It is just another way to lower the wages of the typical American worker. But they blame the worker.

BLITZER: It doesn't look --

MAHER: Pay one half of the poor to kill the --

BLITZER: I was going to say, doesn't look like the comprehensive immigration reform that so many people would like, including tightening up border security. At the same time having a pathway to citizenship for some of these millions of illegal immigrants. Doesn't look like that's going anywhere in Washington right now, does it?

MAHER: No, it doesn't. And it should. And there should be some sort of reform, but when you think about the real problems we have, the bigger problems, you know, it is just never been top of my list. Why? Because it is not that big of a problem. This would make sense this outcry in Arizona if these illegals came here and they were causing all sorts of havoc. If they were causing crime rates to soar, for example. But they're not. They don't. There is not a problem. That's the point.

BLITZER: On that --

MAHER: There really is no problem. On top of --

BLITZER: People will debate you on that, but that's another debate we're not going to have right now.

MAHER: You can -- you can look -- you can look at the crime statistics there. They have actually gone down. They're the lowest that they are since the '70s and the '60s. You know, what I want to know from these Arizonans, if you look at the demographics of that state, it is mostly old white people and young Latino people who probably help the old white people get around. When they kick them all out, when they all go to New Mexico and California, I want to know who's going to get you from your bedroom to your rascal scooter.

BLITZER: How excited are you that Sarah Palin is come out with another book in November, right after the election, a book that will feature her favorite poems, favorite writings, favorite prayers, all sorts of stuff like that?

MAHER: In other words, nothing that she actually has to write herself. She is such a lazy money grubber. You know had it right? That Levi. Levi, the kid who got her daughter pregnant, he said about a year or two ago in "Vanity Fair," said, yeah, Sarah Palin, all she's going to do is cash in and that's all she does is cash in. And she's -- and such a lazy way to do it.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note. Bill Maher's program on HBO, that's our sister network, is "Real Time with Bill Maher," always good to have you here live in THE SITUATION ROOM. thank you very much.

MAHER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: 11:00 p.m. eastern Friday nights.

House Republicans are asking the question, what would you cut from the budget? Is that a gimmick or is it smart strategy? And I'm going one on one with the founder of CNN, Ted Turner. I'll ask him what he thinks about the network that he founded almost 30 years ago.


BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session now. Joining us, two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist James Carville, the national talk -- radio talk show host Bill Bennett. Your quick reaction, we just heard from Bill Maher. He was making the point that most of these millions of illegal immigrants are word harking, they're honest, they're law abiding. They really don't cause a whole lot of problems for people in Arizona or elsewhere and the U.S. should welcome them and I know you strongly disagree so I want to give you a chance to react to that.

BILL BENNETT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: If they're law-abiding, they wouldn't be illegal. They are by definition illegal and not law- abiding. I talked to the police chief quickly to see if there say problem with illegal immigrants in Arizona. We had a host of calls from policemen in Arizona. They have terrible, terrible problems there. The solution isn't easy. To say that illegal immigration isn't causing serious problems in America is just stupid.

BLITZER: What do you think, James?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think my experience is most -- a lot of them are very, very hard working people and I heard Bill Maher say the crime rate in Arizona was actually down. Don't know if that's true or not. But I'm sure somebody will check it. It is an interesting statistic. My experience is a lot of them come over here to feed their family and they are hard working people but there is some people -- some rather nefarious types that come too and drug dealers and god knows what not. It's like anything else, some good and some not so good.

BENNETT: When I was drug czar, I remember a lot of police chiefs said to me if you and the federal government would control the border and keep the felons, the people James is talking about, out of coming into the country and out of our jails, we'll take care of the homegrown guys. It is a real serious problem.

BLITZER: Let's talk about this house GOP move to have the folks vote on what they would cut as far as federal spending is concern and raise the issues for elimination. Is this just a gimmick bill is there substance behind this maneuver?

BENNETT: It is a gimmick, we don't have a majority. What you got is gimmicks and ideas. There is a serious point behind it, which is spending is ballooning. We saw $82 billion deficit in April of this year. When is four times the deficit it was in April 2009 and CBO updated on the health care, now way above the trillion dollars and people told us it would be less than a trillion. To come up with serious ideas about cutting is essential. I think both parties will have to agree to this sooner or later.

BLITZER: Everybody agrees, James, there has to be massive cuts. The U.S. can't go on like this.

CARVILLE: I agree. I taught a class on a deficit. I think this is a good idea. No Republican president ever had an idea on how to cut the budget. Look at the budget under Reagan and Bush, the most explosive deficit we ever experienced. It is a good idea that they look into ideas.

BENNETT: Well, Paul Ryan's road map is worth doing some in depth study.

BLITZER: A Republican Congressman from Wisconsin.

BENNETT: Yeah. It is a very serious document which even the "New York Times" praised as serious.

CARVILLE: There are more co-signers on the birth legislation than the budget.

BENNETT: We'll see about that when it gets some momentum and it gets reviewed by the CBO. We'll see about that.

BLITZER: Next Tuesday is the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. Arlen Specter is facing a tough contest. He might not get that Democratic nomination. Congressman Sestak is doing very well in the polls. Here is the question. The president supports Specter, but no plans for him to go to Pennsylvania between now and next Tuesday to campaign for Specter. Is that good or bad for specter that the president will be a no-show in Pennsylvania? CARVILLE: I don't know. It is a Democratic primary. If polling is to be believed and primary polling, let me say, is oftentimes difficult, it looks like he's in a -- got a might of a fight on his hand and it looks like the chances are he could lose it. He survived for a long time. And, you know, things catch up with you and maybe that's what's going to happen here. We'll see. It will be interesting.

BLITZER: Incumbents seem to be dropping on the Democratic and Republican side as you know, Bill.

BENNETT: Specter has a particular problem. He's facing Sestak, which is tough. He would -- if he won, he would face Toomey in the fall. His biggest problem is he's running against himself. There is an identity crisis, a political identity crisis go on here. Sometimes he's on one side, sometimes he's on the other. He's confused people. I think Barack Obama is wise not to go in for Arlen Specter. I think it is Sestak.

BLITZER: You think Sestak will win. James, your prediction?

CARVILLE: If -- I got to go with the polling and the polling is favorable of Sestak no you.

BENNETT: And Toomey wins.

BLITZER: Why do you say Toomey -- he's the Republican, the likely Republican candidate. Why do you think it would be automatic? Pennsylvania is pretty Democratic.

BENNETT: It is not automatic. But this is a good year. Toomey is an excellent candidate. It would be a muscular race but that's what I think it would be.

BLITZER: I think James is itching to get involved in that.

CARVILLE: He's a three-star admiral, I guess if national defense counts in Pennsylvania, I think Sestak will walk away with it.

BENNETT: A muscular race.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Our "strategy session" with James Carville and Bill Bennett.

Jack Cafferty's going to be back in a moment with "the Cafferty file."

And then we'll also get an update on that deadly plane crash in Libya today. An airbus going down, and the boy, a young boy, was the only person to survive. Our CNN contributor Fran Townsend is in Libya right now. We'll speak with her.

And you'll also found out what brought the former first lady, several former first ladies, including Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush, together.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's back with "the Cafferty file." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is what does it mean if the number of Americans citing immigration as this nation's top problem is the highest it's been in two years?

Ann writes from Pennsylvania, "People are trying to hang on to what they have worked for and our government keeps giving our money to banks who have cheated us, countries who don't like us, and illegals who don't belong here. We're fed up!"

John in Tucson, Arizona, "For us in this state, it means mind your own business to the rest of the country. We're the ones who are suffering, so we're the ones who will deal with it. As for the meddlers like the Los Angeles city council who decide to boycott Arizona, remember who has the bigger tourist venues, boycotts work both ways, no Disney this year for this family."

Illegal immigrant in New York writes, "Immigration is not the problem. Illegal immigration is. I've never been to Arizona. But I'm going to spend my vacation there in August."

Antonio writes, "It means the nation's finally waking up to the reality to the system that needs fixing. What astonishes me is our elected leaders are running from this issue in order to protect his own careers. And McCain? Oh, forget him, I used to respect the guy, but he's becoming increasingly and deservedly irrelevant."

George writes, "I watched the governed solve the illegal immigration problem my whole life. I expect the same old stuff this time around, and I don't mean stuff. The government will give amnesty to the current 12 million and then in ten years we can all meet again and talk about amnesty for the next 12 million. Same as it ever was."

And George, a veteran, writes, "It means we're fed up. Everybody benefits except the middle-class. The rich gets richer, and the average citizen gets screwed. The Republicans want slave labor. The Democrats want the Hispanic vote. We just want secure borders and somebody to care about us."

You want to read more on the topic? You'll find on it my blog at Wolf?

BLITZER: Will do, Jack, thank you.

We're getting new images, very dramatic images, of that main leak causing a massive oil spill threatening the gulf coast. Brian Todd is joining us with the latest in the investigation. Stand by for that.

The GOP picks its host city for the 2012 convention. You're going to want to hear who won the honor.

And I'm marking my anniversary here at CNN with the man who created this network, almost 30 years ago. Ted Turner.


BLITZER: 20 years ago this week you hired me.

TED TURNER: Did you start in Washington?

BLITZER: Yes, I did.

TURNER: I thought you did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was his first. Right before the gulf war.

BLITZER: It was May 8, 1990, I started, and August 1st, Saddam invades Kuwait, if you'll recall.

TURNER: Yeah, I do.