Return to Transcripts main page


Iran Frees American Hiker; Where Did Spilled Oil Go?

Aired September 14, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: An American hiker is released and reunited with her mother after more than an year in an Iranian prison and a half- million bail payment, as it is called. But there is fresh concern about two other Americans left behind.

Oil plumes and slicks disappeared. Now a layer of oil two inches deep is found on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Is that what happened to millions of barrels that gushed from BP's blown-out well? We are getting new information.

And the last major round of primaries before the November election here in United States, including a bitter mayoral fight right here in Washington, D.C. Stay with CNN for all the results.

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

A sick American woman jailed by Iran for more than a year under harsh conditions is now free. Sarah Shourd is one of three American hikers who were picked up along the Iraqi border and locked up in Iran's most notorious prison. She is now safe, but the ordeal continues for the others.

Mary Snow is tracking this story for us.

Saw some dramatic developments today, Mary. Update our viewers on the latest.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Sarah Shourd tonight is in Oman, and you are about to hear her first public comments when she arrived there. As for her mother, the moment she has waited 410 days for has become a reality.


SNOW (voice-over): The smiles say it all, Sarah Shourd reunited with her mother in Oman, her first taste of freedom after being jailed in Iran for 13 months, a bittersweet moment as Shourd's fiance, Shane Bauer, and friend Josh Fattal remain jailed.

SARAH SHOURD, FREED AMERICAN HIKER: Today is the work that -- my day begins and all my efforts starting today are going to go into helping procure the same freedom for my fiance, Shane Bauer, and for my friend Josh Fattal, because I cannot enjoy my freedom without them. SNOW: Before leaving Tehran, the 32-year-old Shourd gave a statement to state-run Press TV.

SHOURD: I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people that have been involved.

And I especially and particularly want to address President Ahmadinejad and all of the Iranian officials and the religious leaders and thank them for this humanitarian gesture. I'm grateful and I'm very humbled by this moment.

SNOW: The price for Shourd's freedom, $500,000 bail. While the U.S. government says it did not pay any of the money, a senior administration source tells CNN the funds for Shourd's bail came from Oman. Oman, which has ties to both the U.S. and Iran, emerged as a key player, along with the Swiss who represent U.S. interests in Iran.

P.J. CROWLEY, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: We have our Swiss protecting power working on the ground in Tehran. We had Omani diplomats working on our behalf. Other countries have weighed in with Iran both over the months and in recent days.

SNOW: Both the White House and State Department continue to call for the release of Bauer and Fattal. Their ordeal began in July of 2009 when the Americans went hiking in Iraq. Iran accuses them of illegally crossing the border and spying. Their families have maintained their innocence, saying, if they did cross the border, it was by accident.

And for Cindy Hickey, mother of Shane Bauer, and Laura Fattal, mother of Josh, they anxiously wait for what comes next.

LAURA FATTAL, MOTHER OF DETAINED AMERICAN: I am so happy for Sarah and Nora. It is wonderful. But as you can tell, I want my time, too, and Cindy wants her time, too. We want Josh and Shane home more than anything, and we think the compassion can be extended. And, please, we are asking the Iranian authorities to continue that compassion and bring both boys home.

SNOW: And as Alex Fattal waited out part of the day playing basketball, it is clear his brother is always on his mind.

ALEX FATTAL, BROTHER OF DETAINED AMERICAN: I have been playing basketball by myself for the last 14 months just with my shadow. I want to go one-on-one with him right here.


SNOW: And, Wolf, as for Fattal and Bauer, earlier today, Tehran's prosecutor said they will remain in jail until their trial. Now, one Iranian news agency reported that their detention had been extended by two months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow working the story for us. Let's dig deeper with our national security correspondent Fran Townsend. Fran is an external board adviser to both the CIA and the Homeland Security Department.

The release of this woman, what does this say potentially about Iran's attitude toward the United States?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, I am not sure, Wolf, we can read much into this.

Ahmadinejad is now preparing to come to the United States for the U.N. General Assembly. There was tremendous pressure. Obviously the Swiss and the Omani governments played a big role here.

But I'm not sure we can read much into this. After all, they continue to hold the other two hikers, not to mention Robert Levinson, the retired FBI agent who they have not even acknowledged having. So, there remain really serious issues about Iran's taking into custody American citizens, denying them consular access and not even acknowledging in some cases that they even have them.

BLITZER: I suppose that if you are the Iranians, Ahmadinejad and his regime, you're saying to yourself, well, we will release this woman, see what if anything we get in return in terms of diplomatic overtures or some sort of price the U.S. or the West might pay, and then we can make a decision about these two young men.

TOWNSEND: Maybe. But I'm not sure that there has been much hopeful signs in that regard. After all, they didn't just release them to see what they were going to get. They also got apparently $500,000 from the Omani government.

So while it's good news today that we have one of these people out, I think we have to remember there are not only the two hikers, but you still have another American in Robert Levinson still in custody. And what does it say? If Ahmadinejad is coming here and really wants to be taken seriously by the world community and open a dialogue with the United States, he has got to acknowledge who he has in custody. He's got to give them consular services. And he's got to release those that are not fairly accused.

BLITZER: Because I think it's significant. A few weeks ago, Jim Jones, James Jones, the president's national security adviser, retired commandant of the United States Marine Corps, he was here. He was sitting in the exact seat where you are right now.

He said if the Iranians release these three Americans, it would be an important gesture and the U.S. would have to take that into consideration and welcome it. He was sending a signal, I think, at that time.

TOWNSEND: No, I think that's absolutely right. And we have to see it in that context.

Of course, the Iranians did respond, at least partially, to General Jones' overture, but I think it's going to -- it is very difficult for them to take the release of one and leave the other two behind and be able to move forward. They are going to have to act on all those detained before I think the United States is going to be in a position to open any dialogue.

BLITZER: They should just do the right thing, release the Americans and then move on from there.

TOWNSEND: That's right.

BLITZER: Fran, thanks very much.

An Iranian diplomat based in Belgium has defected, is requesting political asylum in Norway. He had been assigned to Iran's embassy in Brussels, but defected on Tuesday and asked for asylum. His attorney says the diplomat is defecting because he supports Iran's opposition green movement.

Jobs, tax cuts, what to do about them? The hottest topics on Capitol Hill here in Washington right now. The Obama administration is pressing for extending tax cuts for the middle class, but letting them slide for the wealthy. Critics say that's not the way to stimulate the economy.


BLITZER: And joining us now from the White House, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee.

Congratulations, by the way, Austan, on the new job.


BLITZER: All right, let's a little bit talk about the economy right now.

Our own Poppy Harlow interviewed the CEO of Intel. His name is Paul Otellini. And he says the president still does not get it as far as turning the economy around. Listen to Paul Otellini.


PAUL OTELLINI, CEO, INTEL: I don't think they do. At least they have not demonstrated it to date. And the evidence certainly does not show that.


BLITZER: The stimulus package, he says, you guys have simply not figured it out. Why is he wrong?

GOOLSBEE: Well, look, I know Paul. And he's a good guy. And obviously Intel is an important company.

I think a lot of other business leaders have a different perspective. I know Warren Buffett has been saying some positive things about the economy and the range of businesses he is in. I think we are coming out of the biggest downturn in all of our lifetimes, you know, since 1929.

It's a tough spot. And it takes a long, hard work to get out of that, and I think that we are going to do it. I think even Paul is going to come around eventually on this. We have got to get the money in off the sidelines.

The president's plan to put the tax -- make the tax cuts permanent for the middle class and to give incentives for research and development for expensing so people will do their investment in this country, I think, is just what we need. And I bet if you asked Mr. Otellini about the R&D tax credit, I bet he would say that is a pretty good start.

BLITZER: So, the $350 billion, the various packages that you have put forward over the past couple of weeks, if you get that through Congress -- that is a huge if right now, especially because the midterm elections -- but, if you get that through, how long would it take for that translate into reducing unemployment?

GOOLSBEE: It is hard to say something exactly like that.

I think you could have an immediate impact on the confidence of businesspeople, like the CEOs at Intel or other places, if you had some resolution of the uncertainty and you made the middle-class tax cuts permanent, you know, which most people can agree on, let's just get that done, if you make the research and development tax credit permanent so business can count on it, they might go ahead and start doing significant investment now.

There is a lot of money sitting, waiting trying to resolve those.

BLITZER: All right.

GOOLSBEE: I think what the president's view has been is, there is a lot of common ground, so let's do what we can agree on. And the middle-class tax cuts is a perfect example.

Most objective analysts that look at that say that is one of the most effective forms of stimulus, as opposed to tax cuts at the way high end for the millionaires or billionaires. Everyone agrees that is the least effective...


BLITZER: There seems to be an increasing number of Democrats who are joining with Republicans and say let the tax rates continue as is, at least for the next couple of years. Listen to the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Now, the good news is, there is a growing chorus of Democrats, including at least five right here in the Senate, are coming around on this issue. They oppose the tax hikes the administration is proposing.


BLITZER: Are you willing to consider it at this point letting the current rates continue for everyone for the next two years?


Look, the president is not for that. And no objective economist that has looked at the effectiveness of continuing to pass tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires has identified that as an effective way to stimulate the economy. It is not true.

The president's package is more pro-growth, is more pro-business and more pro-job than that. It would make the tax cuts permanent for 98 percent of America, the middle class. Plus, it would give immediate expensing, so that it would give incentives to business to do investment in this country, and it would pass a small business package, the beginnings of which you saw today, which would give credit, and eight more tax cuts for small businesses in this country.

That is far better than extending by borrowing $700 billion to give tax cuts that don't work. It doesn't make any sense.

BLITZER: All right. We are out of time, but very quickly, so, in other words, that two-year compromise, extending the current tax rates for everyone, as far as you are concerned, that is a nonstarter?

GOOLSBEE: Extending tax cuts of $100,000 per millionaire is not effective at growing the economy. It didn't work in the last eight years and it would not work now.

BLITZER: Austan Goolsbee is the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers.

Thanks very much. Good luck.

GOOLSBEE: Thank you.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty will have "The Cafferty File" in just a moment.

Also, did plumes and slicks turn into a layer of oil on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico? What might have happened to millions of spilled barrels?

Plus, he was America's closest ally when the invasion of Iraq was launched. Does Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair have any regrets? My interview with Blair coming up.

And stay with CNN for the up-to-the-minute voting results. The polls in most of the places holding primaries today close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Wisconsin and New York close at 9:00.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, if the following doesn't amount to a backdoor amnesty plan for millions of illegal aliens, then I don't know what does.

The federal government, which has long ignored our nation's immigration laws, choosing instead to sue states like Arizona which are overrun with illegal aliens, is now changing its strategy.

The feds are going to focus more on illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes. That makes some sense. But by doing so the threat of deportation for millions of others who are in the U.S. illegally is greatly reduced.

"USA Today" outlines some of the recent changes, including a proposal that would prohibit police from using misdemeanor traffic stops to send people to immigration officials.

The administration is also looking for ways to allow college students and spouses of military personnel to legalize their status or avoid deportation if Congress doesn't pass immigration reform.

Critics say these measures show that the government is thumbing its nose at the law and some suggest the Obama administration is trying to create a kind of backdoor amnesty program.

Immigration advocates are also not happy. They say that deportations are at record highs and immigrants who stay in the U.S. are living in limbo without any form of legal status.

With a record backlog of deportation cases and lacking an unlimited budget the government says it makes sense to target people who pose the biggest threat to the public safety.

Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that more than 20 states are now considering immigration laws like the one passed in Arizona. The public has had a bellyful of the government's impotence on this issue, and some of states are simply now trying to protect themselves.

Here's the question then: Is the Obama administration implementing a backdoor amnesty plan?

Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

Efforts to permanently seal BP's blown-out well may be in their final stages right now, now that drilling has resumed on a relief well. But what happened to the more than four million barrels of oil which gushed into the Gulf of Mexico? A research team now believes much of the oil may lie on the bottom of the Gulf.

Brian Todd has been looking into this for us.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these scientists are showing us some samples of this oil from the seafloor in the Gulf, evidence they say that much of the oil may not have been dispersed and may still pose a long-term threat.


TODD (voice-over): A deepwater CSI in the Gulf and a potentially ominous finding. Researchers discover what they say is a substantial layer of oil in the sediment in areas near the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The team led by the University of Georgia marine science professor canvassed an area as close as two miles from the wellhead and as far away as about 80 miles. In several samples from the seafloor, they found concentrations of oil seeping as much as two inches into the sediment.

(on camera): We are going to go to the source of this new finding. We're going to speak to Dr. Samantha Joye on a research vessel about 10 miles south, about 25 nautical miles east of the wellhead. She's on the research vessel the Oceanus. We're going to call that right now.

(voice-over): I asked Joye about other scientists who question her findings, including one who says so much oil seeps into the Gulf naturally every year that some of this might not even be from the Deepwater Horizon spill?

(on camera): How do you come to believe that the oil you found is from the Gulf oil spill and the BP situation?

SAMANTHA JOYE, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: We have samples that were collected in May, early in May, on the Pelican cruise from many of the same sites that we are sampling right now. In May, this oil was not present. It was not here. This layer has developed over the past four months.

TODD (voice-over): Joye concedes they don't know for sure that this oil is from the Deepwater Horizon spill until they chemically fingerprint it when they get back to their labs. Joye discovered dead organisms underneath the oily sediment and worries about the marine life that would feed off those organisms.

(on camera): What kind of organisms are exposed to this oil?

JOYE: Well, anything that forages to the bottom, any fish, any invertebrate, any squid, octopus. Anything that is going to the bottom looking for food is going to be exposed to the material.

TODD (voice-over): Then Joye says that could deprive other fish up the chain from a healthy food source.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Now, last month, the government released a study saying about 75 percent of the oil from the spill was either captured, evaporated naturally, or dispersed into the water column in microscopic droplets, so do Dr. Joye's findings contradict that? Not necessarily.

An official with NOAA tells us this oil could be in the remaining 25 percent that got away. He issued us a statement saying -- quote -- "The federal government is working with academic scientists to monitor aggressively where the oil is subsurface from the near shore to the seafloor" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But they also found some oil in the sediment at shallower levels, shallower water. Is that right?

JOYE: That's right.

And Dr. Joye says that is pretty ominous, too, because a lot of fish travel at those depths. And if something like a storm surge redistributes this oil from the sediment, it could be suspended in the water again. That would directly hurt those fish, as opposed to right now, when it seems to be killing sources of food lower in the chain that are right by that sediment.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

The Justice Department says it may sue BP for damages from the oil spill in the Gulf. A court document indicates a civil complaint tied to the disaster is likely. Justice Department lawyers say the government may seek compensation for the cost of removing oil, for the cost of increased public services and loss of tax revenue, and for the destruction of natural resources. BP says it has no comment.

Hurricane Igor picks up steam and jogs to the east. It's bearing down on a popular island getaway. We will find out when it is likely to hit.

And a setback to the push to rescue 33 men trapped in a Chilean, will it slow the effort to reach them?

Stay with us. Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: He was America's closest American ally. Does the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair now have any second thoughts about the decision to invade Iraq? I will ask him.


BLITZER: As America ends its so-called combat role in Iraq, the man who was America's closest ally in the war is sticking to his guns, saying he does not regret the decision to go to war, which focused on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.


BLITZER: And joining us from New York, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. He's the author of a new memoir entitled "A Journey: My Political Life."

Prime Minister, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Let's talk, first of all, about some history that you write about in the book.

Whose intelligence services do you believe were more responsible for the blunder leading to the war in Iraq, the U.S. intelligence community or the British intelligence community?

BLAIR: Well, I think everyone had the same thought, which was that Saddam had used chemical weapons against his own people. He was in breach of U.N. resolutions going back a long time.

He had used chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War, where there were a million casualties of that war. So, I think pretty much every intelligence service thought the same. Indeed, when we came together and passed the resolution in November 2002, prior to the Iraq war, there was a common and agreed position of everyone.

BLITZER: Well, not everyone, because the head of the United Nations weapons inspectors, Dr. Hans Blix, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad ElBaredei, they weren't convinced that there were these weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

BLAIR: Well, what they did was Hans Blix and his inspectors went into Iraq before the invasion, but we had given Saddam a final chance to comply with the U.N. resolutions. And when Hans Blix and his inspectors went in there, the fact is they didn't get proper cooperation. In particular, they didn't get the chance to access interviews with the key personnel of Saddam.

What we know now from the Iraq survey group, which I think is a very important document, because these were people we sent into Iraq after the fall of Saddam, and they interviewed not just the key personnel in and around Saddam who worked on the WMD program, but Saddam, himself. What they found is that, though he put his program, if you like, into abeyance, he got rid of the physical evidence, he retained the know-how and the people and the laboratories and, indeed, the intentions.

So, you know, look, we can argue this again, and again and again. I personally believe that Saddam was a threat we would have had to have taken on at some point.

BLITZER: Because even within the U.S. intelligence community, there were dissenters at the State Department, for example, and the bureau of intelligence and research which raised red flags about the allegations that there were weapons of mass destruction and stockpiles in Iraq.

So let me get back to the first question. Weren't there dissenters in British intelligence who said to you, "Mr. Prime Minister, hold on. It's not so clear cut what you're saying"? Was there anyone who raised a doubt in your mind before you authorized British troops going to war?

BLAIR: No. There wasn't a doubt about Saddam and WMD. Now, there were lots of debates about how much, but the intelligence that we received certainly in the U.K. was clear, and the reason for that was also clear incidentally, which is that he'd used such weapons before. We had literally as I think 14 or maybe even 16 outstanding U.N. resolutions on the subject.

And the explanation now as to why that intelligence was faulty is clear in that Iraq survey report.

So I think, you know, what we've got to be careful of, obviously, I have to take responsibility and do for the fact that the intelligence that he had existing active WMD at the time was wrong. I take responsibility for that, but I think we've got to be careful of then going to the other extreme and saying, actually, the truth is this man wasn't a threat at all, because that's not correct either.

And, you know, what I always say to people is after September the 11th, and after the outrage that killed 3,000 people in New York -- but if they could have, they would have killed 30,000 or 300,000 -- we decided, rightly or wrongly, to take a completely different attitude on this whole subject of the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. And the place to start was Iraq, because that was the country that was in breach of those resolutions. Now, some countries like Libya decided to come in from the cold and change their position, but Iraq didn't.

BLITZER: But -- but Iraq had nothing -- Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

BLAIR: That was never the point. As I constantly explain to people, the issue was not whether Saddam had -- was responsible for 9/11. The issue was, after 9/11, because it was clear this terrorism was prepared to kill unlimited numbers of people and on a scale we'd never contemplated or heard of in the world before, as I say, they killed 3,000 people in one day in New York. But I think it would be a matter of common agreement, if they could have killed 30,000 or even 300,000 or even 3 million, they would have.

And therefore, that was what made us take a completely different attitude. The calculus of risk changed. Rather than containing Saddam, he had to be told to change heart or we would change regime.

BLITZER: But I just want to be precise. When you authorized British troops to go into Iraq, at that point, you knew Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11?

BLAIR: That was never my allegation. I never contended he did.

BLITZER: But you never believed he did?

BLAIR: No, I mean, I was quite open about that. I used to say to people, "Look, the reason is not because he has actually been responsible for the act of terrorism of 9/11. That's not my case." My case never was that.

My case was that following 9/11, the calculus of risk changed, that we had to take a position in relation to the issue of WMD that was completely different. And by the way, Wolf, I still take that view.

And when we look at Iran today, where many of the same types of decision arise, I wouldn't take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon, just as I wouldn't have taken the risk of leaving Saddam there with the intent, the know-how, the people, and actually over the last ten years, he would have had the money. So -- because of the oil price.

So, you know, it's -- look, this is a debate that will go on and probably not be resolved until many years later, but it's important people know two things. First, that the decisions that were taken were taken in good faith. You may disagree with them, but they were taken in good faith. The second is that the reason why I took such a strong position on the whole issue of WMD and still do is because I don't think you can ever afford to let these types of terrorist groups get hold of these weapons.

BLITZER: Was it a blunder to take valuable military and intelligence assets out of Afghanistan and the hunt for bin Laden and move them to Iraq?

BLAIR: Well, from the British perspective, let me tell you, we actually stepped up our commitment to Afghanistan right in the middle of the worst period in Iraq.

BLITZER: But was it a mistake for the U.S. to -- to deviate from the hunt of bin Laden and to go after Saddam Hussein at a time after 9/11, when he was enemy -- and still is -- enemy No. 1?

BLAIR: Well, he is an enemy, but unfortunately, he's not the only enemy, and that's the difficulty. And what happened in Iraq -- and again, it's very important to realize this -- you know, we got rid of Saddam in two months, but that wasn't the tough thing. The tough thing was not getting rid of Saddam. The tough thing was the aftermath.

And by the way, during the aftermath, American and British troops and the troops of other nations were there with full U.N. authority, with the U.N.-led democratic process. And the reason it was tough was because terrorist groups, al Qaeda, you know, led by people from outside Iraq, and an Iranian-backed militia conspired to make it difficult. Now, when that happened, it was our job, in my view, to be in there and confronting them and defeating them.

BLITZER: Bottom line on the war in Iraq: despite the intelligence blunder, you think Britain and the United States did the right thing?

BLAIR: I do. But I don't disrespect people who take another point of view. And I simply say to people, yes, the consequences of removing Saddam were tough and difficult, but the consequences of leaving him there were also tough and difficult.


BLITZER: The former prime minister tells many he'll donate the proceeds from his memoirs to the Royal British Legion, an organization that helps wounded British soldiers.

Fixing the schools. Did D.C.'s mayor go too far? Why it's a huge election issue. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Obama today delivered his back-to-school message to students, telling them that absolutely nothing, his words, is beyond their reach if they work hard, and if authorities do their part. On a crucial primary election day, that message may have some special significance here in the nation's capital.

Joining us now is CNN's John King. He's host of "JOHN KING USA" that comes up at the top of the hour. There are national ramifications. What happens today in D.C.?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Without a doubt, Wolf. One of the big issues in the mayoral race here is education reform. The teachers' union has spent a lot of money going after the incumbent mayor, Adrian Fenty. Why? His school chancellor, Michelle Rhee, fired hundreds of teachers, essentially saying if school -- if the students' test scores don't improve, you're fired. So it's been a huge issue in the race.

Mayor Fenty has been trailing in the polls. I talked to him this morning. He says he thinks he's peaking at the right time. I also asked him, Wolf, because we ran into several people in the last few days, including this morning after they voted, who say they don't like the mayor. They think he's been too arrogant. He's been out of touch with the people of this city. But many of them said they voted for him, because they were afraid if he lost, his school chancellor, Michelle Rhee, would leave the city. And I began by asking the mayor if that bothered him.


MAYOR ADRIAN FENTY (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: Anybody who says that the No. 1 reason they voted for me was because of schools or my school chancellor, boy, I mean, that's about as much praise as you can give to -- to an elected official, because it means they were making the right decisions on the right issues.

D.C. is headed in the right direction, and we belief the people are going to support all the advances that we make, even our most critical poll. And we think we've made a lot of progress since the latest polls have come out. Even the most critical one that said over 65 percent of people think the city is headed in the right direction and we're responsible for it.

VINCENT GRAY (D), WASHINGTON, D.C., MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't believe everybody feels that, you know, things have gotten better, because if you look at the unemployment rate, for example, in the city, it is double-digits across the city. But in some areas of the city, Wood Seven, for example, we have 19 percent unemployment, Wood Eight 30 percent unemployment. The council put money in the project for adult job training, for example, and the mayor spent none of that. So there are people who feel very much excluded in a lot of ways from getting a job, getting training, and frankly, from the decision-making in the city.


KING: The last point there, Wolf, from Vince Gray, the city council chairman, that's been critical to his race. He says, essentially, that Mayor Fenty has catered to the more affluent, largely white population that lives in the northwest part of the city and left behind the poor African-American population in Anacostia and elsewhere. That is the big local divide.

The national question is, if the teachers' union succeeds in knocking off an incumbent at a time when most people in the city say security is better, the schools are better, you know, services seem at least a little better, if that can succeed here, will a mayor somewhere else, will a school chancellor somewhere else who's making these tough decisions and taking on the teachers' union, will that give them pause?

BLITZER: And I know Mayor Fenty is very disappointed that President Obama, who's very popular in the District of Columbia, did not go out and campaign for him, endorse him, but basically stayed out of it, even though he likes Michelle Rhee's policies on education.

KING: Given a lot of backup to the policies, but the president and the White House saying the president can't campaign in every race. You're dead right. The mayor is disappointed.

BLITZER: Very disappointed on that. All right. We'll see what happens over the next couple of hours.

Investigators looking into last month's massive egg recall for salmonella uncover some troubling new information. Was the U.S. food supply at risk much longer than we thought?

And going online just got a whole lot faster, but the city on the cutting edge of Internet speed may surprise you. Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Kate, what else is going on? KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, remember that massive egg recall? Well, congressional investigators say lab tests found hundreds of cases of salmonella contamination at an Iowa farm over a nearly two-year period before last month's massive egg recall.

Wright County Egg is one of the two farms at the center of the recall of 550 million eggs after health officials linked them to a salmonella outbreak. Congressional committee leaders are demanding answers from the farm's owners. A hearing is scheduled for September 21.

And the French senate has passed a law banning veils that conceal the face. That includes the burka, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women. Today's senate bill makes France the first European nation to impose such a law countrywide. The vote was 246 to 1 with about 100 senators abstaining. The measure takes effect next spring.

And if you're looking for the fastest Internet connection in the U.S., you won't find it in Silicon Valley. Try the Tennessee Valley instead. Chattanooga in southern Tennessee says it began -- began offering upload and download speeds of one gig per second yesterday. It says it's the fastest in the U.S. and 250 times the average Internet speed in the nation.

Wolf, I'll admit I'm not sure how much faster one gig per second is, but I do like fast Internet.

BLITZER: It goes really fast.

BOLDUAN: Really fast.

BLITZER: Really fast. Thanks.

Here's our question this hour: is the Obama administration implementing a backdoor amnesty plan? We've been taking your e-mail. Jack Cafferty is going to read what you think. "The Cafferty File" coming up.

And later, the wicked witch of the west resurrected. It's one of the season's most unusual political ads. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf: is the Obama administration implementing a backdoor amnesty plan?

Carol writes from Northampton, Massachusetts: "This is another example of how the administration is doing the limbo. Health care, 'don't ask, don't tell,' financial reform, amnesty, all squishy gray, not black or white. Get a backbone. Do one thing or the other, and then fight for it. Geez." Jay writes: "There is no backdoor amnesty. Amnesty means full pardon, and the Obama administration is on track to exceed their quota on deportations. They have deported more people than the Bush administration. The fact that they focus a large part of their efforts on criminal aliens does not mean a free pass for everyone else."

Steven writes: "Of course, it's an amnesty plan, and it ain't backdoor, my friend."

Ted says: "You better be careful, Jack. If you keep telling your readers about the backdoor things the president is doing, he will try to silence you like he tried to do FOX News. The answer to your question is yes, he's trying to buy votes for 2012."

Anthony in New Jersey says: "Simple solution, Jack: statehood. If so many Mexicans want to migrate here for a living wage and freedom from drug gangs and political corruption, I bet they'd vote in favor of being the 51st star on Old Glory. Let's get something out of this uneven trade of population versus territory."

John in Texas writes: "The Obama administration is just mimicking the previous administrations. Whenever they come up with a plan that satisfies their corporate masters so that they can keep their slave labor, they'll be allowed to pass it."

And Bob writes from Kansas City: "Sure they are. Anything for votes. Our career politicians would let Osama bin Laden in if it meant donations and votes."

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog, -- Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. See you back here tomorrow. Appreciate it.

CAFFERTY: You got it.

BLITZER: And the polls are getting ready to close fairly soon on this, the last big wave of primaries before the big -- the midterm elections. John King takes a closer look at the final warm-up act to the November showdown on "JOHN KING USA." That's coming up right at the top of the hour.

Up next, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, you can follow the yellow brick road. And you're likely to find some pretty odd political ads this election season. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Lions and bears and tigers and the most unusual political ads. CNN's Jeanne Moos shares her favorites.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to the season's best campaign commercials the Best Remake of a Classic Award...

MARGARET HAMILTON, ACTRESS: I'll get you my pretty.

MOOS: ... goes to the Republican who tried to get Nancy Pelosi by portraying her as the wicked witch of all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, my pretty. I will save you.

MOOS: But she can't save herself from Pelosi's opponent.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for saving us. Who are you?

DENNIS: I'm John Dennis. I'm running for Congress.

MOOS: He's also run into criticism.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Saying that, you know, you're a sexist pig.

DENNIS: Do you feel that way?


MOOS: This season's most oddball ads have featured tattoos, lunch boxes, sneakers, scary old people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to have to answer to us.

MOOS: Fake babies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. I can't do this.

MOOS: And even demon sheep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Campbell, is he what he tells us? Was he what he's become over the years, a wolf in sheep's clothing?

MOOS: The sheep in this case was slaughtered by Republican Carly Fiorina.

Best horror movie remake goes to a doctor running for coroner in Orleans Parish, who portrayed his opponent as Frankenstein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need a heart, a spleen, and a liver for tonight's sale.

MOOS: Frankenstein won. Too negative for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't stand negative ads. Every time I see one, I feel like I need to take a shower.

MOOS: Democrat John Hickenrucker (ph) is the cleanest candidate for governor of Colorado.

(on camera) This was an ad that required the candidate to make at least six wardrobe changes.

(voice-over) And when we say six wardrobe changes, we're not counting the hat.

The Best Shot Award goes to this Arizona congressional candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.

PAMELA GORMAN, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm Pamela Gorman, and I approve this message.

MOOS: Some ads are so macho...


MOOS: ... they invite parody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bet you didn't know that. Well, it's true. But it ain't, because I made it up.

MOOS: At least this candidate for Alabama agriculture commissioner didn't open fire.

PETERSON: I'm Dale Peterson and I'll name names and take no prisoner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll kill a man. I'll put a gun right in someone's mouth and say, "You need more lead in your diet."

MOOS: Both gun-toting contenders lost, but guns don't kill campaigns; candidates do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So give me the Republican nomination for Ag commissioner or I'll shoot you in the goddamn head.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN ,New York.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

This programming note: tomorrow, we'll have more of my interview with Michael Moore, the filmmaker. He issues a major challenge to me. You'll be interested to know what that challenge is. Tomorrow, Michael Moore back in THE SITUATION ROOM with me.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on behind the scenes. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets:, @WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.

You can also follow us on Facebook, to become a fan. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.