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THE SITUATION ROOM
Tragedy Even Before Plane Crash; Is Anti-Incumbent Fever For Real?; Refusing Home Sale Because of Race?
Aired August 11, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thanks very much. Happening now, fresh from the White House situation room, the president's national security adviser reveals whether the U.S. mission in Iraq finally is close to being accomplished. Stand by for my exclusive interview with retired general, James Jones.
Also, hard-to-reach clues about the plane crash that killed former Senator Ted Stevens. We're learning the highly experienced pilot who also died in the crash was dealing with a family tragedy.
Also, Florida could face some bitter protests like these. There is a new call for the state to pass immigration crackdowns similar to the one in Arizona. I'll ask Governor Charlie Crist whether it has a chance.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with hints of a new olive branch toward Iran straight from the inner sanctum of the president's war council. That's President Obama's National Security Adviser, the Retired General James Jones. He's sitting next to the president in the White House situation room today. He left that high level meeting and came right over here to our SITUATION ROOM for an exclusive interview.
We spoke at length about the war in Iraq as well as the Iranian nuclear threat and the fate of those American hikers being held by Tehran. But we begin with the possibility of direct U.S. talks with the Ahmadinejad regime or military action.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran. If the sanctions don't work, and I don't know if there's a year left, two years before Iran has a nuclear military capability, is the U.S. ready, the Obama administration, to take military action to stop Iran from having a nuclear bomb?
GEN. JAMES JONES (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I'm not going to speculate on that. I will just simply say that what we've achieved, I think, quite successfully, is three levels of sanctions that frankly very few people thought we could pull off. We being us, the U.S. and the international community. The U.N. sanctions, which were joined by Russia and China made a very, very strong statement with regard to how the world community feels about Iran's direction with regard to its nuclear program.
Followed almost immediately by the European Union sanctions. Followed by individual countries that are sanctioning Iran as well. And so the message to the government is that as long as you persist in going down the path that you seem to be going down, we will have no choice but to try to pressure you to change your mind.
BLITZER: But if the sanctions don't work? If the sanctions don't work?
JONES: At the same time, we leave the door open for them to come back in and change their behavior. And it's really quite simple. What the world is asking is very -- is not hard to do. We have indications as the president said last week, that the sanctions are, in fact, causing them a great deal of difficulty, that their nuclear program is not quite as progressive as some might have thought a year ago.
We've done an awful lot of work to find out what our time frames are and what -- and what is the, if I would use the word wiggle room, with regard to the international community, so this is very much not just a U.S. effort but involves the huge number of countries that agree with us.
BLITZER: In terms of the time frame, the wiggle room, is it one year?
JONES: Well, that's harder to be precise and I don't want to get into that, but I think there is general agreement in the international community as to what that is, and people are comfortable right now with where we are on that linear path if you will. And we want to give the sanctions a good shot at working before we do anything else.
BLITZER: Would you like to engage in direct diplomacy with the Iranians?
JONES: That door is open.
BLITZER: When you say that door is open, the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, is going to be in New York for the U.N. general assembly. Is President Obama ready to meet with Ahmadinejad without any preconditions?
JONES: I think the path that we've asked them to follow is to come back to the table in Vienna, the P-5 plus one dialogue which is the right place to talk about this program and their intention. But as far as, you know, going as far as heads of state meeting, only time will tell. But they have to make those initial steps I think to show that they're sincere. There is no point in theatrical meeting without any building blocks leading up to it.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise. If the Iranians agree to resume the diplomacy through the international atomic energy agency, then you are leaving the door open
JONES: Ultimately. BLITZER: To some sort of high level U.S./Iranian meeting, a direct meeting, perhaps even including the president of the United States and the president of Iran?
JONES: Ultimately, if, in fact, we find the accommodation and the convergence of paths here that shows a sincerity, willingness to be open and transparent, and to meet the very reasonable standards of the international community has asked them to meet (ph), then all things are possible. You know another thing they might do is return our three hikers that they've detained out for over a year.
These are three young people that were hiking. They're climbing. They're not spies. But yet here is a government that detains them from their families for over a year. That's not behavior that is consistent with the norms that we associate with most other countries around the world.
BLITZER: So if they did that, if they return those three hikers that would be a gesture, an important gesture?
JONES: It would be a very important gesture.
BLITZER: And it could lead to what?
JONES: It could lead to better relations, but we've been very clear about what it takes to have Iran come back into the fold of the community of nations. And the community of nations is very worried that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability, that they might export it to terrorist organizations, and they might trigger an arms race in the Middle East as a result. And that is a genuine -- that is genuine apprehension. That's not just bilateral. It's multilateral.
BLITZER: In our next hour, is the Obama administration almost ready to declare mission accomplished in Iraq? Stand by for much more of my exclusive interview with the president's National Security Adviser, James Jones. We're only getting started.
Let's get to some horror stories right now from the site of a plane crash that killed the former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. We're learning more today about what the survivors of that accident had to endure while they waited for rescuers to reach them in a remote corner of Alaska.
CNN's Casey Wian is joining us now from Anchorage with more on this story. What are you learning today, Casey?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We are learning lots of new details about what survivors of that plane crash had to endure. They spent more than 12 hours among dead family members in some cases, travelling companions, the wreckage of that plane, more than 12 hours up on that mountain on a cold, wet, Alaska night.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WIAN (voice-over): The otter float plane carrying former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and eight others took off Monday afternoon headed for a remote fishing camp in search of silver salmon.
DEBORAH HERMANS, NTSB CHAIR: They ate lunch at the lodge. They discussed their departure. And they estimated that the group departed the lodge sometime around 3:00 to 3:15. And this is a very preliminary time estimate. That individual who's also a pilot estimated that the crash site was about 15 minutes in flight time from the lodge.
WIAN: No flight plan was filed, and it was nearly three hours before anyone realized the plane was missing. At 6:15, volunteer pilots began searching and found the site 15 minutes later.
ERIC SHADE, VOLUNTEER PILOT: The main fuselage and the tail was in one piece, but the wings were off and the -- I couldn't see the engine.
WIAN: Do you think anybody could have survived that?
SHADE: I didn't think it was survivable.
WIAN: Rescuers tried to reach the plane.
SR. AIRMAN JONATHAN DAVIS, ALASKA AIR NATIONAL GUARD: I think we left Anchorage around 8:00. 8:30 or so, and then, we had to fight with weather and air refueling to get out towards Dillingham, which we didn't arrive to Dillingham until midnight or so.
SR. AIRMAN KRISTOPHER ABEL, ALASKA AIR NATIONAL GUARD: We were never able to land. It was all hoisting. The situation on the ground did not allow us to land.
WIAN: And why is that? Because of the terrain, the weather or what?
ABEL: The terrain.
HERSMAN: The terrain was very challenging. It was a steep hillside, and it was very slippery and wet.
WIAN: Meanwhile, a physician and two paramedics were air lifted within a thousand feet of the wreckage. They hiked to reach the survivors and remained there throughout the night. It wasn't until 6:00 the next morning, more than 12 hours after the crash, that rescuers again tried to reach the wreckage.
ABEL: The fuselage itself was surprisingly intact and that's where all but one of the survivors and everybody else were located. It's a jumbled mess, and it's wet and as I just said, fuel smell. The volunteers who had gotten there, spent the night there, were frazzled. They were dirty and wet and tired themselves.
DAVIS: One of the younger survivors, I believe, he was able to get out of the plane himself. And he spent the night underneath the wing.
WIAN: Now, the only reason anyone even knew that that plane was missing was its staff at the main hunting lodge where the party was staying called the fishing camp, the remote fishing camp that they were heading to to find out what time the travelers would be back for dinner. Then is when they found out that they never made it to the fishing camp. Now, an update on the condition of the survivors, some of them here at Providence Hospital. Sean O'Keefe, the former NASA administrator, he remains in critical condition. His son, Kevin O'Keefe, is in serious condition. And another traveler, Jim Morhard, (ph) is also listed in serious condition.
A 13-year-old boy whose father was killed in that crash, the hospital is not releasing any information on him. We do have a statement just out from a spokesman for the O'Keefe family. They say that the injuries that sustained by Sean and Kevin O'Keefe are not considered. They do not appear to be life threatening. Both Sean and Kevin have been visited by family members, and they are both mourning the loss of their travelling companions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a tragedy, indeed. Casey Wian thanks very much.
We're also learning more about the pilot of the plane who was killed in the crash. Terry Smith was a veteran pilot, was considered an icon in Alaska aviation. He and his family had been struck by another air tragedy only a few days earlier. Smith's son-in-law was onboard a cargo plane attached to the Alaska Air National Guard when it crashed back on July 28th. He died.
Our Brian Todd spoke to the source close to Smith, asked him about Smith's state of mind. Brian will be joining us later here in the SITUATION ROOM. What a horrible, horrible tragedy.
President Obama has something to celebrate after an embattled U.S. senator survived the Democratic primary challenge last night. We're going to see how both parties' power players fared in the latest round of election 2010.
And talk about a housing crunch. We'll tell you what led to this chaotic scene.
And a new campaign against an Islamic center near ground zero in New York. Images from 9/11 are hitting raw nerves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've seen these ads. What's your immediate reaction to them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I think even the design is misleading and that's a perfect representation of what we stand for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Misinformation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After months of taking a beating, the Democratic party, and by extension, President Obama finally got some much needed good news in yesterday's primaries. The biggest victory came in Colorado where Michael Bennett, the candidate backed by the president and the party establishment won handily. After backing several candidates who went on to lose this primary season, the president may have need this victory more than anyone.
But as Politico reports, the best news for the Democrats may have actually come from the Republicans' results with the GOP nominating candidates who are either vulnerable or plagued by gaffes and scandal or just plain dumb. Take for example, Ken Buck, who will face off against Bennett in Colorado. He was backed by the tea party but opposed by much of the National Republican Leadership. Running against a woman, he was caught on tape saying that he should be elected because he doesn't wear high heels. Moron.
In Connecticut, Republicans nominated, Linda McMahon, for the senate race. Her main claim to fame is a huge bank account and a past association with professional wrestling.
In Minnesota, Republicans chose Tom Emmer who's off to a rocky start after suggesting that the minimum wage be lowered in order to take tips into account.
And in Nevada, Harry Reid has actually pulled ahead in the polls after his Republican opponent has repeatedly shot herself in the foot by saying one stupid thing after another. Yesterday's primaries also raised questions about whether this whole narrative of the 2010 elections is true. The anti-incumbent angry electorate ready to dump all the insiders might not be the case after all.
While Congress's approval rating remains in the toilet, and they've earned it, 19 percent, according to Gallup's latest poll, the people who make up that Congress continue to be re-nominated.
Here's the question, is this year's anti-incumbent fever for real? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a great question, Jack. Thanks very much. Jack will be back shortly.
But let's talk a little bit more about these latest election results. The lessons for both parties, what the White House may be learning from it. We're joined by our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger and David Gergen. David, I'll start with you. Michael Bennett, the president's candidate, the incumbent senator in Colorado wins. He beats Andrew Romanoff who had been backed by Bill Clinton. What does that say if anything about this White House, this president going forward towards November 2nd?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It's encouraging, obviously, for this White House because their muscle really was being questioned now, and it shows that Barack Obama can be a great asset in some states for a candidate as he was for Michael Bennett. It also shows when the entire Democratic establishment gets behind a candidate as it did for Bennett, that that will make a difference, too. SEIU, the labor union went 2 for 2 last night. They had Michael Bennet plus a big winner in Connecticut in the governor's race that they backed.
So, those forces all make a difference, but I would caution against too much exuberance on this on the part of the Democrats. It's worth noting, Wolf, that if you look at the number of votes, the number two person on the Republican primary got, Jane Norton got in losing. She actually got more votes than Michael Bennett did and so with Mr. Buck. Yes, he got a lot of support from the tea party, but he may well be a stronger candidate against Michael Bennett than she would be.
BLITZER: What did you learn from that, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think David is right. The chairman of the Democratic Party, Tim Cain, is heading to Colorado to unite the Democrats tomorrow because he realizes that in order to win in Colorado and everywhere else that the Democrats have to get together, and they had a very divisive primary. If they're going to get out their voters, then they have a better shot but, you know, this is a problem for the Democrats this year, which is the Republican voters are the ones that are more enthusiastic about going to the polls.
Barack Obama is not running for re-election this year, and those young voters and those minority voters that they got out in 2008 are not likely to come to the polls in the numbers they came to in 2008. And that is a problem for them.
BLITZER: David, in Colorado, the tea party-backed candidate, Ken Buck, he won, but in Georgia, the tea party favorite, Karen Handel, who Sarah Palin had supported, narrowly lost to ex-congressman, Nathan Deal, so a sort of mixed results for the tea party movement. What should Republicans learn from that?
GERGEN: I think Republicans have realized that they still got a big advantage. If you look at the generic vote right now, just today, the average of the polls is that the Republicans go in on, in terms of the congressional elections, six points ahead. That's almost unprecedented. It's rarely happened in the past.
But they -- I think their lesson also is you got to be very careful who you recruit because you can wind up as they are in Nevada with a situation where they may blow a race they thought they had in their pocket.
GERGEN: As Jack Cafferty just said, Harry Reid is now ahead. BORGER: Right, and a lot of the candidates that the Republicans actually recruited for Senate races aren't the candidates who won, for example, Rand Paul in Kentucky. You talk about Sharron Angle in Nevada. You talk about Buck in Colorado. So, they got races now where you had candidates running so far to the right. The question is whether they're going to appeal to independent voters in the general election and that -- the Republicans may be the best thing that the Democrats have going for them in this --
GERGEN: If all of this, Wolf, I think we may see election a lot more interesting. I think they're less predictable than people thought they were just a couple days ago.
BLITZER: I think both of you are right, and we'll be watching every step of the way. All right. Guys, thanks very much.
Could Republicans actually hurt their party if they pushed the repeal of constitutional amendment protecting birth rights? The details of our brand new poll. That's coming up.
And are authorities zeroing in on the Arizona fugitives? Our Brian Todd is monitoring new developments in the case.
Plus, chaos erupts near Atlanta. What triggered this angry mob scene? We'll have the latest.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. It was a chaotic scene near Atlanta today. Police in East Point, Georgia were forced to calm thousands of angry people waiting in line for days to obtain applications for subsidized housing. And affiliates tell CNN that fights broke out and people were storming the office. East Point's housing authority issued a statement saying 13,000 applications were given out.
A Chicago couple is facing discriminatory charges for allegedly refusing to sell their million dollar home to the African-American comedian and radio personality, George Willborn seen here on his website. The couple is accused of violating the federal fair housing act for taking their house off the market and refusing to accept Willborn's offer, the highest they have received in two years. The couple has not responded to CNN's request for comment.
And former embattled Illinois congressman, Dan Rostenkowski has died. The powerful Democrat first entered Congress back in 1959. He is credited with helping to pass a controversial expansion of Medicare. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to corruption charges and served time in federal prison before being pardoned by President Clinton four years later. Rostenkowski was 82 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa. We'll get right back to you. You may remember the Florida's governor got a lot of flak from Republicans for embracing President Obama. Is the Republican turned independent Senate candidate now ready to side with the Democrat if elected to the Senate? Charlie Crist is here in the SITUATION ROOM. We're getting ready to talk.
And wait until you hear where the prison escapee from Arizona and his alleged accomplice may have been spotted today.
BLITZER: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, he is the late senator Ted Stevens' former chief of staff. Now, he's speaking out about what may have doomed the flight that took his friend's life and why plane crashes could be an unavoidable risks for Alaska politicians.
Plus, from his situation room to ours, we'll have much more of my exclusive interview with the president's National Security Adviser, retired U.S. Marine Corps General, Jim Jones. Is he ready to declare mission accomplished in Iraq?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
The legal and political fight over immigration that's divided the people of Arizona could play out in another state soon. The Florida attorney general, Bill McCollum, now is proposing legislation similar to Arizona's new immigration law. Among other things, it would require Florida law enforcement officers to check the status of suspected illegal immigrants when they're stopped.
McCollum is in a heated primary battle for the republican nomination for Florida governor. The job now is held by my guest, Charlie Crist, he's running as an independent for the United States Senate.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Are you with Bill McCollum on this new legislation?
CRIST: I'm not, no. I don't like the Arizona law, I don't think it's the right way to go.
And I think the key word that came out during your introduction was people that are suspected of being illegal immigrants. Well, how do you make that determination? By what they look like? I mean, that's not part of the America that I believe in.
BLITZER: So in other words, you'd be afraid of racial profiling? Is that what you're saying?
CRIST: Precisely, yes. BLITZER: Because a lot of Republicans disagree with you on this specific issue, they favor that new immigration law which is now before the courts.
CRIST: No, I understand that, but I don't.
BLITZER: You don't want it going before the voters in Florida. If it did come up for a vote in Florida, how do you think they would vote, the people of Florida?
CRIST: I'm not sure, but you know, the people are Florida are very fair minded and the notion you would pull somebody over because of how they looked or how they appeared and based on maybe nothing else but that and that is cause for law enforcement to stop you, I don't think that is a state anybody would enjoy.
BLITZER: Yes, and there probably could be some protests against Florida in the process, just as in Arizona. You guys need a lot of tourism, a lot of conventions and you don't necessarily need that kind of headache. Is that what you're suggesting?
CRIST: That's absolutely the truth.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about why you're here in Washington. Among other reasons, obviously you want to be in THE SITUATION ROOM, our SITUATION ROOM --
CRIST: I came here to see you.
BLITZER: -- but tonight you are going to a fundraiser.
BLITZER: And some prominent democrats are holding this fundraiser for you, including some who are very close to the former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
CRIST: That's true.
BLITZER: What does that mean? Are you now a democrat for all practical purposes?
CRIST: I think it means we have broad support and I'm very pleased by that. I mean from republicans, democrats, independents, I think everybody has the notion and the idea that they would like an independent voice in the United States Senate fighting for Floridians first.
And that's what this is all about, being independent, putting people above the party, and making sure they have a voice in the Senate that's an honest broker, looks out for their interests first, and democrats and republicans and independents want it.
BLITZER: Are you getting more support from republicans or democrats? CRIST: I'd say it's evenly split. A lot of friends from the Republican Party have stayed with us, continued to help, and god bless them for that.
New democrats who have become very good friends and some democrats who have been friends for a long time are just stepping up in a much more significant way now.
BLITZER: The fundraiser tonight is going to be basically democrats, though.
CRIST: That's correct, it is.
BLITZER: There are two independent U.S. senators, as you know, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, but they both caucus with the democrats and the democrats are in the majority, they have chairmanships and committee rankings and all that.
If you are elected to the United States Senate will you caucus with the democrats or the republicans?
CRIST: I've always said that I'll caucus with the people of Florida. And what I mean by that is, issue by issue, whatever is in the best interests of the people of my state, my fellow Floridians, I want to be able to be with those who are going to help Florida.
BLITZER: But you got to make a decision because if you're not going to be caucusing with one party or the other party, you're not going to have any committee ranking and you're not going to have any influence in the United States Senate. You're going to have to make a major decision.
CRIST: Well, if I have the honor of winning, I'll have a vote in the United States Senate.
BLITZER: You'll have one vote, but if you're chairman of a committee, if you caucus with the democrats, chairman of a subcommittee, you could have some influence. So you're going to have to decide whether to caucus with the democrats or republicans. You just can't caucus with yourself, if you will, if you want to have some influence.
CRIST: Well, I got to keep my eye on the ball and the eye on the ball for me means for me means looking at November 2nd. I'm not going to be a chairman of anything if I don't get elected to the Senate first.
So I have to continue to work hard, campaign hard, continue to strive to earn the trust and confidence of my fellow Floridians.
BLITZER: So when the democrats at the fundraiser tonight ask you, Charlie Crist, we're giving you money, they'll say, are you promising us you'll be with Harry Reid and the democrats if you're, assuming he gets reelected, in the United States Senate, you won't go with Mitch McConnell and the republicans?
CRIST: I'm not going to commit to either one because I am only committed to the people of Florida.
BLITZER: So you'll commit after -- if you're elected. Is that what you're saying?
BLITZER: You don't have to caucus -- you'll have to make that decision down the road.
CRIST: Well, I don't know that Wayne Morris did. I think he literally took a seat in the middle of the aisle, right?
BLITZER: You're right on that. He took a seat in the middle. But, you know, then the people of Florida could suffer if you don't have the influence that you would like to have.
CRIST: And you've just hit on the pivotal issue really -- what is in the best interest of the people of Florida? We don't know who is going to be in the majority after November 2nd, after the general election. And so, I think it's important to keep an open mind, to stay committed only to one thing and that's the people of my state.
BLITZER: Your republican challenger Marco Rubio was here, he was sitting in that seat in THE SITUATION ROOM just a little while ago on July 20th. He said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I don't believe he is really an independent. I think there is increasing evidence that he now is embracing the Obama agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You heard what he said.
CRIST: I heard what he said.
BLITZER: You're smiling.
CRIST: Well, why wouldn't I smile?
BLITZER: You are in --
CRIST: I'm a happy guy.
BLITZER: Are you increasingly embracing the Obama agenda? Cause he is saying you flip flopped on a lot of issues where you were republican but now side with the democrats, including President Obama.
CRIST: Well, that's what you would expect him to say. He is my opponent after all, one of them. And we don't know who the other one is going to be yet until the primary concludes August 24th.
So I look forward to that. I really do. And there will be distinctions between us on a lot of issues. But that's the kind of thing you hear from a lot of the party candidates, if you will. They like to take shots at people. I'm not here to really do that today.
I'm here to offer myself to the people of Florida as an independent voice who wants to rise above that kind of back-and-forth stuff that's driving them crazy all over the country.
BLITZER: The situation as far as the Gulf oil disaster, in your state, Florida, is concerned, I assume it's much better now since the oil is basically stopped flowing out of there for a month.
CRIST: That it is and that's a blessing. It really is. We have had the good fortune to have our beaches virtually untouched. A little bit in Pensacola Beach early on, but they're beautiful.
The water is pristine. We just opened more fishing opportunities in the waters of Florida.
BLITZER: So business is back to usual. Tourists can come and show up and not be worried.
CRIST: Even the president is coming to the Sunshine State this weekend.
BLITZER: For a long weekend with his family.
CRIST: We're glad he's coming and it'll be a great advertisement for the Sunshine State.
BLITZER: And the bill that Floridians are going to give BP, is that a significant? Not a big bill? What are you going to ask BP to reimburse the residents of Florida?
CRIST: We've already asked them for a lot.
BLITZER: How much?
CRIST: Initially, 25 million. Then another 25 thereafter, 7 million on top of that. We're going to keep asking.
And Ken Feinberg I believe will do a great job. He is in charge of the $20 billion fund. That's something that really gives us a great opportunity to do a lot for Florida.
BLITZER: and the checks are coming?
CRIST: Yes they are.
BLITZER: Governor, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
CRIST: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you.
BLITZER: Good luck.
CRIST: Thank you, sir. BLITZER: Two fugitives including a prison escapee from Arizona apparently are going to great lengths to avoid capture.
And the inside story from the president's war council. Stand by for more of my exclusive interview with the president's national security adviser General James Jones. Does he see any threat to U.S. plans for withdrawing from Iraq?
BLITZER: There is a new development happening at the Rod Blagojevich trial in Chicago. Let's bring in Lisa Sylvester who has some information coming in. What are we learning, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have new pictures that are just coming in from a short while ago. Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor, as he was arriving at the courthouse and what this has to do with is apparently the jury which has been deliberating for the last 11 days, they had a question, an inquiry of the judge, and apparently the jurors cannot agree on all of the counts so what they're asking the judge is basically what happens now if all of the jurors can't agree on all the counts? Blagojevich you may recall is facing now 24 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion, all of this surrounding the allegations that he tried to sell President Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois at the time while he was still governor. The judge has said to the jury what you have to do is figure out which of the counts you can't agree on, come back to me and we'll take it from there. We'll continue to monitor the story as these developments come in.
BLITZER: Let us know if we get more information, Lisa. Thank you.
A new twist in the case of two Arizona fugitives. Authorities believe they spotted the suspects and it appears they've covered a lot of ground while on the run. Brian Todd is monitoring the developments. Brain?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, possibly over 4,000 miles covered by this pair. According to a source in the U.S. marshal's service the fugitives may have been spotted today in Gentry, Arkansas and may be involved in the robbery of a beauty store there. Take a look at this map. If John McCluskey and Casslyn Mae Welch are in that area in Gentry, Arkansas that means that since that escape in Kingman, Arizona on July 30th authorities believe at various points they may have been in these areas, Kingman, east of Flagstaff, Arizona, then down into Phoenix, then into New Mexico where authorities link them to the killing of a couple. Then up to the area around Yellowstone National Park. Authorities have also looked for them in this area of western Montana and southwest Canada around the Glacier National Park area. That means they could have covered all of this ground in less than two weeks. That encompasses about 4,100 miles.
BLITZER: There is some indication Brian they've also changed their appearance. What do we know? TODD: According to the U.S. marshals they have. This is what they looked like around the time of the escape when Casslyn Mae Welch according to authorities threw wire cutters over the prison fence to help spring McCluskey and two other inmates. We now know of course the other two inmates have been captured. McCluskey is now believed to have black hair and a black beard. These are composites of what they may look like now while Casslyn Mae Welch authorities say has dyed her hair blonde. This is a composite of what these two could be looking like right now. Again, they could be in the area around Gentry, Arkansas where they are suspected in a possible robbery of a beauty store there. This change in the appearance is according to a bulletin today from the marshal's service.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, stay on top of this for us and update us when we get more information.
He is the son of the former vice president of the United States, Dan Quayle, and he is now running for Congress himself. Is it appropriate for him to call President Obama, and I'm quoting him now, the worst president in history?
And could Israel be on the verge of bombing Iran? Ahead, my interview with one reporter who calls it and I'm quoting him now a near certainty.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us our two CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Look at this brand new CNN Opinion Research corporation poll. The American public is divided right down the middle on the question of, if, should there be a change to the 14th amendment to the constitution which automatically grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. 49 percent favor a constitutional amendment to prevent these kids from getting automatic U.S. citizenship. 51 percent oppose a change. Are you surprised by how close that is?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, because almost anything right now that bashes immigrants, undocumented immigrants, becomes very popular. At least instantly right away. Right? The Arizona law which I oppose and I saw Governor Crist from Florida says he opposes it, probably 60 percent of Americans support. But far, far fewer here. It shows you Americans don't want to tinker with their constitution and I think that's right. Some of these tea party activists say they love the constitution so much. The first thing they want to do when they take office is restrict our freedom under the constitution and I think Americans are wise to put a brake on that.
BLITZER: Would it be wise to change the 14th amendment?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It's bad politics for Republicans to tinker with the 14th amendment. It makes them look extreme and on top off of that it takes them off message. They ought to be talking about jobs and the economy. More importantly the problem with illegal immigration isn't that the constitution has been around for 200 years and worked pretty well. The problem with illegal immigration is that the federal government isn't enforcing the federal border. They're busy making our cars, they want to be our doctors but really they're not doing the job they are supposed to do and ought to get back to that.
BLITZER: Let's get to Dan Quayle's son Ben. He is running for the United States Congress. Wants to get the Republican nomination out in Arizona where the Quayles now live. He's got this ad running.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN QUAYLE: Barack Obama is the worst president in history. My generation will inherit a weakened country, drug cartels in Mexico, tax cartels in D.C. What's happened to America?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That's Dan Quayle's son, Ben.
CASTELLANOS: Just like his father. I hope he spells better.
BEGALA: The potato doesn't fall far from the tree. It looks like a hostage tape. First set aside the content. You know? Barack Obama -- please, Ben. Go play golf. Do whatever the idle rich children of the idle rich do, Ben, but leave the people of Arizona out of it.
CASTELLANOS: He has raised over a million dollars.
BEGALA: Oh, my.
CASTELLANOS: It is a very crowded primary field in the third district in Arizona but right now he is the front runner. He could win and you could have another Quayle to kick around in Washington pretty soon.
BLITZER: If he wins the nomination he's going to be coming to Washington.
CASTELLANOS: Looks like he is and it's way too early though. It is unfair to say Barack Obama is the worst president of the United States. If he keeps spending the way he is and gobbling up car companies and things he could be much worse than he is now.
BLITZER: He thinks this is a winning formula to get a Republican nomination by saying Barack Obama is the worst president in history.
BEGALA: I mean, it's just silly and it's stupid. You know, Republicans, when I was a kid Republicans were the intellectuals, William F. Buckley, Bill Bennett on our network. The big brains were Republicans. Newt Gingrich, I don't agree with him and I think he is a brilliant man. Now they go from dumb to dumber to dumbest. All right? From Bush to Quayle to Palin to Quayle. What's happening in this party, Alex? CASTELLANOS: But in his defense, this is an anti-Washington year. Barack Obama is a hugely polarizing figure. The fellow who really, you know, got a lot of independent and Republican votes has become a very polarizing figure. Attacking Obama is --
BLITZER: There were plenty of Democrats who said George W. Bush was the worst president in history.
BEGALA: But most historians, many, actually say that. And they're right.
BLITZER: Is it better over time?
BEGALA: Are you kidding? No. Honestly, Bush is the worst president. I didn't say ever but certainly of the last hundred years.
CASTELLANOS: Let Barack Obama keep spending. He can get there.
BEGALA: It's hard to be worse than James Buchanan. But yeah. He certainly is in the top -- if there was a mount lose more for crummy presidents Bush would be on it.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thank you.
Jack Cafferty is asking is this year's anti-incumbent fever for real? We'll be back in a moment with the Cafferty file.
Over seven years after President Bush stood in front of the infamous banner is the mission accomplished banner ready for Iraq now? Stand by for more of my exclusive interview with the president's national security adviser General James Jones.
BLITZER: Jack is back with the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Question this hour is this year's anti-incumbent fever for reel? Some of the primary results from yesterday suggest not.
Brent in Cleveland says, "The anti-incumbent fever is exaggerated and there is a small group of tea parties who seem more numerous and important than they really are, but I think this will be a typical midterm election and the party in power always loses seats and this year will be no different, but not a blowout like the pundits predict."
Carl in San Francisco, "No, Jack, everybody hates Congress as a group to varying degrees, but most of us love our represents individually and we will re-elect them again and again."
Violet in San Francisco, "I will vote Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein and I would vote out Boehner and Kyl and Cantor and McConnell but that's not my prerogative and I am sure their constituents love them and dislike my representatives." I bet you are right. And Nancy in St. Louis says, "I believe it's true. The American people have had front row seats for the last several months how the Congress and the Senate operate. No one can come away feeling that the leaders truly deserve to be there. More and more Americans are seeing the tactics that make one wonder who these leaders are working for and certainly not the American people. Bring in the personal indiscretions a lot of the people have gotten by with for tears and I believe the majority of Americans do want the majority of Congress and the Senate." Gesundheit.
Dee in New Paris, Indiana, "I think everybody's sort of anti- incumbent no matter what the party of the incumbent. I think people are sick of politicians who make a career out of running for office and then thanking the supporters with favors and then running for office again. That is not what the founding fathers had in mind."
Chaney in Lousiana, "Not in Louisiana it ain't. We will vote David (D.C. Madam) Vitter back in office. Some states are smarter than others, I guess."
And Paul in Florida writes, "This piece was written by a man working on getting Robert Gibbs' job. Good luck, Jack. You've got the slant down to an art form."
If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.
A new warning to Israel may soon reach what's being called the point of no return and take military action against Iran and its nuclear program.
And opponents against an Islamic center going up in ground zero take their anger to the streets with provocative ads on New York City buses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, how effective with 23 buses will it be?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is creating a dialogue and that is exactly what needs to be done.
BLITZER: With open wounds from the 9/11 attacks, there is new evidence that most Americans are against building a mosque near ground zero in NEW YORK CITY, but construction of an Islamic center is moving forward anyway so opponents plan an in-your-face campaign to try to sway the debate. It involves plastering graphic images from the terror attacks on New York City buses. Mary Snow has more on the unfolding controversy. Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the legal hurdles may have been cleared for a planned Islamic center and mosque here in New York near ground zero, but opponents are not giving up.
SNOW: Coming to some New York City buses, this ad showing an image of 9/11 in one corner and in the other what's being called a mega mosque. Before the NTA New York transit agency cleared the ad, the woman behind it sued. Pamela Geller, a conservative blogger and part of a group called Stop Islamization of America says that initially there were objections over the imagery.
Do you think that New Yorkers will get upset though with the tower, the plane and the flames?
PAMELA GELLER, STOP ISLAMIZATION OF AMERICA: I think that is a piece of American history. Do they get upset with Pearl Harbor or Iwo Jima? If this is offensive, if just showing an image of 9/11 is offensive then what is a 15 story mega mosque looking down on the cemetery where they are still finding human remains?
SNOW: But that not an accurate picture. The actual site is not adjacent to ground zero, but two blocks away from it, and the mosque within will be one part of a larger community center which will include a performing arts center and gym. Geller says she raised $8,000 on the web to put the ads on about two dozen buses with the aim of sparking debate. And if anyone is familiar with that, it is Azeem Khan of the Islamic Circle of North America. In recent years, his group ran ads on city buses and trains to educate people about Islam. He questions the motives of the anti-mosque ads.
What are you expecting to happen?
AZEEM KHAN, ISLAMIC CIRCLE OF NORTH AMERICA: Well, we know this is not about New York City. This is happening all over the country. The type of campaigns that we run are to promote tolerance and dialogue. These are the complete opposite. They are promoting fear and hatred.
SNOW: Khan points to recent protests in Temecula, California against a proposed mosque site, and another in a town south of Nashville, Tennessee, with people voicing fears they will be used by Islamic extremists. After protests in Florida, members of one mosque want to make sure people understand what is going on inside. They are streaming sermons online showing they have nothing to hide. But it is against the backdrop of the proposed planned mosque near ground zero. A CNN Opinion Research poll shows that 68 percent of Americans oppose it.
KHAN: As people get to know us as we are here for a longer period of time, and like other communities eventually we will be accepted. People want Islam to be the boogeyman right now, but there is a big disconnect there, and it is not the reality of things.
SNOW: On Tuesday, New York Governor David Paterson stepped into the debate and said he did not have objections to the Islamic center be built near ground zero, he suggested that the developers consider an alternative site using state-owned property. The developers have declined the offer. Wolf?
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM,
Happening now, Israel is increasingly concerned about Iran's nuclear program, and now reportedly likely to act alone with a bombing campaign that could spark a major conflict and present the white house with a nightmare scenario. We the author of a new article who's here.
And also, a milestone in the war in Iraq as thousands of U.S. troops leave, what the result in a country with no new government and an army that may not be ready for a decade. I will ask the president's national security advisory General Jim Jones in an exclusive interview this hour.