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Judge to Rule on Drilling Ban; Times Square Suspect Pleads Guilty

Aired June 21, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: A federal judge gets ready to rule on whether to lift the Obama administration's temporary freeze on deepwater drilling -- why opponents say the ban is only doing more harm to an already battered economy.

A pristine part of Florida's coast is not quite sparkling clean these days. It's now on the front line of the oil fight. We're going to hear about the impact on boaters and beachgoers, new information coming in.

And Rush Limbaugh railing against Republican leaders who pressured Texas Congressman Joe Barton to take back his apology to BP.

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

But, first, the breaking news: a guilty plea from the suspect in the botched Times Square bombing. Faisal Shahzad was in the New York City courtroom today offering a plea, but apparently no remorse. We're getting new details of what exactly happened inside that courtroom.

Allan Chernoff is joining us now with more on that. I take it he was pretty blunt, Faisal Shahzad.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: He certainly was. And as soon as he walked into the courtroom, in fact, he had a statement that he wanted to make, and he really walked in as an unapologetic warrior.

Have a listen to this, Wolf. He said -- quote -- "I want to plead guilty 100 times because unless the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan and Iraq, until they stop drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen, and stop attacking Muslim lands, we will attack the U.S. and be out to get them."

Now, Judge Miriam Cedarbaum also asked Shahzad, well, why do this? And he said, I'm a Muslim soldier, and then he also added, listen, you are attacking children with your drones in Afghanistan, when she said, you could have hurt innocent people, and he continued on by saying -- quote -- "I would not consider what I did was a crime. I'm aware it's a crime in the United States. I don't care about the law of the United States."

So, Faisal Shahzad pleading guilty to 10 criminal counts. Six of those counts carry a maximum term of (AUDIO GAP) I understand that the U.S. attorney's office is going to be sending a Pimentel letter. That is a letter to the court suggesting the maximum sentence for Mr. Shahzad.

I think we can anticipate that, when he is sentenced on October 5, it is going to be for a term of life in prison -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting developments. We will watch more with you. Allan, thanks.

Other news: On the Gulf Coast, tempers are rising right now over the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling. A federal judge in New Orleans says he will rule as soon as tomorrow on whether to lift the six-month ban on drilling below 500 feet.

CNN's Allan -- CNN's Chris Lawrence, I should say, is live from New Orleans with more on the backlash.

Chris, tell us what's going on, because these are critical hours.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And the decision could come as early as tomorrow.

And at one point during court, the federal judge asked the government, after the disaster at Exxon Valdez, you didn't ban oil tankers from that part of Alaska. So, why are you doing so here? That was just one of the questions that came up. And it's clear that some of this anger that has been directed at BP, now some of the people we're talking to are saying it's just going a little bit too far.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): All the anger that D.C. directed at BP is being deflected right back at Washington. Some businesses sued the Obama administration in a New Orleans federal court Monday, asking a judge to issue an injunction and lift the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.

VELMA MOCK, OPPOSES MORATORIUM: What are we going to do? We have replaced our homes two or three times because of hurricanes. We are going to lose our homes again because of a moratorium that's not needed?

LAWRENCE: Velma Mock's company runs the boats that supply the rigs. Other supporting companies like her argue the government had no good basis to shut down rigs with no safety violations. Unlike supporting businesses, the rig workers are getting paid from a $100 million fund BP set up specifically for them.

MOCK: Their companies will try to place them with smaller rigs wherever they can, overseas, wherever they can put them. We will quit working before they will. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time after time, it's been shown that BP chooses expediency over safety.

LAWRENCE: Some in the Gulf are getting tired of politicians piling on BP and its CEO, Tony Hayward.

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: You have 26 people dead, more than 170 injured. You have the largest spill ever in Alaska. You now have the largest environmental disaster to hit the United States.

SHANE GUIDRY, CEO, HARVEY GULF INTERNATIONAL MARINE: And they're just, they're just, I mean, badgering in some instances this guy. I mean, we need this guy.

LAWRENCE: Shane Guidry says the politicians' anger is designed to make voters so upset with BP, they will forget how mad they were at Washington.

GUIDRY: And the American public needs to understand that this is going on. BP is being scalped in more ways at one. And as mad as we are at them, we need them to survive.

LAWRENCE: Even a fisherman who has been haggling with BP over his damage claim says outsiders are trying to pit one industry against another.

(on camera): Are you mad at BP?

STU SCHEER, CHARTER BOAT CAPTAIN: No. We have coexisted with the oil companies down here my entire life, and they have created some of the greatest fishing habitat in the world. A lot of the environmentalists don't want to hear that, but it's true. The rigs are like a food chain, and housing and cover for the fish, and it's created great fishing area.


LAWRENCE: Now, the federal government argues that the moratorium is needed. They say the Deepwater Horizon passed its safety test, too, before it exploded, which proves that the current regulations are just too soft.

They say that an overabundance of caution is what's needed here because the area just can't survive another disaster like this one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Chris, thanks very much.

The White House sticking to its guns on the drilling ban. Listen to this.


BILL BURTON, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Well, the defense for the moratorium is that the president thinks we need to do every single thing that we can do to ensure the safety of those workers who are out on those rigs, and until he can say that he's done everything that he thinks is appropriate to ensure their safety, he doesn't want to move forward on this drilling.


BLITZER: The Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, on the other hand, is siding with those who want the moratorium lifted right away.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's joining us.

Jeff, the statement that Jindal put out said states are entitled to participate in these kinds of policy decisions, but the states had no role in this moratorium.


This is a really interesting legal dispute, which, of course, is highly colored by politics, by economics, and business, but it's important to remember that the judge is really going to decide a very narrow question, not whether the moratorium is a good idea, not whether the moratorium will cost more jobs than anybody predicts.

The narrow issue is, does the federal government have the legal grounds, the legal authority to impose this moratorium? And that's a pretty likely yes answer. The government grants these right -- licenses to drill. They can with -- they can usually have the right to withdraw them.

BLITZER: If he surprises us, the judge, in this particular case, and lifts the moratorium, I assume the federal government would then appeal right away. What happens as the appeal process goes forward?

TOOBIN: Well, it would depend on whether the losing side in front of Judge -- the judge in New Orleans gets a stay. That would be -- so you can't predict that in advance, but the status quo now is that the moratorium is in place.

And the question is, by tomorrow at noon -- because that's the time the judge says he's going to issue his opinion -- will the moratorium be in effect after noon?

BLITZER: As a principle, though in these kinds of cases, federal rights usually have an advantage over state rights.

TOOBIN: That's true, and you can tell in the briefs on both sides, the issue is, is the federal government acting arbitrarily and capriciously? Those are the legal buzzwords. Because the only way this action can be overturned is if the federal government acted arbitrarily and capriciously.

Given the magnitude of what's happened in the Gulf, given how much damage the Gulf is suffering now, I think it's a pretty tough argument for the plaintiffs in this case to make that it was arbitrary, capricious, irrational for the federal government to shut down these rigs for a limited period of time. But there is law on the other side. As always with legal issues, they're not 100 percent clear, so we will see what the judge says.

BLITZER: And the stakes are enormous, environmentally, economically, certainly. We will be watching this closely tomorrow. Thanks very much, Jeff, for that.


BLITZER: The front line of the oil fight now stretching all to the Florida's Emerald Coast, usually crowded this time of the year with beachgoers and boaters and a lot of people.

CNN's David Mattingly is joining us now from Destin, Florida.

What are they saying there? What's happening, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tar balls have shown up sporadically all up and down the Emerald Coast here. It's been small in small places, but enough to make everybody worried about what's going to happen next, especially right here.

We're in Destin, Florida. This is the Destin Pass. This is the main waterway that goes under this bridge, out to the Gulf of Mexico. Officials here say they want to protect this waterway and to keep the oil out of this bay at all costs.

Well, they have been having -- putting a very elaborate plan into action here. But the problem is, the costs have mounted up and they don't have any money coming in to pay for it.

So, they had a meeting today with their U.S. senator. And they have basically told him, Senator, show me the money.


MATTINGLY: Is this county going to get its money in time to get this protection in place?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Yes. This county and a lot of these other little counties that just simply don't have the financial wherewithal to be paying all of these bills, and they have got to have some relief, so yes, they will get their money.


MATTINGLY: They need about $2.8 million just to get their plan started.

This boom here is just the last line of defense. It's a very elaborate system that they hope will prove to be the model for communities all up and down here, as they try to protect not only their beaches, but the freshwater waterways inside the beaches as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. This is obviously a very, very worrisome story. You will stay top of it for us, David. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty will have "The Cafferty File" in just a moment.

Also, the BP boss, Tony Hayward, takes heat for jetting off to a yacht race. Can Republicans paint President Obama with the same brush for playing golf over the weekend?

Plus, a messy situation for congressional Republicans getting worse right now. Get this: Rush Limbaugh slamming GOP leaders for forcing a congressman to retract his apology to BP.

And just over a year from now, U.S. troops are supposed to start coming home from Afghanistan, so why the mixed messages from the White House and the Pentagon right now?


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it's an ominous sign of the end of an era. For 110 years, the United States has been the world's leading manufacturer. It's a title we will probably lose to China next year.

A report by an economic research firm shows that China's manufacturing sector nearly caught up to the U.S. output last year and will likely surpass us in 2011. According to IHS Global Insight, China may be able to close quickly, particularly due to the recent announcement that it's going to let its currency, the yuan, rise in value against the U.S. dollar.

But even without a stronger Chinese currency, their manufacturing sector has been growing at a much faster rate than the United States. No surprise, is it, since we have been shutting down factories left and right for years and shipping our jobs overseas, where the labor is cheaper.

One expert suggests the United States shouldn't worry too much about losing the title to China. He says it's obvious China would pull ahead of us at some point since they have four times the population and one-tenth of the wages of the United States.

Oh, really? Then, where were they for the last 110 years? Nevertheless, with almost 10 percent unemployment in this country, there's no question we could use those jobs back here on these shores. The U.S. has been the world's top manufacturer for more than a century.

In the late 1890s, the U.S. passed Britain, which had held the top slot for a few decades. Before that, it was all China. They held the title of world's leading producer of goods for more than 1,500 years. Looks like they're about to reclaim the title soon.

Here is the question. What does it mean if China overtakes the U.S. as the world's leading manufacturer? Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf. BLITZER: It's worrisome, obviously. All right, Jack, thanks very much.

Some Republicans are pouncing on President Obama right now for getting in some R&R over the Father's Day weekend. Critics are questioning whether he should have gone golfing, earlier to a baseball game, as the Gulf oil disaster passed the two-month mark.


BURTON: After a week where the president was taking on the oil spill, got an historic agreement with BP to put aside $20 billion to pay claims; after a day on Friday when he strengthened lobby and ethics rules in the White House; after going to Ohio to talk about the economy and see the progress that's being made and some of those stimulus projects that are happening around the country -- all the different issues that the president is dealing with, I think that a little time to himself on Father's Day weekend probably does us all good as American citizens that our president is taking that time.


BLITZER: Bill Burton, the president's deputy White House press secretary.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Michael Steele, the chairman of the RNC, he really criticized the president for spending some time golfing over the weekend, saying he should not be doing this at the time of the worst environmental disaster in American history.


It's interesting. I was talking to some Republicans about that today, Wolf, and the question they raised to me, why is Michael Steele out there criticizing the president? Because, by implication, he seems to be saying, well, is it -- it's OK then for Hayward to be on his yacht or equating the two.

And, of course, the two are not the same. Nobody begrudges the president a few hours off for a little bit of R&R. And being on a yacht, when you're in the middle of the largest environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, when your company is teetering and your own job is teetering, seems to me to be really bad optics.

And so I think to equate Hayward with Barack Obama, lots of Republicans think that was a step too far.

BLITZER: Yes. I have covered a lot of presidents.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And the party out of power, whenever a president relaxes, goes on vacation...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... the other party is always criticizing that president for doing that. George W. Bush, whenever he was on vacation in Texas, he got hammered all the time.


BORGER: He did. And I remember at a certain point, George W. Bush stopped playing golf during the Iraq war. He came under some criticism for it and I remember that he did curtail it.

But, you know, again, it's an apple and an orange, Hayward to the president of the United States.

BLITZER: All right, there's another little interesting little battle going on between Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, and Sarah Palin. Listen to Rahm yesterday on ABC.


RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Members of the Republican leadership have come to the defense of BP and attacked the administration for forcing them to set up an escrow account and fund it to the level of $20 billion.

These aren't political gaffes. You know, I have been in hearings. Joe Barton was speaking from prepared remarks. Rand Paul, who is running in Kentucky, a leading Senate candidate for the Republicans said BP, the way they were being treated was un-American.

That is an approach to -- they think that the government is the problem. And in this balance, and the difference here is that BP made a mess. And the government, and also in the president's view, and in certain areas like MMS, hasn't done its job.


BLITZER: All right, here is what Sarah Palin tweeted: "Rahm Emanuel equals as shallow, narrow-minded, politically irresponsible as they come. To falsely claim Barton's BP comment is GOP philosophy, Rahm, you lie."


BLITZER: Striking words on Twitter from Sarah Palin.

BORGER: Sounds like Joe Wilson a little bit, doesn't it?

Look, maybe it wasn't in his prepared text. We did not see the prepared text. It certainly was in his opening statement. And here's...


BLITZER: you're talking about Joe Barton, the congressman. BORGER: Joe Barton. Here's what's going on right now, Wolf, is that each party is struggling to decide what the narrative of the 2010 midterm election is going to be.

And the Democrats would rather not that it be about Barack Obama. They want to say to voters out there, OK, if you don't like Barack Obama, think of what the alternative would be. Let's talk about the alternative.

And so what Rahm Emanuel, who is, you know, no novice at politics, was saying, OK, if you don't like us, guess who's going to be chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee if Republicans take over the House? None other than Joe Barton. And, by the way, that may not be true.

So he's trying to frame the debate in a very different way, and Sarah Palin did not want him to do that.

BLITZER: If I'm a lecture agent out there, I have a dream, a vision one day, when Rahm Emanuel retires, leaves the White House, he goes on the lecture circuit, and they organize a debate with Sarah Palin. A lot of folks will pay a lot of money to see that debate.

BORGER: Oh, I bet they would. Maybe they will come right here in THE SIT ROOM and do it for free.

BLITZER: No, I think they want to do it for a lot of money. Once they -- she's making a lot of money on the lecture circuit.

BORGER: She is.

BLITZER: Rahm Emanuel will make a lot of money on the lecture circuit someday probably as well.

Thanks very much, Gloria.


BLITZER: The conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh wading into the Joe Barton controversy as well -- that story coming up.



BLITZER: On the front lines of the oil fight. We're going to be hearing from the captain of a Coast Guard skimming vessel trying to trap the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

And wait until you hear Rush Limbaugh railing against Republican leaders. What did they do to get him angry?

And mixed messages on Afghanistan from the highest levels of the White House and the Pentagon. When will the troops really start coming home? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On the front lines of the oil crisis, a Coast Guard skimming vessel working containment booms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Brian Todd spoke with the skipper -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are so many important battlefronts in this fight against the oil spill. Right now, we're going to take you to one of the most crucial ones.

This is on board the Coast Guard cutter Oak. It's one of the key vessels that is engaging in skimming operations on the Gulf. We have two cameras that are streaming video from the deck of that vessel. And we're on the line now the commander of that vessel, Coast Guard Commander Mike Glander.

Commander, thanks very much for joining us.

We're going to start with the camera on the starboard side of the boat, which, to the layperson, is the right-hand side of the boat. As the boat is moving forward and you're looking forward, the starboard side is the right-hand side. Take a look at this operation. This is the actual skimming as we're talking about it.

And, Commander, it looks like a boom is going out here. The dark material that we're seeing on camera here is the oil. Please explain to us how this is all working.


You see the orange-colored boom, the purpose of which is to funnel that oil and collect it in the back of the pocket. And then the smaller orange circle you can see is attached to our skimmer. The skimmer that we have is called a weir skimmer. And it operates on the weir principle.

If you can imagine a dish about the size of a truck tire, it sits at water level and only allows the very top surface (AUDIO GAP) to fall inside. Then it collects at the bottom and is pumped out through a hose either to our tanks or to the barge that is on our other side of our ship.

TODD: And I believe what we're seeing on the left-hand side of this port screen is that barge, correct? And tell us what the barge is doing.

GLANDER: Yes, that green part there is the deck of the barge. We prefer to collect the oil in as large of quantity as possible and so when we find it in those larger quantities and get the ship on it, we bring our barge alongside and we pump directly to that barge and that allows us to collect perhaps as much as 1,000 barrels a day, if we're lucky. When we have oil that breaks off some of the larger pools and threatens the coast, the advantage of our coast guard cutters is that we can zip in there and just using our tanks skim up the smaller pieces of oil that threaten the beaches and the marshes. TODD: Commander, what is the most difficult part of this entire operation do you think?

GLANDER: Well, our crew is experiencing some hot days. This is tough work out there. I think what keeps them and keeps us all motivated is the knowledge that every drop of oil that we can remove from the water and place in our tanks won't cause any more pain or trouble or environmental risk.

TODD: Some people believe that the skimming operations are essentially the equivalent of using a teaspoon to clean up something just much, much larger. How much of a difference do you think you're making in the overall effort to contain this spill?

GLANDER: Coast guard skimmers like ours and other skimmers that are out here are making an impact. As an example, our sister ship, the coast guard cutter elm in this very location collected over 3,000 barrels over the last two days. They were able to vector us to this location using a satellite marking buoy and so we use that sort of technology to make the very best use of all of our limited resources. That 3,000 barrels of oil that was removed is really 3,000 less barrels of trouble and pain for the people who make their living and work on these shores and enjoy them.

TODD: All right. Commander, thank you very much for joining us and best of luck in this operation. Wolf, this coast guard cutter the "Oak" has really been busy this year. It was deployed off the coast of Haiti earlier this year to take part in that humanitarian relief effort. It didn't get much of a break before the crew had to then be deployed from their home port of Charleston, South Carolina back over to the Gulf to take part in this operation. Commander Glander says they collected about 5,000 barrels of oil so far. He said they will stay as long as is necessary -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Critical work. Thanks, Brian, very much.

Phone lines are now getting ready to open for Larry King's special telethon to benefit the people and wildlife affected by the Gulf oil disaster. Our viewers here in the United States should tune in at 8:00 p.m. eastern for a special two-hour broadcast, "Disaster in the Gulf, How You Can Help." Larry is going to be joined by an extraordinary supporting cast, and Larry is joining us now, a little preview of what we're about to experience. This will be really important work, Larry, that you and all your friends are going to be doing.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: We hope so, Wolf. We hope it works. Back in January, we raised $10 million for Haiti, remember that two- here telethon. That may be a little ambitious for this because people think because BP is involved and the government's involved they don't have to give, but this is of immediate concern because this is how people can help right now. We know bureaucracy, no one knows it better than you, Wolf, that's going to take time. BP is not turning this over tomorrow. Meanwhile, people are out of work and not getting food for the family, and wildlife is being deprived. So, three different people are aided by this tonight, the United Way, they're going to give emergency relief directly to people, the Nature Conservatory, which setting is up aid to establish critical habitats such as marshes and seagrass beds and oyster reefs, and the National Wildlife Federation, development and deployment of volunteer network for Gulf Coast surveillance. What happens is when you call in the number 800-491-Gulf, you will tell the operators, they're all celebrities, where you want it to go. You can say United Way, Nature Conservatory, or National Wildlife Federation, or all three.

You can start calling in now because SITUATION ROOM as per usual breaks the phone number first and the phone number is 800-491-Gulf, G- U-L-F. We'll be on from 5:00 to 7:00 pacific, from 8:00 until 10:00 eastern, and that will be the two-hour "Disaster in the Gulf, How You Can Help" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me just repeat the number, it's 1-800-491-Gulf or 491-4853. For people, they can start calling, Larry, that number right now and making a contribution, a modest one or maybe a nicer one, a little bit more, any amount, right?

KING: Right. Get a head start. And when the operator answers you, just tell them United Way, Nature Conservancy, or the National Wildlife Federation, or all three, and the numbers are now open, 800- 491-Gulf, and we'll see you in about an hour and a half.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Larry, thanks very much. You guys are doing important work and all the folks out there, all of us are grateful to you for it. Larry King, a special two-hour Larry King here in the United States starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern. Larry says a little bit less than 90 minutes from now.

Rush Limbaugh with some angry words for Republicans over their response to a GOP lawmaker's apology to BP. We're going to tell you his take on the so-called shakedown comments.

And U.S. troops are supposed to start coming home from Afghanistan in July of 2011, that's one year from now, but now there are some mixed messages coming in from senior Obama administration officials, what is going on? Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: This just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM right now, the Obama administration has sent another bill to BP for what's called responsive recovery operations, this third bill for $51.4 million, two earlier bills totaling $70.89 million have been paid in full by BP. So far, BP has spent about $2 billion dealing with this Gulf disaster.

When Texas Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP for what he called a shakedown by the Obama administration, Republican leaders pressured him to apologize. Now listen to conservative radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: We don't have all the facts yet, but shakedown would appear to be the correct term if BP surrendered $20 billion to the White House under duress. Let me ask you a question, would BP have done this on their own? They were already complying with existing law on liability. They were already up to $65 million on their way to much higher figure.


BLITZER: And let's bring in CNN's John King, he's the host of "John King USA" that comes up right at the top of the hour. It takes an interesting twist to the story right now. When Rush Limbaugh is saying that, I assume Democrats, that's music to their ears

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It's music to their ears as they try to make a political issue out of this saying the Republicans want to defend BP and defend big oil against all those people who live in the Gulf Coast who have seen their livelihood threatened if not destroyed. This is fascinating, Wolf. It's not the first time Rush Limbaugh who would identify himself as a conservative, not a Republican, has taken an issue with the Republican leadership and what he is saying here is that because Joe Barton also apologized to Tony Hayward, the BP CEO, that they have decided to run for the hills and not say, hey, wait a minute, is this an appropriate (ph) use of the government.

When you're investigating BP to center the cross the table, to negotiate this fund, there are number of conservatives who want to have that conversation, should the administration have done this, was it appropriate and to ask about oversight of that money. What Rush Limbaugh is saying is that because Barton apologized to Hayward and because some Gulf Coast Republicans objected, that he says they looked at the polling data and they ran for the hills, tension in a year, when Republicans should have the wind at their back, when it comes to turnout, when it comes to enthusiasm and intensity, it's a risk.

BLITZER: If Barton would have just said in that opening statement when he had Tony Hayward testifying before the committee, one he just said, "was it appropriate," I don't think it was appropriate if he would have said for the Attorney General Eric Holder to sit on these negotiating meetings with BP, he would have been fine because a lot of conservatives would have agreed with him on that.

KING: Even if he had said "I have a lot of concerns about picking Ken Feinberg, a guy who has been involved in other government ventures, is the pay all right now, I have concerns about how this is going to be administered, what is the transparency, what are the safeguards, should the attorney general have been in the room, was there any political pressure on you, those are all perfectly legitimate questions that any Democrat or any Republican could have asked.

Because he also apologized and then used shakedown and slush fund, those are very pejorative words and that is where -- look, Wolf, the more you talk to people about this that day, immediately, there were votes on the floor, so this spread around the Republican caucus like wildfire, and they want no part of it because they want BP to be the villain here.

BLITZER: Yes, let's not forget Ken Feinberg was picked by the Bush administration to administer the funds for the 9/11 compensation as well. So, he got a little bipartisan supporter.

KING: Yes, and you saw the first thing he did was go down to the Gulf and meet with Haley Barbour, a Republican governor who himself had raised some questions about having the government involved. Governor Barbour says he wants to see how it plays out, but, so far, he's asked his questions and he's gotten his answers

BLITZER: John, we'll have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour. We'll be watching, John. Thank you.

American troops are supposed to start withdrawing from Afghanistan next summer but will they? Conflicting information coming in.

And is there anything wrong with BP's CEO going yachting or the president going golfing while oil continues to pour into the Gulf?


BLITZER: Forces died in Afghanistan today. A military spokesman saying two U.S. soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device blew up in Eastern Afghanistan, another allied service member died after a small arms attack in the south. Four died in a helicopter crash, three of them Australians, two more troops died in bombings in Southern Afghanistan.

Meantime, a flurry of mixed messages about when U.S. troops will start returning from the war in Afghanistan. Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, we're getting some conflicting signals coming in from senior officials.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we sure are. Look, if the senior officials are speaking from the same page, it certainly looks like they are at least reading different paragraphs.


STARR (voice-over): July 2011 is when U.S. troops are supposed to start coming home from Afghanistan, but across Washington, top officials appear to be on different pages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody knows there's a firm date and that firm date is, as the date deals with the troops that are part of the surge, the additional 30,000. What will be determined at that date or going into that date will be this scale and scope of that reduction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not the date when we look for the door and try to turn off the light but rather a date at which a process begins.

STARR: Why the difference? As pressure grows to show progress, Emanuel is assuring voters the president will stick to his withdrawal pledge. Petraeus is assuring Afghans, the U.S. won't just pack up and leave. And more July 2011 disconnect. In a new book, Vice President Joe Biden promised quote, "a whole lot of people will be moving out next July." The pentagon chief says, "not so fast."

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: That absolutely has not been decided.

STARR: One reason for the mixed messages? The war is going slower than planned. U.S. casualties are up. Elements of the U.S. move into Kandahar. The Southern Taliban stronghold have been delayed. Even the significance of Kandahar in the war is in dispute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As goes Kandahar, so goes Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it is not indicative of the entire story in Afghanistan.


STARR (on-camera): So, lots of contradictory statements, Wolf, lots of touchy feelings all over the place about what exactly is going on in the war.

BLITZER: Barbara, I'm hearing there's a new "Rolling Stone" magazine article coming out with some comments about General Stanley McChrystal, the overall NATO commander in Afghanistan, causing a lot of buzz already. What's going on?

STARR: Wolf, at this hour, this article now being read at the highest levels across Washington, causing consternation to say the least. "Rolling Stone" profiling General Stanley McChrystal with a lot of controversy, some of his aides not named but are in the article making disrespectful statements about the president of the United States. There are anecdotes of his age, drinking alcohol to a considerable amount in public, but it is this question of whether General McChrystal can tolerate aid speaking disrespectfully about the commander in chief.

This is a very serious matter because General McChrystal has command responsibility for his aides. At this hour, we know that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, all the top leaders in the Pentagon are aware of the article, are reading it, and we will see in the coming hours, Wolf, what they have to say about this and what they have to say to General McChrystal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll follow up tomorrow with that. Thanks very much, Barbara Starr.

Let's take a quick break. Jack Cafferty and your e-mail right after this.


BLITZER: Check back with jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is, what does it mean if China overtakes the U.S. as the world's leading manufacturer which is expected to do next year after 110 years.

Bob in Arizona, it means the beginning of the end for this country. To sustain our standard of living, I believe we have to make things and create wealth for all who are willing to work for it. We'll all be answering to the Chinese in the not to distant future.

Mike in Oklahoma City says, it means we've allowed large corporations to sell out our country while we sat back and bought cheap goods made by slaves in the third world.

Ralph says, China holds all the cards. First, they don't have to hire based on diversity. They pick the most qualified like Japan. Next, no EPA, no labor unions, no immigration problems. Their schools and health care take care of only their own citizens.

David in Las Vegas says, just add manufacturing to a long list of first place titles we've lost in the last 20 years. Although, we are in first place in many areas, obesity, high school drop outs, percentage of our population that's in jail, drug use, medical costs, illegal people in the country, et cetera. The list is getting longer as I type this.

Daniel writes, it means China like the U.S. a century ago is getting closer to becoming the world's economic superpower. And why not? America is divided on almost every single important issue. Politicians are beholden to every lobby, and the country is ultimately unable to modernize and move forward. Yes, China is rising, but it's America's own fault for falling behind.

And Anne Marie writes this (INAUDIBLE), great for China, so sad for the United States. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania that boosted factories of all sorts, dresses, shirts, shoes, hats, furniture. They're all gone. Not one is left. Welfare was rare. There was pride in earning a paycheck and the satisfaction of a job well done. Our government unions, lawyers, and greed have destroyed what once made America great.

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog at -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Just ahead at the top of the hour on "John King, USA", Senator Tom Coburn, the Senate of the Intelligence Committee on the plea deal on the failed Times Square bomb case. Also, his take on Rush Limbaugh waiting into the controversy on whether the Obama administration is shaking down BP. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: President Obama and the CEO of BP are both taking some heat over the Gulf oil disaster, but now, over their weekend leisure activities as well. CNN Jeanne Moos has a most unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the yachting versus golf smack down, round one. BP's CEO gets pummeled for taking a day off to watch his yacht race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How dare he just take off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The height of stupidity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you spell fool.

MOOS: But before you could spell BP CEO, President Obama's golfing came under attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost five hours on the golf course with Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it should have been eight times between --

MOOS: Actually, seven times. CBS White House correspondent, Mark Knoller says already President Obama has played 39 rounds of golf compared to the 24 George Bush played his entire presidency, including some that got into a Michael Moore film.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.

MOOS: Some equate President Obama's golf to Tony Hayward's yachting, two different men, two different jobs, one management style, the president's defenders note a big difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the thing. He didn't create that mess that is there. What do they want the man to do? Put a wet suit on and go down there and fix the pipe.

MOOS: Meanwhile, Politico pondered the really important question, why is Tony Hayward's yacht named Bob? Wondering if it had anything to do with the Bill Murray movie, "What About Bob?" Sailors so scared he has to be lashed to the mast. Now, Tony Hayward is being lashed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really think it was a disgrace.

MOOS: On the other hand, surprisingly (ph), it was the first day off he's had in two months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too bad. Look what he did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll be damned if his life is a day off (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's probably do for a little down time.

MOOS: But down time on the water can be a downer. Remember when presidential candidate, John Kerry, went wind surfing and it ended up in an attack ad. BP CEO is being mocked in an animation by a Taiwanese tabloid website. He sits on the beach, sending out a drink to a guy -- drowning an oil from the mounts of bays (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED KID: My mom doesn't take a break like every two months. You don't really need to take a break every two months to go and see a yacht race.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: In the two hours, it takes to golf or to go yachting another one to 10,000 gallons of oil can leak out.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: President Obama, I'm not sure he should actually be golfing right now.

MOOS: Just plug the darn hole Mr. President.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And remember, you can always follow what's going on behind-the-scenes here in the SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at, all one word. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. "John King, USA" starts right now.