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Laura Bush Interview; A Visit with the Old Boss; Pres. Downplays Tensions with Afghanistan

Aired May 15, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM Former First Lady Laura Bush "From The Heart". She joins us to talk about her memoir, her best and worst days in the White House and what her life is like now.

And supreme theater, the high court nominee Elena Kagan makes the traditional round of courtesy calls to senators. I'll asked comedian and political commentator Bill Maher if she's ready for the job.

And a visit with the man who changed the face of television, our former boss Ted Turner. Always outspoken, he weighs in on climate changes, President Obama, the future of journalism and much more.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Laura Bush reunited with another former first lady this past week and reminiscing about her days in the White House. Mrs. Bush met with Nancy Reagan when she went to the Reagan Presidential Library to sign copies of her new memoir, it is called "Spoken From The Heart" and it covers many of the highs and lows of her life, and her husband's presidency.


BLITZER: Mrs. Bush, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: You've written a really excellent book.

BUSH: Oh, good. Thanks.

BLITZER: You can see on almost every page you are speaking from your heart. Let's pick up where the book leaves off and fill in some of the blanks.


BLITZER: There were some really dangerous moments in the eight years when your husband was president of the United States. 9/11, there was a grenade thrown at him in Tbilisi, Georgia. Were you ever scared for your husband, your family, yourself?

BUSH: I think every first lady probably worries a little bit about her husband. That's just part of it. But not really, I'm not really a fearful person and neither is George. And of course we knew we were protected by the Secret Service and so I was no not ---seldom was I really afraid for either him or myself.

BLITZER: What about on 9/11, how scared were you that day?

BUSH: I was not scared on 9/11, either for myself or for him, I knew he was OK. As the Secret Service and military flew him back on the way, stopping in a couple of spots before they got back to Washington.

BLITZER: But you write that you were having trouble communicating with him, it's hard to believe that the president of the United States is having trouble communicating with the first lady.

BUSH: It was a shock, for everybody. That it was hard to call up Air Force One that day and then to call to it. We tried several times to reach each other and finally did reach each other, but I think we learned a lot probably, WACA, White House communications, probably learned from that day and made some changes.

BLITZER: Because it's surprising to me to hear you say you were never really scared. Because so many millions of Americans were scared for you and your husband.

BUSH: You know, what happened-I mean, in retrospect Flight 93 may have been headed toward the capitol, which is where I was on September 11th with Senator Kennedy and Senator Judd Gregg. And but I really was not afraid of that. And then when I got to the bunker late that afternoon, after George was on his way home, after I had been taken to a secure location. Lynne Cheney and Dick Cheney were already there and Condi Rice was already there in the bunker, which is where they had spent the day. And Lynn told me the plane that crashed in the pentagon had circled the White House . The White House is so tucked in, that if that was really the first site or first intention of that hijacker, they went on to the Pentagon.

BLITZER: People hear the word "bunker" and they have a vision. Describe what the bunker at the White House is like?

BUSH: Well, it really is a bunker, it's deep below the White House in a basement I think it was maybe added during Truman or Roosevelt, during the war. And it looks like it was added during Truman or Roosevelt, the furniture looks that old, that is in it. There's a hide-a-bed that the very first night, September 11, that night, the Secret Service told George and me that they wanted us to stay there, to spend the night there and George just said no. He said I've got to be in my own bed, I've got it get some sleep. Because he knew that everything had changed for him and for his presidency, and for our whole country-after that terrible tragedy.

BLITZER: Your life changed after that.

BUSH: That's right. It changed. And everything that we had had thought when George ran for president, he ran on nearly domestic policy issues, on education and tax cuts, and you know, peace was on its way. We thought the Balkans and Northern Ireland, peace was on its way there. All those Central European and Eastern European democracies were standing up. We knew, of course, there were still problems as there still are with Israel and Palestine, but we didn't expect that terrorism would be the dominant issue. And what he focused on the most for the rest of his presidency.

BLITZER: And then there would be real wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BUSH: Afghanistan, that's right.

BLITZER: When he became president thought he would be a commander of chief in a war.

BUSH: War-time president.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your husband because you write in the book, I'm going to read this to our viewers, the criticism that received and he did get a lot of it.

"It was still painful to see the man I loved, the man I knew, so misrepresented by his opponents to the American people. And the hardest part was knowing that our daughters saw it, too."

I want to get to your daughters in a moment, but tell us something about the president that you don't think the American public, even to this day, appreciates.

BUSH: Well, I do think the American public know, I hope they know how deeply and strong will he supported the men and women of the United States military. And how very, very difficult it is for him, and for any other president, to send troops into harm's way. I mean those kind of decisions are the decisions that every president dreads.

BLITZER: He agonized about that?

BUSH: He agonized over those.

BUSH: But you wrote in the book, he didn't really lose any sleep.

BUSH: Well, I would see him walking on the lawn, and see him walk out of the Oval Office with Spot, our dog, that had come to the White House with us. I knew that was what he was doing, that he was agonizing over it.

BLITZER: Did will he have any second thoughts about maybe he made a mistake?

BUSH: I don't know that he thinks that, I really don't think so. I think they gave Saddam Hussein every chance to disclose or disarm. And everyone, all the intelligence said that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. And do we wish Saddam Hussein it was still there? No, I don't think anyone does.

BLITZER: When they finally said him, Mr. President, we've been looking for the weapons of mass destruction, the stockpiles, we haven't found any and know what? He probably never had any. What did he say? How did he react to that? BUSH: Well, I mean, of course, he was very disappointed that our intelligence said that, that everyone, I mean it wasn't just the U.S., it was British intelligence, obviously, intelligence from many other countries as well as U.S. intelligence. Every leader in the United States, I'm sure you ever quotes from many, many senators from both sides of the aisle, former presidents who also believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: But did he pound the table?

BUSH: No, no.

BLITZER: I know you say he was disappointed.

BUSH: No, no.

BLITZER: Did he start screaming at people?

BUSH: No, no, of course not.

BLITZER: That's not his style.

BUSH: That's not the way he would be.


BLITZER: Stand by fore more of my interview with Laura Bush.

Also Pakistan's new weapons against roadside bombs. What if it could prevent the kind of attack that almost happened in Times Square?

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


BLITZER: 20 years ago, this week, you hired me.

TED TURNER, FOUNDER OF CNN: Did you start in Washington?

BLITZER: Yes, I did.

TURNER: Been here the whole time?


TURNER: I thought you did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pentagon was his first, right before the Gulf War.

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

TUNER: Yes, I do.


BLITZER: More now with the former First Lady Laura Bush.


BLITZER: It's not easy raising two daughters in the White House. What's most difficult thing, teenage girls, in the White House, eight years.

BUSH: Well, I think for them, the scrutiny, you know, the public sort of life they had to live when they wanted to be totally anonymous like all freshmen in college, which is what they were during that campaign that fall of 2000, and then that spring, the first year of their dad's term. A lot of freshmen in college, don't even want to admit they have parents much less their parent is a president. So that was difficult for them. And also, mainly it was the criticism.

BLITZER: The criticism of --

BUSH: Of their father. We knew that. We had been the children of a president. And we knew when George decided to run that that's what happens. It's not just what happens to a Republican president now, as we see, it's what happens to anyone, on either side of the aisle, that serves in the office of president of the United States. There's always a loud chorus of complaint from the other side-or even from your own friends.

BLITZER: How did Barbara and Jenna happened that will criticism?

BUSH: Well, I think they just lived with it. They knew about it because they were born the year their grandfather was elected vice president. So it was something they were aware of. And of course, as they wrote to the Obama girls in that letter they wrote.

BLITZER: To Sasha and Malia?

BUSH: Uh-huh. They know their dad. They know their own dad and they know what he's like. So the criticism that you hear, you know, is in many ways is the caricature that comes from the criticism is something they knew was false.

BLITZER: In that letter, they wrote to Sasha and Malia, what specific advice did they give?

BUSH: Well, one thing they said was to take advantage of it. Do things with your dad, the special things that you get to do, which Barbara and Jenna did. They both traveled with us. They both really developed a very strong interest in Africa and AIDS prevention from being able to travel with us to Africa more than once. They got to meet people they had always admired. Jenna got to meet Wendy Kopp. Jenna is a teacher and she had always been impressed with Teach For America.

Barbara got to have dinner and meet with Vaclav Havel, one of the great freedom fighters during the Cold War, he was actually jailed in Czechoslovakia and then became president of the Czech Republic.

They got to -- Barbara was with me up in George Steinbrenner's box when her dad threw out the first ball at that first game in New York, at he World Series.

BLITZER: So they basically told Sasha and Malia, enjoy, take advantage of it and be grateful for this opportunity.

BUSH: They should do that. You know, take advantage of it.

Then they said the main part, the point I was making earlier is remember who your dad is.

BLITZER: Because you're going to hear people say nasty things.

BUSH: Yeah, uh-huh.

BLITZER: Don't pay attention.

You write in the book that the media, and I'm part of that media, we really never understood you either during those eight years. Let me read from "Spoken From The Heart".

"I had long ago resigned myself to what was written about m in the press. First Ladies generally have an easier time than presidents, but that doesn't exempt them from criticism."

Then you go on to say, "And how some journalists saw me often had very little to do with me and very much to do with how they perceived George."

Explain what you mean by that.

BUSH: Well, I think that is a little bit of a bias, the media bias, that everyone talks about a lot. And I think that's part of it. I also think that because George was a conservative, a Republican president, that people assumed that I was you know cooking, baking, staying home mother. And I think that is sort of the box that we put our first ladies in every time. You know, Barbara Bush was certainly seen as a grandmotherly type and she was a grandmother and a wonderful grandmother to her children, but she's also a very strong outspoken woman herself. And I think that's the way that we're a little bit unfair many times to the women that live in the White House because they're always a lot more interesting and complex than just a flat description of them.

BLITZER: Do you think you got a fair treatment from the media?

BUSH: I do. I think the media was very fair to me, but I think the media assumed things about me, even after I had given the presidential radio address about the treatment of women in Afghanistan. The whole time George was president there was this assumption I was staying home, hosting teas, or whatever. Instead of a really full picture of who I was.

BLITZER: Because you were are pushing him on some issues, we'll get to those issues, women in Afghanistan, helping deal with disease in Africa. One of the reasons, if not the major reason, he got involved in that was because of you, is that right?

BUSH: No, in Africa, you mean?

BLITZER: Some of those issues that he was really working on.

BUSH: Yeah. No, he-that was really because of him. He was the one that wanted the --

BLITZER: What did you push about the most?

BUSH: I did talk about those issues with him. Those were certainly issues I talked about.

BLITZER: Women in Afghanistan?

BUSH: Women's rights in Afghanistan. But those are all things he knew about obviously that, I mean -- in the United States, after September 11th, when the spotlight turned on Afghanistan, many people on both sides of the aisle became have very, very concerned about the way women are treated. One of the things that we know-now, when we look at countries, is that in countries where women are mistreated, where they're not allowed to be educated, where they're married off at very, very young ages, where they're all of the things we know, where they're not allow to vote, many times those countries are tyrannies. And the way they treat women is also the way they treat all their citizens. That's one thing we're learning as we look at women across the world.

BLITZER: I guess reading the book, you wanted to convey the impression to people that you weren't just this meek little housewife baking cookies.

BUSH: I wanted to have people to have a fuller view of me. I mean that's what I got to do about writing the story about myself was fill in the gaps I was not asked about by reporters, or the sort of stereotypical view that people of me. And that was one of the really fun parts about writing the book was letting people know more about myself. And even my background in Midland, Texas. And when I did that, it allowed me also to let people know more about George, the way we are. His sort of blunt and forthright manner is really the way West Texans are because it's just a landscape where you don't sit around debating and discussing for a long time.

BLITZER: Because I learned and I'm sure everybody who reads this book, a lot about you, including your own childhood in Texas. An only child, your parents wanted more kids but it didn't work out. You were even having difficulty getting pregnant.

BUSH: That's right.

BLITZER: You were thinking about adoption at one point. And you write this: "for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, missing babies hover like silent, ephemeral shadows over their lives."

You worked really hard to try to get pregnant.

BUSH: That's right. We wanted children. We want to have children the first year we were married. We were 31 when we got married. And we both really wanted children and a lot of children. And then I had trouble getting pregnant. So George and I had actually already gone to adoption agency, we had already filled out the paperwork and were ready for the home visit when I got pregnant. We had checked that we wanted twins, if twins came. So we were very, very grateful and felt so fortunate that we got twins.

And I was happy that my girls got a sister. Because that had been the one real loss I had felt as a child was not having brothers and sisters. And being so aware of how sad my parents were that they had lost their own other babies.

BLITZER: And obviously, it influenced you, but all of a sudden you got pregnant, you knew you were having twins, twin girls, and that changed everything.

BUSH: That did. And that was really the answer to our prayers.

BLITZER: And you got two great --

BUSH: Two great daughters, I'm so proud of them. It's been fun during this book tour because they've accompanied me on some of the media I've done, and that's just great support for me.


BLITZER: More of my interview with the former First Lady Laura Bush straight ahead. I ask her if she plans to follow in Hillary Clinton's foot steps and run for political office.

Then imagine a giant X-ray that can detect bombs hidden inside trucks. Pakistan is working on a new weapon against terror attacks. And President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai put their tensions behind him.

And the comedian Bill Maher said he's getting flashbacks to the Bush administration. Stand by for that interview.


BLITZER: It is a promising new weapon against terror attacks. What if-what if security officials cold find hidden explosives by X-raying trucks? Pakistan is working on that right now. Here's CNN's Reza Sayah.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Pakistan trucks aren't just for hauling goods. They're works of art where you'll find just about anything, but in a country plagued by terrorism trucks have also been used to destroy. This is what a truck packed with explosives did to Islamabad's Marriott hotel in 2008.

And this is Pakistan's newest weapon against truck bombs. A giant $3 million Chinese made moving X-ray that has its own promotional music video.


SAYAH: Police official Farkhand Iqbal, says four of the machines have already been purchased, 20 more are on the way. Iqbal's confidence is as big as the X-ray.

IQBAL: I think no explosive will come into the city when this machine is installed.

SAYAH: Absolutely no explosive?


SAYAH: That's a pretty big statement.

IQBAL: No, no, it's -- yes, I'm giving you the statement.

SAYAH: To show us how the X-ray works, police took us to one of Islamabad's two entry points, where the system is already in place. As the giant X-ray arm scans trucks, a computer system detected what was hidden from the naked eye.

(On camera): If you see blue within the organic flowers, you know something is wrong. But in this case, everything looks good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: IN this case everything was clear.

SAYAH: How long before you think militants to try to blow up one of these trucks?

IQBAL: They cannot blow up.

SAYAH: Why not?

IQBAL: This is made of steel with, you know, an alloy shielding. And this machine is very much secure if it is even bombed.

SAYAH: The technology of the giant X-ray is impressive but officials here admit they can't x-ray every vehicle so the system still needs the human element to be effective. That's why police officers manning the toll booth right before the X-ray use their police instincts to decide which truck ought to be scanned.

(voice over): The system can scan an average of 20 trucks an hour. Truck driver Majid Hahn (ph) says he hates the X-ray system because it takes too much time. If somebody wants to do something, then they'll do it, even if it means using a plane, he tells us.

Driver Mohammad Sadid says he prefers God as his protector, but like it or not his truck and many others in Pakistan will now be X-rayed to make sure they're just as harmless as they look. Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.


BLITZER: Straight ahead, more of my interview with the former First Lady Laura Bush. She and her husband disagree on controversial issue, like abortion and gay marriage. She explains how they reconcile those differences.

Also my interview with Ted Turner, the man who invented cable news, he's now turning his eye to energy.


TURNER: I don't like knocking the mountains down in West Virginia to make coal. I like mountains, besides it's time to say good-bye to coal and oil, they served us well for 200 years but it's time too to move on. It's like telephone booths. Aren't you glad you didn't invest in them?


BLITZER: I sat down with the former First Lady Laura Bush on the campus of Southern Methodist University here in Dallas, Texas. It will be the home of her husband's presidential library.

Earlier, she opened up about 9/11 and raising kids in the White House, but what are she and the former President George W. Bush doing now that they're out of the public spotlight?

Here now, the conclusion of my interview.


BLITZER: I saw your interview with Larry King the other day and you pointed out that your dad was a staunch Democrat. You also told Larry that you personally would support gay marriage. You supported abortion for women. Your husband had a very different perspective.

Talk a little bit about - these are sensitive social issues.

BUSH: These are very sensitive issues.

BLITZER: And you have strong views that - I don't think when you were First Lady we really appreciated your views on these issues.

BUSH: Well, these are issues that are very, very difficult and I really understand both sides of these issue. I really do. I mean I'm very, very empathetic to a pro-life stance, and I think it's important that - that people continue to have a pro-life stance that do (ph).

I also think it's important for it to remain legal, for medical reasons and - and for other reasons beyond that, and I said that the day George was inaugurated in an interview with Katie Couric, when she asked me if I was for the overturn of Roe versus Wade.

BLITZER: And you write about it in the book. BUSH: And I write about it in the book. And of course what flashed through my mind were all of the different nuances of that very issue, including did I want to start my husband's term in office calling for the overturn of the Supreme Court ruling.

BLITZER: Roe versus Wade.

BUSH: And I said no.

And then, on the gay marriage issue, I talked to George in the 2004 issue - '04 election, because that was the social issue then that animated the - the campaign. And I didn't want him to make an issue of it, because we have a lot of friends who are gay and who are - whose children are gay.

And what happens, I think, when we discuss these issues - and, believe me, I understand very strongly and very well the - the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. You know, that's our history. That's really the basis of family life.

BLITZER: But would you have - would you have any trouble at all and would the president have any trouble at all - let's say you know two men who are deeply committed to each other, love each other and about to get married in Iowa or some other state that has gay marriage, would you - and they invited you. Would you have any trouble going to that wedding?

BUSH: No, no. And I know people who just got married in Washington, D.C., now that they had it.

BLITZER: Two men?

BUSH: Two - two men, who have a long-term relationship. They've been together 30 - over 30 years. And I understand that. I really do understand it. I - I know that they're committed to each other and they want to in some way people express their commitment to each other in the same way that a husband and wife do when they marry.

BLITZER: But let's talk about life after the White House. What's it like?

BUSH: It's great. It's been really terrific. We're back in our hometown. This is where we lived when George was elected governor. This where we lived when we had the baseball team and went to, you know, 50 baseball games a summer --

BLITZER: Still going - still going to (INAUDIBLE)?

BUSH: -- which was really fun. We didn't this summer, but we watched them every night on television, the Texas Rangers, that is.

Lots of our friends are here. Right now, you and I are on the SMU campus, which is where I went to college and also where the Bush Library is going to be. So George and I have been working on that.

We've been working on - I'm the head of the design committee and I've been working with the architect and we hope to break ground next November here on this campus. And we --

BLITZER: It's a beautiful campus.

BUSH: It is a beautiful campus. And we've already started the programming for the Bush Institute, the policy center, the think tank that will be part of the - of the Bush Library and archives. And so that's been fun.

This is what we'll work on for the rest of our lives. We're - we're excited about it. It gives us a chance to stay involved with the policy that's most important to us, the freedom agenda, education, women's rights, the way women are treated worldwide without being involved in politics.

BLITZER: You know, I listen to you and - and I remember an interview I did with another former First Lady. That would be Hillary Clinton. When she left the White House, she became a United States senator.

BUSH: Senator.

BLITZER: Then she became a presidential candidate, and now she's Secretary of State. And I'm listening to you and you've got strong views and you're young.

BUSH: I'm not going to run.

BLITZER: For anything?


BLITZER: Why not?

BUSH: It's just - I mean, I just would have never run for political office. It's just, you know, not my thing.

But I've - but I am really happy that I had the chance to be involved in - in our political life and the political life of our country, and because my husband was president and had the chance to represent the people of the United States, like I did when I traveled to Africa to talk about the PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and to meet the people who literally had had what's called the Lazarus Effect, had come back to life because they could go on ARVs because of the generosity of the American people.

And that was a privilege. It really was a privilege.

BLITZER: Well, you give our best regards to the president.

BUSH: I will. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll look forward to his book coming out in November.

BUSH: In November.

BLITZER: I know he's - are you helping him with that book? BUSH: Well, we've had a great time reading each other's books and going back and forth, and then he'll say take that story out of your book. That's my story. And - and it would have been his story, something that really happened to him.

BLITZER: Well, he's going to have a tough act to follow. Your book is number one in the "New York Times" bestsellers list - debuted at number one. That's a big deal.

BUSH: Yes. I'm happy about.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "Spoken from the Heart". Laura Bush is the writer, the author.

Thanks very much, Mrs. Bush.

BUSH: Thanks so much. Thank you, Wolf. Appreciate it a lot. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.


BLITZER: He founded CNN, so what does he think of us now? My interview with Ted Turner. He explains why there was one word he refused to allow on our air.

And it's being described as a White House love fest, but can President Obama trust his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai? Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher gives us his take.


BLITZER: Television as we know it wouldn't exist today, especially the expanding cable universe, without the vision of one man. Thirty years ago, he took an idea that many thought was doomed to failure and launched the world's first cable news network.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the founder of CNN, the man who was in charge when I started here 20 years ago, Ted Turner.

Ted, thanks very much, not only for coming in today but thanks for coming up with this vision of CNN.


BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the issues, first of all, that you're so passionate about right now, and I know global warming, climate change is really at the top of - of your agenda. Is anything going to happen, seriously, as far as you can tell, in - in dealing with this issue?

TURNER: I sure hope so -

BLITZER: What are you - what are you doing -

TURNER: -- and - and there's a lot that's happening right now.

BLITZER: But what are you doing right now to - to make that happen?

TURNER: Well, what I'm doing right now is I'm in partnership with a southern company. We're building the largest - what will be this fall the largest solar installation in the United States in New Mexico. We're going to power about 14,000 - 14,000 homes.

I want to point out though I'm partners with a southern company, I'm the junior partner. I'm a 10 percent partner.

BLITZER: So you want to create what are called these green jobs.

TURNER: I - I do. And - and I wanted to not just talk about clean, renewable energy but to be involved with it personally, too.

BLITZER: Do you think this legislation that Senator Kerry, Senator Lieberman want to get off the ground right now, that that's going to become the law of the land?

TURNER: I - I'd like to see something close to it. I - I think it's better that we get a good bill this year, that maybe - maybe it wouldn't be a perfect bill, but we can keep working to try and improve it if it - if it turns out it needs to be.

BLITZER: But, you know, a lot of environmentalists want something this year because they're afraid after the November elections the Democrats could lose a lot of seats and there might not be the appetite for what you want after November.

TURNER: Well, I think - I think that the kind of bill that I want was - take Boone Pickens, (INAUDIBLE) with the Pickens plan. I - I really believe that this is a nonpartisan issue. I believe that the Republicans really, deep down, they - they want the jobs to be here in the United States instead in the Middle East and they want us to have financial security and they want to us create jobs here in America.

This is - this is a nonpartisan, no-brain - no-brainer bill.

BLITZER: Have you had some second thoughts or third thoughts about offshore oil drilling in the aftermath of what's happened in - in the gulf?

TURNER: Yes. Yes, I have. Hasn't everybody?

BLITZER: Well, tell me where you stand on that right now. Should - what should the president do?

TURNER: Well, I also - I don't - I don't like knocking the mountains down in West Virginia to make coal. I -I like mountains. And, besides, it's time to say good-bye to coal and - and to oil. I mean, they served us well for 200 years, but it's time to move on.

It's like - like telephone booths. Aren't you glad you didn't invest in them?

BLITZER: But if - if you want to be energy independent, there's going to have to be - I assume you think some of these were -

TURNER: Well, until we phase out coal and oil, but we could phase them out in the next 10 years. I'm - I'm for phasing them out and cleaning up the atmosphere and creating the jobs and going ahead.

BLITZER: So what you're saying, between wind and solar -

TURNER: Wind, solar, geothermal, but more - more work needs to be done on the geothermal -

BLITZER: That the United States wouldn't need oil or coal?

TURNER: And maybe some nuclear.

BLITZER: Natural -

TURNER: I've got - I've got -

BLITZER: You open to nuclear power?

TURNER: I'm open - I'm open to some nuclear. I'd rather have that than a coal burning plant. One - you know, coal will kill you for sure and nuclear might kill you.

BLITZER: What kind of grade do you give the Obama administration on this issue?


You know, there's a lot going on. I would have liked to have seen the energy issue come up first before - before health care myself. But the president, I think, is doing a - doing - overall doing a very good job.

BLITZER: So you're happy with what you've seen so far?


BLITZER: You're happy on the health care bill? You liked what you saw?

TURNER: I liked it. It was better than nothing. I mean, we - I know a lot of people that didn't have health care insurance, and it's a - it's a situation I wouldn't want to be in.

BLITZER: You're happy what he's doing on the economic front in terms of -

TURNER: You know, it's - he inherited a mess, you know, but - but I think he's doing a - doing a pretty good job -

BLITZER: Bailing out some of the big banks, the motor companies?

TURNER: I didn't like that. Remember, that was already started under the Bush administration.

BLITZER: But he sort of finished it.

TURNER: Well -

BLITZER: Was it smart?

TURNER: I don't know. I'm - I'm not an economist, you know -

BLITZER: But you have a lot of money.

TURNER: I don't have that much. I've given a lot of it away.

BLITZER: I know you have, but you still -

TURNER: And lost a lot, too. So I've got -

BLITZER: But you still -

TURNER: I've got enough to where I'm not missing any meals.

BLITZER: Where are you keeping your money? In stocks? The T-bills?

TURNER: I don't -


TURNER: Some very safe investments. I'm -

BLITZER: You're pretty conservative.

TURNER: Right. I'm - I'm not in equities too much.

BLITZER: You want to give any advice to our viewers out there?

TURNER: I'm - I'm not - I'm not in the financial advice business.

BLITZER: Neither am I.

Let's talk a little bit about the CNN situation. You're no longer involved in CNN.

TURNER: Unfortunately.

BLITZER: But you - but you created CNN 30 years ago.

TURNER: Yes, and I'm still - I'm still involved. I watch it every day.

BLITZER: What do you think?

TURNER: You know, I'd like to see a little more international news. You know (INAUDIBLE) use the word foreign. And -

BLITZER: The reason you don't use foreign is because? TURNER: Because people all over the world are watching it, then it's not foreign anymore. It's local. You know, it emanates here on the planet.


I remember when I started working 20 years ago at CNN, they said don't talk about foreign policy. Don't talk about -

TURNER: International policy.

BLITZER: -- foreign news. You talk about international, that's right.

We didn't have a foreign affairs correspondent, we had an international affairs.

TURNER: Right.

BLITZER: That was because of you?


BLITZER: Because - you know, we're seen in 240 countries and territories around the world, and you want to make sure that - what?

TURNER: Well, that - I wanted to make sure when I was - when I was responsible that people didn't feel like they were far apart anymore because they're not. It's all hooked up in one satellite system.

BLITZER: When you thought about CNN 30 years ago and you had this vision, people thought you were nuts at the time.

TURNER: Right.

BLITZER: And you look now 30 years later, what do you think of how CNN has evolved?

TURNER: Well, I - you know, the fact that it's so widely available and so highly respected is - is good. I -- like I said, I - the things that bothered me is I didn't like them disbanding the - the environmental unit. I think the environment's one of the two or three biggest stories of our time, and I think you need a - a unit that's concentrating on it and really knows what's going on. It's -

But I think the environmental coverage is - is good. They do - but doing it mostly with regular - regular reporters. They don't have an environmental unit anymore.

BLITZER: That was one of your passions.

TURNER: I don't - I hate not to see the sports scores, you know, somewhere along the line. That CNN doesn't carry any sports -

BLITZER: We did - we did it for a long time, but then we dropped it. TURNER: I know. I know. I understand. We did a long time. If I was here, we'd still be doing it because I still want to know the sports scores, too, you know, along with politics. Not that I don't - I think the political coverage is good.


BLITZER: We're going have a lot more of my interview with Ted Turner, talk of a possible CNN merger and why he misses walking through the newsroom. Stand by for that.

And it's being described as a White House love fest, but can President Obama really trust his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai? Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher gives us his take.


BLITZER: Afghan President Hamid Karzai's meeting with President Obama this week is being described by some at least as a love fest of sorts. I asked Bill Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" what he thinks of the so-called White House "charm offensive".


BILL MAHER, HOST, REAL TIME WITH BILL 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 they - you would think 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, except, memo, they're already here. They're already here.

We found that out in Times Square. We found that out at Ft. Hood. We found that out with the guy who tried to blow up his underroos (ph) going to Detroit. They're already here, so what is the point of being in Afghanistan to begin with?

BLITZER: Well, 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. it will be close to 100,000 U.S. troops. But he wants to start withdrawing, basically, a year from now, hoping that 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 - I think we're - we're blowing about $100 million -- $100 billion a year in Afghanistan. That's perfectly good money we could be handing 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 billion or $12 billion, so we're spending 10 times what this country makes in a year on this country?

I don't even see the effect - you know, we went into Helmand Province recently and apparently we're going to turn it around down there where the Taliban were strong. That didn't seem to work.

I'm not saying that people aren't trying. You know, I know that McChrystal is a very impressive guy and he's got some good ideas. But, you know, 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's just the tenor of two evils.

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

MAHER: Well, that's 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 - I'm a big fan.

How have they handled it? I don't know what else they could have done. It's more a question of how this country has handled oil. I mean, 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's always a Conservative who then says, but we need the oil.

Yes, we need the oil as long as we keep saying we need the oil. And as long as we - 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 till the oil runs out.

BLITZER: Yes, we're showing -

MAHER: That's the only way we're going to get it to stop. BLITZER: We're showing our viewers that video that's been released of the actual spill that BP just released, the - the disaster over there. It's 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. But - I mean, and she's relatively young by Supreme Court standards. I mean, 50 years old is practically jailbait on the Supreme Court.

The question is is she the right person, you know?

BLITZER: What do you think?

MAHER: I don't understand how - well, I - I don't know, because she's such a mystery.

But I was hoping that since the Democrats won two elections in a row, rather handily, they would - 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 - and Alito. I mean, 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 realized how right wing this court is.

And this woman, I don't - I - nobody seems to know anything about her. I - I was just thinking we could do a lot better than a question mark when it came time to start balancing this court.

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.

Bill. Thanks very much.

MAHER: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: 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.