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President Obama Invites Congressional Leaders to White House; Drug Tunnel Discovered

Aired November 4, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: The president invites congressional leaders to dinner at the White House to try to find a way to cooperate. It has been dubbed the Slurpee summit, but long before those frosty drinks are served, there is already a frosty tone from key Republicans.

The midterm elections brought some new stars to the national stage, but one veteran may be a potential challenger in 2012 -- why some see another Bush in the White House.

And there's word that one of those parcel bombs found on cargo planes was defused only minutes before it was set to blow up.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

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

President Obama says people are still catching their breath from the midterm election, but after scoring huge gains in Congress, Republican leaders are making some breathtaking comments of their own.

Let's turn first to the president, who says the country can't afford two more years of gridlock and squabbling.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's going to be critically important over the coming months is creating a better working relationship between this White House and the congressional leadership that's coming in, as well as the congressional leadership that carries over from the previous Congress.

And so I want everybody to know that I have already called Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to invite them to a meeting here at the White House in the first week of the lame duck, on November 18th.

This is going to be a meeting in which I want us to talk substantively about how we can move the American people's agenda forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: That meeting will be followed by dinner over at the White House, but we have to wonder what the dinner table conversation will be like, given the very sharp tone already taken by some of the participants.

We are talking about some of the Republican participants.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

And I want to play, Gloria, this little clip, Mitch McConnell doubling down on some controversial comments he made the other day.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.

But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending, and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.


BLITZER: All right. So he is making it clear his number-one goal right now over the next two years is to defeat President Obama for a second term. It sounds like that dinner they are going to have in two weeks at the White House could be a little frosty.


And the Republicans are asking for a second chance. This is what they have been saying since the election. You gave us a second chance. Thank you.

They lost their base, Wolf. It has taken them two elections to get their base back. They don't want to lose their base again. So, all the things that Mitch McConnell listed in this are things that Republicans have asked their leaders to do. And you better believe Mitch McConnell is a very astute reader of the polls.

Each one of these things, he is saying because his voters want it. Now, he also said when he was talking today: We understand, as Republicans, that you are not embracing us, the rest of the public. Primary voters, yes, but the rest of you, we know you are not embracing us. You just didn't like the other guys.

And he believes that, on these issues, those independent voters are going to come to the Republican Party. So, this is really no surprise. He's got a job. He is going to do it.

BLITZER: And Mitch McConnell, let's not forget, he is still the minority leader in the United States Senate. BORGER: Yes, he is.

BLITZER: The Democrats still are in the majority in the Senate, but a very different situation in the House of Representatives, where the former minority leader, John Boehner, will become the next speaker of the House, and he told Diane Sawyer this today. Listen to this.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I didn't see the president's press conference on Wednesday, but I have read a little bit about it.

And there seems to be some denial on the part of the president and other Democrat leaders the message that was sent by the American people. When you have the most historic election in over 60, 70 years, you would think that the other party would understand that the American people have clearly repudiated the policies that they put have forward the last two years.


BLITZER: All right. Now, this future speaker, and it's going to be only a few weeks before he becomes the speaker, he basically is saying the president is in denial.

BORGER: Right.

Yes, and what is Barack Obama supposed to do right now? Is he supposed to come out, and say, Wolf, OK, forget it, the health care reform plan that I ran on, you know what, I don't like it so much anymore?

Barack Obama believes that these are the things that people elected him to do. What Obama is doing now is saying the one thing he didn't do -- and he may be right and he may be wrong -- he is saying, I wasn't bipartisan enough, not inclusive enough. He has not come out and said, we ought to make health care reform a little smaller, we ought to repeal parts of it.

That may come, Wolf. The thing we have to understand -- and I think John Boehner understands it -- is that Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was on the therapist's couch in public saying: Woe is me. I'm so sorry. Mea culpa, mea culpa. What can I do?

And this president, who believes he was transformational, is not about to start getting incremental over night. These things take time. Eventually, he is going to compromise, but not right away. But he does want to look like he is reaching out. And Republicans are reaching to their base.

BLITZER: I wrote a piece -- we just posted it at -- about Clinton then in '94, Obama now.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And it is a good piece. We have got some good video clips there as well.

BORGER: Great. Great.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Gloria.

The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, by the way, will join John King in the next hour. That's on "JOHN KING, USA," coming up at the top of the hour.

There is word of a very close call involving one of the devices in that parcel bomb plot and it may have been disarmed only minutes before blowing up.

There are some important new clues just coming in right now. We are on the case.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

What are you learning, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a U.S. official says new information gathered about the bomb plot over the past several days points very directly at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP. The official wouldn't elaborate on that new information, but we are learning more about the bombs.


MESERVE (voice-over): A startling statement by the French interior minister. One of the bombs found last Friday was just minutes away from exploding.

BRICE HORTEFEUX, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): One parcel has been defused, one of the parcel bombs, and it was defused only 17 minutes before the time of the blast.

MESERVE: The French Interior Ministry didn't confirm or clarify the remarks. U.S. officials say they cannot confirm their accuracy.

But no one disputes this was a dangerous situation. U.S. officials say the devices contained syringes, like the underwear bomb allegedly worn by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day. But in these bombs, the syringes were filled with the chemical lead azide, commonly used as a detonator.

Cell phone were components, but with their SIM cards removed, meaning the bomb could not be triggered by a phone call.

JAMES CAVANAUGH, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: The cell phone functioned as a timer. The power source would ignite a wire inside the improvised detonator inside the syringe, would then heat up and cause the material to lead azide to explode and that would detonate the main charge of PETN.

MESERVE: U.S. officials believe the bombmaker is Ibrahim al- Asiri, a Saudi member of AQAP, who is suspected of constructing the underwear bomb. Experts say he is likely already adapting, devising a new method of a .

CAVANAUGH: And every day he is free, I say there's no doubt that he's either making a bomb or thinking about how to make a bomb or putting together some chemical or devilish mixture that's going to kill innocents somewhere in the world.


MESERVE: Cavanaugh theorizes that the bombers addressed the packages to Chicago, rather than an East Coast city, because it increased the chance that the bombs would explode over the continental U.S. U.S. officials are not weighing in on that, saying the forensic study of these devices is not done yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I am sure this investigation is going to continue for some time, Jeanne. Thank you.

Let's bring in CNN terrorist analyst Paul Cruickshank and our national security contributor Fran Townsend. She serves on the external advisory boards of both the CIA and the Homeland Security Department.

And, Fran, I will start with you.

Based on everything you know right now, what do you think the full extent of this terror plot was?


We know for sure about the two bombs, and we knew that they were looking at other packages. Law enforcement sources tell us that the other packages in addition to the two that were actually seized and we know about that were really because they fit the profile, what they understood about the targeting and the method of movement and how they would do it.

And so, those weren't -- they didn't believe -- they didn't know if they were harmful devices or not. They seemed to have washed those out, although every day, including last night, Wolf, we saw one of those packages is returned to a shipping facility and we have mayhem while they reexamine it. Turned out to be nothing.

So, we don't really know if there are others out there, and I think law enforcement continue to be concerned. The other thing we know about the plot is, look, Asiri, as Jeanne Meserve reported, adapts. And so this syringe device, they have had trouble using that effectively as a detonator and I imagine that they are retesting and re-looking at how to use liquid as a detonation device. And that is a clue. That is a clue that law enforcement will exploit to thwart them.

BLITZER: I am sure they are taking another look, Paul, at this September 3 crash, explosion or whatever it was of a UPS cargo plane, a 747 -- the two pilots were killed -- in Dubai of all places, where one of these packages was discovered only the other day, September 3.

So far the authorities are saying they don't have any evidence of terrorism or anything like that, but go ahead and tell us, is this just a coincidence or is there more?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It may be a coincidence. This is September 3. A flight taking off from Dubai crash-landed. There was a fireball reported.

But also this plane in Dubai on September 3 was carrying a large consignment of lithium batteries. So the working assumption of authorities is that the lithium batteries may have caught fire and this may be unrelated. However, very, very similar itinerary to the plane that ended up in East Midlands, so it is being reexamined at this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is that your information as well, Fran?

TOWNSEND: That's right, Wolf. And they are looking at this pretty aggressively now to see if there are any underlying facts that could tie any of the cargo that was in that plane to this group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.

BLITZER: These two packages that were discovered in Dubai over the past few days and in the U.K., Paul, they were addressed to the names of Crusaders, if you will, people that the Muslims hate because of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition in part against the Muslims, old addresses of synagogues in Chicago, not where these synagogues are right now. What do you make of that?

CRUICKSHANK: I think this may be messaging by al Qaeda in Yemen. They're saying the target is the Jewish-Crusader alliance, the thing that bin Laden goes on about all the time, that they think that this alliance is oppressing Muslims and they're saying: We are going to strike back.

They knew that at some point, investigators would find these addresses in their investigation. It is also a way perhaps to rally their deeply anti-Semitic base. And if these devices did not go off on the planes and did get through to Chicago, even to some old addresses, it would certainly have scared Jewish groups over there, so that may have been the calculation here, Wolf, from al Qaeda in Yemen.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Fran, you agree with that?

TOWNSEND: I do agree, Wolf.

This is -- there is -- as Paul says, that -- the whole notion -- the story of the ideology in the caliphate, the role of the Crusaders in the slaughter of Muslims, all of that resonates deeply with the al Qaeda narrative, and so this is just a piece of their ongoing story.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much. We will continue our coverage and I'm sure the investigation will go on for some time as well.

Health care is on Jack Cafferty's mind right now. And he has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Come January, President Obama's health care law will be on the chopping block.

The incoming speaker of the House, John Boehner, says voters have given the GOP a mandate to cut government and roll back what Boehner calls the health care monstrosity.

Boehner says the American people are concerned about the government takeover of health care. He says Republicans want to repeal it and replace it with -- quote -- "commonsense reforms" that will bring down health care costs.

Throughout the campaign, Republicans blasted the president's signature issue of health care reform, with many promising to repeal it if the GOP won control of Congress. Well, they got control of part of Congress.

For his part, the president says it would be a misreading of the election results to think that Americans want to spend the next two years trying to re-litigate health care reform and other major pieces of legislation.

The president called the process of passing health care reform an ugly mess and something he regrets, but he insists the outcome was a good one.

A new "USA Today"/Gallup Poll shows Republicans' top priority for the new Congress is repealing the health care law and cutting federal spending.

As for Democratic voters, they want Congress to pass a new stimulus bill to create jobs.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting, even if Republicans make the repeal of health care reform a priority, chances are it's not going to go anywhere.

The Republicans got control the House. The Democrats remain in control of the Senate. And whole thing would be unlikely to survive a presidential veto, which would be very likely in the event that they had enough votes to repeal health care reform, all of which means what we're probably headed for is more gridlock.

Anyway, the question is : Should the Republicans try to repeal President Obama's health care law?

Go to and give us your thoughts.

BLITZER: And they will, Jack. Thank you.

Here is another question for you: a third President Bush? There is lots of buzz about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2012. Some people say he is perfectly positioned to challenge President Obama.

Also, a secret underground tunnel built by drug smugglers just uncovered under the U.S.-Mexican border, we're going to take you inside that tunnel live this hour.

And images no human has ever seen before. A NASA spacecraft records its close encounter with a speeding comet.


BLITZER: We want to show you some images right now that have never been seen before by human eyes, stunning close-ups of a comet that came within 500 miles of a NASA spacecraft three billion miles from Earth. Wow.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is joining us now with pictures and more of this story.

What do we know about this, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is really, truly the most amazing story of the day.

NASA had this old spaceship that was going around. It did something years ago. It crash-landed this thing into Tempel 1. If you remember, there was the spaceship. It was called Deep Impact. It shot this thing off. It hit the comet. The comet sprayed stuff and they kind of figured out what was in the comet.

Well, then the spaceship didn't die. And they go, well, what are we going to do with it now? It is out there, and they said, well, let's zing it around and let's see what else we can find with it. So kind of on a mission times two, they went out there. They said, hey, let's find another comet. Where is the closest one?

This was Hartley 2. So, you have to realize now this thing has been out there for almost a dozen years. It's flying around the -- flying around our solar system. Three billion miles later, it flies within 400 miles of this next comet and it takes pictures of it going by.

Now, what makes it a little bit more amazing is that this comet here, Hartley 2, was going 27,000 miles per hour as it took the picture. So this thing is zinging on by. The spacecraft is not going in the same direction, but it takes pictures as it is going.

When it is taking the pictures, the camera and the antenna is not pointed at the Earth. It's pointed somewhere else, so the camera is taking digital images, storing it. Then NASA had to spin the thing around and shoot the images back to the Earth and we got these pictures.

Go on to You will see all about it. It is an amazing story, pictures we may never, ever see again, because you don't get to use spaceships twice very often.

BLITZER: As we say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

MYERS: Yes, or a million dollars.


BLITZER: Or a billion miles or whatever.

All right, thanks very much, Chad.

MYERS: You bet.

BLITZER: They called him the runner. And now the Chilean miner is about to live up to his nickname in a very dramatic way.

And former rivals making peace, ending their bitter campaign with a beer summit.



BLITZER: It was a quick rise and a quick fall for the Democrats. I will ask Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri where her party went wrong in the midterm elections.

And why some see a third member of the Bush family making a run for the White House in 2012.

Also, a sophisticated tunnel used to bring marijuana under the U.S./Mexico border, what is going on? We are going inside. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Democrats then and now. In just a very short time, they reached the peak, and now they have seemingly fallen off a cliff.


BLITZER: And joining us now, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She's joining us from Saint Louis.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: I want to play two little clips. This is what I said exactly two years ago, two years ago today, the night that President Obama was elected president, followed by what I said the other night two years later. Listen to these two clips.


BLITZER: And CNN can now project that Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the president-elect of the United States.

CNN is now ready to make a major projection that the Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Wow, what a difference two years makes, Senator McCaskill. How did that happen? What did the president and his fellow Democrats do wrong, and the single most important thing that allowed that dramatic change?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, I think a couple of things, Wolf. One is a very, very difficult economic climate. And people are very impatient and, frankly, disillusioned with the party in power whenever there are economic hard times. I think that has something to do with it.

And also, a drop in enthusiasm on our side of the equation. If you look in Missouri on Tuesday, we had a million fewer people vote this Tuesday compared to two years ago. We had less people vote in this election than we've seen in a midterm election in a decade.

BLITZER: Well, also, who's going to...

MCCASKILL: So, clearly a lot of folks have not shown up.

BLITZER: Well, why couldn't the president and your fellow Democrats get those people out and vote? Why were they so unenthusiastic about voting for the Democrats?

MCCASKILL: I think that the expectations were very high. And people were disappointed, because they expected so much. The president inherited a much bigger mess than was anticipated during the months when he was campaigning. We had to do emergency things because of the big economic crisis, and people didn't really feel the crisis until after we'd already done them. So it was like, "Hey, you may have done stuff, but it hasn't helped me." It felt like, to too many people...

BLITZER: But you know...

MCCASKILL: .... that we were helping all the big guys and not helping the little guys.

BLITZER: Some Democrats, like Evan Bayh, for example, retiring senator from Indiana, said, "You know what? The president -- sure, health-care reform is important, but jobs, jobs, jobs, that's what the American people wanted, and he spent a year on health-care reform when he could have been devoting that energy to creating jobs.

MCCASKILL: Well, I don't think there's any question that the fact that the recovery has been slow and difficult has been a huge problem for the president. And the communication should have been better, and maybe the timing of things wasn't perfect.

But at the end of the day, health-care costs is a huge factor in how competitive we are in terms of the world market. It's a huge factor on whether or not somebody can hire someone else or whether they can provide health-care benefits. So I get what Evan is saying, and I do think that we had a communication problem, but I think it was a combination of factors that led a whole lot of people to decide, you know, I don't want anything to do with any of them. I'm not going to vote this time.

BLITZER: But the president is such a great communicator. He got himself elected president of the United States in part because of his communications skills, so maybe it's beyond communications and maybe there -- there's an element there that the American people simply didn't like. And you remember some of those town-hall meetings you had in Missouri on health-care reform, and you got -- you got hammered a little bit.

MCCASKILL: Well, you know, there's no question that people are frustrated and there's a lot of negativity. And the negative message is always, and the message for, you know, like "throw the bums out" is always a message that resonates especially in difficult economic times.

So I'm not quarrelling that there is frustration and anger and cynicism out there. The president is very inspirational. At the same time, when he got to Washington, he had to roll up his sleeves and wade into some really -- a political swamp.

BLITZER: All right.

MCCASKILL: And I'm not sure that he was ready for that kind of mano a mano combat.

BLITZER: Your fellow Democrat, Robert Carnahan, lost to Roy Blunt, a conservative Republican in Missouri. She lost by a considerable number of votes. What are you going to have to do? You're going to have to pivot, I suspect, in Missouri if you want to get re-elected in 2012. Are you hoping, for example, that the Republicans nominate a Tea Party supporter to challenge you?

MCCASKILL: You know, the nice thing is that I don't have to pivot. I have been very independent from day I arrived in Washington. I think I'm the last Democrat left in the Senate after Russ Feingold was defeated that won't take earmarks. I co-sponsored the spending cap with Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama to try to bring down spending in Washington.

I voted against my party with some frequency, because of my independence. I've just got to remind Missourians that I am independent and that I try to call them like I see them, and sometimes my party is wrong on some things.

BLITZER: But you're widely associated as one of President Obama's best supporters and best friends.

MCCASKILL: Well, you know, it's one thing, I mean -- I admire the president. I'm proud of what he has accomplished as an American. I was honored to campaign with him, but he knew -- in fact, in the conversation that we had when I decided to support him.

He said, "I know that this door swings both ways, Claire, and you'll tell me when I'm wrong," and I will do that, and I'll continue to do that when it's necessary.

BLITZER: OK. We're out of time, but give me one example where you said no to the president?

MCCASKILL: I said no to the president on the omnibus spending bill. I said no to the president on cap and trade. I said no to the president on a number of appropriations bills.

BLITZER: Claire McCaskill is the Democratic senator from Missouri. She hopes to be the Democratic senator for Missouri after 2012, as well.

We appreciate your coming in, Senator.

MCCASKILL: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: He has a very famous last name, but that could do him more harm than good if -- if -- he decides to run for president in 2012. We're talking about the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. So are some other people, as well.

But first, we're going to take you inside a drug tunnel that was built to bring tons and tons of marijuana from Mexico into the United States. You're looking at these live pictures of the tunnel. It has lighting, ventilation -- get this -- even a railway. We're going to take you there, live. Casey Wian is on the scene for us. Stand by.


BLITZER: It is a very dramatic example of the lengths Mexican drug cartels will go in order to bring their illegal trade into the United States. And you're about to get a firsthand look.

CNN's Casey Wian is in San Diego for us, and he's going to take us inside a highly developed tunnel, a tunnel under the border used to bring marijuana across from Mexico into the United States. Let's talk to Casey about this tunnel. What do we know, first of all, about this tunnel? And I know you're going to take us through it, Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this all started with an investigation, a stakeout by federal authorities of this warehouse here in the Otay Mesa section of San Diego, just across, a couple of hundred yards, is the border fence in Tijuana, Mexico.

You can see inside this warehouse is a closet. They've taken the face off this closet, and if you look down into the bottom, you can see that they've cut a hole in the concrete base of this warehouse floor to actually make the exit of the drug tunnel.

Now I'm going to put a helmet on and climb in there and show you just how cramped and difficult it is to maneuver in here, and can you imagine these giant bales of marijuana that they were pushing through this tunnel?

Now, authorities believe that this tunnel has been actually in operation for about a month. You can see how cramped it is trying to squeeze through here. I'm not a real big guy. Imagine people and drugs moving through here. It shows you the incredible effort that they have to go through to get their cargo through. Now we mentioned that this is about a month-old tunnel, authorities think, and the reason they think it's about a month old is you can see some of these dark spots along the walls of the tunnel which are basically clay. That means that they have not dried out yet, so it means that the tunnel is relatively fresh.

Behind my photographer here, Tim Hart, we have another camera that can show you this tunnel stretches for about 600 yards across the border into Mexico. On this side of the border, the tunnel is fairly crude, but closer to the Mexican side there are, as you mentioned, Wolf, rails. There's lighting. There's ventilation. It's a fairly sophisticated operation, but one that was put together very quickly as a result of increased U.S. border security efforts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How do they build these tunnels?

WIAN: Well, it looks pretty crude. I'm not exactly sure, and no one knows exactly for sure, but you can see what are probably jackhammer marks, pick marks. They're very, very crudely built. Some of them are built. We've seen tunnels that are reinforced with wood and other things to brace up the tunnel so they don't -- so they don't collapse.

This one is actually built unreinforced, and it's really actually pretty dangerous, which is why we've got helmets on down here. We've got an investigator with Immigration and Customs Enforcement with us who's making sure that the oxygen levels are safe.

The risks that these people are willing to take are absolutely incredible. U.S. immigration and drug enforcement authorities say that it's because they've clamped down on the traditional smuggling routes, that smugglers are now more and more trying these exotic methods of getting drugs across, and this tunnel is another example of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: How common are these tunnels?

WIAN: Well, they've found 75 of these tunnels in the last four years. They found about 125 of them total since they have started keeping count.

You know, there are storm drains and all kinds of passages that go across this border, so no one really knows for sure how many of these are operational, but every couple of months, every few months, you see authorities discovering one of these tunnels, either through investigation or through just luck.

They say that they are going to continue this effort to try to crack down on these tunnels, but they have no idea at this point how many more are out here. They just say they believe it's an indication that U.S. border security efforts are beginning to have some impact on the drug trade.

BLITZER: Casey Wian in that tunnel for us. All right, Casey. Thanks very much. Very informative report. Another Bush in the White House? Why some think a third member of the Bush family could run for president in 2012. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: He's been in the wings while Florida's newest political star steps into the spotlight, but now the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, is being mentioned as a potential candidate for a much higher office.

Brian Todd is here looking into this story for us, and when we say a much higher office, we mean the highest office.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We mean the highest office, Wolf. You know, it wasn't too long ago that the thought of another member of the Bush family running for president made even Republicans cringe, but as we all have seen this week, the political landscape has dramatically changed, and Jeb Bush is on the radar.


TODD (voice-over): He was the first person to greet rising Republican star Marco Rubio when the Florida Senate race was in the bag. Jeb Bush was a key campaigner for Rubio, and some GOP strategists tell us Bush would be a formidable challenger to a now- vulnerable president in 2012 if he decides to run.

(on camera) What puts him at the top of the ticket at this point?

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Jeb Bush has the family name, but he was able to stay independent while his father and his brother were president. And that -- that takes a lot of talent.

He would do very well with Hispanics. He would do well with the Tea Party folks across the country, and he would still do very well with the establishment. There aren't -- I don't believe there's too many people out there who can carry that many things on their shoulders.

TODD (voice-over): GOP insiders say the former Florida governor's wide fund-raising network would also be crucial, especially going up against prospective challengers Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.

He was highly regarded by both parties as governor. In a critical electoral state, that's another strong attraction. One top Republican official in Florida, who's a close friend of Jeb Bush's, tells us important figures in the party are urging him to run. We couldn't get comment from Bush's office on that.

CNN's John King recently asked him whether he'd endorse Palin if he didn't run.

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I'm not running, and if Sarah Palin is the nominee, and she's running against Barack Obama, you betcha. TODD: Analysts say it was Jeb who years ago seemed to many inside Republican circles to be the most viable presidential candidate among the Bush siblings. Now, for all his crossover appeal, some point to an obvious potential obstacle for Jeb Bush.

(on camera) How much does the name brand hurt him?

RAMESH PONNURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think there is no question that the No. 1 liability for a Jeb Bush presidential run is the dynasty issue. If he had a different last name but the same record of accomplishments, he'd be at the top of everybody's list.


TODD: But the Bush name may not do as much harm as it once did. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows George W. Bush almost tied with President Obama, Wolf. The question was who do you think has been a better president? That's a big surge for George W. over the past year.

BLITZER: Now, you've spoken to people who are close to him. If he doesn't run, why wouldn't he not run? What would be that decision- making factor?

TODD: One of his friends told me that it would be a personal reason rather than a political reason. No major skeletons in the closet that we know of. He just doesn't want to put his family through that. And of course, as a member of the Bush clan, you have an acute sense of what that kind of race does to a family.

BLITZER: In the coming days, we'll be seeing and hearing a lot from his brother...

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: ... the former president.

TODD: The book is out.

BLITZER: He's got a new book out, and he's going to be doing a lot of TV. All right. Thanks very much.

Should Republicans try to repeal President Obama's health-care law? Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

Plus, in the wake of the midterm election, he's got the presidential blues. CNN's Jeanne Moos getting ready to take a "Most Unusual" look.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is should the Republicans now try to repeal President Obama's health-care law. Sheila writes, "Absolutely not. It still needs work, but it's a great beginning. We were already using the part that keeps our kids on until 26, since our college graduate hasn't been successful in finding employment with medical insurance. I'm very thankful for it."

Sylvia in California, "No, but both sides need to come together to, one, read the law, and two, modify sections that add costs to business without adding value to patients or physicians."

Herman in Portland, Oregon: "Yes. The Republicans have researched, polled, listened to the American people. They're trying to undo the new health-care law that was passed by the Congress in a partisan and divisive way. With simple changes to the health-care industry, all Americans can have health care. I disagree with this mandate, and I hope it goes away."

Bob in Quebec writes, "Whatever. You know, it's funny. Every day for the last two years Republicans assailed the White House for focusing on health care, instead of jobs, jobs, jobs. The only reason health care should be No. 1 is that they solved the unemployment crisis while I was asleep last night. Did they?"

Gary in Michigan writes, "What a mockery elections and politics are. It's near impossible to repeal the health-care law just as it's impossible to eliminate the debt without raising taxes. These people know this, and yet they promise something else. We either accept living in denial or we accept the lies of politicians for comfort. Either way, until we can live in the now and the reality of our times, we will never move forward as a nation or a people. How sad we have become."

Annie writes, "Why not. The bill is little more than welfare for big insurance with a few feel-good benefits thrown in. We need single payer, not some half-baked, complicated scheme that was crafted to garner a few Republican votes and then didn't."

And Dee in San Diego: "Better yet, have the logos of the corporations they serve sewn onto the clothing, just like the yahoos from NASCAR. Then you wouldn't waste time asking questions like this."

If you want to read more on the subject, you will find it on my blog:

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. Thanks very much.

He's vowing to stop what he calls a liberal onslaught. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell talks about it with John King. That's coming up at the top of the hour. Jeanne Moos is up next right here.


BLITZER: Does the president have the blues? Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Ouch!" "Humbled." "Barack against the wall." President Obama looked so glum after the midterm losses that even Regis called him...


MOOS: As he displayed that sad face.

PHILBIN: Yes, you're probably right.

MOOS: Ironically one of the few smiles the president flashed came when asked...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does it feel like?


MOOS: The "New York Daily News" dubbed him "Woe Bama." He was in sad in every language, from "colpa mia" to "mea culpa" to Hebrew for "Defeat."

What happened to the president praised by facial experts for his disarming grin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see Obama's smile, his true smile, is about twice as large as McCain's.

MOOS: From that to this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Am I blue?

MOOS: But wait a minute. Turns out that now famously-sad face was snapped either at the end or the beginning of an answer...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to make any changes in your leadership style?

MOOS: ... as the president gathered his thoughts. You might look glum, too, while saying, "Um."



MOOS (on camera): You know how when someone takes your picture they always seem to catch you at the exact moment when you're making some weird, unattractive expression?

(voice-over) Well, this is a little like that.


MOOS: Photographers naturally snap their shots when they see a funny face. You can hear the cameras whirring. OBAMA: Um.

MOOS: But at least the president didn't cry.

SEN. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: I poured my heart and soul into running a small business.

MOOS: As the likely next speaker of the House did celebrating a Republican victory. Next thing you know, Politico was listing the tracks of John Boehner's tears. Previous teary moments.

BOEHNER: It's providing the safety and the security of the American people.

What's in the best interest of our country? Vote yes.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": He is the weeper of the House.

BOEHNER: Another time he was speaking of his 11 siblings.

BOEHNER: I am sure glad they're all here. Thank you.

MOOS: Watch Congressman Boehner's expression when a reporter brought up his latest emotional moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What made you cry last night? And...

BOEHNER: Because it's a little difficult to talk about my background or talk about my family.

MOOS: Hey, we like men who show their feelings.

(on camera) President Obama sure knows how to put the "um" in "bummed."




It's hard.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Am I blue?

MOOS: New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

JOHN KING USA starts right now.