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Surge in Jobless Needing Lifeline; Last U.S. Combat Brigade's Exit; Plane Security Incident in San Francisco; Sen. Franken's Home Damaged; Palin Defends Dr. Laura

Aired August 19, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Rick, thanks very much.

Happening now, President Obama leaves for vacation with more political baggage. On top of a gloomy new jobs report, the White House is forced to remind Americans that he's Christian, not Muslim.

Also, lessons from the trenches in Iraq -- where the mission goes from here now that the last U.S. combat brigade has left the country.

And what you need to know before you eat another engaging -- we're looking into a widening salmonella outbreak and recall -- how many Americans are at risk right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The president knew he couldn't take a break from his job in Washington without acknowledging the thousands of Americans who are desperate for work right now. The number of first time filers for unemployment insurance climbed to a half a million people last week. That's the highest level in nine months. Stocks tumbled on the news. The Dow Jones Industrials closed down more than 140 points. With the economy still so shaky and the midterm election approaching, Mr. Obama renewed his call for Senate Republicans to stop blocking a jobs bill for small businesses.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A majority of senators are in favor of the bill and yet the obstruction continues. It's obstruction that stands in the way of small business owners getting the loans and the tax cuts that they need to prosper. It's an obstruction that defies common sense. So let me just make this simple point. There will be plenty of time between now and November to play politics. But small business owners I met with this week -- the ones that I've met with across the country this year -- they don't have time for political games.


BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Mary Snow.

She's in New York.

She's watching all of this unfold.

All right, the unemployment numbers -- the unemployment claims, first time filers today, raising some serious red flags -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Wolf, you know, when we usually talk about the unemployment rate, we mostly talk about the monthly rate. But this weekly jobless number stands out for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it caught economists off guard. It was widely expected that the number of job claims would actually drop. But over the last week, an additional 12,000 Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total to a half million people last week.

And another worrisome sign, it's the highest rate we've seen since November of 2009.

Now, what's also making economists nervous is that with the economy already sluggish, there's been a rise in new jobless claims in the past few weeks.

We spoke with economist Mark Zandi who says we're seeing the results of what happened three or four months ago, when the economy started slowing.


MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S: The thing that really derailed us was the European debt crisis, because with that crisis, it took down stock prices 10, 15 percent. And I think that really undermined confidence among many households who own stocks and particularly and most importantly, among businesspeople. They look to the stock market as a signal as to when they should go out and invest and hire and deploy that cash they have on their balance sheet. And I think the -- the debt crisis and the weaker stock market has really hit us at just the worst time.


BLITZER: Mary, the unemployment number remains at about 9.5 percent nationally. A lot of companies are showing some strong earnings, but they're not really hiring new people.

What's going on?

SNOW: Yes. And that's one of the very big problems. I asked Mark Zandi when he thinks companies will start hiring. He thinks it could be at least six months, if not longer. Companies have been holding back from hiring, sitting on cash, making due with fewer employees, looking for signs of the econ -- the economy to recover and show better signs.

Now, also adding to their uncertainty is what health care reform will actually mean for their bottom line. And for financial companies, they're thinking about how financial regulation will pan out. That's another factor. So with this jobless picture that is nothing but ugly, now they're simply less likely to hire.

BLITZER: Mary Snow crunching the numbers for us with some good analysis.

We'll speak, by the way, later with Mark Zandi to get some more analysis on these jobs numbers.

High fives to mark a new milestone in the war in Iraq. Members of the last U.S. combat brigade rolled out of the country and into Kuwait early this morning. That leaves about 52,000 U.S. service members in Iraq right now, primarily to advise and assist local forces. But many of them are combat ready troops who could be called to fight if necessary.

President Obama's goal was to bring that number down to 50,000 troops in the country by September 1st.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is watching all of this unfold -- what happens, technically, Chris, at the end of the month, September 1st, when combat operations are supposed to be over?

LAWRENCE: Yes, Wolf, those 50,000 troops are going to break down into six advise and assist teams.

What does that mean?

Well, basically, one, they're going to be protecting State Department officials and workers, as the -- the Americans sort of hand over to the Iraqis. The Department of Defense is also handing over sort of control of the operation to the Department of State. So they'll be supporting and defending a lot of what the State Department is doing.

Two, they're still going to try to train and support the Iraqi Army where necessary. A lot of, say, an intel officer in the Army will be working with his Iraqi Army counterpart, showing him the ways that United States does things, showing him how to look out for this or look out for that.

Also, you're still going to see these troops conducting counter- terrorism operations inside Iraq, which means going after Al Qaeda operations there.

Now, these teams are going to be broken, basically, basically two in the north, two around the central part of the country and two down in Anbar Province. But I'm told a lot of the focus, really, is going to be north, especially where State is concentrating a lot of efforts, because that is where you've got the tensions between the Kurds, the Turks and the Iraqi Arabs. And that is going to be something that could be playing out over the next six months to a year.

BLITZER: That's a sensitive area up there.

The Defense Department, what are officials there telling you about the state of readiness of the Iraqi military?

LAWRENCE: Well, they certainly see it as improved. I was speaking with a Defense official yesterday, who noted that when we saw that 4th Stryker Brigade roll out of Iraq, the last combat brigade, Iraqi Army units actually helped to sort of secure that route going down south -- three divisions of Iraqi Army units. So they've definitely improved their capabilities. But as an Iraqi Army official said not too long ago, he said the Iraqi Army may not be able to stand up on its own until the year 2020. Now, American officials have a somewhat, you know, more rosier outlook than that. But there are still things they're going to have to provide. Unmanned drones, for instance; technology that the Iraqi Army doesn't have.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Chris Lawrence working the story at the Pentagon for us. The White House is making a new statement about President Obama's religion.

Why do so many Americans believe he's a Muslim.

And is that a serious problem for the president?

Also, a giant discovery beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico -- what we're learning right now about those mysterious plumes.

And millions of eggs recalled -- what you should know so you don't get sick.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Sometimes no answer can be an answer.

When asked if a portion of the $100 million needed to build a mosque and an Islamic community center near Ground Zero here in New York City might come from either Saudi Arabia or Iran, the developers refused to comment. This only adds to the already heated controversy surrounding this project. Remember that 15 of a 19 hijackers responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and the destruction of the World Trade Center on September the 11th came from Saudi Arabia. And the U.S. considers Iran to be a sponsor of terrorism. Nonetheless, New York Governor David Paterson, one of the few rational voices in the conversation, has told CNN that he's still working on trying to find a compromise site for the mosque and Islamic center away from Ground Zero.

The developer, Sharif el-Gamal, has said the proximity of the planned mosque and center is not an issue.

Really? If the people behind this project are sincere about community relations, you'd think they'd do something about improving community relations and talk to Governor Paterson about a compromise.

This isn't about freedom of religion. Nobody's suggesting the Muslims can't practice their religion. This is about insensitivity to what happened on 9/11 and an affront to the city and the country. The murders of 3,000 people were committed by Muslim extremists. That's the reason for the outcry from the families of the victims, from the rescue workers and from New Yorkers in general -- two-thirds of whom are opposed to this thing.

It's simply unrealistic to think you can build a Muslim house of worship two blocks from where this awful thing happened and not get a negative reaction. But then I think the developers probably already know that.

Here's the question -- what's the real reason the Muslim community doesn't want to relocate the mosque and Islamic center planned near Ground Zero?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Dan Simon is out in San Francisco.

He's been working a story over at the San Francisco International Airport.

There was an incident involved an American Airlines flight, Flight 24 from San Francisco to New York, that was held up. Apparently, somebody had phoned in some sort of threat -- Dan, first of all, update our viewers on what the situation is right now.

And I understand you have one of the passengers who just deplaned.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. We know that all the passengers are now off the airplane. And a lot of them are about to catch other flights to New York City.

We have one of them right here.

This is Derek Johnston, who was headed to New York for his cousin's wedding.

Derek, tell me what it was like for you to be on that plane.

DEREK JOHNSTON, PASSENGER ON AMERICAN FLIGHT 24: A slow process. A lot of us just wanted to get off the plane.

SIMON: When did you first get an indication that -- that something was wrong?

JOHNSTON: We had pulled off from the airport. And we were sitting on the tarmac for a couple of hours. (AUDIO GAP) The crew wasn't telling us much. They starting telling us of the threat and the (AUDIO GAP) four hours probably.

SIMON: So you're sitting on the plane for four hours. You were aware (AUDIO GAP)...

BLITZER: All right, it looks like, unfortunately, we've lost that signal from San Francisco Airport.

The bottom line right now is that all the passengers, all the crew, they're off the plane. The plane is -- were -- was inspected. They're interviewing some of the -- the passengers. They're going to be rerouted to New York on other flights.

It looks like this incident is over with right now. They're investigating, though, this phone threat -- what it was all about. Once we get some more information, we'll share it for you. The bottom line, though, everyone is OK. It looks like this incident is over and they're going to find out who made this phone threat and what that's all about. It did cause an enormous delay, though, for these passengers on this Flight 24 from San Francisco to New York.

Let's get back to the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq right now. As we reported, the last U.S. combat brigade is now in Kuwait after rolling out of Iraq overnight.

Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is joining us now for some analysis -- David, as we look at the overall mission in Iraq going back to March of 2003, 4,400 American troops dead, more than 20,000 -- 25,000 came home injured, many of them critically injured. It cost probably $1 trillion, if not more. And we don't know if this is all going to work out when all the dust settles in the next few years.

GERGEN: We certainly don't, Wolf. It's been seven years and five months since the Americans went in there in that invasion. And we thought it was over two months later, when President Bush reported to the country that, you know, basically the substantial -- all the substantial conflicts are now over. And that turned out not to be the case and we still don't know how long it's going to go on.

But this is an important milestone. President Obama has -- has met his pledge to have all combat -- or he's in the process of meeting his pledge to have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month, of August. But we're still going to have 50,000 people on the ground to aid and assist, as it's called. And there are still going to be some deaths, as we were reminded today by both the Pentagon and the White House.

BLITZER: And when we talk about those 50,000 troops that were supposed to be there until the end of next year, until the end of 2011, they're supposed to be trainers and advisers. But, you know, there are still thousands of Special Operations forces who will remain in Iraq, whether Green Berets or Navy SEALs or whatever, because their mission is to go after al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorists and kill them. And that's serious combat, no matter what you want to call it. GERGEN: Well, it certainly is, Wolf. But I think there are a couple of things now that -- that have to be said. You know, we've made a lot of progress and -- and thank goodness for what our troops have done. They -- the surge did work better than people expected. But we still have a very fragile situation in Iraq. As you know, it's been five months since they had elections. They still don't have a government. The amount of violence is -- is actually going up again now, as Al Qaeda and others are, you know, are -- are committing acts of violence as we were -- as we depart.

And then, I think the surprise story today was, in the "The New York Times," the lead story, that it's now anticipated there's going to be a surge of contractors under the State Department, of all things, after we get all our troops out of there at the end of the year. We're going to send 5,000 to 10,000 private security forces. They almost sound like mercenary troops, for goodness sake, that are going to go in there with the Americans to protect our -- our diplomats.

So we're going to have Americans' lives on the line for some time to come and no certainty about how, ultimately, this is going to come out. Progress, yes, but lots of questions.

BLITZER: And what worries me -- and I've studied this story over there for a long time. The longer there's no new government, the potential for the ethnic rivalries between Shia, Sunnis and Kurds to come back, especially when some of the outside players, especially Iran, for example, are getting involved and -- and trying to make matters at least good for them, not necessarily good for Iraq.

GERGEN: That's very -- a very good point. And I don't think that, you know, there was a time when Iraq was actually a bulwark against Iran. And that -- and now we've got, you know, a lot of Iranians who are really quite loyal to the -- or at least allied with the Iranians -- Iraqis aligned with the Iranians.

Now, you know, I thought it was symbolic, also, Wolf, that when the -- when the Stryker Brigade left and, you know, came into Kuwait by land and that they had to travel by night. They couldn't travel those roads in the south during the day.

Now, that was partly because of an agreement with the Iraqi government. But it was also for security reasons. In other words, we're leaving and it's so insecure that it's hard to have our troops in a convoy go down the highways in Southern Iraq to get out of there. They travel by night -- BLITZER: And what does it say that American...

GERGEN: -- for protection.

BLITZER: -- an American leader still can't go to Iraq with any advance word. They've got to sort of sneak in and then tell everybody that they're there seven-and-a-half years after this war has started. So there's still plenty...

GERGEN: Yes. BLITZER: -- plenty of problems in Iraq. We can only hope that things work out.

David, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story and update you as we get more information.

An alarming and potentially threatening discovery in the Gulf of Mexico -- would it -- will it help answer questions about where all the oil has gone?

And new concerns about a suspicious commercial flight route out of Iran.

Could it be used to plot attacks against the United States?

What is going on right now?

Brian Todd investigating.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some other Gulf of Mexico headlines happening today.

What else is going on in the Gulf of Mexico, because there's news -- Kate?


Hey there, Wolf.

Emotional testimony today on Capitol Hill from some of those feeling the effects of the Gulf oil spill. Sitting before a House committee on Energy and Commerce hearing, a Louisiana commercial fisherman described his life in the months since the disaster.


DEAN BLANCHARD, LOUISIANA COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN: For 28 years of my life, I've had a product that's always been known as the best, because. It was the best. And I'd just like the perception of the American public to know it's the best again, you know. We work, you know, in our business we don't work 9:00 to 5:00, we work 5:00 to 9:00, you know?

We work seven days a week. And it's -- it's -- it's my life.

I guess I'll say like Tony Hayward, I pretty much want my life back. You know, I want my life back. They took everything that I worked for all these years and -- and one -- one company who don't know what they're doing or cut too many corners and -- and put me out of business, I mean just ruined my whole life. And -- and nobody's -- nobody's being hold -- nobody's being held responsible but me.


BOLDUAN: Emotional there. And also, an end to the spill could now be just a few weeks away, actually. National incident commander, retired admiral, Thad Allen, says if all goes as planned, the so- called "bottom kill" procedure to permanently seal the ruptured well should be done shortly after Labor Day. Allen also authorized BP to replace the site's existing blowout preventer ahead of that operation.

And scientists say they've detected a huge plume of oil deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers say the oil plume is at least -- get this -- 22 miles long, more than a mile wide and about 650 feet high. And it's more than 3,000 feet below the surface. That's big. The finding by the Woods Oceanographic Institution could provide at least a partial answer to questions about what's happened to the remaining oil from the BP spill. You know that's been a big question for many people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly has. And it's not been answered yet.

Kate, thanks very much.

The president has been in office for more than a year and a half, yet more people now are confused about his religion.

What does he need to do to set them straight?

Also, the possible benefits of extending the Bush tax cuts for all Americans.

And a food staple and the risk of salmonella -- stand by for the latest on the major egg recall.


BLITZER: A somewhat unusual sendoff for President Obama as he begins a family vacation at Martha's Vineyard. The White House was compelled today to remind the nation that Mr. Obama is a, quote, "committed Christian." The new reason -- a new Pew Poll showing almost one in five Americans actually believes the president is a Muslim. That figure is higher than last year.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is already in Martha's Vineyard.

He's joining us for more.

This is one headache the White House doesn't need right now -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really is a headache. And, you know, it's a big spike from last year -- 18 percent of Americans believing that he's a Muslim, compared to last year at just 11 percent. The White House has been trying to knock this down certainly long before the president became president, back when he was on the campaign trail. Some people thought that he was a Muslim. Now, all this time later, that continues. Pew Researchers say that were really surprised by that sudden spike.

So who are these people who believe that the president is a Muslim?

Take a listen.


ANDREW KOHUT, PRESIDENT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: People on both ends of the political spectrum tend to look and listen and watch media that supports their point of view. And a lot of this is probably coming over the Internet or coming over cable chat shows, where you have the expressions of a public opinion that are pretty harsh and judgmental about President Obama.


LOTHIAN: Now, President Obama isn't one to always speak public -- publicly, rather, about his faith. But over the Easter holiday, he did have some Christian leaders at the White House for a prayer breakfast there and he spelled out exactly what he believes.

And then, back in 2008, he sat down for an interview with Rick Warren and gave some details about exactly what he believes.


RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: What does it mean to you to trust in Christ and what does that mean on a daily basis?

I mean, what does that really look like?

OBAMA: Well, as a starting point, it means I believe in -- that -- that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. Yes, I know that I don't walk alone.


LOTHIAN: Now, responding to the poll today, Deputy White House Communications Director, Jen Psaki, said, quote, "President Obama is a committed Christian and his faith is an important part of his daily life. He prays every day. He seeks a small group circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling. He even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning."

What the White House is saying is that the president does rely on his faith to guide him through some of the tough decisions that he faces everyday but that he doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve -- Wolf.

BLITZER: On top of all of this, the new economic numbers -- first time jobs unemployment claims numbers making life even more politically hazardous for the president and Democrats. LOTHIAN: Again, this is not something that the president wanted to be dealing with now, heading into those midterm elections. And that's why you saw the president step before the microphones today, before coming here to Martha's Vineyard, to talk about how, up on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats really need to get together to push forward on this jobs bill that will help small businesses, the White House believing that that is the engine that will drive the economic recovery. And the president pointing out that Republicans have been obstructing this bill, urging them to get together and get something done here, because, again, he believes that if that can happen, it will help to stimulate the economy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that. Dan Lothian on Martha's Vineyard.

Let's talk a little bit more about the economy and these employment numbers. We're joined by Moody's chief economist, Mark Zandi. Mark, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: How surprised were you that the unemployment first time claims numbers were the highest, now half a million, in nine months?

ZANDI: Surprised. You know, the economy is weakening, the rate of growth is slowing, but I'm surprised that initial claims for unemployment insurance is beginning to rise to this degree. It does indicate that unemployment which is already as you know very high is going to move higher.

BLITZER: Higher than 9.5 percent which is the national unemployment number right now? Is that what you're saying?

ZANDI: Yes. We're at 9.5. I suspect that we'll be back into double digits by the end of the year, early next at the latest.

BLITZER: That's moving in the wrong direction not the right direction. Last year, the president, the Democrats got a nearly $1 trillion economic stimulus package through Congress. That was supposed to turn things around. What happened?

ZANDI: Well, I think it's fair to say that the economy would be in a measurably worse place without the stimulus. That the stimulus was very helpful in bringing the recession to an end and jumpstarting the economy that we would loss lot more jobs and unemployment would be measurably higher today without the stimulus, but our problems run very deep. It was a very, very severe recession.

We're still feeling the ill effects of that, and we're not out of the woods yet. It's not that we're not creating jobs. We are. It's just that we're not creating enough jobs to absorb all of the folks that are coming into the workforce, and thus, the unemployment is moving higher. It will move higher.

BLITZER: Because I read your latest forecast, your latest analysis, your worry that there still could be this double dip recession, not necessarily predicting it but you're worried about that.

ZANDI: I am. You know, I don't think we'll experience a double dip, but it's going to be a close call. I'd put the odds at about one and three which is uncomfortably high. And more disconcerting than that is that if we go back into a recession, it's just unclear how policy makers could respond.

As you know, the Federal Reserve has put interest rates close to zero. And we have a very large budget deficit and really no appetite for anymore stimulus. So, it's very important that the economy does not backtrack into a double dip, but obviously, the reasons for concern are quite high.

BLITZER: And the Congressional Budget Office today saying that this year's budget deficit will be1.3 trillion. They got to make a decision in the next few weeks and months what to do with the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, whether to go back to the Clinton era tax rates or to let these Bush tax cut rates continue. You've written about this. At a time of economic distress, should they raise taxes on folks making more than $250,000 a year?

ZANDI: No. Not in 2011. I do think the economic recovery is too fragile for even this kind of a tax hike. In normal times, I don't think raising the taxes for these very high income households would be a problem for the economy. And of course, we need the revenue to address our long-term fiscal problems, to address those large budget deficits that you just mentioned.

But in 2011, with the economy still struggling, I think it would be prudent for install those tax hikes and begin to phase them in 2012 or 2013 when the economy is, presumably, in a better spot, but not next year. I think that would be taking an unnecessary gamble with the recovery.

BLITZER: Explain what that means? Because the president has made it clear, he wants those tax cuts that the Bush administration got through Congress for those making more than $250,000 a year to go away. In other words, raising the top level from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, which was the level during the Clinton years. What would happen if what the president wants were to happen?

ZANDI: Well, in all likelihood, the economy would still make its way through without going back into recession, but, you know, I could be wrong, and we could go back in. And if we do go back in, then there is no policy response. There is really no good way to respond to that. So, I think we need to guard against the downside scenario, the scenario of the double dip, and we should look for any kind of economic boost we can get.

And raising taxes in the context of where we are today, I think, would be a mistake. Even on those upper income households, yes, among all of us, the best to tolerate those tax increases, but even those folks are under some stress, and if they pull back more than anyone's anticipating, then we're going to have a very big problem. So, I just wouldn't take that chance, not in 2011. 2012, 2013, yes, I think then we could start focusing on our long-term fiscal problems and those tax rates should rise, but not next year.

BLITZER: We'll see if the White House listens to your advice. Mark, thanks very much.

ZANDI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Someone is paying the price for a real life blood diamonds drama involving an alleged work criminal and a supermodel. Stand by.

And it wasn't a bullfight, but it did get very ugly and very dangerous.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Kate, what else is going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Wolf. Police are investigating damage the home of former comedian turned senator, Al Franken. One of the windows at his resident was hit by what believed to be a pellet or BB fired from a gun, but the hole didn't penetrate all the way through the glass. Authorities don't think the Minnesota Democrat was specifically targeted in the incident. No one was home at the time it happened.

And GOP heavyweight, Sarah Palin is coming to the defense of embattled radio show talk show host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Schlessinger announced this week on CNN that she's ending her radio program after a controversial incident in which she used the "N" word repeatedly with the caller. Following the news, Palin tweeted, quote, "don't retreat, reload and defend first amendment rights." Schlessinger apologized for the episode saying, she was trying to make a philosophical point.

And a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund is resigning after admitting to receiving so-called blood diamonds from super model, Naomi Campbell. Campbell testified in a war crimes trial of former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, that after receiving the diamonds, she turned them over to this trustee who had at the fund at that time. Blood diamonds are illegally traded to fund conflict and war-torn parts of Africa.

And an alarming scene in Spain, just look at this video, this 1,000-pound bull leapt out of the arena and charged into the ground, knocking over a number of spectators. You can hear their scream. The incident happened yesterday at what was supposed to be a performance showcasing the bull, not even a bull fight. At least 30 people were injured including a 10-year-old who got trampled. So far, no reports of fatalities, Wolf. That bull was not hanging around.

BLITZER: Oh, my God.

BOLDUAN: I know.

BLITZER: I've been to Spain. I've seen bullfights. I've never seen anything like that. Can we cue that up? I just want to see the beginning part where that bull actually jumps into the stands. I don't know if we can check that back.

BOLDUAN: Yes. He leapt right out. It's almost like he had a springboard. He jumped right over the corner. Watch this. Not even a bullfight. It was just showcasing the bull, and he was right over that railing into the crowd. Terrifying. Oh, gosh.

BLITZER: All right. Kate, we'll discuss a little bit more about this later. Stand by.


BLITZER: A new poll suggests almost one in five Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. Does this spell trouble for the White House? We'll discuss it in our "Strategy Session."

Plus, could the eggs you're eating make you sick? The details of a widening salmonella's there. That's coming up.

And it's a snazzy look, a most unusual way to nap. We're so excited about this. A Jeanne Moos story that we're going to be telling you to stick around to see it. I think you will want to see what she has.


BLITZER: Get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, James Carville, and the Republican strategist, Tony Blankley. Tony is Edelmen Public Relations here in Washington.

James, I'll start with you, and I'll put some numbers up on the screen, numbers from the Pew Research Center. They ask the question what is President Obama's religion. And look at these numbers, among all Americans, 34 percent believe he's Christian, 18 percent believe he's Muslim, 43 percent don't know. Among republicans, 27 percent believe his Christian, 31 percent believe his Muslim, 39 percent say they don't know. How do you explain this?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't other than the fact that people just are willing to believe anything. There are a lot of stupid people out there. I really don't have an explanation. Just like I don't have an explanation for the fact that you see some of these polls that acquired (ph) people believe he was born outside the country. I'm just as flummoxed as the next person. Maybe Tony is smarter than me. Maybe he has a good answer.

BLITZER: Do you have an explanation for this, Tony?

TONY BLANKLEY, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR OF THE WASHINGTON TIMES FROM 2002-2007: Yes, I think so. I would compare to what happened to Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister of the 19th century. He was suspected of being a Jew all through his career. His dad had been Jewish, but he baptized young Benjamin in church. He remained a practicing Christian with Jewish ancestry. I think it's the similar situation with Obama. His father was obviously Muslim and so that suspicion is there. And then I think -- what's interesting is the numbers have gotten worse for him since he's been president. And I think some of his decisions, the outreach to Islam, good as it may be, wise as it may be, encourages some.

His getting into a fight with the Israeli Prime Minister and his lack of attending church conspicuously, although, Reagan, the president (INAUDIBLE) didn't go to church much because he said it would interrupt the congregation. So, there are good reasons, maybe good reasons for it, but the public is going to think what it's going to think, and he has not made an easy --

BLITZER: Should he worry about this at all, the president, James, or should he do something about this?

CARVILLE: I guess I would dispute what Tony thinks. I don't need (ph) the public thinks. How can they think that he wasn't born in the United States with two birth announcements in both Honolulu. Again, I don't have an explanation and a quality of information available to people today is exponentially higher than it was in 19th century in England. But, you know, other than you got to assume that people are just -- some people are willing to believe anything and some people are just out and out stupid.

BLITZER: Because the White House issued a statement.

CARVILLE: I wish I had a better explanation for it.

BLITZER: The White House issued a statement today saying President Obama is a committed Christian, and his faith is an important part of his daily life. He prays every day. He seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling, even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning. Does he need to do more? Do you think it's all important, Tony, for him to do more to visibly, for example, go to church on Sunday?

BLANKLEY: Look, it's tricky because now that the doubt is there, you don't want to seem like you're exploiting in some way. So, I'm not sure what he could do, but sure, I would think if he could. It's not good for the majority of the country to doubt the sincerity of the president's expressed faith, publicly expressed faith.

He says he's a Christian, and majority of the country is not convinced he's telling the truth. That's not a good political situation to be in.

CARVILLE: You know, again, I go back to fact that people believe he was born outside of the United States contrary to uncontroverted evidence. It's not his fault that people believe this stuff. And I mean if the fact that they're having to put a statement out there, Tony is absolutely right. If he goes to church, then they'll say, ah, look at that, he's just doing it and whatever.

But I don't think -- I mean, I know it's not his fault that people believe information which is no basis in fact. You know, there's a lot of people believe the earth is 5,000 years old. I mean explain that to anyone. You can't explain it.

BLANKLEY: It's not a coincidence that the first president whose father was a Muslim, some Americans think maybe like father, like son. They may well be wrong, but that's not an irrational thing. I mean, you can understand why it happens.

CARVILLE: Of course, they're wrong. Again, I go back to they believe that he was born outside the United States. There's no evidence for that.

BLANKLEY: All I'm saying in trying to explain it, there are explanations for the way people, you know, reach their conclusions.

BLITZER: This is what I think the point that James is trying to make, and I think it's a valid point. In that recent CNN poll, 27 percent of the American public had doubts that President Obama was born in the United States. 27 percent, even though all the evidence shows that he was born in Hawaii, Tony. Why do so many people have these doubts?

BLANKLEY: Look. I mean I -- I -- I don't want to review all of the explanations. Obviously, the public -- he -- he's -- he is not just standard cookie-cutter American president. He said, Barack Hussein, when he was running, this is not the regular guy you expect to see on a dollar bill.

So, coming along with all of the differences of him from his race to everything else, it's understandable, not endorsing, but it's understandable why people would say, gee, he's kind of different from the normal protestant white president you'd see.

CARVILLE: Give me an explanation of how -- what a cookie-cutter explanation of how he wasn't born in the United States. Just give me a rational -- what a rational person would believe that he wasn't born in the United States. What's a cookie-cutter explanation?

BLANKLEY: His father wasn't born in the United States. Most president, not all, but most of them their father -- I'm just saying. You're asking for an explanation.

CARVILLE: I mean, but that's not an explanation. That is far to one boy (ph) and I stay to do it --

BLANKLEY: Look. I'm not --

CARVILLE: Everybody is just --

BLANKLEY: I'm not endorsing it. I'm simply saying I'm not flummoxed as to why people reached, you know, conclusions that may be wrong.

CARVILLE: I am flummoxed of people that stupid, I am. I guess I shouldn't be --

BLANKLEY: You haven't seen enough of life. You haven't seen enough of life, James.

BLITZER: James Carville, Tony Blankley --

CARVILLE: I agree, I shouldn't be. I agree, I shouldn't be.

BLITZER: A lot of folks are flummoxed by these answers. All right. We will continue to discuss, though, in the weeks and months to come, guys. Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is asking what's the real reason that the Muslim community doesn't want to relocate the mosque and Islamic center planned near Ground Zero in New York. We'll be back in a moment with the "Cafferty File".

Then, a mysterious airline flight when a two threatening out of the series of the United States a bit closer together.


BLITZER: Jack is back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Question this hour, what's the real reason that the Muslim community doesn't want to relocate the mosque and Islamic center planned for near Ground Zero.

S in Florida writes, because it's simply wrong for them to give into the mindless mass hysteria that's being whipped up around this. What we're seeing is basically the swift boating of a major worldwide religion. They didn't start this, and as a lifelong Christian, I stand with them in refusing to bow to this idiotic religious persecution. If these bone headed nay-sayers aren't careful, they could easily start another world war. Al Qaeda can retire. Their work is done if this mosque is not built.

Ester writes, the reason I believe they don't want to move the mosque is totally religious. They want to show off what they have done and where they have conquered. This is a bragging site and not a healing site. If they truly want to help with the healing, then show compassion for the victims of 9/11 and move to a location farther away.

Wilhelm writes, maybe because they believe in freedom of religion, and they're not going to allow themselves to be bullied. This phony controversy is just an attempt to further demonize an unpopular minority for political gain by the ultra right wing of American politics. The same thing happened to the Jews in Germany in the 1930s.

Tony writes, I thought it was pretty obvious why the Muslim community doesn't want to build their mosque and Islamic community center in a different location than Ground Zero. Would it have made sense to relocate the flag placed on top of Mt. Suribachi Iwo Jima in 1945?

Kirsten writes, Nazis were Christians, and there's a church less than a mile from Auschwitz. It isn't about sensitivity, it's about bigotry. The proximity to Ground Zero is simply a red herring. If we shut this down, they, proverbial they, win by getting us to compromise the very ideals that make this nation great.

Kenny in Virginia says, I work next to a company that is Muslim- owned. The employees' attitudes regarding Islam and America range from ultra pacifist to ultra heated, however, to a man, they all think that America is discriminating against them over this mosque. Clearly, the opinions are strong each way. You can extract what you want from the argument, but there's no denying that Islam is a very divisive subject these days.

If you want to read more about this, we got a lot of mail. Find it on my blog,

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. See you in a few moments.

The U.S. is making new headway on the drawdown of troops in Iraq. What will the region look like years from now, though?

And a car chase that ended at an airport.


BLITZER: A salmonella scare is widening. An Iowa company is voluntarily recalling 380 million eggs right now.

And joining us now is our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, how many people have actually gotten sick so far?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, we don't have an exact number, but here's what we do know. The Centers for Disease Control says that, usually, they get about 50 reports of salmonella a week, but since about the end of May, they've been getting 200 reports a week of salmonella poisonings, and they think that the bulk of those or that many of those are because of eggs, and that's why they have had this recall.

And this recall affects 17 states, and so far, they've had sicknesses in about ten states. Illnesses that they can actually take a look at, those salmonella illnesses.

BLITZER: What brands are we talking about?

COHEN: You know, we're talking about a lot of brands. And I'm afraid it's going to be a little bit difficult for consumers to keep up. I'll show you. Here's a list of about ten brands that were just added to the recall recently, but there were even more brands that have been on the recall throughout the summer. So, what you really have to do is to go to, and on our website, we have a list of all of the brands that you're supposed to avoid.

BLITZER: The theory was the eggshell was supposed to protect the egg from bacteria, right?

COHEN: Right. Well, I think that's a what a lot of people think, but it's just not true. Sometimes, the salmonella just goes from the chicken to the egg. In other words, it's sort of an internal kind of transfer and so the eggshell isn't going to be a help at all, but that shell is not a protection. Salmonella can still happen, and that's why you have to cook your eggs thoroughly.

BLITZER: And what else do people need to do to reduce the risk of salmonella infection?

COHEN: Right. The other thing that you can do is do not leave eggs sitting out. Some people will leave it sitting out for hours or I've even seen, oh my goodness, people storing eggs on a shelf. Don't do that. They should be refrigerated, and as I said, eggs should be cooked thoroughly. Those runny yellow yolks, uh-uh, they're supposed to be solid. And, of course, if you have any eggs that are any of these brands, get rid of them.

BLITZER: Good advice from Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent and also the author of a brand new book, an important book entitled "The Empowered Patient," how to get the right diagnosis by the cheapest drugs, beat your insurance company, and get the best medical care every time.

I've been going through the book, Elizabeth, and really valuable information I think all of our viewers are going to want to rush out and get this book because, literally, lives are at stake if you don't have the right information as a patient. Thanks for writing the book.

COHEN: Thank you, Wolf.