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Christine O'Donnell on the Defensive; Carla Bruni Speaks Out

Aired September 20, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Lady Gaga leads the charge to get rid of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy, but can the pop star convince a couple of U.S. senators to go along?

And a CNN exclusive this hour: The French first lady, Carla Bruni, tells you what Michelle Obama really told her about life in the White House.

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

President Obama today came face-to-face with the anger and the deep disappointment that's sweeping the country, at the heart of it, the long economic slump and the slow recovery. The president appeared at a town hall-style meeting on CNBC. Listen to this.


QUESTION: I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.

I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I'm one of those people. And I'm waiting, sir. I'm waiting. I -- I don't feel it yet.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My goal here is not to try to convince you that everything's where it needs to be. It's not. That's why I ran for president. But what I am saying is, is that we're moving in the right direction.

QUESTION: Like a lot of people in my generation, I was really inspired by you and by your campaign and the message that you brought, and that inspiration is dying away. It feels like the American dream is not attainable to a lot of us.

And what I'm really hoping to hear from you is several concrete steps that you're going to take moving forward that will be able to reignite my generation, reignite the youth who are beset by student loans. And I really want to know, is -- is the American dream dead for me?

OBAMA: Absolutely not. Look, we still have the best universities in the world. We've got the most dynamic private sector in the world. We've got the most productive workers in the world. There is not a country in the world that would not want to change places with us.

For all the problems that we've got, as tough as things are right now, we are still the country that billions of people around the world look to and aspire to. And I want everybody to always remember that.


BLITZER: Right now, the president is on the road. He's busy raising money for Democratic candidates trying to keep their heads above water amid a rising populist tide.

The latest example of that, the Tea Party-backed Christine O'Donnell, who beat the mainstream Republican candidate in last week's Senate primary in Delaware. She claims she's pulled in close to $2 million since her win last week. Christine O'Donnell may be the political star of the moment in Delaware, perhaps elsewhere, but from her finances to her beliefs, she's been dogged by questions about her past.

O'Donnell canceled sessions on two Sunday talk shows, but is due this hour to make an appearance in Delaware.

Our Brian Todd is in Delaware right now. He's over at O'Donnell's campaign headquarters with more.

A lot of folks are taking a look at the stuff she has said and done over the years, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. and they're hoping for answers on some of that pretty soon. And they may get it tonight. Christine O'Donnell about to appear behind me here at the Frog Hollow Golf Club. Not clear if she's going to answer some of the questions that you mentioned, those questions that have been hounding her campaign for the past couple of days.

You know, a short time again, we got an inside look at her shoestring campaign headquarters near Wilmington, some real insight into how her staffers are handling the onslaught of media attention.


TODD (voice-over): Christine O'Donnell and her tightly-knit staff scrambling to show they're ready for prime time in Delaware and beyond, this nondescript townhouse outside Wilmington not the place you would expect to find a hot campaign that's already beaten one political machine and is taking on another.

(on camera): Inside the O'Donnell campaign headquarters now. Looks like a small operation right now, but it's getting booted up very fast. About eight people are inside here right now. We're told that some of them not only work here, but live here. About five people live in this townhouse as well.

(voice-over): It's here that we're looking for answers to some questions about O'Donnell's finances and her personal past, like this comment in 1999 on Bill Maher's old show "Politically Incorrect." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

O'DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft.


TODD: O'Donnell is not here to answer our questions about that. Inside this cramped living room, campaign officials say that episode was a moment of soul-searching in her youth. The campaign provides us this clip of her defense at a public event Sunday.

O'DONNELL: I was in high school. How many of you didn't hang out with questionable folks in high school? But, no, there's been no witchcraft since.

TODD: But O'Donnell's team also has serious questions to answer about her finances. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign watchdog group, wants federal and state officials to look into one persistent accusation.

MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: What we're most concerned about is that Ms. O'Donnell appears to have committed numerous crimes by misusing her campaign funds for personal use.

TODD: A charge leveled by her opponents and a past official of one of her campaigns.

Slicker, more established operations would have issued a statement or had their candidate out with prepared talking points. This campaign is scrambling to bring on more staff, including people to handle press questions.

Campaign manager Matt Moran is at first reluctant to go on camera, but then agrees.

(on camera): To the broader charges from several different quarters that she's misused campaign money for her own personal expenses, what is your response?

MATT MORAN, O'DONNELL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, several different quarters would probably qualify as a lot of the establishment. And then for the supposedly bipartisan organizations that are -- have brought forth a suit, you know, I am very confident that they will be dismissed as frivolous. And for the charges that need to be articulated fully, we have some lawyers that will be looking at that and addressing those concerns.


TODD: Matt Moran later told me that Christine O'Donnell has been living off her savings. Another campaign officials said she's been paying for personal expenses with some money that she's earned doing P.R. work for a client. When I asked for specifics about who that client is and the money and the work involved, that official declined to give those specifics, citing privacy concerns. This campaign is unlike few we have ever covered, living and working in a cramped townhouse, struggling to work deal all the overnight notoriety that they have gotten and all that comes with that. That includes fending off some withering attacks from her opponents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But they have apparently raised in the last few days nearly $2 million. So, that should help with their finances.

Brian, what is the campaign saying about her decision to cancel those two Sunday talk show interviews?

TODD: We pressed them about that today, Wolf. They said that they were not ducking the media. They were not trying to duck the questions about witchcraft and the finances or anything like that.

They said, simply, it was a logistical problem, kind of a communications snafu. She was triple-booked. They said that she was booked for two events here in Delaware at the same time that a P.R. firm that they're just kind of getting up to speed, just hiring to take on media questions, was booking her on those talk shows. So, it was simply kind of a communication problem. And they say that's all that it was. She was not ducking anyone. That's...


BLITZER: Well, we have invited her to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well. Love to have an interview her and Chris Coons, her opponent.

Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Later this hour, by the way, Christine O'Donnell will be taking part in a candidates forum in Delaware, in Middletown, Delaware. She's expected to speak shortly. Her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, will not be at that forum. We will monitor to see what she says.

There is another upset winner who has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. We're talking about Alaska's Joe Miller.

CNN's John King is joining us now. He hosts "JOHN KING, USA" at the top of the hour.

You had a chance to speak to Joe Miller. How did that go?

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Just finished the conversation with Joe Miller. He's the Republican Senate nominee in Alaska, but now he's got more crowd in the field. Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent senator, announced over the weekend she will run as a write- in candidate.

And Joe Miller said that she had promised to support him and not run as a write-in or a third-party candidate, and now he says she's broken that promise. She describes him as too radical, Wolf. He rebutted those charges, but continues to hold a hard line saying that in the future, the federal government needs to make tough decisions about Medicaid, about Social Security.

He's getting hit from Lisa Murkowski on one side. And former President Bill Clinton over the weekend also criticized Joe Miller, who has said that long-term unemployment benefits in his view are unconstitutional. Bill Clinton saying that he doesn't think putting 10 more people in -- 10 million more people in the bread lines is not the way to get the economy back. I asked Joe Miller about that, and he was unapologetic.


JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You have got to remember why are we at this point anyway, why we're talking about expanding unemployment compensation for a much longer period than what it had been done in the past.

The reason why is because this federal government has kept down the American worker, has kept down the American economy, whether it's by Obamacare, whether it's that 1099 requirement, whether it's by taxation. The party of Bill Clinton is the problem. And, of course, it's wider than that as well, but they are a major problem.


KING: The Murkowski write-in candidacy poses a threat to him. Some think the Democrat could even win that race right now. But it is fascinating when you talk to him and some of these other Tea Party candidates, Wolf. They don't back down.

They say there's fiscal insanity in Washington. And if that means over time scaling back or even eliminating Social Security for future generations, they're willing to have that conversation. Scaling back Medicare significantly, they're willing to have that conversation.

So, his opponent, now a Republican opponent, as well as a Democrat, call it radical. Joe Miller says look at all the red ink in Washington. Something needs to be done.

BLITZER: So, even in a Republican state like Alaska, if you have two Republicans basically splitting the Republican conservative vote, does that potentially open the door for the Democrat to sneak in?

KING: It does. And the big question now is, the national Democratic committees had stayed out of that race, assuming the Republican, whoever won the Republican nomination, would win.

Now that you have two Republicans in the race, the Democrats have to decide whether to invest some precious resources up in Alaska, because, as you know, Wolf, there are so many competitive races across the country, and most of them Democrats on defense. Resources will be scarce for the final weeks. It's an opportunity, but also a tough challenge for the Democrats whether to make that risky investment.

BLITZER: Tough decision in Alaska.

You're going to have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour.

KING: You bet.

BLITZER: John, thank you.

This Tea Party momentum keeps rolling. Now they're targeting yet another state.

Our deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, and our senior political editor, Mark Preston, they're at our political desk right now.

We're talking about West Virginia, Paul. That's next, right?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You are absolutely right, Wolf. We're talking about Robert Byrd. He held that seat in West Virginia for over 50 years. But the Democratic senator died earlier this year. There is going to be a special election in November.

The Democratic governor there, pretty popular, Joe Manchin, is the Democratic nominee, but Republicans think they have a good shot at taking back this seat.

Take a look at this. The FreedomWorks -- FreedomWorks, Wolf, is a conservative grassroots group right here in D.C., but they back Tea Party movement organizations. And they are now eyeing that seat. They say they are going to help the Republican candidate there, John Raese.

They are going to help him with get-out-the-vote efforts. I tell you, Wolf, they are targeting West Virginia now, FreedomWorks. They think, if they can take West Virginia, the Republicans have a shot at maybe winning back the Senate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Mark for a moment.

Mark, the Democrats, they are pushing back against this whole Tea Party phenomenon right now. The president and the vice president, for example, they're on the road.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: They are, Wolf. And, really, look, the president is not on the ballot in November, but very much this election will be a referendum on his policies and his short time in office.

That's why we see him right now, Wolf, raising money as we speak in Philadelphia for Democratic candidates. He will do the same in New York a little bit later this week, but not only him. Joe Biden will be in four states this week, Wolf, raising money, trying to get as much money as possible to run these very expensive ad campaigns.

In addition to that, Wolf, I just got off the phone with Democratic officials, and what they're telling me at this point is that the Tea Party will be a big issue for them. They will try to frame the Tea Party as an out-of-control organization. And they will try to tie the Republican Party to it.

In fact, this is what Joe Biden said just a few hours ago at a fund-raiser for Ted Strickland, the Ohio governor. He said: "Don't compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative. The Republican Tea Party is the alternative."

That's the message he's telling Democrats to tell their friends and their colleagues heading into the midterm elections -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mark Preston, we will check back with you. Thanks to you and to Paul Steinhauser.

We will talk politics tomorrow, by the way, among other stuff, with the former President Bill Clinton. He's got a lot on his mind. He's my special guest tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

Then: texting and driving. We have details of a shocking new report showing the deadly toll it's taking on America's roads and highways.

And a pop star pressuring lawmakers to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military. Will Lady Gaga's rally have an impact?


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Raising taxes on wealthy Americans could wind up driving them right out of the country.

In a recent letter to "The Wall Street Journal," a California real estate executive wrote that although he makes more than $250,000, he doesn't consider his family wealthy. Glen Esnard says he's still paying off school loans for three kids. He has no funded retirement plan except for Social Security, and no guarantee of permanent health care.

Yet he believes people making more than $250,000 a year are vilified and held accountable for paying for the government's runaway spending -- quoting here -- "Apparently, our president thinks that living in America is so wonderful that we will never leave, despite being directly attacked. He should think again" -- unquote.

A "Los Angeles Times" reporter asked Esnard if he really expected wealthy Americans to consider leaving this country because their tax rate might rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Esnard responded that although he's not an expert, he thinks it's a real issue and that he has received a lot of support from people who agree with him.

One possibility, he says, is Bermuda, short hop from the U.S. coast. And while you do have to battle an occasional hurricane, the islanders pay no national income tax. Meanwhile, most economists think it's a good idea to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone, despite the president's call to let them expire for the wealthiest Americans. polled 31 economists, leading ones, and 18 of them said extending the tax cuts for all of us is the most important thing Congress can do to help the economy. Only three of these economists backed President Obama's plan to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

So, here's the question. If your wealth was threatened by rising taxes, would you consider moving to another country? Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sounds extreme, Jack, to actually leave the United States, even if your taxes are going up?

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean, the jobs are leaving. Why not some of the citizens, too?

BLITZER: Yes. I hope they stay. I like these fellow Americans. I don't want them to go to Bermuda.


CAFFERTY: Bermuda is a nice place.

BLITZER: Yes, they can visit Bermuda, but we don't them to live there.

CAFFERTY: The problem with going to Bermuda is that you might have trouble duplicating that $250,000-a-year income.

BLITZER: Yes, that would be a problem.


BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

Stock markets, by the way, rallied to four-month highs today. The Dow was up 145 points. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 were each up about 1.5 percent. Investors may have been reacting to the news that recession here in the United States is officially over. Actually, it ended in June of last year, but the call was made today by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Hindsight, yes, but, simply put, that organization now has more data, more information to work with.

Joining us now is our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

David, this was the longest recession since the Great Depression. It's now technically over, but for millions of Americans, it certainly doesn't feel over.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It sure doesn't. You know, Reagan used to say that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you lose your job. And for an awful lot of Americans right now, their neighbors still don't have work. Even if you're working, everybody knows at least one person and most people know a lot more than one person who doesn't have a job. And it feels like a recession.

And it -- you know, this is so painful coming out of this, so slow coming out of this. You know, Wolf, there's been a lot of talk about, are we entering a lost decade like Japan's? There's a lot of evidence that we have just been going through a lost decade. Incomes have been flat for 10 years. We haven't created new jobs over the last 10 years. The stock market is essentially where it was 10 years ago. These are rough times for people.

BLITZER: You know, Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's, he said this is clearly a jobless recovery that is going on right now. It may be a recovery, but it's a jobless recovery.

GERGEN: Well, that's -- and what has been disturbing, Wolf, is that the last couple of recoveries have been pretty jobless.

We used to, you know, sort of go down fast and then we would come out fast. And, you know, for example, back in the Reagan years, when we went down so fast, the year after the recovery was over, we had about 7 percent growth. Here we are with this anemic growth at 2 percent right now, 1.5 percent right now, and it just -- that's -- it's both slow and jobless. And that's a dangerous, very dangerous political territory for the Democrats, obviously.

BLITZER: If it's a jobless recovery in 2012, how much danger would that put President Obama as far as reelection is concerned?

GERGEN: Well, let's put it the other way around. If the economy comes back, I think he will be in pretty good shape. If it does not come back, then an awful lot of questions will arise about who the nominee is on the other side.

If we get a fringe candidate, if we get an extremist, I think Obama still wins. If the Republicans can bring themselves to nominate someone who is much more mainstream, then Obama may be beatable. Right now, I think probably the odds are he's going -- I think the odds for the last two years have been consistently he was going to win reelection. But those odds have been changing in favor of the Republicans in the last few months.

BLITZER: David, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Take care. Thanks, Wolf.

And please be sure to join us tomorrow for my one-on-one interview with the former President Bill Clinton on his Global Initiative, what advice he has to help the ailing economy, and a lot more. My interview with Bill Clinton, that's coming up tomorrow right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

Kate Bolduan is monitoring some other top stories, including disturbing new findings in education. Which countries rank worst when it comes to giving kids a chance to learn?

Plus, a massive tribute to Ronald Reagan at sea, we're going to show you what it's all about.



BLITZER: Speaking of presidents, I will interview the former President Bill Clinton tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will discuss the economy, politics, his Global Initiative, and much more. The interview with Bill Clinton tomorrow.

And Lady Gaga makes a big push to overturn the ban on allowing gays to serve openly in the United States military. So, what is she doing in Maine?

And a CNN exclusive: the French first lady, Carla Bruni, on what America's first lady really told her about life in the White House -- the interview this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A critical Senate vote is scheduled tomorrow on repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the United States military.

Today, the pop star Lady Gaga headlined a rally in the state of Maine, calling on the state's two moderate Republican senators to vote with Democrats to let debate on the bill begin.

The singer paid tribute to gay and lesbian service members.


LADY GAGA, SINGER: I'm here because they inspire me. I'm here because I believe in them. I'm here because "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is wrong. It's unjust. And fundamentally, it is against all that we stand for as America Americans.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, who's watching this debate unfold. Lots of pressure to let the debate begin in the Senate tomorrow. What are you hearing at the Pentagon? What do they want?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're not exactly going crazy over Gaga, if that's what you mean. You know, a senior defense official was asked this morning whether officials were going to keep an eye on this rally, and they said, "No, not really."

They think it's clearly aimed at the political side of this argument, not necessarily at the military side.

You can bet a lot of the senators and like that, they are going to be paying attention. But she came to that rally in Maine trying to convince the two Republican senators, and right around the same time as this was getting started, one of those Republican senators, Olympia Snowe, put out a press release, you know, saying that she still favors waiting until the Pentagon's review of this policy is completed in December before taking any action. So there's some question whether they're going to have the votes there.

Just to bring people up to speed, the House passed its version of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The Senate would also have to do so. But it remains to be seen if the Democrats have enough votes to block any Republican filibuster, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They need 60 votes. Not going to be easy to get that, Chris. But if they do get the vote in the Senate to begin the debate, this situation could move rather quickly.

LAWRENCE: That's right. I think if you go back even just a few months, the idea that this could come up so quickly wasn't really on anyone's radar. People were looking much further out.

Now to that end, the Pentagon has set up a working group that is looking at these issues. You know, if it was repealed, would gay and straight troops share barracks? Would benefits apply to same-sex partners? They're even looking at things such as, you know, public displays of affection. They're not taking a stand on anything. The working group is more looking at how it would be implemented if it came to that, to sort of get ahead of the curve.

Also, there are several -- there are surveys that have gone out to some of the troops. And now the Pentagon has even sent out surveys to spouses, husbands and wives of service members. We're told today about 38,000 of those have already come back. So on the military side, there's a great deal of interest in this topic, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see how this debate, if it gets off the ground tomorrow, how it unfolds.

LAWRENCE: The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is in New York City right now for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. He arrived a day after the American hiker, Sarah Shourd, was released from an Iranian prison.

Let's talk about that and more with our national security contributor Fran Townsend. Fran is an external board advisor for both the CIA and the Homeland Security Department.

Two other American hikers remain in Iranian jails. Ahmadinejad says he wants Iranians released from American prisons. Are there Iranians in American prisons right now?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, as you appreciate, under our Constitution, if Iranians are arrested here in the United States, they have access to an independent lawyer. They can confront the witnesses and evidence against them. They're entitled to ask for bail. They're entitled to have contact with their consular officials, through -- and representatives here in the United States. A whole series of rights that Americans don't seem to be granted when they're taken into custody in Iran.

And so it's understandable that he might raise the -- the U.S. having in custody Iranian citizens, but it's by no means fair to -- to make the analogy to Americans like these two hikers, not to mention, remember, there's also Robert Levenson, a retired FBI official, who disappeared. He's never even been acknowledged by the Iranian government and may not even still be living.

And so there is not -- this is not one for one. And it is unfair of Ahmadinejad to suggest that there's any parity between them.

BLITZER: So as far as you -- you know, your contacts and your information is concerned, a deal, releasing some Iranians who may be in American prisons for these two American hikers, you think that's a non-starter.

TOWNSEND: I do think it's a nonstarter. Look, Iran did the right thing by releasing Sarah Shourd. And understandably, she's got two friends still in custody there, and she's advocating for their release. There is additional pressure brought on Iran while Ahmadinejad is in New York at the U.N. General Assembly. She's right to raise it. But there are lots of issues. And I don't think you're going to see a deal get cut there.

BLITZER: Ahmadinejad is going to sit down with Larry King later this week. We'll see what he has to say. Thanks very much.

TOWNSEND: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: The French first lady sets the record straight about her American counterpart. We're talking about Carla Bruni. She speaks exclusively with CNN about Michelle Obama. Stand by.

And would you eat genetically engineered salmon? The FDA is speaking out. So are critics, who call it Frankenfish.


BLITZER: The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife, Carla Bruni, they're in New York. He's speaking at the United Nations. She's speaking out about a controversial quote attributed to the U.S. first lady, Michelle Obama. Carla Bruni spoke exclusively about it with CNN's Hala Gorani, who's joining us now with more.

Hala, tell our viewers what this controversy is all about.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, adding to the worldwide fascination, Wolf, with Carla Bruni Sarkozy, after her years as a super model and then a pop star. Two tell-all books came out in France, explosive allegations against Carla Bruni. In one where the author said he cooperated with him. They said that she had relayed to him that Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States, of course, had told her that life in the White House was hell.

I caught up with her in New York. As you mentioned, her husband gave a speech at the United Nations. She is here in her capacity as ambassador for the global fund to fight AIDS and malaria. I asked her, "Is it true that Michelle Obama told you these things?" Here's what she told me.


CARA BRUNI, FRENCH FIRST LADY: Of course, Michelle Obama never said such a thing. I'm happy to tell you very frankly that this is not an authorized book. No one -- not only one book that came out about me was authorized.

I read the book, and I knew about the book. But I do live in France, and France is a free country where anyone can, you know, fantasize and print it. So, of course, I could do something legal, but first of all, it gives a lot of publicity to all those looks. And second of all, it's not in my principle, you know. I'm a democrat. I believe that everyone is allowed to say and write and say what they want.

But I'm happy to -- to disassociate myself...

GORANI: Disassociate?

BRUNI: Disassociate myself not only from that book, from all books and, of course, Mrs. Obama never said such a thing.


GORANI: So, Wolf, she said she was happy to disassociate herself from the book and the allegations, because there are other, more explosive allegations in there, Wolf. Among others, that she used secret police services to tap into some of her rivals' text messages, to uncover plots to oust her from the palace. Her life really makes soap operas sound pretty tame.

BLITZER: She's an amazing woman with a rich, rich history, as a lot of our viewers know. But right now, her husband, the president of France, Sarkozy, is speaking out by global antipoverty issues. She has a unique role as the first lady of France, as well. Tell our viewers about that.

GORANI: Well, she admits herself that she's new at this. She's not a career humanitarian. I actually even asked her, "Would you like to be known as the French Angelina Jolie?"

She said, "No, no, no. This is just as the wife of the French president that I would like to do what I can to help in a cause that I believe in." And it happens to be the global fund for the fight against AIDS. She is the only ambassador for the global fund, which is a rather young fund within the United Nations. She really just -- it was a quick visit, a short 24-hour visit for the French first lady. So it's something that she hopes her celebrity status will shine a spotlight on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Hala Gorani, good interview. Thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Jimmy Carter, the former president of the United States, is speaking out. You're going to want to hear what he is telling CNN's Larry King about President Obama. We have the clip.

And you won't find this fish in the water, but you may find it one day in your supermarket. Genetically-engineered salmon. Is it safe? Elizabeth Cohen is standing by.


BLITZER: It's a fish you can't find in the water, but some day it may be at your local supermarket. The Food and Drug Administration holding public hearings on genetically-engineered salmon. Scientists advising the FDA say the salmon is safe to eat, but critics are calling it Frankenfish.


Joining us now, our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. She's the author of "The Empowered Patient," a brand-new and very important book.

Elizabeth, what's different about this salmon, as opposed to all the ordinary salmon we've always been eating?


And here's the issue. Regular salmon, the kind we eat all the time, they only have growth hormone in their bodies during the warm weather months, so that means they don't have growth hormones circulating when it's colder.

So here's what scientists did. It's actually pretty interesting. They went to another fish called an Ocean Pout, which does have growth hormones in its body all year round, they took that gene, that growth hormone gene from the Ocean Pout, and they put it into the salmon.

So now the salmon, instead of taking 30 months to reach maturity, reach maturity in about 16 months. So as you can see, it grows much faster. And you can see there's a clear business advantage for doing that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Have they studied how this modified salmon, this genetically-modified salmon, affects humans?

COHEN: You know, the folks who make this salmon say, look, there's nothing different about this salmon except for this one thing, that it has growth hormone all year round. And they say there's no other differences.

And so no, it hasn't been studied in any big trials or really in any trials to see what effect it has on humans. And there's some consumer advocates who aren't crazy about that. They say, well, that's ridiculous; we should be studying this in humans. Maybe people will have allergies to this new kind of salmon. But again, the folks who make it say, look, there's no difference except this one gene about the growth hormone.

BLITZER: When would this new salmon go into the market?

COHEN: You know, even if the FDA approves it, and they're having hearings today and tomorrow, even if the FDA approves it, it still would take years to come to market. And it's not clear, Wolf, once it comes to market will it be labeled? Will it say this is genetically- modified salmon? We don't know if it will have that label or not.

BLITZER: Still some questions out there. We'll see what happens. Elizabeth, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BLITZER: Scientists are also working on a so-called enviro-pig that can digest plants more efficiently, and producing cattle that are resistant to Mad Cow Disease.

Genetic engineering has been used to make corn and soybeans that are resistant to herbicides and to produce some microorganisms used in baking, brewing and cheese-making. You may not know when you consume some modified crops, because the FDA does not require a label identifying them.

It was your wealth -- if your wealth was threatened, I should say, by rising taxes, would you consider moving to another country? Jack Cafferty next with your e-mail.

And the former president, Jimmy Carter, compares President Obama to Abraham Lincoln. We'll tell you why and where. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We'll get to Jack in a moment. But this just coming in: the former president, Jimmy Carter, talking about the difficulties President Obama is facing right now.

Listen to what he just told CNN's Larry King.


LARRY KING, HOST, CNN'S "LARRY KING LIVE": What is your read on Obama?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he's a good, solid, intelligent man who is suffering from perhaps the worst Washington environment of any president in history, and I would even include Abraham Lincoln as we led up to the War Between the States.

No other president has ever faced such a polarized Congress where you can hardly get one or two votes, you know, out of hundreds who are Republicans in the House and the Senate. So he has had to overcome that, and I think he's had remarkable success, in light of that handicap.


BLITZER: You can see the full interview with the former president on "LARRY KING LIVE" later tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN. Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, if your wealth was threatened by rising taxes, would you consider moving to another country?

L.S. in Illinois, "I've been considering the move for quite a while, and I'm not even close to earning $250,000 a year. It's not only the federal income tax but rising property taxes. I paid off my home ten years ago. The escalating property taxes are almost equal to what my mortgage payment used to be. When people no longer own their own homes in this country but instead are forced to rent them from the state in the form of taxes, it's time to leave. I'm sick of all of it."

Lex writes, "Let them move. They seem to think the conditions under which they earned their wealth magically appeared. It's taxes that pay for the education, health and infrastructure responsible for our great society. They can all fight for the small number of high- paying jobs available in Bermuda."

Anthony in New Jersey, "I've traveled the world, Jack. I'd never lived anywhere but here. The trouble with most Americans is they're too provincial and have never traveled. Even in Europe they don't have close to the amenities I enjoy every day. Believe me, there is no place like home."

Eric writes from Montreal, "Jack, I have to laugh. After a recent trip to Virginia this summer, where I paid 50 percent less for some of my favorite wines and 35 percent less for gasoline that I do in Quebec, Canada, I'm stunned by some who want to move to another country. If you do want to move, don't come to Canada. My salary of $70,000 a year turns into just over $34,000 after income tax, and that still doesn't take into account $4 a gallon gas and a general federal provincial sales tax of 13 percent."

Bimal writes, "Jack, the problem is taxes are not 39.6 percent. They're now going up to over 60 percent. You're forgetting Social Security, Medicare, Medicare on capital gains, state taxes (New Jersey at 10 percent), property taxes. I'm of the opinion that after 60 percent, a person making $250,000 a year should seriously consider leaving America. Why not look at life in growing economies like India, China, or other places?"

Frank in Indiana writes, "Know any countries without FOX?"

If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog:, and you'll find a lot of e-mails and things there.

Do you know any countries without FOX?

BLITZER: I don't know. I'm sure there are some, Jack. Thanks very much. I'll see you tomorrow. I appreciate it. Bye-bye.

It's not an issue that usually comes up in campaigns, but one race is now making headlines because of witchcraft. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.


BLITZER: Which Senate candidate once confessed to dabbling in witchcraft? CNN's Jeanne Moos take a most unusual look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Nancy Pelosi's opponent presented her as the wicked witch...


MOOS: ... little did we know that yet another witch would bewitch the media.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, SENATE CANDIDATE: I dabbled into witchcraft. I never joined a coven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): That sly come-hither stare.

O'DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things.


BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Sarah Palin is mean, and Christine is not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): 'Cause there's no nicer witch than you.

MOOS: The press may be laughing, but the witches aren't.

REV. SELENA FOX, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LADY LIBERTY LEAGUE (via phone): She was ill-informed then, and it appears that she continues to be ill-informed.

O'DONNELL: One of my first dates as a witch was on a Satanic altar.

MOOS: Wiccan Reverend Selena Fox says hers is a nature religion.

FOX: Witchcraft is not Satanism. It's not hocus pocus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): And I've got no defense for it.

MOOS: How about this defense from a supporter online? "Well, I used a Ouija board once. So what?" Here was Christine O'Donnell's defense, as seen on "The View."

O'DONNELL: I was in high school. There's been no witchcraft since. If there was, Karl Rove would be a supporter now.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": I don't understand. What does that mean?

SHERRI SHEPHERD, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": She's saying that if she was a witch, she would have cast a spell and Karl Rove would have...


MOOS: It sure stirred up a caldron on "The View."

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": There are people listening to us that thinking, why don't those witches shut up?

MOOS: If Sarah Palin became known for her wink...

(on camera) ... will Christine O'Donnell become known for her nose twitch?

(voice-over) More than a decade ago Christine O'Donnell was a frequent guest on Bill Maher's show. Now since she won't come on, he's threatening to release more old clips.

MAHER: It's like a hostage crisis. Every week you don't show up, I'm going to -- I'm going to throw another body out.

MOOS: Hey, Bill Maher has got his own skeletons from the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Art thou a witch?

MAHER: Well, it depends on how you define art.

MOOS: And among those old clips we found this.

O'DONNELL: Hi. How are you.

MAHER: Thanks for the underwear.

MOOS: Maher says he doesn't remember what "thanks for the underwear" was a reference to. Do witches even wear underwear?


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...


MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Remember to join us tomorrow for my one-on-one interview with the former president, Bill Clinton. We'll talk about his global initiative conference that's under way in New York City and a lot more. Stand by for that interview tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.