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Delivering on Immigration Reform; Allies' Show of Unity; Octopus Oracle Picks World Cup; Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul Propose Changes in U.S. Troops Levels in a Post-Soviet World

Aired July 10, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: They hail from opposing political parties. Now Congressman Barney Frank and Ron Paul are teaming up on a critical issue involving U.S. troops. Could it mean serious consequences for the war in Afghanistan?

Also, President Obama taking the state of Arizona to court over its controversial immigration law. We'll get reaction from key officials on both sides of the heated debate.

And together at last, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear to make up. Did they manage to quiet rumors of a growing rift between Israel and the United States?

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

You'd have a hard time finding two lawmakers here in Washington farther apart on the political spectrum than Democratic Congressman Barney Frank and Republican Congressman Ron Paul. But now they're teaming up big time to call for substantial cuts in U.S. military spending. They write this, in a joint article: "We may not agree on what to do with the estimated $1 trillion in savings, but we do agree that nothing-we do agree that nothing either of us cares deeply about will be possible if we do not begin to face this issue now."

Representatives Frank and Paul are joining us together from their respective states. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

How did you guys team up to call for this massive cut in U.S. military spending, Congressman Paul?

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Well, the two of us have talked about this over the years. But actually, Barney was motivated to come to me and ask me about this, about setting up a commission to do the study and set out a program. And it's not going to happen tomorrow. It's a 10- year program. He asked me if I'd be interested in doing a little bit more work. I obviously agreed to do that. I think it is a great idea because that is what I've been arguing for a long time. And I'm always looking for an opportunity to bring progressive Democrats together with conservative libertarian types, because there are places where we can agree. And I think this is a very important place to start.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the specifics that you have in mind. Congressman Frank, for example, you want U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq, but you also want U.S. troops out of Germany, out of Japan, out of South Korea. And you think if you start doing this, together with eliminating some expensive military systems, you can save $1 trillion in U.S. taxpayer money over the next 10 years. Is that right?

REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Absolutely. What Ron Paul and I are saying, and we have worked together on some other issues, where we have both been defenders of people's right to make their own choices without the government dictating to them, in a number of areas, whether we think their choices are wise, or not.

Leave aside Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, both Ron and I opposed the war in Iraq and it seems to me that the argument for us staying in Iraq solely to mediate the electoral disputes among the various political parties and religious groups in Iraq has no value. But over and above Iraq and Afghanistan, you know NATO was a wonderful accomplishment in 1949. In the years since, Western Europe has gotten strong. The military threat to Western Europe, the Soviet Union, has disappeared. We continue to subsidize the budgets of Western Europe. There was a degree of interventionism in American foreign policy, the notion that we must be the super power and we have to intervene everywhere, that Ron Paul and I both think makes no sense.

We are committed to defending America's legitimate strategic interests. But we have got a military establishment that has been -- that's not their fault, it's the fault of the political leadership, projected into a worldwide situation far beyond our legitimate military needs.

BLITZER: Here's what the president of the United States said the other day, Congressman Paul, in justifying while the United States right now has nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don't flinch in the face of difficult truths, or difficult tasks, but we persist, and we preserve. We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy afghan society from within, and launch attacks against innocent men, women, and children in our country, and around the world.


BLITZER: You don't buy that , do you?

PAUL: No. As a matter of fact, I did a speech last week, a five- minute speech on the House floor. It was called "The War That Is Not A War." I made the point, well it is not a war, it wasn't declared. How can it be a war, we are not fighting against the government? We are fighting against a group of people who don't have planes or tanks or ships or missiles or anything. It is an insurgency, and the insurgency is all because we are over there. They don't like foreigners. And we were part of their insurgency when the Russians were there, and the Soviets were there. We joined Osama bin Laden and we joined them in trying to get rid of them. At that time they were called the Mujahideen. And now they're called the Taliban.

No, it makes no sense whatsoever. It's not in the interest of our national security. Even our CIA now says that there are very few, if any, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. They've chased them all over to Pakistan. Where are you going to chase them to? Take over Pakistan and then Yemen and then Somalia? We don't need to be the world's policemen. We are digging a hole for ourselves.

BLITZER: Congressman Frank, the argument is if the U.S. pulls out 100,000 troops, or whatever the U.S. has right now, from Afghanistan, the Taliban will almost certainly take over and recreate the situation that existed before 9/11, allowing Al Qaeda to come back in and train and finish their plans against the United States.

FRANK: Well, I have two responses, Wolf. First of all, you're focusing much too much on Afghanistan. And if you read our letter, we say we are talking about making reductions on a worldwide basis in wealthy nations -- Marines in Japan, troops in Germany, other than Afghanistan. That is a separate and legitimate debate. My own view is that the ability that we might have had to win in Afghanistan-and I voted for originally-was dissipated when we then made a major effort in Iraq.

And Ron Paul makes a very important point -- if we are to be told that we have to do this to keep this from being a base for terrorism, well, Sudan will be a base for terrorism, Somalia, Yemen, other countries. Frankly, if we were to withdraw the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and spend about 2 percent of what we spend on those troops in bolstering national security here at home, we would be safer.

I again want to stress, even if people want to stay in Afghanistan, and I think that it is time to withdraw, there are tens and tens of billions of dollars being spent in military scenarios that have nothing to do with Afghanistan, nothing to do with terrorism. I wish we could defeat them with nuclear submarines, because then we would have beat it, because we have all the nuclear submarines. The major part of our weapon spending, and our military commitment overseas, has nothing to do with terrorism and little to do with making us safer.

BLITZER: We're only just beginning. But very quickly, Congressman Paul, why are you and maybe Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party, almost basically the only major Republican figures who are saying what you are saying, because almost all of the other Republican leaders totally disagree with you?

PAUL: Well, who is to define the Republican leadership? There are several other Republicans like Walter Jones and Jimmy Duncan, and a few others, who are opposed to it, too. So there are some others. But it is true, a large number of Republicans, the other night in a debate, they said, oh, 66 percent of the Republicans agree with the party, that we have to stay there forever. Well, I mean, that means that thirty-some percent of the Republicans are questioning this. Of course, there has been several of us questioning it for a long time. And I make the point that this has been questioned by Republicans, this type of policy, for many, many years. I often make the point that George Bush ran on a noninterventionist, humble foreign policy, no policing the world, in the year 2000, before Clinton did it.


BLITZER: But that was before 9/11.

PAUL: Well, why should a tooth be removed? I mean, I don't think you have to change your mind about foreign policy.

BLITZER: Because he is the first one who says -


PAUL: You can deal with terrorists-

BLITZER: Well, hold on. I want to take a break, but I don't want you to leave, because we will continue this conversation. I wanted to make the point that President Bush always said that everything for him changed as a result of 9/11. But we will pick up that point. We're going to continue this conversation. There are plenty of pressing issues that Ron Paul and Barney Frank, by the way, don't necessarily agree on, including how to fix the economy. We'll weigh in on some other topics as well right after this.


BLITZER: We are back with Democratic Congressman Barney Frank and Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Congressman Frank, the Pentagon's budget for 2010, almost $700 billion. In your estimation, what should it be?

FRANK: Well, for this year, I would like to cut it about 50. And I want to stress, Wolf, because I don't want this argument hijacked. The case that Ron Paul and I are making-along with Representative Walter Jones, a Republican, Rod Wyman (ph), a Democrat-is separate to a great extent from Afghanistan. People can differ about Afghanistan. And I voted to go in, I think that it is bogged down.

But we are talking about useless expenditures which are-for geopolitical reasons that I don't think are valid, in NATO, in Japan. We had against the Soviet Union three ways of dropping thermonuclear weapons on them, when we were at the height of this war with them. We have all three, nuclear submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and strategic air command. I want to be very radical and say to the Pentagon, pick two. I don't think you have to worry about the Soviet Union as much. So, I want to make it very clear, we are talking-we are about NATO.

NATO was a wonderful idea. It was formed in 1949. We are as far away from NATO as NATO was when it was done in time from the presidency of Grover Cleveland. NATO has served the purpose, and "The New York Times" did a very interesting article a couple of weeks ago, about the extent to which Europe, Western Europe, wealthy nations, facing no real threat, can afford very, very good expenditures for social welfare because America's military budget. BLITZER: So, basically what both of you are saying bring home the troops from Germany, from Japan, from South Korea.


BLITZER: Bring them home from all over the world, that it is a waste of money.

FRANK: No, not all over the world. Excuse me, Wolf, I don't argue in extremes.

BLITZER: All right.

FRANK: Not all over the world. There are parts of the world where I think there needs to be --


FRANK: Well, for instance, I do want sea and air power to confront the people's Republic of China. I don't want Taiwan overrun, and I think sea and air power can help us in South Korea. But South Korea is larger than North Korea, and can put its own troops in; 15,000 Marines in Okinawa are irrelevant to what we're trying to do with China. We're not going to land Marines on the Chinese mainland.

So yes, there are parts of the world where a presence would be useful, but I think we have to be very clear that we would be there to militarily to confront Iran. But it is not any longer reasonable to have troops virtually everywhere.

BLITZER: All right.

FRANK: The general view is that America must be the superpower and be everywhere and that exacerbates our national security, it doesn't help it.

BLITZER: I know you agree with that Congressman Paul, but give me a number that you think would be realistic from your vantage point for the Pentagon's annual budget.

PAUL: Well, you can't do it in one year, but I think we could probably do it with about 30 percent of what we have, if we have a noninterventionist foreign policy. And I agree with Barney on his argument this project that we are dealing with, and I agreed to join in, it doesn't deal with bringing troops home who are active in battle in Afghanistan, so that is the case.

But I have also made the case that I want to distinguish between military spending and defense spending. We are mostly talking about some military spending, and Barney makes this very important point. That we are subsidizing other rich nations for this, and I think that is very important.

Defense spending is very, very important. I believe in the defense. It is just that I think the intervention-as a matter of fact undermines our defense. And that is where I find the problem. But right now, I think that this is, to me, you know, a modest approach, but that is where you start. My goals may be slightly different than his goals.

FRANK: One last point, Wolf.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

PAUL: But this is a modest approach that we can agree on.

FRANK: We could save, I believe, 10s of billions of dollars by withdrawing immediately from Iraq as soon as possible. There is no logical military or national security justification. We were told that we were going to pull out of Iraq, but because the Iraqi parliament can't come together on a government we may have to stay longer. That just is nonsense. And we are spending money on their infrastructure, we are spending money mediating their political situation. So I believe we could save upwards of $10 billion from what is now planned, if we simply say, we begin an orderly withdrawal from Iraq to protect the troops and then we get out.

BLITZER: Because the president says the combat forces will all be out by the end of August, and all U.S. troops will be out by the end of next year. That is not good enough, Congressman Frank?

FRANK: No, you know how much it will cost us? You asked me for a figure. You know how much it will cost us to keep all the troops there next year? And if there are any combat troop what are they, crossing guards? By the way, there's also a problem with the definition of combat troops as "The New York Times" points out. There will be troops there that will be engaged in firefights alongside the Iraqis. The Iraqis don't face an external enemy. The Iraqis ought to be able to deal with themselves. And if they can't -- we got rid of Saddam Hussein, there were never any weapons of mass destruction, but to keep troops there for another year and a half would probably cost $20 billion. You want a number? There's one. I don't understand why we should be paying it.

BLITZER: Have you spoken, Congressman Paul, with the chairman of your party, Michael Steele, since his controversial comments came up?

PAUL: No, I have not spoken to him. I went to his defense because I thought he blurted out the truth. And I was pleased with and I wanted to encourage him. Of course, the political pressures are such that things have to adjust a bit. But, let me tell you, there's a lot of people who agreed with what he said, and a lot of Republicans agreed. And I think the noninterventionist foreign policy under the stress of this economy-not only is it a necessity, it makes good common sense that we quit doing this.

I think I'm going to win this argument long term. Our empire is going to end, our troops are going to come home. I want them to come home in a more calm, deliberate fashion. But I don't want them coming home like they did in the Soviet system with a total collapse of the system. Our empire is going to end because we can't afford it. I mean, we are running up these trillions of trillions of dollars worth of debt. And when you look at the total debt, what we are talking about here, what we are saving over a 10-year period, this is a modest suggestion, and there shouldn't be any reason why anybody should disagree with this.

And I find tremendous support, especially with the young people who are inheriting this budget and this debt. And they are sick and tired of ate and that they don't want any part of the foreign fighting and militarism that is going on.

FRANK: And by the way-

PAUL: I would just like it to happen a little smoother than what's going to happen if we don't do something.

FRANK: If you don't do what Ron Paul and I suggest, again, aside from Afghanistan, you are reducing the thermonuclear arsenal to destroy a nonexistent Soviet Union and letting NATO defend itself. Then you are either going to have to have a degree of tax increases that could damage the economy and impinge on people, or make cuts on vital domestic programs that impinge on the quality of lie. And I don't understand why we should continue to subsidize Western Europe and Japan, leave aside Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Well, Congressmen, a good discussion, and we will continue this discussion down the road. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

In the fight over immigration reform has President Obama broken his promises to the Latino community? I'll ask the mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa.

And what if, what if colleges could guarantee student a job, or give them their money back? We'll take a closer look at a school where that's actually happening right now.


BLITZER: President Obama told Missouri voters this week Democrats are getting America out of its economic mess. Republicans, he said, aren't. As usual, he tried to balance claims of progress with empathy for people still out of work.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We knew that it would take years to dig ourselves out of the hole we found ourselves in. That's longer than any of us would like. But here's what I also know. An economy that was shrinking? It's been growing for the better part of a year.


An economy that's been losing jobs? We've now had six consecutive months of private sector job growth. There are 600,000 private sector jobs. It's not enough. There are still folks out of work. But we are moving in the right direction.


BLITZER: As young people prepare to enter the workforce what if colleges could give them a "get a job or get your money back" offer? CNN's Dan Simon explains there is a community college in Michigan that's doing that right now.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eric Gibbs works as a roofer. George Suffin an assembly line worker at GM. Both now unemployed in the state of Michigan.

ERIC GIBBS, UNEMPLOYED: When I got laid off from my roofing company job, I searched for six months straight, nonstop.

SIMON: Equally bad luck for George, who at 56 has it even harder with employers.

GEORGE SUFFIN, UNEMPLOYED: It became clear that the jobs I wanted weren't out there. The skill set I currently have. I needed a different skill set for the work I want to do.

SIMON: Then came along an offer that sounded almost too good to be true. It came from the most unusual of places.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we need to be able to cut that up.

SIMON: Lansing Community College is hoping to attract even more students with this tempting offer --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get a skill, get a job, or your money back.

SIMON: Lansing says if you enroll in its school and do not find a job, it will indeed give you back your tuition money. George and Eric see it as a win-win. They learn some new skills and if they don't find a job, there's nothing lost.

(On camera): A job or money back guarantee might sound insane, especially during a recession. But Lansing is being careful about whom they admit for what is now a pilot program. It's only available to 26 students they believe will be successful in the job market. And it's only available right now in two areas -- one for computer machinists, the other for pharmacy technicians.

(Voice over): A money-back guarantee, where this time the product happens to be an education. Dan Simon, CNN, reporting.


BLITZER: The U.S. versus Arizona. The Justice Department is now suing to block the state's controversial immigration law. We're going to hear from an immigration sheriff who supports it, and the mayor of Los Angeles who opposes it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The U.S. Justice Department is now suing the state of Arizona to block its controversial new immigration law scheduled to take effect at the end of this month. It requires immigrants to carry their registration papers at all times, and allows police to question residency status. Paul Babeu is the sheriff of the Pinal County in Arizona. He supports the new law.


BLITZER: Sheriff, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: I know it was not a huge surprise, because it is building up for the past several weeks, but what was your reaction when you read this, I assume you read the Justice Department's document, saying this is unconstitutional, what Arizona has done?

BABEU: Well, it is not surprising. And not only the fact that initially even our law before the top prosecutor of America had even read the law, decided to challenge us, and to even cast aspersions, even on law enforcement, that we are going to racially profile. So, I was not surprised, but rather than putting the focus and challenging us and take us into court, how about helping to solve the problem and secure the border, which is truly federal issue, and their responsibility.

BLITZER: Because the constitutional argument they are making is that this is the responsibility of the federal government, to have immigration policies, to secure the border, and the states should not necessarily take leadership. There shouldn't be what they called a patchwork of state and local policies and this is the responsibility of the federal government. What do you say to that?

BABEU: Well, Mr. President, and company, do your job. I flew down with John Laughlin (ph) of Rhode Island, and also with Sheriff Larry Deaver (ph) of Cochise County to the border just today. And we have a serious problem here. We're not talking just the 250,000 illegals that were apprehended just here in this part of Arizona, this year. There is another possibly 500,000 to 700,000 additional that came through-we don't even know who they are.

So, this is a crisis here in Arizona, not a political issue, and there is where if we can look at it as a national security issue, and a public safety issue, then we would do what's best for America rather than get into this all this legal battle. It is shocking that the federal government, instead of helping our state when we are in need, when law enforcement leaders are calling for 3,000 armed soldiers to secure the border, the president and Eric Holder decide to take us into court, and they are joined with-the ACLU is suing us as well.

BLITZER: But you know what, they are also joined by some other sheriffs in Arizona, including the sheriff in Phoenix, the sheriff in Tucson. And let me read to you what Jack Harris, the Phoenix police chief, says in a supporting document to this federal lawsuit. "This law" -- referring to the Arizona law - "undermines my ability to set law enforcement priorities for my agency, because I cannot prohibit the use of already scarce resources toward civil immigration enforcement instead of violent crimes and criminal immigration enforcement." There are other sheriffs in Arizona who totally disagree with you.

BABEU: Well, he is a police chief who works for the mayor of Phoenix. The sheriff of phoenix is Sheriff Joe, who is a tough sheriff, and he's on our side to secure the border. And this, this whole idea about, hey, let's not enforce the law, because it will suppress calls to the police and everything like that. Obviously that policy hasn't worked, because where the kidnap capital of America.

You know, we have car jackings, home invasions, officers are killed, and - and no longer can law enforcement leaders take this whole pass because here's where we are today. When we have said this is a federal problem, and - and look what's been done -- nothing.

So we live here. We live in the impact and effect, and no longer are we going to take a back seat, so Governor Brewer rightly stands up and defends Arizona, and we're trying to secure our - not only our border, but to protect our families.

BLITZER: How serious are these threats that have been leveled against you, Sheriff? I read about them in some of the Arizona media, and no matter what your position is, (INAUDIBLE), you know, you shouldn't be getting death threats. Are they serious -

BABEU: Right.

BLITZER: -- or not so serious?

BABEU: Well, obviously, any threat - elected officials oftentimes get threats from angry citizens who are upset about something, and - and I get that. And I've had those type of threats. But when you have credible threats from outside the state of Arizona, that point to Mexico, that are talking now that Mexican mafia and the cartel members have put a green light on me, I'm - I'm less concerned in terms of my safety, but more outraged that these people would think that they can do this against law enforcement leaders of our country.

This is a sovereign country, a republic that stands for the rule of law, and this lawlessness that takes place down south of the border where they do kill police chiefs if they're not on the take or of they don't do what they say or turn a blind eye.

BLITZER: I assume you'd beefed up security for yourself and your family, right?

BABEU: Well, I'm always in uniform and I'm always armed. I was a street cop just two years ago, so we're, by our nature and training, protectors, and I'm not - I've refused a security detail because I don't have enough deputies to respond to emergencies to our families in Pinal County. Our - our county is larger than the state of Connecticut, and I only have 214 sworn deputies that can respond to these emergencies out there, and this is why we need help. We have paramilitary squad-sized elements 80 miles north of the border every night that are operating, that are escorting these drugs and they're killing each other. They shot one of my deputies, and what is it going to take for the president to defend America? Here, we're in wars halfway across the globe, spending billions of dollars, and we can't secure our own border here in America?

BLITZER: Sheriff Babeu, good luck to you. Be careful over there -

BABEU: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll stay in close touch. Appreciate your joining us.

BABEU: Thank you, sir.


BLITZER: All right, we heard one side. Now you're about to hear the other side of this hot debate. I'll speak with a man on the front lines of immigration, the Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

And it's been a test to the alliance certainly lately. President Obama, though, warmly welcomed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House this past week. Could it be the first step to renewed talks with the Palestinians?


BLITZER: Emotions are running high in the wake of the Obama administration's decision to take Arizona to court over the state's controversial immigration law. The move is generating lots of reaction around the country, particularly within the Latino community.


BLITZER: Joining us now to talk about that and much more, the democratic mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa. Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Let me play a clip of what President Obama, then candidate Obama, told Jorge Ramos of Univision just before the election. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cannot guarantee that it's going to be in the first 100 days. But what I can guarantee -


OBAMA: -- what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting and that I want to move that forward as quickly as possible.

RAMOS: In the first year?

OBAMA: In my first year in office.


BLITZER: All right. It's now a year and a half he's been in office. Did he break his promise to the Hispanic Latino community?

VILLARAIGOSA: Absolutely not. What I've said is let's remember, President Obama does not have a vote. This is up to the Congress. He's made it clear on many occasions that he expects the Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and that provides a pathway to earn legality, earn citizenship. He's made that very clear.

He made that clear last week again in his speech in Washington, D.C. It's up to the Congress, and particularly up to the Senate, where a group of Republicans - I believe there are 11 who supported the McCain/Kennedy framework some years ago, who have refused to get -

BLITZER: But let me interrupt, Mr. Mayor -

VILLARAIGOSA: -- behind comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, you know, he really hasn't started pushing this issue until a few weeks ago. He didn't push it at all during his first year in office, and - and only recently has he started to push it at a time when it's unlikely to go very far. He - he didn't capitalize, in other words, on his enormous popularity early on to push for a comprehensive immigration reform.

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, we had a little problem called the economy, the most serious challenge facing us since the Great Depression. He's passed the health care reform bill, universal coverage. He's been focused on the biggest challenges facing us.

He's now saying, and he's said a number of times in the last year and a half, that it's up to the Congress to move ahead. I agree with him. I think that we need to move ahead on a bipartisan level. We need to put it up for a vote as well. You know, I don't buy the idea that we - we've got to wait forever for Republican support. The fact is, this issue is too important.

The vacuum that was created in Arizona is a vacuum that's created when the federal government fails to act on something that everybody agrees, Republican, Democrat, conservative Republic - conservative, liberal, the system is broken. It needs to be fixed. We need to secure those borders --

BLITZER: But you know - you know, Mr. Mayor, if the --

VILLARAIGOSA: -- and we also need to provide a pathway for citizenship.

BLITZER: -- there's probably going to be far fewer Democrats in the next session of Congress after the midterm elections in November than there are right now, and the Democrats, by and large, support comprehensive immigration reform. If it doesn't get passed now, it's probably not going to get passed in the next two years either, is it?

VILLARAIGOSA: That's exactly right, and that's why we need to move ahead. But, more importantly, we need to move ahead so we can avoid what's going on in Arizona.

People are focusing a lot on SP1070 and whether or not it's constitutional to - to enact laws like that. But what about the other things they've done? Enacted laws to preclude the teaching of ethnic studies in our classrooms; enacted a - a rule in the Department of Education in Arizona that says if you have a heavy accent, you can't teach English as a second language; now proposing to strip citizen children of their citizenship because their parents are undocumented. And, finally, someone running for Public Utilities Commission arguing that we shouldn't provide power to the undocumented.

This is the kind of stuff that happens when the federal government doesn't do its job.

BLITZER: Here --here's what Sheriff Paul Babeu, who - I interviewed him yesterday. He's from Pinal County in Arizona. He supports the Arizona immigration law.

What he told me last night when he spoke to me, he said, the federal government has been derelict in not dealing with the security along the border with Mexico. Listen to this.


BABEU: We have paramilitary squad-sized elements 80 miles north of the border every night that are operating, that are escorting these drugs and they're killing each other. They shot one of my deputies, and what is it going to take for the president to defend America? Here, we're in wars halfway across the globe, spending billions of dollars, and we can't secure our own border here in America?


BLITZER: All right, what do you say to Sheriff Babeu who says, you know what? They're sick and tired of the federal government not doing its job. They had to take matters into their own hands.

VILLARAIGOSA: I don't agree with that, but I do agree that the federal government has to do its job. I do agree that we must secure our porters - borders, rather. And, in fact, the U.S. conference of mayors unanimously passed a resolution, calling for the repeal of the Arizona law, and calling - counting - calling on the federal government to enact comprehensive immigration reform that secures our boarders, then make sure that -

Has he mentioned (ph) that drug dealers and terrorists and others aren't entering our country without the - the kind of protections that we deserve, while, at the same time, ensuring that people who can demonstrate they've been working here, they've paid their taxes, they've not broken our laws, get at the end of the line and have a pathway to citizenship.

BLITZER: Mayor Villaraigosa, thanks very much for coming in.

VILLARAIGOSA: Wolf, thank you.


BLITZER: Tensions between the United States and Israel seem to have eased. President Obama and the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu declaring a fresh spirit of cooperation. Could new Middle East peace talks be far behind?

And later, this octopus has a real knack for picking World Cup winners. Who will he predict in Sunday's finals?



OBAMA: If you look at every public statement that I've made over the last year and a half, it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel, that our commitment to Israel's security has been unwavering.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: That the reports about the demise of the special U.S./Israel relation - relationship aren't just premature, they're just flat wrong.


BLITZER: A show of unity and potential progress in the Middle East peace process as President Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House. It was their fifth face- to-face meeting since Netanyahu reclaimed the - the leadership position in Israel last spring.

Let's get some analysis of what happened from someone who is inside the White House for the meetings. Michael Oren is the Israeli ambassador to the United States.


BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: I know you're very pleased, what a difference today's session was with what happened back in March when the prime minister was at the White House, didn't even get a photo with the president. What has happened since then that we've seen this dramatic change in the U.S./Israeli relationship?

OREN: Well, I don't think the change has really been that dramatic, Wolf. I think what happened in - in March was greatly overblown. The fact of the matter is - BLITZER: Well, it was pretty - it was dramatic in March, when the president of the United States wouldn't even have a joint appearance - public appearance with the prime minister of Israel.

OREN: That was a work meeting thrown together at the last minute with the prime - the president was supposed to have been in Indonesia that night, and he cancelled because of the health care debate.

But leave that aside. Israel/American relations have been rock solid, are rock solid. They will continue to be rock solid.

Today's meeting, the president praised the unshakable friendship between the United States and Israel relationship. He praised the prime minister - prime minister's commitment to peace, his willingness to take risk for peace. And Prime Minister Netanyahu, in turn, praised President Obama's commitment to Israel security and his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: But - but you personally, you just came here from the State Department. We had what would you say was a very good meeting with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Contrast that meeting that you have today with the meeting you had when you were summoned to the State Department when the U.S. condemned the announcement of new housing units in East Jerusalem when Vice President Biden was in Jerusalem.

It was quite a difference between today and that.

OREN: You know, Wolf, the best of friends as in the closest (ph) families can have differences sometime. And the great litmus test of the friendship as - as of any alliance is the way you can cross those differences and communicate.

And we have seen how these relationships have grown stronger over the course of the last year. In the security field, certainly, but also now in diplomatic field as the prime minister and the president discuss ways, concrete ways of moving forward from proximity talks between Israelis and the Palestinians to direct talks.

BLITZER: I guess the question is, in this relationship between U.S. and Israel, which is a very strong relationship, but over these past few months, someone blinked. Was it the Obama administration or the Netanyahu government?

OREN: Neither. I think we communicated with each other very, very closely, intensely, in an atmosphere of friendship and constructive thinking. And we came to understand one another's positions in a much deeper level.

Look at how we handled the - the Gaza flotilla issue and how Israel has now in cooperation with the United States, in close consultation facilitated the flow of goods into Gaza.

BLITZER: Why couldn't you have done that earlier?

OREN: Well, there were people in the Israeli government who would have wanted to do it earlier. It was a difficult process. But the Obama administration, again, it's a great litmus of our alliance that, together, we were able to make this transition.

And, keep in mind, today, the president not only appreciated publicly the prime minister's efforts to facilitate the flow of goods into Gaza, but also upheld the notion that Israel has to defend itself from Hamas in Gaza.

BLITZER: Did the president asked you, the Israeli government, to extend the settlement freeze in the West Bank? It was supposed to end Israel's settlement freeze in the West Bank, not Jerusalem, the West Bank in September, did he ask you to extend it?

OREN: He - we discussed concrete measures to build confidence on both sides, to move from proximity talks to direct talks very quickly, hopefully well in advance of the expiration of that moratorium. And those issues will be discussed in the context of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

BLITZER: But the Palestinians say they don't want to have direct their proximity talks. They don't want to have direct negotiations until Israel stops building settlements, not only in the West Bank, but in Jerusalem as well.

OREN: Well, the administration itself has expressed optimism albeit a guarded optimism about the willingness of Palestinians now to move into direct talks. And, again, we are discussing these concrete measures which we hope will facilitate that process.

BLITZER: One of the sensitive issues is the reports and Israel has never acknowledged this publicly, that it has a nuclear arsenal. And the United States now voting, deciding to go along with an International Conference for Nuclear Free Middle East in which Israel's nuclear program wouldn't be front and center. In the past, the U.S. has avoided these kinds of discussions.

Do you - are you worried about the shift that the Obama administration has now put forward on this very sensitive issue?

OREN: Well, the prime minister, again, praised the public and private assurances which we received from the president today, addressing all of these concerns. President Obama talked about the difficult neighborhood that Israel lives in, the serious threats it faced. He talks about - he even talked about Israeli history and how that - the United States would never take any measure that would in any way compromise Israel's security and Israel has a right to defend itself.

BLITZER: But did Prime Minister Netanyahu express his disappointment at this latest stance by the Obama administration?


BLITZER: Was not important to discuss?

OREN: It was not an issue in the discussion. What was in the discussion was a reaffirmation of America's unshakeable commitment to Israel's security in the unique environment in which it finds itself.

BLITZER: Is there any daylight as far as can you tell us between the U.S. position and the Israeli position on Iran's nuclear program?

OREN: None.

BLITZER: As far as a military option is concerned, down the road, if the sanctions, for example, don't work, would there be any daylight then?

OREN: Well, we're very much focused on the sanctions. And, again, the prime minister called attention deeply appreciated the work that President Obama has done both in the Security Council and now in signing legislation on the Iran sanction bill. These are - these are historic documents, and we are hopeful that if there's a strong energy component in the sanctions that they can prove effective in bringing about a change in Iranian behavior.

BLITZER: Has the government of Turkey notified Israel that it can no longer have a military over flights or airspace over Turkey?

OREN: But it's been reported in the press.

BLITZER: But -- can you tell us publicly on that?

OREN: Nothing. I just haven't gone with that.

BLITZER: How strange is this relationship between two former friends, the Israelis and the Turks? How bad is this relationship right now?

OREN: Well, there are some severe strains. I wouldn't try to sugar- coat the relationship. The Turks have embarked on a different type of policy. Our policies have remained overwhelmingly the same. And we value our relationship with Turkey and we hope that we can restore much of the friendship that we enjoyed in the past. And there has been some connection contacts at the highest level between the Turkish and Israeli governments.

BLITZER: One final question. I know the prime minister invited President Obama to come to Israel. He has not been to Israel yet. He has been to the Arab world but not to Israel. Did you get a commitment from the president that he will make a trip to Israel?

OREN: No, only in expression once again that he's interested. And we know we're looking for the right time and the right opportunity. What did happen today was a meeting between Sarah Netanyahu and the first lady which was a very, very friendly, warm meeting, which they discussed their children's passion for soccer and the World Cup.

BLITZER: Is the first lady going to - to be going to Israel? Is that you're suggesting?

OREN: No, I'm suggesting that when the president comes that she will join him.

BLITZER: And you have no idea when the president will go? OREN: Not yet.

BLITZER: He hasn't made a formal commitment yet?

OREN: Not yet. But in principle, certainly.


BLITZER: Israeli Ambassador of the United States Michael Oren.

The World Cup final is Sunday. Is a prediction within arm's reach - as in eight arms? Stand by for Paul, the psychic octopus and CNN's Jeannie Moos.


BLITZER: Here is a look at this week's "Hot Shots".

In Sri Lanka, the housing minister restoring a hunger strike to protest allegations that the Sri Lankan military committed war crime.

In Egypt, workers dig at a site where two painted tombs were discovered.

In Japan, two Geisha have posed for the annual Chinese lantern plant fair.

And on a blistering hot day right here in Washington, D.C., a panda cools off by snacking - get this - on a popsicle.

"Hot Shots", pictures worth a thousand words.

On this, the eve, of the World Cup final, all eyes right now on Paul - Paul, the octopus oracle. Here's CNN's Jeannie Moos on a "Moost Unusual" soothsayer.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's an octopus who doesn't realize his goal is to predict World Cup winners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul, the oracle octopus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Psychic sea creature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tentacled oracle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The psychic cephalopod.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mystic mollusk has gotten famous.

MOOS: Paul lives at the Sea Life Aquarium in Germany where they lowered two boxes labeled with the flags of competing teams. Each box contains mussels, one of Paul's favorite foods.

MOOS (on camera): He picked the winner, like, six times in a row. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a very sensitive octopus.

MOOS (voice-over): Faced with a choice between Germany, his current home, and Spain, Paul loitered atop Germany, then slinked over to Spain and later straddled the two before making his final pick by opening the box with the Spanish flag.

MOOS (on camera): Paul's less lucky relatives were on sale at New York's Fairway Market, octopus, $3.99 a pound. Paul's worth a heck of a lot more than that.

MOOS (voice-over): Some who were buying octopus were skeptical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like it must be fixed. I - I don't believe that there's some genius octopus.

MOOS: Paul isn't the first animal prognosticator. Princess the camel picked winning football teams by selecting one of two Graham Crackers from her owners labeled palms, while Chimpy, the pundit chimp was pitted against human pundits, deciding between Rudy and Hillary for U.S. Senate. But Chimpy never made it big like Paul who has his own website -- don't tell any of my handlers that I can type -- and his own Twitter account.

MOOS (on camera): PETA has even gotten into the act, demanding that Paul be set free. They're saying an octopus is not a prop that should be used for entertainment.

MOOS (voice-over): After correctly predicting Germany's loss to Spain, the psychic octopus has even received death threats. "Put that thing on the menu." "I ate your mother."

OLIVER WALENCIAK, SEA LIFE AQUARIUM: We take a little bit more care about our octopus than before because there are quite a lot of visitors who want to kill and to eat him.

MOOS: Prime minister of Spain joked about sending Paul a protective team. And after Spain beat Germany, Spanish celebrity chef Jose Andres took octopus off the menu.

But a jokester on YouTube made Paul the target of a Hitler assassination plot.


MOOS: Posted one fan, "With eight tentacles, I'd love to see him do a penalty kick."

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And this footnote, Paul the Octopus has predicted that Spain will beat the Netherlands on Sunday.

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.