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An Odd Five-Days-To-Go Strategy; Big Test of Tea Party & Sarah Palin; When a President Tries to Be Funny; Why Experience Hurts

Aired October 28, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks, Brooke.

Happening now, President Obama's feel good flashback -- why is he revisiting the Chilean miner rescue when so many Democrats are in dire straits only five days before the election?

Also, Sarah Palin is talking about her presidential prospects in 2012. She's rushing to help out a Tea Party favorite, as well, later tonight. This hour, we take you behind-the-scenes of the grassroots movement that could turn Washington upside down.

And is it politics or is it parody?

The comedian, Jon Stewart, says his big D.C. rally this weekend will help restore sanity. Democrats apparently think it might help them hold onto power, as well.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the CNN Election Center.


You might think President Obama would be out on the campaign trail today, with precious little time left in his midterm campaign. Guess again. Questions are being raised about how the standard bearer of the Democratic Party is spending his time only five days before election night in America.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian -- I found it a little strange, Dan, that today we heard the president was supposed to be in the -- in the Rose Garden with some of the Americans who helped in the Chilean miner disaster.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He did me -- he did meet with them and then was supposed to have this event out in the Rose Garden. But that was canceled at the last minute. The White House downplaying questions about why was the president involved in something like this in the middle of a critical week, pointing out that the president is very much engaged in getting out the vote, has been working the phones behind-the-scenes and may even make additional media appearances before next Tuesday.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): One day after appearing "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, President Obama continued his media blitz in the hunt for more votes, appearing on the Yolanda Adams morning radio show, popular with African-Americans. The president's plea seemed to have a more urgent tone.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know why you would want to give your future away to somebody else.


LOTHIAN: With predictions that Republicans will take the House and make big gains in the Senate, Mr. Obama was candid about what that would mean for his next two years.


OBAMA: If I don't have some support from Congress in the House and the Senate, then I can't do everything that needs to be done.


LOTHIAN: In the last few days, while the president has been absent from the campaign trail, he's been pleading his case on Hispanic and African-American radio and then made a big splash Wednesday, targeting younger voters with his "Daily Show" appearance.

While the White House is pleased with this outreach --

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When the president gets to talk about what he's done and sift through what people may or may not have heard, it's a -- it's a positive benefit.

QUESTION: You said that the president was going on "The Daily Show" to reach out to mainly the young voters?

Do you regret in any way him doing "The Daily Show" last night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president got on Comedy Central.


LOTHIAN: Stewart seemed to channel the skepticism of the Democratic base. Some reviews were harsh: "If Obama's goal last night was to provide that encouragement and confidence, I'm not sure he succeeded," read one.

Another, referring to an exchange where Stewart jokingly called the president "dude," wrote: "Dude, the indignity of a comedy show cost calling the commander-in-chief "dude" pretty well captured the moment for Obama."


LOTHIAN: Now, Gibbs says that the president was pleased with his appearance last night, that he was -- had the opportunity to walk Americans through what he had done -- some of his accomplishments. Gibbs was downplaying the skepticism among Democrats, saying that the president still has strong support -- if you follow the polls, he has strong support among his base -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And how did they explain the decision to cancel the Rose Garden event today with those Americans who helped with the rescue in Chile?

LOTHIAN: One top aide told me that it was simply a scheduling problem, the president's schedule got full and he couldn't make that appearance.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dan Lothian, for that.

Let's look ahead a little bit to 2012. Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, is now speaking out about what conditions might arise that would lead her to run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Here's what she on "Entertainment Tonight" online.


MARY HART, HOST: Everybody is analyzing and debating whether or not you are already running and setting yourself up to run in 2012.

Are you going to run for president?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You know, I have not decided what I'm going to do in 2012. I don't think any of the potential candidates have. I think that, still, it -- it is too early for anybody to get out there declaring what their intentions are. For me, Mary, it's -- it's going to entail a discussion with my family; a real -- a real close look at the lay of the land and to consider whether it -- there are those with that common sense, conservative pro-constitution passion, whether there are already candidates out there who can do the job and I will get to be their biggest supporter and their biggest helpmate, if they will have me, or whether there's nobody willing to do it and to -- to make the tough choices and not care what the critics are going to say about you, just -- just going forward according to what I believe the priorities should be. If there's nobody else to do it, then of course I would believe that we should do this.


BLITZER: Tonight, Sarah Palin is campaigning in her home state of Alaska with Republican Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller. Palin's support helped Miller win the GOP nomination over the incumbent Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski. But now, Murkowski is running as a write-in candidate and Miller is under fire after revelations that he lied years ago, when he was caught using local government computers for political purposes.

Let's bring in our CNN political producer, Shannon Travis, who's been covering the Tea Party movement for months -- Shannon, this Alaska Senate race is an important testing ground for the Tea Party and for Sarah Palin.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Yes, it's critical for both, Wolf. And here's why. It will test whether Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement -- the activist part of the movement -- are really kingmakers and queenmakers. And what I mean by that is, can they take someone who is a little known candidate, as Joe Miller was in Alaska, as Sharron Angle was in Nevada, and other candidates that you've seen in the cycle and actually propel them to a general election win?

They've had a lot of success during the primary season.

Can they win during the general election?

You heard just last week Sarah Palin telling the Republican establishment to, quote, "man up" and not be chickens, as she said, and to put -- spend some political capital and actually help elect these Tea Party candidates.

So will she be the one who says, hey, I had the last laugh, I helped push some of these people over in the movement, for that matter?

Or will some of these candidates that they back amount to a failed gamble?

BLITZER: Shannon, you have a new documentary that will take all of us behind-the-scenes of this Tea Party movement.. You were in Alaska for Joe Miller's upset over Lisa Murkowski in the primary.

Let me play this little clip.


TEXT: 8 days after the GOP Senate primary, the race is down to a few thousand outstanding ballots. Tea Party favorite Joe Miller holds a slim lead.

TRAVIS: We're here in Anchorage. We are outside of a state Division of Elections Office. And look who we run into, the core team "The A Team" of the Tea Party Express.

ANY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS CHAIR: We can come in and promote whatever candidate we want to, but, ultimately, the people make their decision when they go to the ballot box.

And these liberal Democrats and liberal Republicans can say that these candidates are extreme, but then they're saying the rest of America is extreme. We're not extreme. I mean, this is mainstream America making these decisions. And they'd better wake up and listen.

JOE WIERZBICKI, TEA PARTY EXPRESS PAC COORDINATOR: You know what? These candidates who are being called extreme are taking on the issues this politicians haven't taken on, and that's why they're getting attacked.

You know, we do have a problem with Social Security. And it does have to be addressed. And it's not working the current way. And so, you can go ahead and do nothing like the establishment politicians are doing or you can take it on. But then the minute you do, the special interests and the entrenched interests are going to call you extreme. So you just have to take it.

TRAVIS: Is there a warning from your group -- a message in this?

Should they be reading the tea leaves?

KREMER: I think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow the Constitution.

KREMER: Yes, I think, that they need to, you know, adhere to the Constitution and know that we're watching, but more importantly, the people are watching and that people don't like it when you -- when the establishment thinks that this is their seat to maintain. This seat belongs to the people.

TRAVIS: So here, right outside of Lisa Murkowski's Anchorage campaign headquarters, we're trying to basically just talk to her about the movement in the campaign and see what's going on as they await the vote tally, the final vote result.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just watching the numbers closely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is going to be a large vault (ph) of votes tabulated by 5:00 p.m. So we're going to know either way, you know, where -- where we stand.

TRAVIS: So is it possible that she might concede?

Is that a possibility?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We -- you know, unfortunately, we -- we've got all our -- all our (INAUDIBLE) in, but we just don't know.

Can you give me a fix?


TEXT: 2pm -- Miller's lead has shrunk to 1,294 votes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We narrowed the gap a little bit. We're at 1,294. Yesterday, we were at 1,668.

TRAVIS: I have to say, I can tell, from a little bit of your body language a certain sense of -- should I say unease?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fair to say.

TRAVIS: If this thing doesn't pan out for you guys, how -- how big of a blow is that going to be?

I mean you must have thought about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course, you -- you think about that. It would be a huge problem so --

TRAVIS: Would it be directly attributable to the Tea Party movement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They went very negative very fast. They dumped a lot of money out -- outside here. They really didn't -- they kind of disregarded the facts about her record, a lot of -- you know, they would -- they spat out lies. And then they would spat them out louder and louder and louder.

TRAVIS: Who would spat them out louder?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Tea Party. I mean blatant stuff about her voting record. I think in hindsight, we wish they would have stayed out of Alaskan politics.


BLITZER: Lisa Murkowski's defeat was certainly a high point for the Tea Party. But five days before the election, Tea Party candidates are in a number of very close races across the country.

Let's go back to Shannon -- Shannon, this is a critical moment for the Tea Party movement. Some of their candidates will presumably do very, very well. Others, like Christine O'Donnell, for example, in Delaware, not so well.

TRAVIS: Yes. I mean this could go one of two days, Wolf, as you know. It could go either the way that these candidates, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania -- that they do very well and they go on to electoral success. Or some of them could fail. But there's also a third argument that a lot of Tea Party critics are making, and that is, in an anti-incumbent -- amid an anti-incumbent mood -- the economy is still sour and there are a lot of people who are not so in love with the Democrats, that these candidates should be leading their Democratic opponents by double digits. And as we've seen in our most recent polling, that these races are very tight.

And so a lot of people -- there's a lot of consternation about why is the race so tight, in a year where a lot of analysts expect for Democrats to have huge losses.

So even with some wins, if they're close wins, whether there will be a complete win, it will be up for people to decide.

BLITZER: Shannon, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, please be sure to watch Shannon's "Boiling Point: Inside the Tea Party." It airs Saturday and Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

And remember, this is the place to be for complete election coverage. Join me and "The Best Political Team on Television" for America Votes 2010 this weekend at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, 9:00 p.m. Sunday, for special reports. And, of course, we'll be here all Tuesday -- Tuesday night for election night in America. Our special coverage of the elections begins 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

Democrats traditionally have counted on women voters, but is their base of support crumbling out from under them right now?

Also, President Obama played it for laughs with Jon Stewart, but the appearance could come back to haunt him.

And an alternative to a life of crime for combat veterans who return home emotionally and physically scarred.


BLITZER: Only five days to go until the election, let's dig deeper into what is going on right now. Joining us, our senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, you had a chance to see the president "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." You served for four presidents. Is it wise, under normal circumstances, for a president to be going to on these kinds of shows?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was just talking with Ed Rollins in the back room here and we both worked for Ronald Reagan. And I must say, Wolf, I think both of us felt it was unimaginable that Ronald Reagan would go on these kind of shows. Harry Truman would never go on these shows. So the history is --

BLITZER: Because it what, demeans the presidency, the office of the presidency?

GERGEN: The force of the presidency comes from this moral authority. It comes from -- cause you're of the people, but you are sort of above in some ways and people look up to you. And I think when you sort of just sort of get into the mix and you become -- you get into the punditry class and everything else, it sort of levels the playing field in many ways.

But, you know, the president did well. He had a -- he gave a good conversation and help set Jon Stewart up for his rally.

BLITZER: Listen to this little exchange that the president had with Jon Stewart about a man you know, Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard University who served as treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, most recently, a senior economic adviser to President Obama.

Listen to this.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And in fairness, Larry Summers did a heck of a job trying to figure out how to -- JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": You don't want to use that phrase, dude.

OBAMA: I'm sorry. I was -- pun intended.

STEWART: All right.


BLITZER: Brownie, as all of us remember during Katrina, Michael Brown, the homeland security adviser, did a, quote, "heck of a job" and he's been living down that for all the years since then.

GERGEN: Absolutely. Wolf, look, I'm biased on Larry Summers, I have known him and been a friend almost 30 years, so I thought -- I thought it was beneath the president to do that, frankly and --

BLITZER: Beneath the president to do what?

GERGEN: To say it was a heck of a job.

BLITZER: You think he said that deliberately or it just sort of came out?

GERGEN: He did say pun intended afterwards, didn't he?


GERGEN: So -- and it got laughs. It didn't --

BLITZER: So in other words, you think the president was trying to be funny?

GERGEN: I think he was try to be funny, but it was a little bit at Larry's expense. In fact, a lot at Larry's expense. And I just thought Larry Summers did a good job for him and he ought to stand up for his team. But maybe he didn't intend it, but I thought it was unfair.

BLITZER: All right, here is another little exchange that the president had with Jon Stewart. I will play this clip.

GERGEN: All right.


STEWART: You say you would run this time as a pragmatist, it wouldn't be, yes we can, given certain conditions and --

OBAMA: No. No I think what I would say is --


OBAMA: Yes we can, but --

(LAUGHTER) OBAMA: -- it is not -- but it is not going to -- it is not going to happen overnight.


BLITZER: Is that a good campaign slowing to run for reelection, yes we can, but it is not going to happen overnight?

GERGEN: But not in your lifetime.

BLITZER: Overnight is not exactly your lifetime.

GERGEN: Right. Right.

Well it is such a qualifier. I don't think we heard it very often in a campaign. No it's not a good slogan. But one of the messages, too, might be no you can't. We are going to stop you, and that's what's going to be coming from Republicans, we will wait and see.

Look, I think the president did well last night, but he has been on Stewart a couple of times. He has been on Leno, he's been on ESPN a couple of times, he has been on "The View," he has been on "Oprah." You know, there is such a thing as less is more.

BLITZER: All right, David is going to be with us, he's part of ""The Best Political Team on Television"," we'll have a lot more to discuss.

GERGEN: We will.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Shocking allegations against the real-life hero of the movie "Hotel Rwanda." We'll tell you how he is responding. Stand by for that.

And former President George W. Bush is reportedly hooked on his iPad. We are going to tell you what his wife is saying is his favorite app.


BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including the latest on the relief efforts way in Indonesia right now.

Deb, what do you have?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a tremendous challenge for those trying to get aid into Indonesia, where entire villages were flattened by an earthquake and tsunami. Officials say at least 343 people died and another 340 are missing after the 7.7 quake on Monday. The international community is pledging assistance, but it is difficult to get this and other aid to the devastated remote islands of western Indonesia.

And the real-life hero of the movie "Hotel Rwanda" is now being accused of funding a terror group. Rwandan officials says they have evidence that Paul Rusesabagina wired large sums of money to commanders of a rebel group. He denies the accusations, saying the government is trying to tarnish his reputation. The former hotel manager is credited with saving hundreds of Rwandans in the 1994 genocide.

And it's no longer a mystery. Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay $25 million to the government to settle an investigation into those mystery fees. This comes on top of an estimated $53 million in refunds that Verizon will pay to about 15 million customers. The FCC started investigating Verizon in January after years of customers complaining about unexplained data charges on their bills. Verizon says it made inadvertent billing mistakes.

And George W. Bush is addicted to his iPad. The wife of the former president tells Yahoo! News that it's hard to break him away from the Apple gadget. Laura Bush says her husband reads "The Wall Street Journal" on it first thing in the morning and says his favorite app is Scrabble -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people love that app. Can't blame him.

All right, thanks very much for that.

Turn out will mean everything on election day this Tuesday, but there are a lot of people who can't or won't vote. They're making a conscientious decision not to vote. We'll take a closer look at who they are.

And Karl Rove's latest verbal slap at Sarah Palin. Is he single- handedly trying to dash her presidential hopes.


BLITZER: Happening now, with just five days to go until the election, Democratic operatives are already looking ahead to 2012. They are trying to dig up some dirt potentially on nine key Republicans who might run against President Obama. We are going to give the names, stand by.

And new allegations that the Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, was once detained for driving under the influence. John King just spoke to her, we will tell you what she has to say about that.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are THE SITUATION ROOM.

A critical question for Democrats right now. Only five days before the election, is the party losing a huge, huge, essential part of its base? We are talking about women.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Look at these poll numbers. This new "New York Times" poll asked women's choice for Congress right now, back in September, 36 percent said they supported Republicans, 43 Democrats. But look at how it's flipped since then. Now 45 percent say they'll support the Republican, 41 percent say they'll support the Democrat.

This is a significant shift, cause without the women, the Democrats are in deep trouble.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, women have always been really, really important to the Democratic Party, Wolf, and there are a couple of things going on here.

First of all, it is the impact of the bad economy. Women believe they are at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to the economy, that they are the last in on a job and they are the first out.

A majority of the minimum-wage earners in this country are women. So they feel the impact when unemployment rate is high.

They also tend to take care of their parents. They feel that impact when health care costs go up.

But there is something else going on here. If you really develop into these numbers, a majority of African-American and Latino voters, overall, are women, OK? If those voters stay home -- and they might this race, which is why you see the president out there trying to tell them to come out and vote -- if they stay home, that's really bad for the Democratic Party.

Then they are left with white men, whom they don't do well with, and white women. And among white women, particularly those without college educations, the Democrats are not doing well either.

So if you don't have the minorities and you don't have those non- college educated women, you are really in trouble.

BLITZER: Yes, they could be in deep trouble on Tuesday.

Another thing we are seeing in a lot of these races is a strong resume itself --

BORGER: Forget t.

BLITZER: -- doesn't necessarily help.

BORGER: I served in Congress, I have been there 25 years, forget it. Any political experience is bad for you.

Remember, when Barack Obama ran for president, we had that fight between him and Hillary Clinton. She said I offer a lifetime of experience, you ought to have me answering the phone at 3:00 in the morning. Well, that didn't work so well for her either.

But now it's gone beyond that and people believe that Washington is tainted. They are frustrated. They are angry. They believe government doesn't work. If you have had anything to do with government at any level, they kind of don't want you. The irony here is they want people to work together but what we are probably going to get after this election is a much more polarized Congress and so the public could even be more unhappy.

BLITZER: It's really amazing when you think about it there are all these powerful Democratic chairmen who might lose right now to somebody who is going to be freshman, a Congressman without a whole a lot of clout or influence or ability to bring home the bacon, if you will. These chairmen are going to be gone in this current environment.

BORGER: It's going to be interesting to see how they behave, Wolf, these new people, because they're not beholden to anybody, lots of them weren't endorsed by leadership until they were endorsed by the Tea Party, more beholden to the Tea Party than to the establishment. It is going to be trouble.

BLITZER: All right. Gloria is going to be part of "The Best Political Team on Television" over the next several days as well.

Democrats are certainly hoping for a big turnout at the polls but there are some surprising obstacles that might keep some Americans from voting. Some of the obstacles because of the recession.

Let's bring in Mary Snow who is taking a closer look that the story. What are you learning?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gloria was just mentioning how the economy could affect women voters but could also affect voters overall. Take this into consideration. In 2008 elections, it is estimated as many as 3 million people tried to vote but couldn't. It was mostly due to problems with voter registration. That is according to a survey done by MIT and Harvard.

This time around, some new factors could keep people from the polls. For example, the economy. Roughly 3 million homes were foreclosed on last year. If people didn't update their information or establish new residency that could potentially keep people away.

Add to that the high unemployment rate, that could force a lot of people that -- that has forced a lot of people to relocate. There's also the political environment itself.

The head of the National League of Women Voters voiced concerns about groups organizing to challenge voter eligibility.


ELIZABETH MACNAMARA, PRESIDENT, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: We have seen instances around the country, including in Wake County, North Carolina, which is Raleigh. While I was in North Carolina of attempts at the polls by citizens, by other citizens, to challenge voters at the polls and challenge their right to vote. We really want people to know their rights and not be intimidated by those efforts much.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SNOW: This year, some conservative groups have taken it upon themselves to challenge potential voters making sure they are eligible to cast a ballot. Liberal groups are crying foul. Voting rights advocates are afraid it could keep potential some voters away.

BLITZER: There are some areas requiring voters to go out and once again prove that they are U.S. citizens.

SNOW: In Georgia, this became a state law. It is required to prove you are a citizen. Now the league's president also cited as an example of straining resources at the nonprofit because their volunteers are having to collect and copy documents instead of focusing of on making sure voters are registered to vote. Overall the league also cites a drop-off in drives to get voters to register.

BLITZER: Some people don't just make a conscientious decision they don't want to vote, which is of course their right. You don't have to vote under the law in this country. All right, Mary, thank you.

Remember, this is the place to be for complete election coverage. Join me and "The Best Political Team on Television" for "AMERICA VOTES 2010" this weekend. Special reports at 6 p.m. Saturday. We will be live at 9 p.m. Sunday night. Of course, we'll be here Tuesday for election night in America. Our special coverage begins at 7 p.m. eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

The secret's out about how much the United States spends on spying and guess what, you won't be surprised. It's a lot.

And special treatment for combat veterans who return home dramatized and turn to crime.


BLITZER: New information about that Bin Laden tape. Deb Feyerick is monitoring that and some of the other stories THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What is going on there?

FEYERICK: Wolf, French officials say the new Osama Bin Laden tape appears to be real. In it, Bin Laden warns the French to get out of Afghanistan and not to oppress Muslims at home. France recently passed legislation barring women from covering their faces in public that includes the Burqa. Officials say this tape only confirms the reality of the terrorist threat against France.

And on to Somalia, where militants publicly executed two teenaged girls. The group al Shabaab called the girls evil and say they were government spies. Witnesses say the teens were blindfolded with their hands behind their backs and shot. Hundreds of people reportedly watched. Family members deny the girls were spies. Al Shabaab has been fighting against the Somali government to impose a stricter form of Islamic law. And $80 billion, that's how much the U.S. spent on spy activities for 2010. That includes 53 million billion on nonmilitary intelligence programs. It's the first time the government is officially announcing a total tab on spy spending. The intelligence community has resisted efforts to say how much it is spending. It says enemies could learn important information by tracking that spending, it says.

And Wolf, look at had this a monkey that sneezes in the rain. According to the American Journal of Primatology, scientists have discovered this new species of snub-nosed monkey in Myanmar. When it rains, the monkey's upturned nose fills with rain water, causing it to sneeze. The monkey has a very long tail and almost all black fur except for white fur on its ears and chin -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very cute little --

FEYERICK: This that would drive me crazy if I sneezed every time it rained.

BLITZER: Karl Rove is shall we say less than enthusiast about a potential Sarah Palin run for the presidency in 2012. Does she lack what he calls gravitas? We'll talk about Rove's comments and more in our strategy session.

Democrats are already gearing up for the 2012 presidential race by apparently trying to dig up some possible dirt on Republican candidates. Details on who they are looking into and what they are finding out.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get right to our "Strategy Session" and discuss Karl Rove and Sarah Palin. Joining us, our CNN contributor, the "New York Daily News" columnist Errol Louis and CNN political contributor for CNN Ed Rollins.

Thanks for coming in, guys.

Karl Rove telling the Daily Telegraph, a newspaper in London this about Sarah Palin's decision to have her own reality show about Alaska. "Appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits into the American calculus. That helps me see you in the oval office. There are high standards that the American people have for it, the presidency, and they require a certain level of gravitas and they want to look at the candidate and say, that candidate is doing things that gives me confidence that they are up to the most demanding job in the world."

I assume you think Karl has a point?

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He's a point but no offense to his candidate who became president of the United States, George W. Bush, who most people saw sitting as the general manager of the Texas Rangers watching ball games before being governor. She has been a governor. I think any time you can get on TV and be in your own environment it is a positive thing. I think everybody that underestimates Sarah Palin and the Republican primary is fooling themselves.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Ronald Reagan criticized in 1966 for having been in "Bed Time for Bonzo." He beat Pat Brown by a million votes. 14 years later he runs for president, same charge, he wins by 9 million votes, Jimmy Carter has been on "What's My Line" 1973 president three years later. Bill Clinton played saxophone on Arsenio Hall.

BLITZER: To a certain degree, it makes people be able to relate to you.

ROLLINS: I think this is a -- good forum, she can control this environment, people see her in her home environment, a long ways to go have an incumbent president the next couple of years, got to win primaries, election on Tuesday.

BLITZER: You think she is going to run?

ROLLINS: I think no one is going to discourage her from running and she will basically have everybody encouraging her.

BLITZER: You think she will run?

LOUIS: Absolutely and lack of gravitas is no barrier.

BLITZER: I remember and you guys remember in 1980, Jimmy Carter found out the incumbent president that his opponent would be Ronald Reagan, a former movie star, they were high fiving each other in the white house, didn't exactly work out wait they thought it would. Don't sell Sarah Palin short by any means. I agree. I think she will do very well if she runs in Iowa, in South Carolina, Nevada and maybe even in New Hampshire.

ROLLINS: She can take a second in New Hampshire, especially if she wins Iowa, she will be very strong and then winner take all after that.

BLITZER: You wrote an intriguing column in the Daily News here in New York, Errol, that maybe we will be surprised when we see some of the results in the African-American, the Latino community on Tuesday.

LOUIS: Yeah. There are some things going on, the point of the column there are things you aren't going to pick up, pollsters won't catch it not going to see it on a casual observation, there has been an intense mobilization effort, the president, he did this two years ago, people didn't realize this, but on black radio he has been on Latino and Spanish language radio sort of quietly mobilizing that part of the Democratic base and if you look state by state, district by district, they can be a really important factor, a huge factor in Nevada, for example, a big factor in Pennsylvania, they can be a crucial factor in Illinois protect the president's seat there is message going out mobilizing people around the notion that a lot of Republicans and the Tea Party want in effect, a recount or a do-over of 2008. So you have got to get to the polls.

BLITZER: If he gets them out in Pennsylvania, as you say, Ohio, in Illinois, in California that could make a huge difference.

ROLLINS: It could make a difference in some of the Senate, some of the gubernatorial races, I don't think a difference in the Congressional races, most of those are suburban, rural areas, the ones with we think we will pick up. I have heard this before and my friend, Errol, knows this community better than I do, at the end, Jesse Jackson do it for Mondale, 45 million dollars put into these kinds of efforts. Monumental election in 2008 that made every black American proud to go out and vote. Voting for a Congressman, a senator, not quite the same.

BLITZER: You think we are sitting right now on what some Republicans they may be engaged in wishful thinking, they are saying it is going to be a political tsunami for them on Tuesday?

ROLLINS: I believe in winning them one at a time. I think it is realistic going to be over 40. I think we make it to 50. I think beyond that --

BLITZER: The House of Representatives.

ROLLINS: The House of Representatives, real tough sledding after that I think we get fairly close in the Senate. I don't think we get over the top.

BLITZER: What do you think, Errol?

LOUIS: I would agree with that in the low 50s, the Democrats will hang had on by 5253 seats in the Senate. When it comes to the house, when you talking about over 50 seats, hard to see where they come from, frankly.

BLITZER: Are you convinced if the Republicans were to pick up 9, they need 10 to get to the 51 number in the U.S. Senate, are you convinced if they pick up nine that they wouldn't be able to convince Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut, to join them as opposed to go with the Democrats?

ROLLINS: Joe Lieberman is on our side on foreign affairs. He cannot get renominated as a Democrat in his home state and can't win as independent. The only way he can get nominated will be a Republican. We're not going to take him two years from now, we'll take him now. We are happy to get him.

BLITZER: He could be decisive, Joe Lieberman says I will go with the moment, the win wind, if the Republicans do have a major wave.

LOUIS: Sure, but that scenario is really kind of unlikely. They have to really run the table. They have to pick up some surprises in a state like Washington.

BLITZER: Nine is easier than ten.

LOUIS: Well, yeah that is true. I don't know if they even get to nine, to tell you the truth.

BLITZER: They might just get six or seven, too, because a lot of these races, Colorado --

ROLLINS: We always anticipated on the planning, we'd get it in two owe elections, historically we have done. In 2012, there are 24 Democrats including Lieberman and will up out of the 33, definitely two years from now if we don't get it this time.

BLITZER: Guys, don't go too far away, we got a lot to discuss in the coming days. Thanks very much.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Many women in Afghanistan right now are living in fear that a peace agreement in their country could cost them their basic human rights.

And we will set the stage for Jon Stewart's rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend. Is it really a joke or is it a serious political event that could help the president and the Democrats?


BLITZER: In Afghanistan right now some believe that a key to ending the war there is negotiations between the government of Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, but as the talks are under way some fear that the price of peace could be women's rights. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is in Afghanistan and she has been talking to Afghan women about their concerns.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: In this modest classroom, Afghan widows gather openly to learn. These women are hungry for education on the most fundamental basics. They are teaching us mathematics and the alphabet, she says, I just want to be able to read a phone number. This woman was orphaned at a young age and never got the chance to go the school. She remembers the bad times when female education was banned under the Taliban. How much do you worry that someday the Taliban may come back? Yes, I am concerned, she tells me, because if the Taliban come, they will again lock the women in the home.

A Taliban return to some level of power may be on the table. President Hamid Karzai's government is talking to Taliban leaders trying to reach a peace settlement. It is now seen as a vital step to ending the war. But what would it mean for Afghan women determined to hold only to their rights? Hasina Safi runs the school and is heavily involved in women's rights. Like many women, she hopes that the constitution will continue to protect women, but she worries about reaching peace with the Taliban.

HASINA SAFI, AFGHAN WOMEN EDUCATION CENTER: We were getting very, very worried, very worried, because we thought that even the start of negotiation will make a lot of problems for women. STARR: Former Afghan President Rabbini leads the peace council negotiating with the Taliban. He says the constitution will be obeyed. Some human rights groups are skeptical.

RACHEL REID, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The risks are that they would sell women's rights to participate in the parliament or education or in fact, might give away parts of territory almost to Taliban control.

STARR: Maliha Asadi runs a hairdressing shop, a gathering place for women. She hopes that women's rights won't be lost in a Taliban negotiation. I hope they accept the Afghanistan constitution, because there were 30 years war in this country, she says. Afghans cannot accept war anymore.

SAFI: Women should not sit at home. Women should go to schools. Women should be doctors. Women should be professors. Women should be politicians.

STARR: For Afghanistan's next generation of women, the hope is that in any peace agreement with the Taliban, their fragile rights will be protected and that the spirit now flourishing will not be dimmed.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Kabul.


BLITZER: We are going to take you inside a very unusual courtroom in California where the defendants are all combat veterans, and we will show you how the court is trying to help them avoid being locked up. Stand by for that.

And the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a lightning rod for Republican criticism with the GOP possibly poised to recapture the house, and so why is she so upbeat right now? Dana Bash is standing by to explain.


BLITZER: An alarming number of U.S. veterans returning from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq with brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and other problems to make adjusting to civilian life difficult. Some end up committing crimes. For them now there are alternatives to jail or prison.

Here is CNN's Casey Wian.


JUDGE WENDY LINDLEY, ORANGE COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: How do you plead to that, guilty or not guilty?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guilty, your honor.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, who served as army special operations, pleads guilty to making a death threat back home in Orange County, California. He lost most of his leg and returned with post-traumatic stress disorder and problems with drugs and alcohol. Instead of three years in jail, Judge Wendy Lindley sentences him to probation, and at least 18 months of treatment, and very close supervision by her combat veterans' court.

LINDLEY: Thank you for your service, and we hope in turn that we will be able to serve you well.

Are we safer as a community if we simply process these human beings through the system and send them off to prison and have them come back out into community? Because they will come back into our community, and if they come back there and their PTSD has not been treated, what is the likelihood to have another violent act in our community?

WIAN: Though the veterans coming here often avoid jail time, they must plead guilty and agree to regimen of rehab, drug testing, VA counseling, three years probation, and regular monitoring by the judge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just passed my final exam to be a certified personal trainer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just ran the L.A. marathon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just finished four steps and ready for the fifth.

WIAN: Lindley is part judge and part cheerleader, but she can be tough. This vet tested positive for drugs.

LINDLEY: Don't give me any garbage about how you were in the room and someone else was smoking marijuana, because that does not cut it. I really need you to examine yourself as to why you thought it was a better option to lie than to just own up to it, and deal with it. You are going to get an overnight, and you will get out tomorrow at 6:00 a.m.

WIAN: Veterans court prosecutor Wendy Brough is used to putting criminals in jail.

WENDY BROUGH, ORANGE COUNTY DEPUTY DA: It is a paradigm shift to go from the appropriate sentence which generally is how much jail time and how much prison time to more of a rehabilitation.

DANIEL: This program has changed my life. I was beat down pretty hard.

WIAN: Former marine Daniel faced jail for two DUIs and now he is in film school. Jesse is a cook.

JESSE: I would not have a roof over my head or money in my pocket.

WIAN: You mentioned that some of the defendants that come before you have tried to commit suicide in the past. LINDLEY: Many of the young men have tried to kill themselves, because they are really unable to adapt once they return, and some of them have such remorse for things that they did in the name of war that it is very difficult for them.

WIAN: Orange County's veteran court does not admit the violent and unrepentant criminal defendants and only accepts vets who had a clean record before they were deployed.

LINDLEY: I think that we have an ethical and moral obligation to restore these human beings to who they were before when they were brave enough to go to protect the rights that you and I enjoy every day.

WIAN: More than 40 veteran courts are operating nationwide.

Casey Wian, Santa Ana, California.