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THE SITUATION ROOM

Stopping Iran's Nukes; Hazard of Alaska Politics; Mission Accomplished in Iraq?

Aired August 11, 2010 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's been called the occupational hazard of Alaska politics. Former senator Ted Stevens isn't the first lawmaker to die in a plane crash in that state. Air travel there is necessary, but is it too risky?

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

Israel unilaterally bombing Iran in an effort to stop the Islamic republic's nuclear program. It's a scenario that journalist Jeffrey Goldberg says is increasingly likely in an article entitled "The Point of No Return."

He writes in the "Atlantic" magazine, and I'm quoting him now, "Based on months of interviews I have come to believe that the administration knows it is a near certainty that Israel will act against Iran soon. Soon if nothing or no one else stops the nuclear program."

Jeffrey Goldberg is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Jeff, I spoke earlier today with the president's national security adviser, General Jim Jones, and he suggested that if the Iranians now under pressure from the sanctions decide to get back involved with diplomacy, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and start releasing those three American hikers, there's an opportunity for a high-level U.S./Iranian dialogue.

Any of that likely to happen?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, THE ATLANTIC: The dialogue is possible, and you know the Obama administration has been seeking that dialogue for a couple of years, almost a couple of years.

The question is, what can the Obama administration do to stop the Iranians from pursuing the nuclear program. It's one thing to sit down and talk about these issues, but it seems unlikely to me at this point that Iran is simply going to say, because President Obama asks, you know, we're going to -- we're going to end our nuclear program.

BLITZER: What if the sanctions are really punishing, and the sanctions approved by the U.N. Security Council with the backing of China and Russia, the Europeans -- what if they really come down hard on the folks in Iran? GOLDBERG: This is the million-dollar question. The question is, can they ratchet up pressure to the point where the Iranian government acts in what we would think of as its rational self-interest and stop this program?

Even President Obama, though, when a group of journalists spoke to him last week -- we went in -- and he acknowledged that, you know, maybe they don't have the same cost benefit analysis that we do. Maybe they simply want this program at all costs and will suffer or allow their people to suffer through sanctions.

BLITZER: You were invited to the White House last week --

GOLDBERG: Yes.

BLITZER: -- for what was supposed to be a background briefing with senior officials.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

BLITZER: But to your surprise, the president himself walked in and spoke to all of you on the record.

GOLDBERG: Right. A very senior official they say.

BLITZER: That would be the president of the United States.

GOLDBERG: Yes. And he was on the record.

BLITZER: What was his message to you, the journalists, the columnists, the editorial writers, about a possible situation unfolding with Iran?

GOLDBERG: Well, his message was a pretty basic message. He was saying, look, our sanctions actually seem to be working. He used the word rumbling to describe what they're hearing in Iran.

It's a long -- rumbling is a long way from the Iranians deciding to drop their nuclear program. He also reiterated -- and this has been a steady -- a steady program -- a steady idea of his. He also reiterated that the administration is open to talking with the Iranians.

But they're on a two-track process right now. One track is pressure, and that's the sanctions, and the other track is, saying, look, the door is open. We want to build you an off-ramp to get off this program.

BLITZER: Because you say -- in your article, you said the president is seized by this issue.

GOLDBERG: Yes.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

GOLDBERG: Well, people think that this is about the safety of Israel or the safety of American's Arab allies, but this is about a whole other thing as well. The president is a guy -- is a president who is really devoted to the idea of nuclear zero.

He wants to see -- he's a -- he is very engaged in nonproliferation. He wants to see the world get rid of nuclear weapons. He understands, and he said this. He understands that if Iran goes nuclear, it could have a cascading effect in the Middle East. Egypt go nuclear. Saudi Arabia would go nuclear. Turkey would go nuclear.

And so he would inadvertently oversee the greatest expansion of nuclear powers in the world, rather than bringing down the number of nuclear -- nuclear states.

BLITZER: Now you interviewed Prime Minister Netanyahu. A lot of military officers in Israel, a lot of political leaders. And you concluded that an Israeli air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities -- in your words -- is a near certainty.

GOLDBERG: Well, it's a near certainty in the long term, but even in the next year I give it a 50 percent or better chance. Next year, meaning by next July.

The Israelis believe that they are facing a threat to their existence in the likes of which they've never seen before. It's always been Israeli defense doctrine not to let a regional adversary gain control of a nuclear weapon or get a nuclear weapon.

Iran is close. Secretary Gates says they're one to three years away. The Israelis say one to three years, and they figure they have six months to figure out what to do.

The prime minister I don't think wants to do this, and I think there's a real -- there's an open question about whether Israel has the capabilities to do this.

BLITZER: Well, you described a scenario of 100 Israeli F-15s and F-16s flying over whether Saudi Arabia or Iraq.

GOLDBERG: Right.

BLITZER: Turkey.

GOLDBERG: Right.

BLITZER: And hitting those. Could they get the job done?

GOLDBERG: Well, this is the key question. They could reach these sites. They could drop their munitions on these sites. But they don't have a return capability. It's one thing to fly over Saudi Arabia once and come back. But to constantly go back and forth, the kind of flying that the American Air Force can do is not within Israel's capability which is why the Israelis obviously along with, as you know, certain Arab countries would rather see the Obama administration do this. And obviously the Obama administration is not there yet. They believe that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions will work, but like we were just talking about the president is dead serious about trying to stop Iran from getting these nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: The article is entitled "The Point of No Return" in the "Atlantic" magazine. Jeffrey Goldberg is the author.

Jeff, thanks very much.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

BLITZER: The death toll from those devastating floods in Pakistan just keeps rising. Officials now say more than 1300 people have died. Many more have been injured and left homeless by the torrential rains.

The United Nations have launched an urgent appeal for $460 million in aid. The U.S. is pledging $20 million on top of the $35 million it's already promised but a Taliban spokesman is telling Pakistanis to reject any U.S. aid, calling the United States the enemy.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."

Then mission accomplished in Iraq. President Obama and his national security team assess the U.S. mission amid a massive drawdown. The National Security adviser General James Jones was at the White House meeting. He's here in our SITUATION ROOM this hour for an exclusive interview.

And new details of the plane crash that killed former senator Ted Stevens, and the unthinkable ordeal that the survivors had to endure.

Plus what Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that could wind up costing him some Latino support.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the Bush tax cuts are an 800- pound gorilla that are set to expire January 1st. If Congress does nothing, everybody's taxes are going to go up, and so far, that's what Congress is doing. Nothing.

Some of the nation's best economic minds say it's time to bite the bullet and raise taxes. Economically speaking this country is going right down the drain. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan initially supported the Bush tax cuts, but Greenspan says they ought to be allowed to expire.

Greenspan thinks that higher taxes might mean slower economic growth, but he says it's more important to begin paying down our massive debt.

Our national debt has now topped $13 trillion. Our annual deficits are sky high, expected to top $1.4 trillion just this year.

David Stockman, the former budget director for President Reagan, along with former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Paul O'Neill, all agree with Greenspan about higher taxes to some degree.

President Obama only wants the tax cuts to expire for individuals making more than $200,000 a year or families earning more than $250,000. But most Republicans are opposed to that idea. They want to extend all the tax cuts. And some moderate Democrats agree with them.

They are concerned that even President Obama's limited tax increase could hurt this very weak economic recovery we've got.

Opinions are all over the place on what ought to happen, but doing nothing is not a good option, unless of course the government does something about its runaway spending.

Don't hold your breath.

Here's the question. In light of skyrocketing deficits, is it time to raise taxes? Go to CNN.com/Caffertyfile, and post a comment on my blog. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

The Senate majority leader Harry Reid is having to explain a remark that rubbed at least some Latinos the wrong way.

Lisa Sylvester is looking into this story for us.

Lisa, what's going on here?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know -- as you know, Senate majority leader Harry Reid is fighting to keep his Senate seat in Nevada. A key group in that state, Latino voters.

Well, yesterday, Reid was speaking to Hispanic activists said a few controversial remarks that could turn out to hurt him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Call it a gaffe or perhaps a moment of candor speaking at a news conference for Hispanic advocacy group, either way Senator Reid has upset Hispanic Republicans with this comment.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK? Do I need to say more?

SYLVESTER: Conservative Hispanic Alfonso Aguilar says Democrats can't assume they own the Hispanic vote.

ALFONSO AGUILAR, LATINO PARTNERSHIP FOR CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES: I think his comments are extremely insulting and condescending to the Latino voters. Latino voters are very independent, and they will support candidates of either party, as long as they defend the values that they believe in.

SYLVESTER: Senator Reid's campaign tried to explain in a statement what he really meant to say. Quote, "Senator Reid's contention was simply that he doesn't understand how anyone -- Hispanic or otherwise -- would vote for Republican candidates because they oppose saving teachers' jobs, oppose job-creating tax incentives for small businesses, oppose investment and job creating clean energy projects, and oppose the help for struggling unemployed Nevadans to put food on their table and stay in their homes."

The Senate majority leader's comments came as he was expressing frustration with Republicans for standing in the way of comprehensive immigration reform that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

Reid pledged to pass an immigration bill this year, but that hasn't happened. The Center for Immigration Studies says it's not just Republicans blocking immigration legislation, but also Democrats especially those running in tight elections.

STEVE CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Maybe a dozen Democratic senators wouldn't vote with him, so even without considering the Republicans he can't get what he wants. The amnesty is just politically unpopular with most Americans.

SYLVESTER: Instead, there are now calls from some Republican congressional lawmakers to challenge the 14th Amendment that grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. without reference to the citizenship of their parents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And a just-released study by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that in 2008 340,000 babies out of 4.3 million babies were born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants or that works out to about 1 in 12 of all babies born that year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa. Thanks for that report.

An incumbent Democrat and some GOP outsiders, all big winners in yesterday's primaries. So what does that mean for the election on November 2nd?

John King and Candy Crowley, they're both standing by. Stand by for that.

And President Obama huddles with his national security team to review the mission in Iraq. I'll have an exclusive interview with the key member of that team, the president's national security adviser, General James Jones.

Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, we have just learned that the vice president's plane was involved in a minor accident this morning at a New York airport while Vice President Joe Biden was on board.

An Air Force official says Biden's plane was taxiing down the runway at an airport in Long Island when its jet wash knocked over a small plane, damaging its wing. No one was on board that plane at that time and there are no reported injuries.

Two Pakistani television stations are off the air, blacked out after showing reports about shoes being thrown at the Pakistani president during his visit to England. The managing director of one station says the report angered the ruling Pakistan's People's Party and its activists are threatening cable operators who refuse to block the station's signals.

Out-of-work homeowners just got a $3 billion -- yes, billion- dollar -- reprieve. That's how much the Obama administration (INAUDIBLE) for a program to help the unemployed avoid foreclosure.

One part of the plan offer loans to jobless borrowers who are at immediate risk of losing their homes. The loans will carry no interest and be good for up to two years for a maximum of $50,000.

Astronauts on board the International Space Station have wrapped up a critical space walk. Crew member s removed an ammonia pump that failed 10 days ago. They're expected to install a new pump during a third spacewalk sometime next week.

A backup system is cooling the air now, and without this, temperatures on the station's sun-facing side would soar to 250 degrees.

And a fun day at an amusement park in Colorado turned terrifying today when a park train tipped over. It happened at a railroad-themed park near Denver called Tiny Town. Several people were hurt, and 10 of them had to be hospitalized including some children.

None of their injuries were life-threatening. This accident is now under investigation. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Lisa. Autopsies are being performed today on the bodies of former senator Ted Stevens and four others who died in a small plane crash in Alaska on Monday.

Rescuers now say the four survivors including the former NASA administrate Sean O'Keefe spent a harrowing night in a wreckage -- in the wreckage on a mountainside before they could be lifted to safety.

And for one family, this tragedy comes on the heels of another. Pilot Terry Smith was killed just two weeks after his son-in-law died in the crash of a military cargo plane near Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base. And Brian Todd is here working the story for us.

Brian, the Alaskans certainly depend on these small planes to move around that big state.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really do, Wolf, and it's primarily because there is really no other way to get from point A to point B in Alaska as fast and efficiently as in a small plane.

It's a real necessity of political life in Alaska as well and I spoke with Senator Stevens' former chief of staff about that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Mitch Rose can envision so much of that plane route. The spectacular mountains just north of the Bering Sea, the beautiful rivers. The former chief of staff for Ted Stevens says he's flown on that same route with the late former senator several times.

MITCH ROSE, FORMER STEVENS' CHIEF OF STAFF: There is a gradual increase in terrain. You do have the clouds often coming in from Bristol Bay. It can be -- it can be very dicey at times. There's no doubt about it.

TODD (on camera): What were they up against, do you think, on that flight?

ROSE: Well, it's hard to say, Brian. I wasn't there at the time, but I'm sure from the video that we've seen, there was a low ceiling, and that probably complicated things.

TODD (voice-over): Rose makes clear he doesn't think flying small planes in Alaska is inherently dangerous. As a former military transport pilot, Rose says Senator Stevens knew the risks and was always careful.

Rose says in Alaska, with terrain so vast, rugged and remote, there is virtually no other mode of travel that's practical for a politician.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And history does bear that out. In 1972, House majority leader Hail Boggs was in a plane that disappeared over Alaska. He was in that plane with the father of current senator Mark Begich who was a congressman at that time. That plane was never found. Senator Stevens himself was involved in a leer jet crash in 1978 that killed his wife.

Now in the broader sense, politicians sometimes don't really look at the dangers when they're rushing from campaign stop to campaign stop, and I asked Mitch Rose about that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (on camera): How much pressure do politicians feel to get on that small plane to get to the next rally knowing people are waiting for them even though, boy, the risks may be a little bit much?

ROSE: Well, I think politicians often have schedules that are broken down to 10-minute and 15-minute intervals, and so clearly, you never want to disappoint and you always try to want to make that next event. You always try to -- you don't want to be the person that doesn't shake that hand or be at that forum.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But Rose says he does not believe that that applied in the crash that killed Senator Stevens. Rose points out that Mr. Stevens was no longer a senator and this was just a fishing trip. No pressure to be there at a specific time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And as we pointed out, there's more information coming out about the pilot in this plane who died in the crash.

TODD: That is right. Terry Smith was his name, a long-time pilot for Alaska Airlines. He was killed in the crash. I spoke to a source close to Terry Smith and confirms to us that Smith's son-in- law, Major Aaron Malone, was killed in the crash of a C-17 cargo plane at Elmendorf Richardson Air Base in Alaska just two weeks ago.

And I asked the source about Mr. Smith's state of mind in recent days. The source said he didn't want to get into that, it's too soon right now after the crash. They're at a very sensitive period right now. Really, you can't jump any conclusions about state of mind.

BLITZER: We can only -- our heart goes to the daughter --

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- of this pilot. She loses her husband a couple of weeks ago.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: At Elmendorf and now she loses her dad --

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: -- a few days later.

TODD: Real tragedy.

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to that family.

Brian, thanks very much for that.

A massive U.S. drawdown in Iraq happening this month. With all U.S. combat troops leaving by the end of this month and all U.S. troops leaving by the end of the next year. Is it too early to say mission accomplished in Iraq?

I'll ask the president's National Security adviser, retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Jones in an exclusive interview. Also winners and losers in the latest primary races here in the United States. How did the candidates backed by the Tea Party or President Obama fare? And what does it foreshadow for November?

Plus the flight attendant who quit in a most dramatic way becomes a most unusual folk hero. And now he's speaking publicly for the first time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Within weeks, thousands more U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq in preparation for a total U.S. withdrawal by the end of next year. It's a huge milestone in the seven-year-old war and today President Obama huddled with his National Security team to review the U.S. mission there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now President Obama's National Security adviser General James Jones, retired U.S. Marine Corps commandant.

Thanks very much for coming in, General.

GEN. JAMES JONES (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you, Wolf. It's a pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: You just have come to our SITUATION ROOM from your situation room, we have a picture of you up there on the screen. You're sitting right next to the president. The subject today, I guess, was Iraq.

Are you ready to declare mission accomplished?

JONES: Well, the subject was Iraq, but before we get to that, I brought you a coin from the other situation.

BLITZER: The White House situation room?

JONES: The White House situation room. And --

BLITZER: Thank you.

JONES: On behalf of us at that situation room, we want to wish you a happy anniversary on you r fifth year of your SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Thank you so much. Hopefully one of these days we'll come to your situation room, and I'll bring you a coin from my situation room, and we'll do -- do a little interview from there.

JONES: That's a deal.

BLITZER: Thank you. All right. Let's talk about what just happened in this meeting. And we got the picture that's already up there.

JONES: Sure. BLITZER: Is it over with? Is mission accomplished in Iraq?

JONES: Well, we had a full meeting of the National Security Council, as you'd see on the picture, chaired by the president and the vice president. And the purpose of the meeting was to have a comprehensive review where we were with regard to the political situation in Iraq, the formation of the government, the security situation.

And then third part of the meeting was about the transition that's going on and, you know, generally speaking, I think things are going well. And I'd be happy to go into some detail.

BLITZER: Well, let's go into some specifics because there is no new government yet, and there doesn't seem to be any sign that it's about to happen. It's been, what, five, almost six months without a new government?

JONES: Well, it's -- there is a caretaker government. I mean there is a government that's functioning. Violence is down. This is -- month of July would have qualified as the third least violent month in -- in Iraq since January of 2004. And the government is functioning.

BLITZER: When is there going to be a new government?

JONES: Well, we -- the report this morning from people who work this every single day, and the vice president, by the way, who is spending an enormous amount of time at the president's direction, talking to the principals.

Even this morning, he was on the telephone talking to them.

BLITZER: To Nouri al-Maliki, Ayad Allawi.

JONES: Yes.

BLITZER: All of the various candidates?

JONES: Correct. Yes, all -- all of the three principal parties. And we think that they're making good progress, and within the not- too-distant future, they'll come to commendation but --

BLITZER: Good progress and not-too-distant future. Ambiguous. What is not-too-distant future means?

JONES: I'd say maybe a few weeks, a month.

BLITZER: Can U.S. troops -- all combat troops be out of Iraq by the end of this month even if there's no new government?

JONES: Combat operations will cease officially on the 31st of this month, and we will be down --

BLITZER: Whether or not there is a new government.

JONES: Correct. But there is a government.

BLITZER: But a new government?

JONES: No. Whether or not there is --

BLITZER: Whether or not there is a --

JONES: Correct.

BLITZER: Now what about --

JONES: And we'll be down -- we'll be down to 50,000, and they will be adopting a training and advising mission. And General Odierno, this morning, reported to the commander in chief that he feels that the Iraqi Security Forces which are now quite capable can -- or up to the task of handling things themselves, which is very, very good news.

BLITZER: Because as you know all U.S. troops are supposed to be out of Iraq by the end of next year, the end 2011, and that why I was disturbed today when I read this quote from the Iraqi army chief of staff Babakar Zebari who said this, "If I were asked about the withdrawal I would say to politicians, the U.S. army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020." Nine more years after 2011. What is he talking about?

JONES: Well, I would imagine that he is talking about advisory roles and training and the type of relations that we have with many countries around the world that seek to improve their security forces, their armies, navies, and air forces, and in a normal relationship with a new Iraq and new government, we intend to have that relationship.

BLITZER: So military to military relationship, but no significant troop presence after the end of next year?

JONES: That is correct.

BLITZER: Even though he says that the Iraqi army won't be prepared to take really full charge until 20?

JONES: Well, there's the Iraqi army development, and the Iraqi police development to maintain the stability inside of the country, but, General Odierno, and his counterpart is confident that they are on the right slope to do that. We are meeting our milestones and benchmarks and so far so good.

BLITZER: So the fear of Iraq breaking up into a Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish, separate provinces and separate countries, you are not worried about that anymore?

JONES: Not at the present and as the president said politics is breaking out, and they are settling the differences and coming to compromised positions in a reasonable way. And that the violence is very low.

BLITZER: Mission accomplished?

JONES: Mission on the way to being accomplished and the trend lines are good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Much more of the interview coming up with General Jones. He met with the president today in the white house situation room, and you will hear what General Jones has to say ability one of the most controversial issues facing the U.S. military right now, and we are talking about gays serving openly in the military, and that is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More now of my exclusive interview with retired Marine Corps General James Jones. He's President Obama's national security adviser right now. Among other topics that we covered, gays serving openly in the United States military and the ongoing middle east peace effort.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Israeli, Palestinian, and direct peace talks, happening any time soon?

JONES: Possibility. Possibility in the near future.

BLITZER: Face to face between the Israelis and not the proximity talks, but direct talks. Is Mahmoud Abbas the president of the Palestinian authority ready to do it with Netanyahu, the prime minister?

JONES: Well, I won't speak for them, but I will tell you that we are engaged with both sides, and we've engaged with the Arab league and the Europeans and there is a growing sense that this is something that has to happen, and we have to find a solution, because it is not just a regional problem, but it is a regional problem, but it is also a global problem, and finding a, being able to have two nations living side by side in peace and security is something that would be good for the entire world.

BLITZER: You are encouraging the Palestinians and the Israelis to meet.

JONES: We are encouraging, but they have to find the modalities back to the table, but I'm encouraged with the efforts that Senator Mitchell is making, that vice president, the president, secretary of state -- we are all involved in this at various levels in the government.

BLITZER: It is a good idea that some in the house are suggesting for the U.S. to freeze $100 million in military aid to the Lebanese army because of what happened along the border between the Lebanese and Iran? JONES: Well, we need time to think about that. This was -- this was an unfortunate situation resulting in loss of life on both sides. What impressed me is the degree to which both sides were willing to be reasonable in the aftermath and the steps that were put in to make sure that this does not happen again. But, I -- I think that we will have to see exactly where we stand on the question of arms for the Lebanese army. We have a high interest in the Lebanese army that is stable and conducts itself appropriately, and we have had some good success with them so far.

BLITZER: And another sensitive issue, and this is the last question on gays serving openly in the United States military. You served in the Marine Corps your whole career and you wound up as commandant of the Marine Corps and why is there so much resistance specifically in the Marine Corps to gays serving openly in the marines?

JONES: Well, you know, I've come to the conclusion that we should, that the president did exactly the right thing in asking Secretary Gates to conduct a study that all of the services are participating in. This will -- in this length of time that we are taking to study this issue will have, I think, a calming effect on the emotional aspect here. The standard for service in the armed forces of the United States ought to be based on good order and discipline. And we found ways to modify eligibility to serve in the armed forces for other groups, you know, whether it is based on race or religion or whatever. We have, we can find a right path here. I think that giving a time to have the services have their discussions, have their education and get back to the president, and report on exactly what, you know, how they feel about this and how they would implement the change if they were ordered to do so it is going to be a good thing and I think that we should wait for the outcome of the study, and then see where we go from there.

BLITZER: When is that going to happen?

JONES: I think it is due by the end of the year.

BLITZER: And you personally are comfortable with marines, gay marines serving openly?

JONES: I think that again, the standard should be the, that people in uniform should adhere to the code of conduct, and contribute to the good order and discipline of the armed forces by the daily behavior and that should apply to, to all people regardless of their sexual orientation.

BLITZER: So you are comfortable with this change?

JONES: I think that we are getting to that part in our society where it is something that we should find our way to accommodate.

BLITZER: Because a lot of the NATO allies do it, and you think that the U.S. Should do it, too?

JONES: Exactly. I am looking to see the results of the study and join the debate and give it some thoughtful and open-minded consideration, but, and I think that this is the right vehicle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Tomorrow, the war in Afghanistan, is Pakistan part of the problem or part of the solution? More of my exclusive interview with the president's national security adviser General James Jones right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. Lots more coming up.

Primary winners gearing up for November, a closer look at who came out on top in closely-watched races.

And an unlikely folk hero, the flight attendant who walked off of the job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened on the plane, Steven?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won't say anything at all?

STEVEN SLATER: Not just now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about all of the people who have supported you? A lot of people have supported you.

SLATER: Greatly appreciated.

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BLITZER: The results are in from yesterday's midterm primaries. In Connecticut, the first-time candidate and former wrestling executive Linda McMahon easily won the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate setting up a campaign against the long-time Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal. In a nail biter in Colorado, political newcomer and the favorite of the tea party movement Dan Maes upset former Representative Scott McInnis in the Republican gubernatorial primary. And with the support of President Obama, Senator Michael Bennett squashed the anti-incumbent momentum by winning the Colorado Democratic Senate primary over Andrew Romanoff who was backed by Bill Clinton. Let's about the results and what they could mean in November with our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley who is host of "STATE OF THE UNION" which airs Sunday mornings, and John King who is host of "JOHN KING USA" which airs right after THE SITUATION ROOM. What did we learn about the November 2 elections based on yesterday, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think what we learned is that elections are not totally predictable. There are always going to be exceptions, but I still think that what we know is that we have a very rested electorate. You've got to run a good campaign. Good campaigns do matter. Money still matter, but in the end, this has to do with an electorate where we are not sure where they are going particularly in the middle.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And look, the white house says it is happy today. They say number one Bennett winning in Colorado and they worked out kinks in the turnout operation and they think they have learned a lesson there. And number two, the narrative from the Democrats, Wolf, is that the energy from the right, the tea party energy is producing candidates that the right might like, but that are going to be weaker general election candidates and Linda McMahon in Connecticut beating a former Congressman, and in Colorado Ken Buck beating a established member of the former Bush cabinet. They Democrats say they are weaker candidates, but let's see how that works out because in this anti-political mood we'll see on election day whether that is proved but the Democrats think at least on paper they are stronger positions in a few of these Senate races that a few months ago they thought they would lose.

BLITZER: In Connecticut Linda McMahon has millions and millions of dollars of dollars to spend. She has a lot more money available to her than Blumenthal the Democratic candidate might have.

CROWLEY: And she will need it. We see the polls. I mean Connecticut is not a Republican area let's face it. I mean it's a pretty Democratic state. It is one of the most educated states and one of the most Democratic states around. And she is ten points down, so she is, look, a long time between now and November she could certainly make it up, and it will take a lot to make this up.

BLITZER: And some of her supporters are looking to John King's home state and saying that is a pretty Democratic state, but look at what happened there.

KING: And there's no question. There's no question that you should consider every state worth looking at. It doesn't mean they're all in play but we can look at every one of them. The challenge for Linda McMahon and she's proven pretty good so far, people are going to run clips. She jumps into the ring at one point and kicks a man in a not so happy place and her husband has done some things and there's video of her husband standing over a woman and he is making her bark. Democrats are going to spread these out and say this is not somebody that you want to send to the United States Senate, and her counterargument is it is entertainment, and it was my business and it is well run. When we made mistakes we corrected them. Why don't we talk about jobs, taxes and economy and not wrestling? Who controls the narrative in the debate? But Candy's right, Attorney General Blumenthal is favored at the moment.

CROWLEY: Well and not only that. The one good thing even should she lose and we don't know what's going to happen, she is going to make the Democrats spend an awful lot of money there that they could use in other places.

BLITZER: And there was a professional wrestler named Jesse Ventura who was elected in Minnesota, but he was elected in a three- person contest which is not necessarily going to be the case in Connecticut.

KING: Well, it is one of the years where I would not think that old rules apply, and to those who say that the Republicans are nominating a whole bunch of inexperienced candidates, remember that the current president of the United States was 47 years old when he was elected. He had no executive experience. He had only been in the Senate for a short time, and sometimes when the voters are in the mood for change, they take big bold steps.

BLITZER: And a lot of us are old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan got the Republican nomination, the Jimmy Carter folks were pretty happy, because they said, look, the actor from Hollywood is the opponent. We are on a clear path to be re-elected.

CROWLEY: Well, I do think that it is just, and it all goes back to the restiveness ad I think that the Democrats are pushing this, and again, we have only lost one Senate incumbent, and that is not exactly an incumbent, because it was Arlen Specter, but we don't know the strength of the candidates at this point.

BLITZER: Candy's going to have more on Sunday. John is going to have more at the top of the hour. Guys, thanks very much.

In light of skyrocketing deficits, is it time to raise taxes? Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

Plus, he walked off of the job, or slid off of the job we should say into the international spotlight, and this flight attendant is now a folk hero. CNN's Jeanne Moos is getting ready for a most unusual look.

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BLITZER: Two armed and dangerous fugitives are believed to have disguised themselves and the U.S. marshal's office is putting out this new composite. Convicted killer John McCluskey who escaped from an Arizona prison last month is believed to have grown a beard and dyed his hair black. His alleged accomplice Casslyn Welch is now believed to be a blonde. Officials say the pair may have been spotted in Gentry, Arkansas, and they're suspected in a robbery there.

Let's go back to Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, in light of skyrocketing deficits, is it time to raise taxes?

Tom writes, "You're missing the point. It's not as if anyone who pays taxes really thinks a tax increase will be used to pay down the debt. Our fine public servants continue to spend and run up massive debts regardless so it's time to say no."

Robert writes in Florida, "A flat tax across the board will be much more fair and then we can get rid of the Internal Revenue Service."

John writes, "Your premise is incorrect. Republicans aren't concerned that a limited tax increase could hurt the weak economy. They're concerned that supporting a tax increase would hurt them in the upcoming elections and that's absolutely the only thing that they're worried about. The fact is, the Bush tax cuts, along with increased spending for wars et cetera is the road to disaster. It's clear to anyone who's ever balanced a checkbook, it's time to let the tax cuts expire and continue to move away from misguided Republican policy." Shirley, "No, Jack, it's not time to raise taxes. Americans spend enough money on tax. State and federal income tax, property tax, sales tax, social security tax, vehicle license tax, et cetera. It's time for Congress to quote spending. Quit earmarking. Quit starting wars that aren't funded. And social programs that aren't funded. It's time to bring the soldiers home and freeze all employee, federal employee's pay. Stop spending. That's what we do with our budget when we don't have any money."

Terry writes, "Stop these wars and billions will be saved. Isn't that simple enough?"

And Eric says, "Sure, what the hell, I wasn't using my money anyway. I don't mind working for free. Yeah, Jack, you do that. Push for a tax hike. That's all Obama needs. Right now, he's been a sweater and hostage crisis away from officially becoming Jimmy Carter."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog. You'll find it there.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow. Thank you, Jack.

The latest primaries reveal some intriguing clues about what might happen in November. That's coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."

And the flight attendant who walked off the job in a most unusual way is facing new aggravations. That story straight ahead.

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BLITZER: Let's take a look at some "Hot Shots." In Moscow, a man walks past an advertisement for bread. The price of bread has risen after crops were destroyed by forest fires. In New Delhi, pedestrians walk through a flooded street during a heavy rain storm. In Morocco, tourists crowd a beach as the area is hit by a heat wave. And in Vienna, Austria, look at this, a 5-day-old elephant stands beside her mother over at the zoo. "Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

A flight attendant who exited a JetBlue plane on the emergency shoot is now entering a whole new phase of his life and it's most unusual. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Run, run for your life. It ain't easy being a hero. One minute you're telling passengers to buckle their seat belts, the next thing you know, you're being shoved into a van like a kidnap victim. Reporters are begging you to roll down your window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more, little bit, please? Just one, just one. Just one. What do you have to say to all the people saying you're a hero?

SLATE: Oh, it's -- it's so encouraging and so special.

MOOS: It's special all right, to be followed into an elevator by "The New York Times" and asked if you'd planned to deploy that emergency chute.

SLATER: We've thought about it for 20 years. You never think you're going to do it.

MOOS: Probably never thought he'd be pursued through a parking garage either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any regrets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I just ask you, is that scar on your head, is that from the suitcase falling?

MOOS: When the press is swarming in front of your house --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do me a favor, just leave, leave, leave.

MOOS: It's enough to make your significant other significantly annoyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a medical condition and each and every one of you is causing me to have my arrhythmia and I will pass out.

MOOS: On the other hand, it's nice having a Facebook fan page with 150,000 or so fans. Exiting the plane via the emergency slide was so popular, someone posted cats going down a slide in tribute. It's entered the political lexicon. The president's spokesman denying that he's --

ROBERT GIBBS: Added an inflatable exit to my office so --

MOOS: When your magic wall isn't behaving magically --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having problems with the magic wall this morning.

This thing wants to cooperate --

I'm going to pull a Steven Slater in about 3, 2, 1.

MOOS: JetBlue is giving every passenger on Steven Slater's flight a $100 voucher. The company says that's what it often does when customers experience a disruption or abnormal circumstance.

Underneath this latest ballad to Steven, his boyfriend posted, this is the best, we love you. And Slater finally arrived home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome home.

MOOS: The press was waiting. We keep this up, he'll be pulling a Slater on us. This microphone needs an escape chute. Jeanne Moos, CNN --

SLATER: Thank you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

MOOS: New York.

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BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

Tomorrow, more of my exclusive interview with the president's security adviser General Jim Jones. We go more in depth about Pakistan and Afghanistan, what's going on right now. More of that interview tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on behind the scenes in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at WolfBlitzerCNN -- all one word. Also, you can follow us in THE SITUATION ROOM in the Facebook section, go to facebook.com/CNNsituationroom to become a fan. We're on Twitter, on Facebook, we're all over the place.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING, USA" starts now.