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THE SITUATION ROOM
Dems Dive Into A Make or Break Month; Blowout Preventer Up Close; Tea Party Threatens GOP Powers Again; Will GOP Investigate President Obama
Aired September 13, 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: Thanks very much, Rick.
Happening now, President Obama tries to drive home his party's message about tax cuts, as Democrats dive into a frantic push to pass their agenda. This -- the next few weeks could make or break their fight to keep control of the House and Senate.
Some moderate Republicans also have good reason to be anxious right now. In just a matter of a few hours, another member of the party establishment may -- repeat, may -- be victim of Tea Party power. This contest is about to play out in Vice President Joe Biden's own backyard.
And the filmmaker, Michael Moore, joining me to explain his provocative take on the planned Islamic center and mosque in New York City. He not only supports the idea, he wants it project build right on Ground Zero, not just a few blocks away.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
On Capitol Hill right now, many Democrats are feeling squeezed. They're coming back to work after their summer break with a massive to-do list, including a big vote on extending the Bush tax cuts. But they have only about a month -- even less -- left to get things done before they head home to campaign full-time for reelection.
President Obama took his party's fight literally into the voter's backyard today. He met with a small group in a home in Northern Virginia, right outside Washington, DC. He complained that his administration is in a wrestling match with Republicans over tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger -- Ed, first to you. The
president was a little bit more low key today than he has been over the past several days.
What's going on?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's because they feel like they've already got John Boehner backed into a corner with some of the president's fiery speeches last week on the trail. This time, he was in a smaller group in a backyard, as you noticed, so maybe he didn't need to throw out as red -- as much red meat.
But they feel good inside the White House for the first time in a long time because they feel like they're on offense after playing so much defense. And that's all because of what happened.
If you play out over the last few days, Friday's White House news conference, the president really underlined the message that the Republicans should not hold the middle class hostage by demanding that you also extend the tax cuts for the rich at the same time you do them for the middle class.
Well, 48 hours later, on Sunday, John Boehner seemed to adopt the president's position, by saying he's open to just moving forward on extending those middle class tax cut.
They feel, here at the White House, that's because the president has really been on offense, he's taking it directly to Boehner and the Republicans, and it's splitting the Republicans a bit.
Today, you've got the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, saying he doesn't want to just do the middle class tax cuts, he wants to do all the Bush tax cuts extended.
You've got the number two House Republican, Eric Cantor, not giving John Boehner any political cover here.
And so they feel that maybe Speaker Nancy Pelosi can move forward in the next couple of weeks on a standalone bill -- do you want to vote for extending just the middle class tax cuts, yes or no?
They think, on the eve of the election, that could be a pretty good strategy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me bring Gloria in to this conversation -- Gloria, you've been speaking to Republicans out there.
What are you hearing?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there isn't a resounding round of applause for John Boehner, as Ed was -- Ed was pointing out, because lots of Republicans think, gee, he may have backed himself into a position where he doesn't want to be. I spoke with one Republican who said, look, Boehner was responding to a House specific hypothetical question, make no mistake about it, he opposes tax hikes.
But if you take a step back, Wolf, theologically, if you will, the Republicans believe that they're actually in a better position any time you talk about tax increases. They're playing on their territory and they believe, quite frankly, that even if it's cutting off benefits for the wealthy, that when people hear "tax hike," they distrust Washington so much that they say, OK, you're going to start with the wealthy, but you might end up with me -- even though the Democrats pledged to make these tax cuts for the middle class permanent.
They look back to Reagan. They saw that the tax issue went viral with Ronald Reagan, defined his presidency.
So as far as they're concerned, they're happy to be having this fight and the Democrats are happy to be having this fight.
BLITZER: And he spent, Ed, an hour in that family's backyard in Northern Virginia today. In recent days, he's really been naming Boehner by name, going after him.
Did he do the same thing today?
HENRY: He mentioned him briefly. But the bigger thing was, over the weekend, Robert Gibbs took the fight to Twitter. It -- he was picking on John Boehner about this "New York Times" story about Boehner's ties to lobbyists and he went after him over the tax comments on "Face The Nation," at one point, Gibbs calling him the tan man, seeming to really kind of tease Boehner.
They're getting down and fighting hand to hand combat, politically. And I pressed a Democratic official a short time ago, why are you doing that, when -- you know, CNN polling shows John Boehner is not known by most Americans?
If you look back, they point to the case of Joe Barton, who apologized to Bebe (ph). Most Americans don't know Joe Barton, but he would be the Energy chair if the Republicans took over the House. And their point, inside the White House and the Democratic Party, is, you have to start naming some of these people who will be in power even if most Americans don't know them and say here's where they stand, here's where the president stands...
BORGER: You know, it...
HENRY: -- and on the middle cla -- you know, they can make that contrast.
Go ahead, Gloria.
BORGER: It all -- it always helps to have an opponent, right, Ed?
BORGER: I mean it always helps to run against someone. The Republicans are running against Nancy Pelosi. And, you know, Boehner is someone that Democrats would like to open to more scrutiny. And so they figure the more they mention him, the more scrutiny he's going to get. And they also believe he looks like your so-called country club Republican. And that's an image they'd like to present of the Republican Party to get their base out to vote against it. So...
BLITZER: But it's one thing, Gloria, for White House officials -- for politicians to be doing that kind of personal attack. It's another thing for the president of the United States to be getting down to that level. And some are questioning whether this is a -- a smart statesman-like strategy for President Obama.
BORGER: Yes. And I -- and I think that's a legitimate question to ask, Wolf. But Obama doesn't have an opponent this time around, so he's got to find one. And I think they figure they've found a pretty good one in -- in John Boehner. And so the president is taking him on because, after all, Wolf, if Republicans win control of the House of Representatives, John Boehner would be the next speaker.
BLITZER: He would, indeed.
All right, guys, thanks very much, Ed Henry and Gloria Borger.
Other important news we're following, a deadly passenger plane crash in Venezuela. Officials confirming 14 people were killed, but at least 47 people on board survived -- apparently half of them appear to have survived. There are conflicting reports about the exact numbers of survivors. We're on top of this story.
The government-owned aircraft crashed in Southeastern Venezuela 12 minutes after takeoff. A witness says the plane tumbled into some power lines before hitting the ground and exploding. No word on any possible cause for the crash. An investigation is now underway.
Now to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. We're getting a closer look now at the infamous device that what could reveal what caused the disaster back in April -- the failed blowout preventer, as it's called, which is now in federal custody. It was put on display in New Orleans today.
Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is joining us now with more.
I guess this is the first time we've seen it out of the water...
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
BLITZER: -- up close, is that right, Chad?
MYERS: The first time we get a feeling of how big this thing really is -- and it really was, when it was down there. Here's the barge bringing it up the river. You've got the blowout preventer and you also have the lower marine riser package. There are all those terms we talked about so much since they've put the cap on that thing -- or at least tried to put the cap on it.
I have a picture here. Here is the entire blowout preventer -- from up here all the way down. That's it right there.
Now -- now, Wolf, let me get it bigger. These are guys here -- one, two, three -- three men right there. And so this thing is just -- is so much bigger than you think -- like five stories or so, at least is what it seemed like there.
Here are the first video images of what we have on shore -- on land now, people getting video from it on shore, taking pictures and then sending it back to us, literally. The top of the riser, the top of the blowout preventer capped there. That's the part right there. That white part in the middle was attached to the ground. It's literally to the surface of the earth, the bottom of that well, top of the hole. And that's where -- the area that failed.
So it's all there. They are going to take it apart, I assume, piece by piece, like they take apart a NASCAR to figure out why it goes so fast. They're going to figure out why that thing didn't work -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. It's supposed to prevent a blowout.
It didn't exactly work out the way it was supposed to work out. They're going to find out why...
BLITZER: -- and make sure it never, ever happens again, we hope.
All right, Chad.
BLITZER: BP is one step closer to sealing the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico permanently. A spokesman for the oil giant says drilling on the first relief well has now resumed. Drilling was halted last month because of bad weather. The relief well is currently less than 50 feet vertically and four feet horizontally from the original well.
The Democratic candidate for governor in California, Jerry Brown, seems to be harboring a serious grudge from his political past. Stand by and hear his bitter words for the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
And the GOP establishment is calling a U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware some pretty nasty names. But she may have the last word in tomorrow's primary, with a lot of help from the Tea Party movement.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brian Todd in Wilmington, Delaware.
After some recent successes, the Tea Party movement has set its sights squarely on this state, backing a long-shot Republican Senatorial candidate who's made a titan of state politics sweat out his primary.
I'll have that story coming up.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here and he has The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Months after President Obama Obama's health care reform became law, the White House is still hoping that voters are going to learn to like it.
This could be wishful thinking. Senior adviser, David Axelrod, said on "Meet the Press" yesterday, "I think" -- this is a quote, "I think that health care, over time, is going to become more popular," unquote, adding that right now, people are focused and anxious about the economy.
Unless I missed something, isn't health care and those associated costs part of everybody's personal economy?
I think it is.
The fact of the matter is the health care issue is so unpopular with voters, not a single Democratic candidate is promoting the health care law in the campaign ads -- not one. A recent "Wall Street Journal" column asked rhetorically, "Who's Obama Care's daddy?," suggesting even liberals are now denying paternity of that law.
Some Republicans are vowing to try to repeal it if they win control of Congress. It's not hard to find reasons why the president's signature issue is unpopular. During the long health care debate, President Obama told voters over and over again the law would bring down rising health care costs and save them money, remember?
So far, it's not happening. An analysis from Medicare shows health care costs will actually rise through 2019 as a result of Obama Care.
Last week in his news conference, President Obama seemed to back off a bit from his earlier claim, saying he never expected to extend insurance coverage to 31 million additional people for free. The White House insists that, over the long-term, costs will come down, but apparently not until long after costs go up -- some more.
Here's the question -- the White House says health care reform will become more popular.
Do you agree with that?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
It's not a good sign. The president's signature issue and not a single Democrat running for election in the midterms is featuring the health care law in their campaign ads.
BLITZER: Yes. A lot -- a lot of those Democrats are trying to run away from their vote right now. That's a good point you're making, Jack. And those who voted against it are -- are bragging about it. It's a good subject for discussion.
CAFFERTY: There you go.
BLITZER: With just hours to go to another primary day, the U.S. Senate race in Delaware is getting uglier. Establishment Republican candidate, Mike Castle, is feeling more threatened than ever by his conservative challenger, Christine O'Donnell. Two big reasons why -- O'Donnell has the Tea Party Movement support and Sarah Palin on her side.
Brian Todd went to Delaware to preview this important race -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Republicans believe they've got their best shot in decades to pick up a key Senate seat from here in Delaware that was long dominated by Joe Biden and his allies. But the mainstream GOP candidate has been knocked off balance after the Tea Party threw its weight behind his primary opponent.
REP. MIKE CASTLE (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: How you been?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
CASTLE: Good. Good.
TODD (voice-over): This was supposed to be a cruise control primary campaign for Mike Castle. A moderate Republican in a Democratic state, the long-term congressman and two-term governor has the experience and pragmatism that plays well in Delaware.
But Castle's support for some of President Obama's priorities has turned the Tea Party against him, and they're now trying to make him the next mainstream Republican road kill, like they just did with Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska.
TODD (on camera): Was Lisa Murkowski's loss in Alaska a wakeup call for you?
CASTLE: Well, it was a -- an added wakeup call. I mean, we had watched some of these elections around the country and I saw what was going on, actually received a call from Lisa after the election, just saying, you know, Mike, you need to be prepared. They will come at you hard.
TODD (voice-over): And have they? In just a week, the Tea Party Express has blitzed Delaware, pledging to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost Castle's opponent in this primary.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: Good to see you.
TODD: Christine O'Donnell charms the lunch crowd at a senior center in Dover. Dynamic, personable, she's embraced by the Tea Party for her message of low taxes and smaller government, and their injection of cash has given her insurgent campaign real momentum.
It's also sparked some of the most vicious internal warfare the Republican Party's seen this year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you recognize this Delaware politician?
TODD: State GOP politicians who backed Castle are attacking O'Donnell for defaulting on her personal bills, for not paying her income taxes, which she denies. They called her delusional, said she couldn't get elected dogcatcher.
TODD (on camera): Those broad sides, are those a set back or those a badge of honor for you?
O'DONNELL: Well, the exciting thing is the attacks that have come from the establishment have served to rally support behind me. We've been getting -- we've seen a significant increase in donations. Voters are coming out to volunteer for the campaign. They're saying we're -- we are disgusted by what we see, the attacks coming against you, because everybody's hurting.
TODD (voice-over): What this race could be hurting is a golden opportunity for the Republicans to capture a seat long dominated by Joe Biden. Political observers in Delaware say Castle should still pull this primary out. But, if he wins, he's wounded against a little-known Democrat. If O'Donnell pulls the upset, some analysts say she'd likely lose the general election.
TODD (on camera): Could all of this have an effect on the GOP's chances of capturing that key seat that's been held by the Democrats for so long?
GINGER GIBSON, WILMINGTON NEWS JOURNAL: It might. The Democrats have seen an opportunity to capitalize on here. They've started running ads in favor of their candidate, Chris Coons. They've started increasing the attacks on Mike Castle. And they've been pushing O'Donnell, saying that, you know, she's got an opportunity here and that she might be able to beat Mike Castle.
TODD: Adding more intrigue to this campaign, Sarah Palin has thrown her endorsement behind Christine O'Donnell. Analysts say Palin's got a lot of support in this state, but it's not clear if it's going to propel O'Donnel's victory in this primary. What it will do is give more national buzz to a race that's gotten plenty of it in the last few days -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. Good report. Thank you.
Here's our scorecard for Sarah Palin's endorsement record. So far, this primary season, we're keeping tabs on 30 key races where she endorsed someone before the contested primary was held. It puts a record right now. At least, so far, 14 wins, 10 losses, six more contests to go.
GOP heavyweight Newt Gingrich rails on President Obama. Why he's now associating the president with what he calls Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.
And a controversial proposition to legalize marijuana in California hits a potential new roadblock.
BLITZER: Kate Bolduan's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Kate, what do you have?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf. Well, Iraqis authorities are disputing a new report which says 30,000 people are being held in the country without charge. The human rights group Amnesty International also alleges many of these Iraqis have suffered severe beatings in secret prisons.
A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister calls the figure, quote, "inaccurate and extremely exaggerated."
Six medical aide workers, including four Americans, are released on bail after facign charges of dispensing AIDS medication without a license in Zimbabwe. The Americans are part of an Oakland, California AIDS ministry.
They were arrested Thursday and deny all allegations. The workers are expected back in court this month.
And the first Senate impeachment trial since former President Bill Clinton's is underway. Federal judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. is facing a number of charges, including corruption and lying about his past.
The House of Representatives voted unanimously in March to impeach him. The full Senate is expected to vote this year.
And a controversial plan to legalize marijuana in California has hit a new roadblock. Nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have written a letter to attorney general Eric Holder urging a blockage of Proposition 19, as it's called, if it's approved on the November ballot. The Justice Department says it's premature to speculate on what steps would be taken if the measure passes.
You can be sure we'll talk a little bit more about that, if that happens.
BLITZER: We'll see where it -- if it does pass in November --
BLITZER: -- November 2. That's Election Day.
Thanks very much, Kate.
Could Democrats face a new host of investigations if Republicans take control of Congress? I'll ask the ranking member of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee, Darrell Issa. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, Rahm Emanuel, listen up. The author and filmmaker Michael Moore says he wants to become the White House Chief of Staff. You'll hear why. My interview with Michael Moore. That's coming up as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, AUTHOR AND FILMMAKER: Nineteen murderers of 9/11, who killed 3,000 people, were able to hijack a religion --
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM happening now, it's being called the biggest arms sale in American history. What's behind new plans to sell $60 billion worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia? Stand by.
And new word coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM that a jailed American hiker in Iran could be released soon. Mary Snow is monitoring the case for us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
If Republicans win control of the House of Representatives in November, some Democrats fear newly empowered GOP lawmakers will launch an investigation spree with President Obama as a prime target.
Let's discuss with the California Congressman who's been at the center of a lot of this speculation, Congressman Darrell Issa. He's the Senior Republican of the House Government -- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Got it right. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. DARELL ISSA (R), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Thanks, Wolf.
If we take control, I'd like to change the name back to Government Reform and Oversight, because we really are the committee that's supposed to decide how government is organized and accountable.
BLITZER: This is the committee that your colleague from California, Henry Waxman, shares. As right now, a lot of subpoena power, a lot of investigation power, if you will.
"Newsweek" recently wrote this -- Republicans have a good chance to win control of the House of Representatives this fall, and Issa, that would be you, will likely lead the Oversight Committee with unfettered subpoena power. That means Democrats should expect investigations into the president's staff, his appointees, and every policy he promotes, not to mention his response to crises like the BP spill.
Is that what Democrats can expect?
ISSA: Not at all. Actually you mentioned Henry Waxman. Henry Waxman has been off of the committee for two years. You wouldn't notice it because the gentleman who replaced him, Ed Towns, is in the party of the president. So it's been very, very quiet.
That's one of the challenges is we're supposed to be the committee that looks at government, the bureaucracy, its continuous failures. We have 74 IGs -- Inspector Generals who were, and to a great extent, our partners along with the General Accountability Office, we're supposed to do what we did back in '05, look at Mineral Management Service and its too cozy relationship with the -- with the oil companies. And then we're supposed to do the reform. In other words, our failure was not that we didn't figure out MMS was dysfunctional, but over those intervening years, we didn't fix it. And, ultimately, BP is not about the failure in the gulf, it's about MMS's failures ever since Reagan put them in existence.
BLITZER: They're one (ph) of the bureaucrats who were working their career as civil servants, if you will. But I've got to tell you there are plenty of Obama administration officials who are very worried right now if you become the chairman of this committee, they can expect -- they're going to have to start hiring personal lawyers because you'll be subpoenaing them for records and for tapes and for everything else. So we're going back to the days of the Clinton administration when Dan Burton and other Republican members of Congress were leveling -- issuing subpoenas left and right.
ISSA: Well, the era of Dan Burton and the era of the people taking the fifth, leaving the country, and in some cases going to jail is an era I hope none of us repeat. In other words, the crimes that went on shouldn't repeat, and neither should the subpoenas. Dan Burton had a special time in which subpoena after subpoena was required because nobody would answer the questions without them. During Tom Davis' chairmanship and Henry Waxman's chairmanship and when I was the subcommittee chairman, we almost never issued subpoenas. We almost always got the answers we wanted and worked cooperatively with the inspectors general. Wolf, there's one report I need about subpoenas. Only one inspector general, these people are appointed and confirmed by the president, the Senate, or the cabinet, only one inspector general has subpoena authority. I don't really need the subpoena authority. They need to get answers on behalf of the people they work for. Right now, except for the department of defense, none of them have.
BLITZER: These are inspectors general that work for the justice department, the state department, housing, whatever. You're saying they deserve to have subpoena --
ISSA: Absolutely. Presidential appointees should have the ability to get to the bottom quickly. If they have the authority like the department of defense IG, they'll almost never need to use it or never need to use it. We need the IGS to get answers. I don't need to be looking at every failure of government, I need to be looking where failure of government needs reform. You bring it back to Congress and we fix it. That's the reason I'm excited about the committee. I was excited when I was in the majority before. I was excited at times when Henry Waxman went after real problems.
BLITZER: "The New York Times" recently called you -- and I'm quoting it now, "annoyer in chief." Is that a badge of honor from your perspective?
ISSA: Wolf, in the minority, it is. If you try to hold the administration accountable from the minority when you have no power, the most I can do o is get the press to ask a lot of questions and annoy them. Ultimately, I have no authority. In the majority, yes, I want government to do what it's supposed to do and nothing more. I want it to do on time what they're supposed to. You know, FEMA was a failure, recognized by Katrina and Rita. No question at all. But are you saying it's a success today after the gulf situation? Probably not.
BLITZER: You're measuring the curtains already in that new office that you might be getting?
ISSA: No, because Ed Townsend and I worked closely together. He's helped me get subpoenas and get med information time and time again. Our relationship, you haven't heard much about it. But for the most part, we went in to the details with Toyota. We got the chairman himself, Toyota come here and tell people it will be fixed on his watch, it was fixed without subpoenas, without a lot of hoopla. But we got Secretary Lahood to commit and begin the process of fixing NTSA. We're supposed to do it when ever possibility.
BLITZER: The National Transportation Safety Administration.
BLITZER: Daniel Issa, thank you for coming in.
ISSA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Author and filmmaker, Michael Moore is ready to become the next white house chief of staff. Listen to what he had to say. I spoke with him today.
And President Obama's education reforms about to undergo a critical test right here in Washington, D.C.
BLITZER: Rahm Emanuel, listen up, the author and filmmaker Michael Moore says he would like to be the next white house chief of staff. We spoke about it in an interview earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You wrote a piece at the time there was suggestions that Rahm Emanuel was going to be leaving the white house chief of staff job. You volunteered. You said you would come in and replace Rahm Emanuel with a dollar a year, sleep on a cot in the white house basement. Well, he's apparently thinking very seriously now for running for mayor of Chicago. Is your offer on the table still to become the next white house chief of staff?
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: The offer is still there, yes. The offer is on the table. They don't have to give me that title. They can give it to somebody else. I'm going to come in. Work every day. We'll get up with Obama, 6:00 every morning. We'll light a fire under him. We'll get going. We'll get down -- we'll get the job that needs to get done. Stand up for the American people, stand up for the working people. Have some guts. And that's what I think we need. I'm willing to do that if the president is watching, I'll come help him out. I'm already down here in Miami now. I'm working out with LeBron, I'm getting him ready for the basketball season, you know, working with him. And he's doing well. And he said I think the Heat are looking good this year. But I'm doing my part to help him, you know, do the best season ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He wants to help LeBron James. He wants to help the president of the United States. You're going to have a lot more of the interview with Michael Moore coming up in the next hour. I'll also ask him, why he thinks developers should build that cultural center and mosque on ground zero on ground zero as opposed to near ground zero. You're going to want to hear what Michael Moore has to say. Much more of the interview coming up.
And Bill Clinton, he's not running for governor of California, why is the Democratic candidate, Jerry Brown, taking direct aim at the former president. An old political feud resurfacing big-time right now. We'll discuss at our strategy session.
And Republican Newt Gingrich's new line of attack against President Obama. Will the former house speaker win support for a possible white house bid? Or will he just confuse voters?
BLITZER: In California, a Democratic candidate Jerry Brown is responding angrily to A new ad attack by his Republican opponent for governor, Meg Whitman. He's saving, though, some of his harshest comments for, guess who, Bill Clinton? The Whitman's camp new commercial shows Bill Clinton back in 1992 when he and Brown were both running for the Democratic nomination for president. Back then, Clinton accused Brown of raising taxes in his first go-round as governor of California. Here's the ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerry Brown's good old days. But what really happen?
BILL CLINTON: CNN, not me, CNN says his assertion about his tax record was, quote, just plain wrong. Jerry Brown went out there and took credit for the fact that the people of California voted for proposition 13, which lowered taxes, which he opposed. Now he's going around and taking credit for it. He raised taxes as governor of California. He had a surplus when he took office and a deficit when he left. He doesn't tell the people the truth.
BLITZER: You heard President Clinton mention the CNN report in the ad that Meg Whitman is running. You should know that one of our former correspondents, Brooks Jackson, now said the reporting back then was inaccurate and Brown did not leave California with higher taxes when he left office. As you might guess, Jerry Brown is ticked off with the Whitman campaign and he apparently still holds a serious grudge against Bill Clinton. Listen to this video of Brown yesterday posted by "Time" magazine.
JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GOV. CANDIDATE: She's got Clinton lying about it! Did you see that? Raise taxes. It's a lie. And Clinton is a nice guy. [ inaudible ] I did not have taxes with this state.
BLITZER: Let's discuss with our political contributors Democrat strategist Donna Brazile and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. Did he make a mistake, Jerry Brown, by going after Bill Clinton who arguably is one of the most Democratic personalities out there right now?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he overreacted to the ad that Meg Whitman ran because that was factually not true. Rather than stay on message and try and deconstruct the ad, which was wrong, instead, you know, it appears that he attacked Bill Clinton.
BLITZER: It looks like there's some hard feelings between Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton. That grudge. I covered that '92 campaign. It's still very serious.
BRAZILE: I don't know how serious it is. Bill Clinton is someone who's willing to campaign for Democrats across the country. I'm sure he'll be out there in California and will raise the flag for Jerry Brown as well.
BLITZER: I'm not so sure about that.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Give Jerry Brown some advice. Don't run against Bill Clinton. I'm a Republican. We did it a lot. It never worked out well for us. He's the most powerful politician in the country. The ad -- the state corrected some budget figures, but the ad is basically right. Clinton is right when he said he inherited a surplus and turned it to a deficit. Jerry Brown opposed the tax reductions, prop 13 and took credit for them.
BLITZER: You have to admit, Donna, that's a brilliant ad.
BRAZILE: But first of all, Ronald Reagan raised spending. It was the largest spending increase under his watch. Jerry Brown takes office. He's like Obama. He's dealing with a budget deficit left by Republicans. So I think if you want to talk the facts, the facts will not change. What has changed it appears is that Meg Whitman has learned how to put these ads out and Jerry Brown overreacted.
CASTELLANOS: There's a reason he was called governor moon beam when he was in office. Because on the planet Zargon or whatever galaxy he's from, he's an erratic guy.
BLITZER: He's held office in California, statewide.
CASTELLANOS: And in Oakland, he raised property taxes. Same story. New decade.
BRAZILE: Well, the first personal attacks against Jerry Brown. He has a good record of public service. Meg Whitman is a billionaire. She's running now to try to -- she's running to change her record, not talk about what she will do for Californians.
BLITZER: Let me move on to Newt Gingrich, someone who may still want to be president of the United States. He told the national review on- line this -- and I'll read it. "What if Obama is so outside or comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions? I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating -- none of which was true. He was authentically dishonest." But what is he talking about when he says that President Obama -- you can only understand him if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.
CASTELLANOS: Makes my hair hurt. Did he mean Keynesian?
CASTELLANOS: Here's I think the point he was trying to make. Have you read "Dreams from My Father"? Barack Obama's book about his father. A beautiful book, it's poetry. He's searching for himself. He knows his mother from Kansas. He doesn't know his father from Kenya. He writes in there a beautiful phrase he's trying to find a granite upon which his unborn children can stand which is about as pretty as you can write. He's trying to find his father, who he is. He explores that culture, the anti-colonial culture in Africa at that time was trying to free itself from Europe. That's what he's saying. Obama found it important enough to write a book about it, but it's not significant enough that Newt Gingrich can comment on it? I think it's unfair.
BRAZILE: It's outrageous. It's simply outrageous. I know the former speaker. He sat down with President Obama last year to try to come up with reforms in our education system along with Al Sharpton. What has changed over the last year? What has changed is the tea party. He's pandering to the tea party. Newt Gingrich should stop pandering to the tea party and tell the American people the truth. President Obama is like everybody else who's born in this country. He's mainstream, understands middle class values to. Make those kinds of comments is outrageous.
CASTELLANOS: A unique individual with tremendous gifts.
BRAZILE: In what way? He became president of the United States, that's the most unique thing.
CASTELLANOS: In a lot of ways. He's the first black president. He went to Harvard. He's on the streets -- he's from Kansas.
BRAZILE: He's not the first from Harvard.
CASTELLANOS: He's a unique individual. He wrote a book about where he comes from.
BLITZER: So many people apparently believe he wasn't born in the United States, may have been born in Kenya. For Newt Gingrich to raise this whole Kenyan issue right now, doesn't that say to you that he's trying to reinforce that whole notion that maybe the guy wasn't even born in America.
BRAZILE: The birther movement. It needs to stop, Alex. CASTELLANOS: Barack Obama wrote a book about this. It's fair to talk about it. Two, there is this sense in this country that Barack Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism. He said every country is exceptional. Greece and -- that's not an American idea. That's the --
BRAZILE: No, that's not what it is. It's disturbing to see people like Newt Gingrich who I know can work with Barack Obama on education to now be making these type of outrageous comments.
BLITZER: We'll leave it there, guys. Thanks very much. When the voter goes to the polls here in the nation's capital tomorrow, president Obama won't be on the ballot, but the educational policy may be tested. Stand by.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The white house says health care reform will become more popular. Do you agree?
Robert says, "Absolutely not. The health care bill is a flagrant display of what's wrong with our government ignoring what the voters want. The majority of the Americans disliked this bill. The majority still do yet our legislators passed under the idea that they know what's best for us.'
D. writes from North Carolina, "Until we have single payer universal health care we won't have any reform of any meaning, the HMOs run the show and nobody in Congress has the courage to slay that beast."
Jim writes, "It certainly should. Once people see the benefits they receive thanks to health care reform and realize that the nonsense that was being spouted by conservatives like Sarah Palin was just that, nonsense, I think they'll be delighted. Healthcare reform is destined to take its place alongside social security and Medicare. It's one of the finest, proudest pieces of legislation ever passed by the Congress."
L. writes, "You'd have to be an idiot to believe the Democrats' health care plan was anything but a prelude to a single payer system. The concept is to drive up the cost of private insurance higher due to benefit mandates and then have the government take over. It's socialized medicine. Everyone will suffer from reduced care and higher costs if this program is not repealed."
M. says, "It's something liberals can't figure out. For every service there's an expense and that expense has to come from somewhere. So much easier to spend someone else's money."
Vicki in Milwaukee writes, "As soon as those tea partiers need to use the benefits of the health care plan, they'll jump right on it. Just like they don't turn their backs on social security, disability, Medicare and Medicaid. I guess those who want small government just want it for other people." And Paul in Florida writes, "The Obama care scam is unicorn ranches, pixie dust and wishing on a star rubbish. The only time our health care costs will go down is when our toes turn up."
If you want to read more about this, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile. So you were at the Redskins game yesterday?
BLITZER: I was. It was a very exciting win over the Dallas Cowboys.
CAFFERTY: Well, the Cowboys gave them the game. It was a gift. Said here, take this first game.
BLITZER: A few major blunders, but the Redskins capitalized on it. We'll take a win, thank you.
It's being called the largest arms sale in American history. Details behind new plans to sell $60 billion in military equipment to a major U.S. ally.
Plus a heated mayoral race right here in Washington, D.C., could hold the keys to president Obama's planned education reforms.
BLITZER: President Obama's aggressive education policy is about to undergo a critical test right here in his backyard. Kate Bolduan is following the heated race for mayor of Washington, D.C. and education very high on the agenda. What's going on?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. Wolf, this is a local election but it is being closely watched far beyond the district. Why? You hit the nail on the head. Education is playing a significant role in the race and the outcome could carry significant implications for the national debate over education reform.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. All right.
BOLDUAN: Washington mayor Adrian Fenty is famous for taking on D.C.'s struggling schools. Now he's in the fight of his career in part because of how he did it. Neck in neck with challenger D.C. council chairman Vincent Gray.
MAYOR ADRIAN FENTY (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We've got an uphill battle because we made tough decisions. We'll continue to make those tough decisions because they're right for the people, but we're not naive. We know that has cost us a little bit of our political popularity that we came into the election with.
BOLDUAN: Fenty brought in determined reformer Michelle Rhee as chancellor. It has become a model for education reform advocated by the Obama administration.
MICHELLE RHEE, CHANCELLOR, DC PUBIC SCHOOLS: We need to see radical changes because the outcomes for kids that are happening right now are robbing them of their futures.
BOLDUAN: Those changes include shutting down two dozen schools, firing hundreds of educators, including more than 100 teachers over the summer for poor performance, overhauling the teacher evaluation system, linking it to student performance for the first time and pushing teacher merit pay. Though Rhee admits they have a long way to go, test scores have improved during her tenure. She's received millions of dollars in federal race to the top funds. Now the unexpectedly tight mayoral primary is being closely watched. Some fear a Fenty loss could have a chilling effect on similar aggressive overhauls to education across the country.
ANDY ROTHERHAM, BELLWEATHER EDUCATION PARTNERS: Nationally how that will play out is it will reinforce this idea that for politicians, dramatic education reform is mutually exclusive with furthering your political career.
FENTY: Good morning.
BOLDUAN: Voters in the city are split on whether they will let Fenty stick around to find out.
DIANE SIMS-MOORE, DC RESIDENT: Old teachers are no longer here as the school system changed. We still have an unprecedented number of young people that still can't read.
GARY WEST, DC RESIDENT: All I know D.C. years ago was terrible and now they say it's not.
BOLDUAN: Adding to this debate, recent polls indicate there's a racial divide over Fenty and his leadership. According to a recent poll, Vincent Gray is leading by a 62 to 17% margin against likely African-American voters. Fenty holding a 68 to 22% lead among white voters. We'll find out tomorrow, Wolf, when the polls close.
BLITZER: Kate, thank you.