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Bob Woodward's New Book Offers A Revealing Look Inside The Obama White House; Middle Class Tax Cuts Held "Hostage"; Empowering Patients; Bill Clinton's Dramatic Weight Loss

Aired October 2, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: He's the legendary journalist behind the fall of a president. Now, Bob Woodward is sitting down with me. He'll give us an inside look at the wars within the Obama White House. And he's revealing the one thing that the president is most worried about.

Also, he's a rising star in the Republican Party, with a shot at being the next president of the United States. Just ahead, Senator John Thune weighs in on a potential run in 2012.

Plus, they're the diet doctors that helped transform former President Bill Clinton in time for his daughter's wedding. You're going to meet them this hour.

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


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the last 20 months, Rahm has exceed al of my expectations. It's fair to say that we could not have accomplished what we've accomplished without Rahm's leadership.


BLITZER: President Obama giving an emotional sendoff to his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Obama joked the East Room event Friday was the least suspenseful announcement of all time. Emanuel is leaving to run for mayor of Chicago. He is being replaced by his deputy Pete Rouse. I talked about this big shakeup for team Obama with the author of the new book "Obama's Wars." We are talking about the veteran journalist Bob Woodward. Stand by for that interview.

First, though, here are five things you should know about our guest.


(voice over): One word, Watergate. Woodward was half the reporting team that exposed the biggest White House scandal in U.S. history and brought down the Nixon presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the guy justice confirmed.

BLITZER: If you're not old enough to have seen Watergate play out live, maybe you caught the movie version.

After almost 40 years and two Pulitzers, Woodward is still at "The Washington Post" as an associate editor, but now he makes his biggest impact on journalism, government, and politics through his books.

Woodward has written over a dozen best sellers including fly on the wall accounts of the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now Barack Obama.

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": This is the first unvarnished view of Obama.

BLITZER: Critics often seize on Woodward's heavy use of unnamed sources.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I ask who you're meeting with today?

BLITZER: And his "you are there" style of story telling. For better or worse, presidents and their top aides keep opening up to Woodward. His new book, "Obama's Wars", describe a national security team deeply divided over its strategy in Afghanistan.


Bob Woodward is here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Bob, thanks very much for coming in. Congratulations on this new book.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

BLITZER: When President Obama was elected in 2008, he was adored by so many people. So what went wrong?

WOODWARD: Well, the economy has not been fixed. He's learned he's not the commander in chief of the economy. There's an unsettled state everywhere. I find in focusing the war in Afghanistan, the war on terror, the secret war on Pakistan, which is really, you know, Pakistan is going to be remembered in the history books because of what might happen during this period.

BLITZER: Like what? What do you mean?

WOODWARD: Well, I mean, there are terrorist attacks being planned now, against our country, that are being hatched in Pakistan by all kinds of groups, not just Al Qaeda. And the people who know, including the president, are alarmed, about as alarmed as you can be.

BLITZER: So, speaking of that, you interviewed the president of the United States for your book, "Obama's Wars." There's audiotape of one clip that is chilling. The president speaking to you; you raise the subject, let me play the clip.

WOODWARD: Certainly.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) OBAMA: A potential game changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up in a major American city, or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. And so when I go down the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top because that's one area where you can't afford any mistakes.

And so right away coming in, we said how are we going to start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national security discussion? Making sure that that occurrence, even if remote, never happens.


BLITZER: Did you get a sense, though, that he was really on top of this, that he knew the nature of the threat, that he appreciated it? He was all over it? Or was he sort of a reluctant warrior?

WOODWARD: No, no, this is exactly the right question. Intellectually, totally engaged, considering the options and the consequences and so forth. But it -- what he said there, one of the things I have to think about all of the time. If, you know, the phone rings at 3:00 a.m., or at noon, or something, is this the moment when something like that can happen? And so it puts the president on edge. He set up a system and a process. It's laid out in detail here.

There are some glitches. There are some things that they did a secret exercise, hypothetically a nuke going on in Indianapolis, Indiana, and to see how the government responds and it was all the government. It was kept secret. They didn't let the media in. They didn't let Congress in. They didn't let the public in. Well, if something like that happens in this country, it's going to be chaos.

BLITZER: So it looks like that exercise was a little dysfunctional, is that what you're saying?

WOODWARD: Yeah. The people who were there just said, you know, this is often Disneyland. This is not connected enough now. You know, how do you actually have a real simulated exercise with something like that?

BLITZER: That it is a war game, but it's not very realistic. That's what you're saying?

WOODWARD: Yeah, it's a giant problem. But you asked at the beginning, what's happened this beloved man-or this -- he's sincere. He's engaged. He's doing so many things. What I found out in the wars is he's smart, and he gets all the intel and he gets all the assessments and he realizes his war, Afghanistan, not a lot of good news coming out.

In fact, he comes out a couple of months ago, one of the secret meetings where they're getting an update. And he literally says to his aides, given that description of the problem, how do we design a solution? So his mind is there. He's commander in chief. He's got to be leader. Got to be the man who's, you know, kind of, yes we can. But, you know, he doesn't use the word "victory." He doesn't use the word win. He wants to be successful. There is the question, does he have that will to win?

BLITZER: Because if you read this book it sounds like he's a very reluctant warrior.

WOODWARD: Yeah, he is.

BLITZER: Very different than President Bush.

WOODWARD: Sure. Absolutely. Now -- here's the question. He's designed his own strategy in Afghanistan; 30,000 more troops. We begin withdrawal in July of next year. Nine months from now. It's very vague what that means. If it turns out to work, you know, he's going to go in the geostrategic hall of fame as somebody who figured it out. Because what he did is what he designed. There was no general, there was no CIA director, there was no chief of staff saying this is the way to do it. He's the man.

BLITZER: That's why you call it "Obama's Wars." Here is what was chilling to me. I'm going to read a line from the book. Because it says a lot of what is and is not happening right now.

"Rahm Emanuel was astounded the intelligence on bin laden was not better. 'What do you mean you don't know where he is?' the chief of staff asked. 'Some $50 billion a year spent on intelligence and you don't have a clue where the most wanted man in the history of the world is?'

It's pretty shocking when you think that -- is that true? They don't have a clue where bin Laden is?

WOODWARD: That's what they say. Maybe they've got some secret project where they do, but everyone I've talked to really turns the cards face up and says, we just don't know. That there are things bin Laden is able to do, he's not just a psychological force, but he communicates with some of his troops. They're plotting. They are recruiting. It is a very dangerous time.

BLITZER: You paint a picture of the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as being very much involved in all of these issues. He's leaving, as you know. What impact will that have?

WOODWARD: Well, who's his replacement going to be?

BLITZER: Pete Rouse.

WOODWARD: Well, but --

BLITZER: Might be permanent, might be permanent.

WOODWARD: It could be permanent. Well, then that's, you know, lowers the decibel levels significantly.

BLITZER: He's so different than Rahm Emanuel.

Rahm Emanuel is a hammer. He calls the CIA director Leon Panetta regularly and say, who have we killed today? He is pushing this. Of course, as the book shows, the people who are doing these drone attacks realize that it's not going to change the conditions on the ground. It's not going to win the war.

It's -- you have to -- I mean, Panetta is quoted in the book saying we need boots on the ground, Pakistani boots or our boots. We have to do something with those safe havens. The president, himself, says at these secret meetings, Pakistan is the cancer.

BLITZER: The relationship that the president has with the military, and the intelligence community, for that matter, let me read from the book.

"Dennis Blair who was the intelligence chief saw a fault line in the administration. Rahm Emanuel's "us" meant Obama, and his team of political advisers in the White House. The military leaders and former four stars such as General Jones, the national security adviser and himself were outsiders. Talk a little bit about this us versus them mentality.

Look, any White House is political. This is no different. And they measured the political impact of everything. Somebody like General Jones or retired Admiral Blair, who is in charge of all intelligence for about 15 or 16 months. You know, they didn't think politically.

At one point Blair sends in the top secret presidential daily brief, and it has a warning about Al Qaeda people are being trained to come to North America, and the United States. And Rahm calls Blair in afterwards and says, "Why did you put that in? Is it you're trying to say it's our fault, if something happens?" And Blair went ballistic. And said, "Look, it's my job to tell the president, to warn the president. That's maybe one of the problems in the past, before 9/11. And so he's going to be in there doing it, but Rahm is looking at the political impact, and if you remember in the very famous PDB before 9/11 --

BLITZER: The presidential daily brief.

WOODWARD: Yes, in which it said bin Laden determined to strike in U.S. And the much criticism of Bush -- you got this warning, why didn't you stop it?

BLITZER: So let me get back to that. That worst-case fear that the president has. Terrorists come into the United States with some sort of nuclear device. You've checked with all your sources, intelligence community, and elsewhere. Is that realistic? Is that a fear our viewers out there should have?

WOODWARD: It's a long shot. And it would be hard, but look, you know, these people who want to kill, and want to wreak havoc in his country, know that if they did something like that, you know, would be a 10 on the Richter Scale.

And you know, there's evidence some people are working on it. We have massive efforts made to disrupt and stop these things. Look at the Times Square bomber. Last May, May Day, came in with an SUV. It didn't go up, it didn't blow off. It could have. Leon Panetta went to Pakistan and said it could have killed hundreds or thousands of people. The U.S. intelligence, Pakistani intelligence, didn't know, didn't track that guy, didn't see it coming. And they went to the Pakistani's United States officials, and said for practical purposes we have to consider this a success because it evaded the screening that we have in our country.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "Obama's Wars." It's his 16th book. I'm sure it's going to be a huge bestseller. Bob Woodward, thanks for writing it.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator John Thune is a Republican star and possible presidential contender. But would he step aside if, if Sarah Palin jumps into the 2012 race for the GOP nomination? I'll ask him.

And standby for President Obama's very detailed and politically charged answer to this question. Why are you a Christian? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Stand by for my interview with one of the rising stars of the Republican Party, South Dakota Senator John Thune. Thune could be a top contender for president in 2012. He won office back in 2004 by defeating Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. Right now, Thune is the number four Senate Republican. He's running for his second term without any democratic opposition. Thune builds himself as a pro- business, anti-tax and anti-abortion leader. He's a rabid basketball fan. And get this, he ranked in the top five of the "Huffington Post" list of sexiest U.S. senators.


BLITZER: We're here with John Thune, the Republican senator from South Dakota.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: Nice to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are you seriously thinking about running for president in 2012?

THUNE: Right now I'm seriously trying to help elect Republicans to the House and Senate in the midterms. You know, like a lot of people, I'm interested in public service. I want to do as much as I can to change the direction of the country and will give consideration to that after the midterm elections.

BLITZER: Because I know you discussed it with your wife.

THUNE: This is true. Any time you talk about something of this consequence, that's -- she's one of my closest advisers, obviously. And somebody I would consult on everything. We've had a good amount of encouragement from people in our state, as well as others around the country looking for someone to step up and I think there are a lot of folks who are interested in change of the direction of the country. That's what I hope to do. And whether that -- that means me being out there, or others, we're certainly going to be involved in that.

BLITZER: Well, walk me through a little bit, your decision-making process. What goes into a decision like this to run for the Republican presidential nomination?

THUNE: I think that -- and of course I've not been through this process before, but just in terms of -- as people have talked to me, encouraged me, my colleagues. As I said, people in my state, people elsewhere around the country, you want to know obviously there are people out there who would think that you are up to doing the job. Obviously you have to ask yourself, do I really want the job? Clearly, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into not only to running the campaign but if you were successful this would be a very hard job.

There are going to be hard decisions ahead in that job. So, you have to -- that's the first question you have to answer. Secondly, I think you have to make sure your family is onboard with that, if that's something you're going to entertain doing, And I think you have to get down to a very practical level and say, can I raise the money? Is there support out there? Do I see a pathway to get there? Those are all the questions any candidate has to contend with or deal with if they're thinking about that particular race.

BLITZER: Presumably you'd make a decision shortly after the midterms, early next year?

THUNE: I think early next year would probably be more likely. There will be a huge vacuum after the midterms, and people are going to rushing to fill it. And you will have a lot of candidates, and there could be a very big field.

Like I said, I have not made decisions about this. But my guess is there will be a lot of folks snapping up personnel in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other places like that and taking assertive steps in that direction. I think that, you know, sometime next year is plenty early. I think these campaigns get very long. I think people get weary of them. And I think it's probably an advantage not to launch too early.

BLITZER: Would it be a factor if Sarah Palin announces? In other words, would you want to be challenging her?

THUNE: I think that if she were to get into the race, it would clearly change the equation for a lot of people. I mean --

BLITZER: Explain how that would happen.

THUNE: I think that she is someone who has a tremendous following out there and particularly in some of the early states. This is not a campaign where you start out and run nationally right away. It's all sequence. And you have to get through certain states and she has a big following. If I would decide to do it, I would go all out. I'm not sure at that point you can make a change or make a decision predicated on who else may be on the field. She's clearly a formidable individual and someone who, if she got into the race, would have a tremendous presence in it.

BLITZER: And would discourage you think other Republicans from getting into the race?

THUNE: I think it -- I'm not sure it would discourage. It might discourage some, because there's so much space out there. And I think people fill different space sort of on the political continuum in Republican Party politics. And so it could be -- she clearly would have an impact. Whether or not she would discourage others from running I don't know.

BLITZER: What's your biggest problem with President Obama right now?

THUNE: I think the problem with President Obama-and I like him personally, I came into the Senate with him-is his agenda. If you look at what's happened in the last 18 months, government has expanded at a greater rate, a more dramatic rate, literally than any time since the 1960s. I think he views government as really being the solution, as being the answer.

BLITZER: You know the national debt doubled during the eight years of the Bush administration?

THUNE: I think Republicans can be-I mean, there's plenty of blame to go around. Republicans obviously contributed to where we are, but the president can't divorce himself from what he's done since he's been in office. In the last 18 months, if you look at the massive health care plan, the stimulus bill, cap and trade bill. A lot of policies have been put in place, or at least proposed, that I think are very detrimental to job growth and economic growth. Right now that is the thing I think most Americans are most concerned about.

BLITZER: You say you knew him in the Senate, did you know him well?

THUNE: We worked together on some issues. I didn't know him well. He wasn't there that long. We did come in together. Like I said, I think he is, personally, I like him, but I think he has a very different view about how to solve problems and how to get the economy back on track than I do. There's clear contrast, I think, in terms of where he wants to lead the nation and where many Republicans who may decide to challenge him in 2012 will lead the nation.

BLITZER: Do you believe he's a Christian.

THUNE: Sure. Yeah. I believe that.

BLITZER: Do you believe he was born in the United States?


BLITZER: Why do so many Republicans, according to all these polls, not believe, A, he was a Christian, or that he was born in Hawaii?

THUNE: That's a really good question. I'm not sure I know the answer to it. Most people I encounter accept that. That's -- to me that's not the issue. The issue is, you know, his policies, what he's doing to create jobs, grow the economy, and deal with what I think is a major issue in the minds of most Americans, and that is the growth of government and size of government.

BLITZER: I want to get to that in a moment. Do you think Republican leaders have a responsibility to be more assertive in dissuading Republicans from believing he's not a Christian, he wasn't born in the United States?

THUNE: I think that when the issue comes up, my answer certainly is, you know, look, those issues are settled. Let's talk about his agenda. Let's talk about why it's important we set a different direction for the country. And that's what we ought to be focused on.


BLITZER: President Obama was asked about his religion at an event in New Mexico this week. A woman asked him this direct question. Why are you a Christian? Here's what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I'm a Christian by choice. You know, my family didn't -- frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life. And it was because of the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters' keeper; treating others as they would treat me. And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings.


BLITZER: Standby for more of my interview with Senator Thune. He will reveal whether President Obama has done anything, anything at all that he likes.

And I'll talk to the diet doctors behind Bill Clinton's controversial diet. Could there be a down side to his very Spartan eating plan?


BLITZER: Members of the U.S. Senate left Washington this week to hit the campaign trail back home. But there's a taxing issue hanging over them. More now of my interview with Republican Senator and possible 2012 presidential hopeful, John Thune.


BLITZER: Let's focus on tax credits for a moment. You have adjourned.

THUNE: Right.

BLITZER: You didn't extend, continue the Bush tax cuts for the middle class before leaving for this recess. The president says you're holding that hostage to keeping these tax rates for those making more than $250,000 a year. The rich, the top 2 percent or 3 percent of earners in the United States. Does he have a point?

THUNE: I think that if they had wanted to do that, they could have. The House can pass it. The House has the Rules Committee. They could have brought a bill to the floor that shielded people under $250,000 from tax increases.

Passed it through the House sent it to the Senate. We would have had a debate about it in the Senate because many of us believe we ought to extend that tax relief for all Americans, not just to those at that income level, because you impact so much of the small business income at the higher - the two top marginal income tax rates.

But I don't think you can blame Republicans for that. The Democrats control Congress. They have huge majorities in both the House and the Senate. If they wanted to do that, they could have and I think the reason they didn't, Wolf, is because they're divided on this issue.

BLITZER: If it would have been a vote, let's continue the Bush-Era tax cuts for those making under $250,000 a year, which I suspect most people in South Dakota, for example, and will leave aside the 2 percent or 3 percent, the richer Americans, how would you have voted on that?

THUNE: Well, I think in the Senate -- the House is very different obviously. Like I said, they're going to have a structured approach. The Senate is very free flowing. We would have offered amendments to extend it for everybody.

I know it's hypothetical to suggest that we - you know, you may have had just a vote on limiting the tax increases to those who were above that income threshold, but I represent a lot of small businesses and even though you say 3 percent, that's still 750,000 small businesses across this country. It will impact a lot of small businesses in my state.

BLITZER: You're concerned about the national debt, the big budget deficit, right? What, if anything, are you going to do to deal with social security, Medicare, defense spending?

THUNE: I think that all areas of the budget have to be scrubbed. Clearly the entitlement programs are going to have to be reformed. That's an issue that's going to require I think some strong bipartisan cooperation and leadership.

On the discretionary side of the budget, I proposed going back to 2008 levels, indexing it for inflation and you save a half a trillion dollars just by doing that. That's a small part of the budget. The big part of the budget now is the entitlement programs and that issue has to be addressed. I think the defense budget Secretary Gates has come out and said he wants to fine $100 billion in savings and they're scrubbing that budget --

BLITZER: You're with him on that?

THUNE: Sure, absolutely. I mean, there are things that we can do better and more efficiently and the acquisition process that -- I think we heed need to be strategic about how we spend military dollars and make sure --

BLITZER: Most federal spending goes to Medicare, social security, the Pentagon and national security, and if you don't deal with those three areas, you're not going to really save a whole lot of money.

THUNE: I think that if Republicans are given the reins of leadership, either in the House or the Senate or both, we will have to govern in a way and at least, put forward solutions whether or not the president goes along with them or not, that deal with these long-term challenges.

BLITZER: What would you do differently than the Bush administration over eight years and six of which, there were Republican majorities in the House and the Senate? What would you do differently next time around?

THUNE: I think that, clearly the spending issue was something that Republicans sort of lost their way on. I think we're going to have to make hard decisions and there are some good examples of how that's been done.

Chris Christie in New Jersey has made some hard choices. I think the people of his state support it because they know it's necessary. I think the people of the country now know if they didn't know before that's necessary because of these huge deficits --

BLITZER: So the biggest change you would do would be, you'd be willing to cut spending more than President Bush and the Republican leadership did then?

THUNE: We have to and we've got to join the debate on entitlement reform and hopefully we can get bipartisan cooperation on that because it's going to take that.

But these issues are too big now. The consequences are too great and if we don't get things turned around, we really are at a tipping point in my view. I think that we've got about five years to correct some of these budget issues or this debt is going to overwhelm us.

BLITZER: The Tea Party Movement, are you with that Tea Party Movement? Are you part of the Tea Party Movement?

THUNE: I don't know what it means to be a part of it, but I certainly agree with most of the things that they're for. I think they bring great energy to our party and to our candidates. And I think the things that they want to see accomplished are all things we agree upon. So yes, I agree with them on -- maybe not on every of their policy position, but certainly on most.

BLITZER: What, if anything, has President Obama done that you like?

THUNE: I think the president has done some things in a few areas, I think some of the things he's trying to do in education are really good. I think that, you know, calling for accountability and trying to, I think Arne Duncan's done a nice job over there.

I think in terms of foreign policy issues, he's had a lot of support from Republicans with respect to Afghanistan. There are a lot of areas I think he's demonstrated weakness on foreign policy, but I think that the president -- there certainly are areas where I agree with him.

I just think on the -- if you look at it in its totality, on the big issues facing the country today, which are jobs, the economy, spending, and debt and national security issues that we're headed in different directions.

BLITZER: He's 49, you're 49. He was a first-term senator when he ran. You're a first-term senator. You're up for reelection, but you don't have an opponent right now. You might be running -- there are a lot of similarities there. Do you think you're ready to go into a head-on-head, one-on-one debate with the president of the United States?

THUNE: I think if I made a decision to do that, and I haven't, I would be ready, absolutely. I think that this is -- politics is a tough business. I describe it as a full-contact sport.

You got to be prepared to get in there and mix it up. I've been through a couple of hard hitting bare-knuckle Senate campaigns so I'm not unaccustomed to that level of debate. If I decided to move forward with that, I certainly would be prepared for it.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks for coming in.

THUNE: Nice to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck with that decision.

THUNE: I appreciate that. Thank you.

You may have noticed a change in former President Bill Clinton. He says he shed two dozen pounds to help his heart. Coming up, the two diet doctors who showed him how to do it.


BLITZER: It's every parent's worst nightmare. Your child gets socked in the head and cries out in pain, but as our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cowen finds, you can't always rely solely on the doctor to make it better. She's joining us now with a preview of her special report, "The Empowered Patient" which comes up at the top of the hour. It's also the title of her new book. Talk a little bit about what we should expect, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, sometimes the medical system doesn't help. Sometimes it fails you and that's what happened in the story that we're about to see.

We're going to give you four lessons for how to take charge, because sometimes that's what you need to do. Let me tell you a little bit about the McCracken family.

They live in Ohio. They were playing a game of baseball in the yard one evening and then the baseball hit their 7-year-old daughter, Morgan, on the head.


COHEN (voice-over): Morgan had quite a bump on her head. Her parents iced it down and she seemed fine. Two nights later, something changed.


COHEN (on camera): Tell me what you heard.

MCCRACKER: She said, my head. It was hurting. She was hold it, saying my head's hurting, my head's hurting.

COHEN (voice-over): The McCracken rushed Morgan to the emergency room.

(on camera): When the doctor showed up, what did he say?

MCCRACKEN: She's late. She was tired. She has a touch of the flu.

COHEN (voice-over): Connie and Don say the doctor told them to take Morgan home and put her to bed, but they knew better. Their instincts told them this was no flu virus. They pushed the doctor for a CT scan of Morgan's brain.

(on camera): What did you feel the results were going to be?

MCCRACKEN: There was something definitely wrong.

DON MCCRACKEN, MORGAN'S FATHER: In my heart I thought I knew there was a problem.

MCCRACKEN: He came back and said I was surprised. He goes, I'm surprised. There's something there.

DON MCCRACKEN: There was a leakage of blood into her skull.

COHEN (voice-over): Medics rushed Morgan by helicopter to nearby Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a big blood clot inside the skull, outside the brain called an epidural hematoma. That's what we had to remove to take out the blood clot and stop the bleeding.

COHEN: Today, Morgan's just fine.

(on camera): Do you feel like a lucky girl?


COHEN (voice-over): Lucky, because her parents followed their instincts.

(on camera): In the emergency room, the doctor said she had a virus and she just needed to get some rest. If you had listened to that advice and brought her home, to go to bed and rest, what would have happened?

DON MCCRACKEN: She probably wouldn't have woken up the next morning and we would have lost her.


COHEN: The lesson here is trust your gut. If you think something is truly wrong, fight for the care that you think you need no matter what the doctors tell you - Wolf.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers, Elizabeth, why they need to tune in at the top of the hour and watch your special report.

COHEN: You need to tune in at 7:00, because you're going to feel a real connection to the McCracken's and the other people that we have in our piece.

These are people who have uplifting stories to tell. They saved their own lives or the lives of someone they love and I know many of us have been in this situation.

Wolf, when I traveled around the country, everybody has a story. Everybody has a story about how the health care system failed them and how they had to take control.

BLITZER: And you have a personal story, it gets very personal for you as well.

COHEN: It definitely does. In the special, you'll learn about what happened to my mother. She was misdiagnosed and she ended up needing a kidney transplant when it could have been avoided. So you'll learn about how to keep something like that from happening to you.

BLITZER: We'll be watching. Elizabeth, thanks for doing it. Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it.

If you follow former President Bill Clinton at all, you have no doubt noticed his transformation, 24 pounds lighter, back down to his high school weight. How did he do it? I'll ask the two doctors behind his diet.


BLITZER: When I recently sat down with the former President Bill Clinton in New York at the Clinton Global Initiative, we talked about the U.S. economy, the elections, world affairs, but the part of the interview that grabs so much of the attention was about his dramatic weight loss and the diet that helped him shed two dozen pounds.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits. I drink a protein supplement every morning. No dairy. I drink almond milk mixed in with a fruit and protein powder so I get the protein for the day when I start the day.

It changed my whole metabolism and I lost 24 pounds, and I got back to basically what I weighed in high school. But I did it for a different reason. I mean, I wanted to lose a little weight, but I didn't dream this would happen.

I did it because after I had this stent put in, I realized that even though it happens quite often that after you have bypassage, you lose the veins because they're thinner and weaker than arteries.

The truth is that it clogged up, which means the cholesterol was still calling buildup in my vein that was part of my bypass. Thank God I could take the stents. I didn't want it to happen again, so I did all this research and saw 82 percent of the people since 1986 who have gone on a plant base, no dairy, no meat of any kind, no chicken, turkey.

I eat very little fish. Once in a while I'll have a little fish, not often. If you can do it, 82 percent of the people who have done that have begun to heal themselves. Their arterial blockage cleans up, the calcium deposit around their heartbreaks up.


BLITZER: Let's discuss what the president, former president said with the doctors behind the diet that helped Mr. Clinton change his life.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is the author of "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease." and Dr. Dean Ornish is the author of "The Spectrum."

Let me go to Dr. Esselstyn first, he mentioned both of you for inspiring him to begin this diet. Walk us through this diet, Dr. Esselstyn. Why is his diet so good especially for those individuals who have a history of heart disease?

DR. CALDWELL ESSELSTYN, AUTHOR, "PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE": Thank you, Wolf, for having me on this evening with my good friend, Dean Ornish.

There is no question that the truth were known that coronary artery disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never exist and if it does exist it need never, ever progress.

What we've heard from President Clinton is the remarkable change that he's been willing to make to remove completely from his nutrition. Those foods which we know will devastate and injure the inner lining of your arteries.

The remarkable thing is the capacity of the body has to heal itself. When you do what President Clinton has done, when you completely try to remove any foods that are going to injure your vessel, the body has this remarkable capacity to begin to heal itself.

I'm afraid that as a medical professional, we perhaps have fallen down and really emphasize too much, the drugs and the procedures and the operations, which really treat the symptoms. They do not treat the causation of this illness.

This is one of the few times since Hippocrates that we have not told patients about the causation of their illnesses.

BLITZER: Dr. Ornish, are you on the exact same page as Dr. Esselstyn is?

DR. DEAN ORNISH, AUTHOR, "THE SPECTRUM": Yes, I am, and I wanted to say I love and respect President Clinton, and so I was thrilled to hear that he's making these changes because I want him to live a long time like so many people do.

And whatever your politics, he can inspire many people to make these changes and what we've shown - you know, we tend to think it has to be a new drug or new laser, something really high-tech and expensive to be powerful.

What we have done in more than 33 years of research is show that these simple changes that we make in our lives like what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much exercise we get and how much love and support we have can actually begin to reverse, not just prevent, but actually reverse chronic illnesses like heart disease and so on.

And we found that almost more than 82 percent of the people who make these changes as President Clinton indicated, were actually able to reverse the disease.

Rather than getting a quick fix like a bypass or a stent does, which doesn't treat the underlying cause. It's a little like mopping up the floor around the sink without turning off the faucet. It's coming back unless you change what caused it.

BLITZER: Is this diet, Dr. Esselstyn, no dairy, no meat, no chicken, basically no fish. Is this diet for everyone or only for those who have heart disease or a history of heart disease?

ESSELSTYN: One other thing I would add, and no oils. No processed oils.

BLITZER: Like olive oil, even olive oil, which is supposedly pretty healthy? ESSELSTYNS: I'm afraid I'm going to have a divergence of opinion there. Yes, I would include absolutely olive oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, they're out.

Now, you know, since we know that these foods are injuring people, why would we want them on the menu of our school children. You question why wait until people do have heart disease.

We know, for instance, that if we do autopsies on our GIs who died in Korea and Vietnam, roughly 80 percent of these young GI were already have gross evidence of coronary disease you can see without a microscope.

If we're going have a breakthrough in this epidemic of cardiac disease, we really have to start when it's young.

BLITZER: Are you're saying that young kids should not drink milk. Is that what you're saying, Dr. Ornish?

ORNISH: No, I'm not. I'm saying that there's a spectrum of choices and what President Clinton is doing is what you might call the pound of cure.

If you're trying to reverse a chronic disease like heart disease, we also show the same changes can stop, reverse the progression of prostate cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure elevated cholesterol, then you need to make bigger changes.

But if you're just trying to lose a few pounds or get your cholesterol down, you can start by making moderate changes and if that's enough, great. If not, you can do more. What matters most is your overall way of eating and living.

So if you indulge yourself one day, it will help you the next.

BLITZER: Dr. Esselstyn, is this the diet that you personally live on?

ESSELSTYN: The one that I describe earlier, yes, I most certainly do. My dad had his first heart attack at age 43 and I have been eating this way for over 26 years.

BLITZER: And Dr. Ornish, is that the way you live, no chicken, no meat, no dairy, no -- I guess some of the fun things in life, is that what I'm hearing you say?

ORNISH: You know, the old joke is am I going to live longer or is it just going to seem longer if I eat this way. It's not all or nothing. What you include in your diet is as important as what you exclude and there are hundreds of thousands of protective substance.

I also recommend people take three or four grams a day of fish oil because the omega three fatty acids can be so protective.

BLITZER: But we heard Dr. Esselstyn say no oil.

ORNISH: Well, we're slightly different opinioned on that particular one. I think the studies have shown that just three or four milligrams a day of fish oil can reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac death by up to 80 percent.

It can reduce your risk of prostate and breast cancer. If you're a pregnant woman or breast feeding, it can raise your child's IQ and so I think the evidence there is pretty compelling.

BLITZER: I take fish oil, Dr. Esselstyn. Is that a bad idea?

ESSELSTYN: Well, I'm not going to really wrestle with Dean over fish oil. We have so much that is in common and we're striving together to really make the basic - the basic point here really is that by eating these whole foods and getting away from processed foods, getting away from the dairy, anything with a mother, anything with a face, meat, fish, and chicken.

It's really so incredible how powerful the body can be, and if we're going to have a seismic revolution of health in this country, which is really right at our fingertips when the major behavior that has to change is interestingly enough our food. That is the absolutely key card. It trumps everything.

ORNISH: I agree. Let me say this, you know, when you make these changes, because these mechanisms are so dynamic, your brain gets more blood, you think more clearly, you have more energy, you skin gets more blood so you don't age as quickly. Even your sexual organs get more blood in the same way the Viagra works.

So yes, you'll probably live longer, but you'll also feel better. What sustainable is joy and pleasure and freedom. When you make the changes, most people find they feel so much better so quickly, it reframed the reason for change from fear of dying to joy of living and that's what sustainable.

BLITZER: Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, you have a good shoutout from President Clinton. He's on your diet. He's doing the best he can. He's very happy.

I saw him in action eating some of those beans and vegetables away from some of the other fun foods as we like to say, and let's hope he lives a long and healthy life. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

ORNISH: And thanks, Caldwell. You're doing a great job.

ESSELSTYN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Stand by for some of the best pictures of the week, including this one from India. Hot shots are next.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hot shots in England. An eel fisherman returns home on the last day of the eel fishing season. In India, women decorate pottery in preparation for an upcoming Hindu festival. In China, performers rehearse a dance for an upcoming sporty event and also in India, a monkey walks pass the Taj Mahal. Hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 Eastern right here on CNN and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.