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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama tries to repair Israel relations after flotilla raid, Job creation an issue for U.S. present economy
Aired July 5, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, thanks, Rick.
Happening now, President Obama tries to push the reset button on U.S. relations with Israel. Will this go around with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be any different? This hour the talks, the tension, and the struggle for Middle East peace.
Also, the psychological toll of the gulf oil spill. A new move to make sure that BP helped victims of mental stress.
And the British royals may be watching their pennies but that's not stopping the queen from making a whirlwind trip to New York. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in "The Situation Room."
New moves today by Israel setting the stage for tomorrow's high stakes talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama. Now, Israel is announcing a change in its controversial blockade policy to allow more goods into Gaza but at the same time Israel is refusing to apologize to Turkey for an Israeli raid on an aid ship to Gaza that killed nine Turkish citizens.
I want to bring in our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. And Dan, it almost seems like groundhog's day. There have been so many visits between Netanyahu and President Obama but what do you get the sense of what the expectations are at this next go round?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This would be the fifth visit. You know, no one is expecting that there will be any big policy announcement that comes out of the visit. Obviously there are some big hurdles that remain in the struggle for peace but the visit is seen as a crucial step by the Obama administration in trying to get both sides to sit down and talk face to face.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): The relationship between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sometimes been described as frosty. But the White House downplays any rift and instead is touting a warm reception Tuesday where Mr. Obama will try to seize momentum from recent talks in the Middle East peace process.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think they'll host, discuss a series of important bilateral issues, the implementation of Israel's recent policy changes in Gaza, regional security, our on- going proximity talks, and the need and hope to get quickly to direct talks.
LOTHIAN: As it stands Israelis and Palestinians are involved in so-called proximity talks where U.S. officials serve as a go between. A top White House aide said the gaps have narrowed but getting to direct talks remains a major challenge.
Palestinian leaders say it all hinges on Israel halting all construction of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements. At his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he is ready for face-to-face negotiations the only, "possible way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL (through translator): The main point of talks with President Obama will be on the issue of direct negotiations. There is no substitute for the entering into negotiations.
LOTHIAN: Now, of course, this meeting will follow. It comes on the heels of two other important meetings that have taken place here at the White House. President Obama sat down with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and also the Prime Minister, Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, where we are told that they talked about issues of regional security and of course the progress that was made in getting your U.N. sanctions on Iran. Iran expected to be part of the discussions tomorrow as well, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And Dan, I know, you and I covered the last go round when Netanyahu was at the White House. The White House did not allow cameras into that meeting. You had no kind of formal question and answer. I know that that is changed for tomorrow. Are you getting a sense of why?
NETANYAHU: That's right. I mean, we are expecting that both leaders will come out and make some remarks and then perhaps even take some questions and maybe this is a way for the administration to sort of roll out the red carpet. As you point out, the last time that he was here, we did not get a chance to cover the event and in fact the president at one point left Mr. Netanyahu and his staff to sit down and confer for about an hour as he retreated to the residence.
So there was seen as some friction there because that came shortly after as you remember in Israel when Vice President Biden was visiting there the announcement was made that there would be expansion, construction, in East Jerusalem. That caught the administration off guard. They were not happy about that, so, you know, now we are expecting there will be this warm welcome. We'll see what happens tomorrow, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Dan, and also I understand, too, we've traveled the world with the president and obviously as a candidate he did visit Israel once. He has not done so as President Obama. Do you have a sense of whether or not that is in the works? LOTHIAN: You know, that is such a good question because there have been some Jewish groups that have been wanting to know why the president has not gone there and in fact at the last briefing that Robert Gibbs held late last week he was asked that very question, whether or not the president had any plans to go to Israel. He said not that he's aware of.
MALVEAUX: All right. Dan, thank you very much for that. Look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the White House.
Well, there is something else that is complicating the Middle East peace process and tomorrow's talks at the White House. That is Israel's deadly raid on the aid ship to Gaza. It has now soured relations with another key U.S. ally in the region. That is Turkey. And there seems to be no sign today that either side is willing to budge.
Here's CNN Fred Pleitgen.
FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than a month after Israel's deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, both sides are ratcheting up the rhetoric.
Turkey's foreign minister has reportedly threatened to sever ties with Israel over the incident, which left nine Turkish citizens dead. Either they apologize or accept an international inquiry commission and its report or relations will be broken. Ahmed Davutoglu is quoted as saying in the newspaper "Hurriyet."
Turkey later toned the statement down somewhat but still says it wants to send a strong message to the Israelis. Jerusalem's reaction came promptly, the Israelis saying they would never apologize for the raid.
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Our positions are clear and as I say, I don't want a public war of words with the Turkish government.
PLEITGEN: In late May several aid organizations launched cargo ships from Turkey looking to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. They were intercepted by Israeli commandos and an ensuing confrontation on one of the ships, the "Mavi Marmara" left nine Turks dead and several Israeli soldiers wounded. Both sides blamed each other for the escalation causing a rift between two countries that have been strategic allies in the Middle East for decades, a relationship that has been strained for a while, observers say.
DAVID HOROVITZ, "JERUSALEM POST": Israel does not want ties with Turkey to get any worse. It's pessimistic about relations with Turkey because it thinks that the Turkish prime minister is identifying if you like with the Islamic leadership of Hamas in Gaza.
PLEITGEN: After the flotilla incident, Turkey canceled exercises with the Israeli defense forces, denied Israeli military planes the right to fly in its air space, and recalled its ambassador from Jerusalem. But both sides acknowledge that ministers have met behind the scenes to discuss the future of their relations.
(on camera): For the time being neither side is willing to budge at least publicly, threatening the very close and unique relationship between two of America's most important allies in the Middle East.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Jerusalem.
MALVEAUX: The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico now has reached a disturbing new location. We're going to tell you where tar balls are showing up now for the first time.
Also, a fresh look at the giant oil skimmer. It's called "A Whale." Is it working the way it's supposed to? That is the question.
And Queen Elizabeth comes to New York. And Britain's own Richard Quest, well, he's there to greet her. Stand by for his unique take on the royal visit.
MALVEAUX: The price tag for the gulf oil spill now tops $3.1 million and the tab for the cleanup, containment, and damages keeps growing by the hour. Another disturbing first in the disaster. Officials are now confirming that tar balls have reached Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain. A potential weapon against the oil is still being tested now. It is the world's largest skimmer. It's called the "A Whale."
It's used to try to separate crude from sea water over the weekend. But a spokesman for the company that owns the ship says it's not clear if the "A Whale" was effective because of rough seas during that test period.
Our CNN's Ed Lavandera got an up close look at the oil fighting giant.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Underneath there is where the containers and where the oil could be skimmed into is being held right now. So we're going to go check that out.
Those slits that you see on the side of the ship are called the jaws, and that is the critical component that has been retrofitted to help this ship collect oil.
(on camera): So the oil is going to come through here into these valves and then into a series of five tanks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LAVANDERA: that's the process of separating oil from water. What you see here is called the jaws. Essentially when this ship gets the clearance to go out and start skimming oil, the oil will come into here and then they get brought into these valves and get processed where they will begin the process of separating the water from the oil.
MALVEAUX: The "A Whale" oil skimmer is a whopping 1,100 feet long. Now, just to help you get your head wrapped around this, how big this is, it's about the size of three and a half football fields. It is roughly the same size as an aircraft carrier and the "A Whale" is more than 200 feet longer than the "Titanic." It is more than 11 times bigger than the largest living whales which can grow up to 100 feet.
Well, no one would dispute that the massive oil spill has caused enormous hardship in the gulf region. But as BP processes damage claims should it be held accountable for the psychological toll on area residents and workers?
Our Lisa Sylvester is looking into that. And Lisa, what are we finding? What do you know?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, BP has said again and again that it will pay for all legitimate claims associated with the oil spill. But right now it's an open question. Is that limited to just economic compensation or should BP have to cover mental health claims as well?
SYLVESTER (voice-over): () for 25 years was a charter boat captain in Alabama. As the gulf waters filled with oil, he worried fishing was gone for good.
The day that the oil entered the gulf my phone quit ringing.
SYLVESTER: The mental stress took its toll. A month after this interview on his boat the rookie, Cruz committed suicide.
At the St. Bernard Project just outside New Orleans, the wait for people seeking mental health services has stretched from three to four weeks to more than seven weeks since the oil spill.
ZACK ROSENBURG, ST. BERNARD PROJECT: What they're telling our clinicians is they're afraid of the future. You know, the water and the culture, the water isn't just the way to earn an income, it's a way of life down here. It's a way families spend time and have done so for generations. And there is no definition around when things are going to get better. SYLVESTER: Louisiana Congressman Joseph Cao has introduced an amendment that will allow people affected people to file mental health claims against BP's $20 billion liability fund. He says even as a politician separated by several degrees he has felt the toll and can only imagine what it's like for those directly impacted.
REP. JOSEPH CAO (R), LOUISIANA: Every morning when I wake up I feel this heavyweight on my shoulders just thinking about the oil spill, just thinking about the thousands of people affected. And the hundreds of businesses that have closed and the impact to the economy.
SYLVESTER: Cao says current law and the BP claims process do not cover mental health services. He's appealing to President Obama and the administrator of the BP fund Kenneth Feinberg to consider such claims. Feinberg's office would not specifically comment on whether they will do it but in an interview he talked about the delicate balancing act.
KENNETH FEINBERG, BP FUND ADMINISTRATOR: I mean, you have to understand that on the one hand you want to help as many people as possible with legitimate claims. On the other hand you have to draw some line, some line drawing, some equitable distinction. Now, where exactly I'll draw that line and what circumstances I can't say.
SYLVESTER: Now the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee adopted Representative Cao's amendment and it now heads to the House floor. But even Cao admits, you know, since this law was not in place at the time of the spill there may be a legal challenge getting BP to pay mental health claims retroactively if they don't decide to do it on their own. But Cao believes these are legitimate claims that should ultimately be covered. Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And Lisa, I understand that the state of Louisiana has asked BP specifically to set aside $10 million for a fund to deal with mental health issues. Where does that stand now?
SYLVESTER: Yes, they originally sent out their letter back in late May, May 28th but the problem is that BP has been taking its time responding. The last response that we got - CNN asked BP, you know, what's going on? And what BP told us is that they are currently still in discussions with all the stakeholders, mental health experts, and the state, are saying, you know, we don't have a lot of time on our hands. Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And are the churches doing anything to help with this tremendous need, the psychological need, the toll it's taking on the parishioners?
SYLVESTER: Yes. You know, just anecdotally, it's the churches, the nonprofit groups that are really filling this void here. You know, there is a Catholic church for instance in Louisiana. They are adding more masses. They are seeing more people coming in. They are doing more outreach and counseling. And then later this week on Wednesday, there's a coalition of religious leaders that are going to be touring the gulf area and one of the key focuses is going to be on how they can get services to help people who are dealing with all this mental anguish and stress, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Lisa, thank you so much. They need as much help as they can get.
Members of Congress are on a holiday break from their jobs while many Americans are desperate to find work including young people. There are some Democrats that are blaming the Republicans for leaving a bill to create summer jobs basically in limbo.
Our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is here and I understand that this dispute, in particular, over summer jobs specifically concerns the African-American community.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does because when you look at the numbers, Suzanne, African-Americans have a much higher rate of unemployment than white Americans and it's a gap that gets even wider, significantly wider, when you look at teenagers. So the Congressional Black Caucus wants funding that it says will create hundreds of thousands of summer jobs but they're running into opposition in the Senate. Republicans, yes, but also some Democrats who are concerned about the cost.
KEILAR (voice-over): Kyle Flora grew up in one of the roughest parts of Washington, D.C., in the shadow of the capital.
KYLE FLORA, DC SUMMER JOBS PARTICIPANT: As soon as I turned 12 I was able to work. A tough one. Nice.
KEILAR: Coaching children in the city's home run baseball camp, a job he got through D.C.'s youth employment program. Many teenagers in Kyle's neighborhood spent their summers much differently.
FLORA: They would be getting in trouble. I know that.
KEILAR (on camera): What kind of trouble?
FLORA: I mean, in my neighborhood it would be the things, you know, selling drugs, it wouldn't be the right things, things that I'm interested in.
KEILAR (voice-over): He says working kept him off the streets. Unlike Kyle, a lot of inner city teenagers can't find a job. 23.2 percent of young white Americans are unemployed. But almost 40 percent of African-Americans of the same age are out of work.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DC DELEGATE: Unemployment should not be a racial issue but that's what it's become.
KEILAR: Washington, D.C.'s congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus fought to get a billion dollars for youth employment programs approved by the House of Representatives. But it's a cost that would add to the deficit and in the Senate a few fiscally conservative Democrats, along with Republicans, could strip out the funding.
SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Of course we want to help with summer jobs. But we also have to have tough choices and we also need to live within our means.
KEILAR (on camera): What do you say to critics who say this is a good cause but shouldn't add to the deficit?
NORTON: How are we going to reduce the deficit on the backs of unemployed people and unemployed youth at that? How much do we contribute to the deficit by getting a billion dollars out for youth unemployment?
FLORA: If you're up, you're there. If you're not up you're in the grass.
KEILAR (voice-over): Across town, Kyle Flora is teaching kids to field a baseball, working his last summer job before heading to college. He's concerned these kids won't have the opportunities he's had and he certainly is not concerned about deficit spending.
FLORA: I'm proud about graduating. A lot of people don't graduate nowadays. This saves a lot I feel. It's that important. The money is going to a good cause.
KEILAR: I spoke with Republican sources today who said yes it is a good cause but you still have to pay for it. There are of course a lot of voters who are extremely concerned about government spending and, Suzanne, midterm elections are right around the corner.
MALVEAUX: And Brianna, do we have any sense at all when Congress is actually going to be able to deal with this.
KEILAR: This may sound odd but the money is actually attached to a war spending bill. It's already passed the House and the Senate. But different versions. Both need to pass a final version. They could be looking at moving that along when they come back next week. Certainly that's the goal but there are some hang-ups for sure on this bill.
MALVEAUX: OK. So we shall see.
KEILAR: Sure. We will.
MALVEAUX: Thank you,, Brianna.
A Chinese court sentences a U.S. citizen to eight years behind bars and we're going to tell you why. Plus new reports that a drug smuggling submarine has been seized. Our Karl Penhaul has an inside look at how smugglers have been using these kinds of subs.
And new pictures now of General David Petraeus on his first full day as commander in the war in Afghanistan. The details of his unexpected walk through a marketplace, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MALVEAUX: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the top stories coming into the "Situation Room" right now. Hi, Lisa. What are you working on?
SYLVESTER: Hey, there, Suzanne. Well, a Chinese court has sentenced a U.S. citizen to eight years in prison for allegedly spreading state secrets abroad. The U.S. ambassador to China is calling Du Fong's for his release. Fong who has been detained for more than two years was in the country working for a Colorado-based consulting firm. A supporter says he was not privy to state intelligence.
The body of the late chess icon Bobby Fisher was briefly exhumed in Iceland today. The country's Supreme Court granted a request by Fisher's alleged daughter for a DNA sample to settle a paternity issue. His body was reburied after the samples were taken. Fisher died back in January of 2008.
President Obama is congratulating Poland's new interim president. Bronislaw Komorowski will replace the late president Kaczynski who was killed along with 90 others in an April plane crash. Komorowski defeated Kaczynski's twin brother in a runoff election. President Obama has invited the new Polish leader to Washington.
And the Queen of England isn't spending as much as she once was. Buckingham Palace announced today that Queen Elizabeth II, her budget this year is $57.8 million. That is actually down about $5 million from last year's budget. "The Sunday Times" lists the queen's worth as almost $450 million. I don't know about you, Suzanne but $57.8 million as a budget is not too bad at all.
MALVEAUX: And she certainly is getting around. We're going to talk to Richard Quest about where she's going. So that could be really interesting to see.
SYLVESTER: Yes, she is here in the United States.
MALVEAUX: In New York.
MALVEAUX: All right. The queen may be cutting costs but it's not getting in the way of her overseas travel. We're going to tell you about the plans of her whirlwind trip to New York.
And drug smugglers busted at sea. We're going to take a new look at submarines designed for hauling big amounts of cocaine.
He is a web designer for Gucci with a very unusual hobby. Building a nuclear fusion reactor.
MALVEAUX: This is the first full day on the job for the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus. He tried to get a feel for everyday life in the war zone. I want to bring in our pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and, Barbara, I understand that the general unexpectedly went for a walk today. Tell us about this.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he did indeed, Suzanne. First full day on the job, meeting after meeting after meeting and apparently according to an aide General Petraeus at the end of his last meeting stood up and said, let's go for a walk.
So in Kabul he - you see the pictures that his aide sent us. The general did go down to a market, a nearby marketplace, walked, visited with some local Afghans, got handed some bread by children, posed with children, got out and about a bit with just a small security detail and his photographer.
Now, look. Here's the bottom line. We see these types of pictures all the time. The generals go walking, pose with children, and everything looks very nice. It does send a message, though, that Petraeus wants to send right now, which is that he understands Afghanistan. He understands about protecting the Afghan people, but he stayed behind the scenes, he is staying quiet. He is not doing interviews in the first 30 days on the job we are told.
He wants to really get acclimated to what's going on in the country and figure out what he wants to do next. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: And Barbara, as you mentioned before, you've done these kind of walk throughs before with military leaders. Did you get a sense in seeing this video if there was extra heavy security or, you know, just how set up was this? Was this something that was unexpected in this little town?
STARR: Well, we are told by the - one of the general's closest aides that it was very impromptu. And you know, it's like, not to be too specific about security arrangements, when the president of the United States might make an impromptu stop and no one expects to see him, that's almost easier than some long, set up process. And probably, to be quite honest, a lot of those Afghan kids on the street had no idea who General Petraeus was. They know he's a soldier. They probably know he's an American. And I suspect that they didn't stay very long. If you stay longer on the street, what we find is your risk goes up.
We have been out many times as many CNN reporters have and the Afghans will say, look, it's time for you to go. You're getting noticed. You know, nice to have seen you but please leave now. So, he probably didn't stay very long -- Suzanne.
MALVEUX: All right. Barbara, thank you so much for your perspective there.
General Petraeus begins his work in Afghanistan at a time of growing violence and concerns about the U.S. withdrawal date and some political pushback in this country against the war. Our Candy Crowley talked about those concerns with the Afghan ambassador to the United States on CNN's "State of the Union." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAID TAYEB JAWAD, AFGHAN AMB. TO U.S.: Lack of full cooperation in the region, lack of full commitment on the part of foreigners (ph) and other things. That is not the fault of the Afghan people. If we had a fully functioning system in Afghanistan, there will be no need for the rest of the world to be there. It will take some time. We have made a lot of progress, but the enemy is brutal. The threat of the terrorism is still imminent.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you in the final minute we have left two quick questions. Is the U.S. deadline of beginning to pull out troops in July of next year helpful to afghanistan?
JAWAD: No. Frankly not. For two reasons. First, if you over emphasize a deadline that is not realistic, you are making the enemy a lot more bold. You are prolonging the war. If that deadline should be realistic, that they learn should be based on the reality on the ground, and we should give a clear message to the enemy to the terrorists who are a threat to everyone that United States, Nato, and Afghans are there to finish this job. If that's not the feeling, we lose the support of the Afghan people and also make the neighboring countries who have an interest a lot more bolder to interfere in Afghanistan.
CROWLEY: And quickly, if I could, talks with the Taliban, President Karzai has said he does want to try to bring them into the fold. Just a very quick status report.
JAWAD: We have very strong national consensus on that issue. I think our regional countries, Pakistan, are becoming a lot more cooperative. We are very much looking forward to implement this. We cannot kill every bad guy in Afghanistan. We are opening the political process for them to join the Afghan people and the Afghan government to build a new Afghanistan.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much. Ambassador Said Jawad, we really appreciate it. Happy 4th of July to you.
JAWAD: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Troops wounded in Afghanistan have a famous ally, the former Senate Majority Leader, Bob Dole, a wounded veteran of World War II. He's been spending time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and making some young friends. Here's CNN's Ed Henry.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When air force Sergeant Christopher Curtis arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he was in desperate shape after his CV-22 Osprey crashed in Afghanistan. SGT. CHRISTOPHER CURTIS, U.S. ARMY: From a coma state to getting into the rehab was really a long road, but one that definitely, you know, kept my spirits up.
HENRY: That determination was sparked in part by another patient at Walter Reed who almost didn't make it off the battlefield himself during World War II.
CURTIS: From where he was back then to being, you know, possible president of the United States at one point, in fact, gives me a huge inspiration.
HENRY: You voted for him?
CURTIS: I did. Absolutely.
HENRY: An 86-year-old Bob Dole is at Walter Reed for physical therapy connected to double knee replacement surgery, but a bout with pneumonia lengthened the stay for the former Senate Majority Leader. He passes the time listening to Sinatra, watching cable news, and just like the old days, wisecracking with new friends like Curtis.
BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: First thing out of his mouth was I voted for you in 1996. Real smart fellow.
HENRY: Did you also told him there are not a lot of those around?
DOLE: I had to look for long.
HENRY: The pictures of Curtis now and Dole back then are striking.
Does that remind you of what happened to you 65 years ago?
DOLE: A little bit. I couldn't move. I was in a body cast. That's all behind me, but it does give you pause. (INAUDIBLE).
HENRY: Army Sergeant Lee Langley, 26, was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and marvels at Dole's determination.
SGT. LEE LANGLEY, U.S. ARMY: He got hurt a long time ago, and now he is fighting another battle, you know, and he's at an older age, and a lot of people would have gave up, but he didn't.
HENRY: Army specialist Levi Crawford, 23, was badly wounded in Afghanistan and has now bonded with Dole, whose own right arm was paralyzed so long ago.
SPC. LEVI CRAWFORD, U.S. ARMY: Same thing with mine then. I'm trying to keep moving them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're doing the right thing.
CRAWFORD: It's hard. HENRY: Dole co-chaired a 2007 presidential commission that investigated shoddy conditions at Walter Reed, but he has nothing but praise for the medical care.
DOLE: It took me nine hours to get off the battle field. It took me weeks to get home.
OK. Here it goes.
DOLE: These modern medical miracles, you see them every day here. And they're -- if they're wounded on one day, they could be at Walter Reed on the third day.
HENRY: He's eager to get back to work at the law and lobbying firm, Austinburg. His failed bids for the White House a distant memory.
DOLE: You got to move on. You know? Life's short. Keep pushing. And realize we still live in a great country, and you know, we had just one chapter ends and another chapter starts. Keep on going.
HENRY: Good advice now being passed on to a whole new generation of heroes.
CRAWFORD: This is what America is all about right here.
HENRY: Ed Henry, CNN, Washington.
MALVEAUX: 38,497 American troops have been injured in America's ongoing wars. The Pentagon reporting those numbers through July 2nd. The vast majority were wounded in Iraq rather than in Afghanistan. That is largely because there were so many more troops in Iraq over the years, and for time, heavy fighting and frequent roadside attacks on Americans.
More conservatives are calling for Michael Steele to quit as Republican Party chairman. But at least one outspoken GOP lawmaker says that Steele may have a point in the way he's criticized the Afghanistan war.
And New York City is set to give Queen Elizabeth a royal welcome. Our own CNN's Richard Quest will give us as always interesting take on the royal visit.
MALVEAUX: New York City is preparing for a rare visit from Queen Elizabeth tomorrow. The queen is going to address the United Nations and make a stop at the site of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. CNN's Richard Quest is in New York with more. Richard, you're the only person that I would want to cover this story. I mean, clearly, are you going to be able to see the queen? RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm very much hoping so. And I politicked long and hard to get this assignment, believe me. I had to call in a lot of favors to be allowed to do this one and I was very pleased to do it. And for one simple reason, Suzanne, the last time Queen Elizabeth addressed the United Nations, now you ready for this?
QUEST: Was in 1957.
MALVEAUX: Wow. OK. A lot has changed.
QUEST: That puts it into perspective. There were ten members of the commonwealth. There were many more realms and monicas (ph). Now, of course, she is the head of state of 16 realms and the Commonwealth of Nations has 54 members, 53, 54 members. So, when she addresses the U.N. tomorrow on issues of leadership and questions of challenges for the world body, she will be representing about one-third of the world's population.
MALVEAUX: And what do we expect this to look like? What do we expect her to say? What do you think?
QUEST: I think she's going to talk obviously -- when she spoke in 1957, I read the speech, and she talked about how it had been much more difficult for the U.N. than into be in the original ideals and goals, and I think she's going to continue that idea, the challenges, democracy, rights of people around the world, all those sorts of issues, the way of keeping the global founding of nations together. Now, is it going to be a barn burner?
Is it going to be, you know, a superb oratory experience? No. The queen is not like that. She's very careful, she's very deliberate, but ultimately, it is the event that is going to have me just thrilled.
MALVEAUX: And tell us, how is she going to be treated? Tell us -- what do you do? What do you not do? The dos and don'ts of meeting the queen, perhaps bumping into the queen when you're there tomorrow?
QUEST: Well, if you happen to be, Suzanne, in lower Manhattan or the United Nations and her majesty happens to pass you, you don't have to bow or curtsy. Those rules have gone. But if you do, as indeed, President Obama nodded his head, it is courteous. You nod from the neck not like with the emperor of Japan. It's from the neck. A straight forward, and a handshake. Remember, when you meet her it's your majesty first reference and thereafter it is ma'am as in spam not marm as in farm. So yes, ma'am. Would you like this ma'am? Thank you, ma'am.
MALVEAUX: All right. Richard, good luck to you tomorrow. Let us know how it goes.
QUEST: I will.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you. Richard quest. GOP chairman, Michael Steele, is under growing fire after making controversial comments about the war in Afghanistan. But not everybody says that he deserves to be criticized.
And he's on a quest to create nuclear fusion, but he's a Gucci designer. Check it out.
MALVEAUX: The political fire surrounding Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, is growing after his controversial remarks about the Afghanistan war. Joining me in today's strategy session, two CNN contributors, Roland Martin and John Avalon. John is also a senior political columnist for the dailybeast.com.
You guys have been following this for the last couple of days or so. Clearly, this has not gone away. It's spilling into this week. A lot of people who have -- whose ears sparked up when they heard Michael Steele calling Afghanistan, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan Obama's war. He also questioned whether or not it would ultimately be successful when you look at the history. I want you to take a listen to two Republicans and how they interpreted Michael Steele's comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Dismayed, angry, upset. It was an uninformed, unnecessary, unwise, untimely comment. This is not President Obama's war. This is America's war.
REP. RON PAUL, (R) TEXAS: I enjoy the fact that we're willing to have a discussion about the popularity of this war. And truly, it is Obama's war even though it was started during the last administration. Obama says this is the good war, and he's expanding the war and the American people aren't with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Does he have a point here? I mean, if President Obama was asked this question a couple of times, whether or not this will turn into his war, he has certainly embraced it as a part of U.S. policy. Was Michael Steele essentially making a point saying it may have started under President Bush, but now, it has been handed off and has become the new president or the president almost of two years, President Obama's war?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Michael Steele is absolutely correct. The reality is liberals did not want to see the expansion of this particular war, and the reality is when it is on your watch, you then own it. He had a choice. He could have pulled out. We could have downsized, but we didn't. So, I get the whole deal about Bush starting it, but he is the president now. He had a choice. He made the choice. Now, he has to own the decisions.
MALVEAUX: John, what do you think of all the fury among the Republicans? JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think they're responding to the larger point which is this isn't President Obama's war. It's America's war. We have troops on the ground and the last thing you want to see is people using partisan politics to sort of positioning on this. And that's why there's an outcry. Republicans have backed President Obama on his decision to double down in Afghanistan, and you don't want to see the RNC chairman playing politics.
Look, Ron Paul is consistent. He's been a part of this neo isolationist crowd from the beginning. He opposed these two wars, but the right thing to do is the partisan politics should stop at the water's edge. That's why Michael Steele has come under criticism and he should for this.
MARTIN: Suzanne, it's actually not playing politics, but the reality is here, OK, and we have to accept it. And that is this is a hugely unpopular war. When Michael Steele made the point that who has won a land war in Afghanistan in the last 1,000 years, we have a difficult role there. You have everybody in Washington, D.C. trying to figure out what does victory look like? How can we somehow spin this whole deal? It is not going well. And so, therefore, where is the plan to give Americans confidence that we can actually win, whatever win is?
Michael Steele's problem here is frankly he was too honest about that aspect, and Republicans, they don't want the RNC chairman saying that, but I think, Democrats and Republicans have to own up to what are we doing in Afghanistan? Is it working? And if not, then what do we do?
MALVEAUX: John, you were laughing or smiling while Roland was talking. Tell us why.
AVLON: Yes, because we still, look, President Obama made a decision to double down. We are still in the process of a troop increase. We have not yet gone into Kandahar. This is an operation that is still ongoing with a commitment to increase U.S. troops. You do not try to undercut support for the president or support for our troops in the middle of an escalation when we are trying to win this thing and defeat the Taliban which has been a force for evil in the world. That's why there's criticism here.
Look, I think Michael Steele gets a bad rap from a lot of folks in his own party, but on this, when there's a perception that someone is trying to play politics and shift policy for political gain that -- when we have troops on the ground sacrificing their lives for U.S. interests trying to defeat terrorism, that place where the 9/11 hijackers used as a base of operations. That's what we're trying to get the job done. We tool our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and trying to finish it.
MALVEAUX: OK. I want to turn --
MARTIN: But even the troops don't know what we're doing. Even the troops are saying, what do we accomplish in here? AVLON: Look, you know, President Obama set a strategy we got now. We got David Petraeus in there. Let's try to unify the country and reaffirm that basic principle. Partisan politics got to stop the water --
MALVEAUX: I want to take a look at the independents. There's a new poll here that's rather alarming. It's new Gallup Poll. It says independent voters are leaning Republican by a 10-point margin here. You see the difference in March. Those independents who are leaning Republican, 44 percent, Democrat 36 percent. Now, in June, it's 46 percent to 34 percent. How much trouble does this spell for the Democrats going into the midterm elections when you got more independents, they're moving towards the Republican side.
AVLON: Big time. Look, independents are largest and fastest growing segment of the electorate. Independents determine who wins or losses elections, and if you got independents swing who voted for President Obama by an eight-point margin, swinging to Republicans consistently by now 12 points, that should be a serious wake up call to Democrats because there's no way they're going to hold on to the margins they got without the support of independence. Independents voted for them by 17 percent in 2006. That's not margin of victory. If they swing the other way, Republicans have the wind at their back and it's later than you think in this election seat.
MALVEAUX: Roland, you got ten seconds.
MARTIN: Suzanne, the problem with this poll is that Congressional districts are lot smaller than national elections. What happens locally makes a difference. In fact, independents are swinging their way, but trust me, you are seeing a different type of deal in the small congressional districts. And so, I can't put stock in sort of this national poll when it's really local elections.
MALVEAUX: Roland, John, got to leave it there. Thank you so much. Have a good holiday.
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MALVEAUX: Nuclear fusion, it's an energy force that some hope could one day power the world. But does it really take a scientist to produce it? Here's CNN's Carol Costello.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A warehouse in Brooklyn, inside a dream that if realized could change everything. MARK SUPPES, AMATEUR NUCLEAR PHYSICIST: You can hear it sounds like a jet engine.
COSTELLO: This is Mark Suppes, a web designer for Gucci by day and amateur science junkie or fusionist by night.
SUPPES: You can hear it. Kind of getting higher and higher. Anticipation is building. Are you excited?
COSTELLO: I am excited.
COSTELLO: Suppes has built a nuclear fusion reactor. A machine, he hopes, one day, will imitate the sun's power and power our world.
So, what is the hope? What is the goal?
SUPPES: The hope and the goal are that this will lead to a viable energy technology that will one day replace coal and oil.
COSTELLO: Suppes' dream is not new. Nuclear fusion has long been considered the holy grail of energy production. Atoms are forcibly joined, releasing energy. Produce enough and you get Suppes' dream. The problem, even the world's most brilliant, trained scientists haven't figured out how to do it in a way that creates more energy than it consumes.
Professor, meet Mark.
Professor Bob Park admires Suppes' passion, but says his reactor is primitive compared to the sophisticated, gigantic reactors physicists use now. Still.
PROF. ROBERT PARK, PHYSICIST, UNIV. OF MARYLAND: There is always that possibility that he might come up with some little trick that nobody else has thought of.
COSTELLO: You can figure it out?
SUPPES: I mean, I'm not saying that I can figure it out necessarily, but I think that it can be done and I think that I can be instrumental in doing it.
COSTELLO: Suppes has spent $37,000 of his own money and two years of his life to create this nuclear fusion reactor.
SUPPES: The first step is we suck all the air out of the chamber.
COSTELLO: He bought the mechanical parts on eBay. As for the necessary ingredients like the isotope element deuterium --
But, where do you buy it?
SUPPES: There's a company called Matheson Trigas in New Jersey. COSTELLO: So you bought the deuterium in New Jersey?
SUPPES: Yes. And they Fedex it over.
COSTELLO: After a series of steps, Suppes makes fusion. He says it happens inside that tube with the glowing purple star.
Some people might just imagine, you know, Jerry Lewis in the lab, you know, the crazy scientist. Is that who you are?
SUPPES: Minus the hair.
COSTELLO: Suppes just might be a little crazy, but he is passionate about changing the world.
And so, how would you like to go down on the history books?
SUPPES: I want to go down as the progenitor of the fusion era.
COSTELLO (on-camera): Suppes' next step, raising $200 million to $400 million to build a bigger reactor. The kind you need to solve a scientific problem that no trained physicist has managed to do in 50 years.
Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.
MALVEAUX: She is sentenced to death by stoning in Iran. Now, her children are issuing a desperate plea to the world to help save her.
And It feels like a holiday weekend for many Americans, but are there any celebrations along the oil ravaged Gulf Coast? Our John Zarella is there.