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Volcano Disrupts President Obama's Trip; Interview with Senator-Elect Rand Paul

Aired November 9, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Brooke.

Happening now, disaster disrupts the president's trip to Indonesia. A killer volcano is leaving its mark on Mr. Obama and his visit to the country where he lived as a child.

Also, I'll ask Senator-Elect Rand Paul of Kentucky if he believes the Tea Party is more important than the GOP party. The Kentucky Republican talks about possible power struggles in the new Congress. And I'll ask him whether he actually sold out on an issue that helped get him elected. Stand by for that.

And it looks like a missile launch or is it?

The mysterious orange streak in the sky that the Pentagon -- at least for now -- can't explain.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


It's been a threatening cloud over President Obama's overseas trip, even before he left for Asia. But now, the volcano erupting in Indonesia will likely force him to leave the country earlier than planned.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is traveling with the president.

He's in the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta -- Dan, this was already a pretty brief visit to Indonesia, but it's about to get even more brief.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And as you pointed out, the White House has been concerned about this for quite some time, even before the president left the United States. But some rains had moved into the region and cleared the air, so this trip was given the green light.

Well, now the situation appears to be changing, so the president is speeding up his exit.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): It took three attempts before President Obama was finally able to visit Indonesia.


LOTHIAN: But barely. Mt. Merapi and its ominous volcanic ash cloud has forced officials to cut his brief trip by nearly two hours, so Air Force One can take off before air traffic is disrupted. A wreath-laying ceremony was canceled. And the president's speech, that will build on his address to the Muslim world in Cairo, will start a little earlier than planned.

Even with just a few hours on the ground, Mr. Obama took a trip down memory lane. And from where he now sits, it's a much different view.

OBAMA: When you visit a place that you spent time in as a child, as president, it's a little disorienting. I can't even see any traffic because they block off all the streets.

LOTHIAN: In a joint press conference with Indonesian President Yudhoyono, Mr. Obama touched on security concerns, trade, democracy and education. But it was his personal reflections on standing in the back of a little crowded taxi or about his half Indonesian sister that seemed likely to resonate with a country that's been waiting for his arrival since last year.

OBAMA: I feel great affection for the people here. The sights and the sounds and the memories all feel very familiar.


LOTHIAN: Now, again, President Obama, in that speech at the University of Indonesia, will continue moving the discussion forward from that big speech that he made last year in Cairo, focusing on how this is a building economy or a democratic country here in Indonesia -- a country that is tolerant and holding it up as an example for other nations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Now that he seems to be cutting this trip a little short because of the volcano, Dan, that visit to the mosque, is that supposed to still go on or has that been canceled -- in Jakarta?

LOTHIAN: That -- that will still take place. In fact, two of the things that officials tell me that they wanted to hang onto and not cut of his visit here was, number one, that speech, which they thought was very important; and, secondly, the visit to the mosque, as well. It would have been controversial for them to pull out of that. It's the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. So we're told that that visit will still take place and then the president will go to South Korea for the G20 summit.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you.

All right, Dan, thank you.

Volcano experts, by the way, say that the mountain is still spewing ash and heat clouds, but not as intensely as it has been. Over 150 people have been killed since the mountain of fire, as it's called, began erupting on the central island of Java two weeks ago. At least 200,000 residents are living in temporary shelters after being ordered to evacuate from the danger zone about 12 miles around the volcano.

Making matters worse, a new earthquake, measuring at least 5.1, rattled Indonesia just hours before President Obama arrived.

Let's get to the political earthquake here in United States, as Republicans prepare to take control of the House and strengthen their numbers in the Senate. There are lots of questions about GOP freshmen elected with the support of the Tea Party and where their loyalties lie.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Bowling Green, Kentucky, the senator-elect from Kentucky, Dr. Rand Paul, Republican.

Thanks very much, Dr. Paul, for coming in.


BLITZER: I congratulated you last week, so I won't congratulate you again. But you've got an exciting six years ahead of you.

Let's get to some specific issues that are in the news right now.

Do you support or oppose earmarks for the state of Kentucky?

PAUL: I'm opposed to earmarking and I won't use earmarks as a senator. I think that the earmarking process is really -- it shows some of the abuse of Washington. People don't like things being stuck on unrelated bills in the dead of night by someone who doesn't have their name attached, often.

I think the appropriations process should go through committee. And I have said I will advocate for Kentucky within the context of the committee process and the context of a balanced budget, two very important provisions.

BLITZER: Because in "The Wall Street Journal" interview that you gave the other day, an article by Matthew Kaminski, he wrote this. He said: "In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad symbol of easy spending, but that he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork as long as it's doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. 'I will advocate for Kentucky's interests,' he says. So you're not a crazy libertarian? Not a -- not that crazy, he corrects."

All right, so that -- that has generated a lot of commotion, including from "The National Journal," asking if you've sold out on this whole issue of earmarks. PAUL: Yes. Yes, no, it's amazing how one little misquote can make a big difference. But, no, we've called him and asked him to correct that. I never, ever said I would earmark. And I will not use the earmark no matter what the Republican Caucus says or what anybody does. I will not put earmarks on bills.

But I did tell him what I told you. I will advocate for things that Kentucky needs, through the committee process, where we deliberate on what are the most important projects and also in the context of a balanced budget. Those are two important provisos, but that's not earmarking and I won't do earmarking.

BLITZER: That was the "National Review" that asked if Ron Paul is selling out, not -- not "The National Journal".

So in other words, on this issue you and Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, you disagree, because he says if you don't earmark, that gives the Obama administration -- the executive branch of the government -- to dole out the money as it seems fit. If Congress doesn't say you've got to spend it here or there, it's going let the executive branch dole out the money.

PAUL: Right. There are good people who disagree with me on this issue. Even my dad and I have disagreements on this issue.

But I think earmarks have come to represent a symbol of waste, even though numerically, they're not a large part of the budget. I don't like the idea that a senator goes to Washington and Mrs. Smith gave him a lot of money, so he puts $100 million in for Mrs. Smith's museum in a certain city. I don't like that. And I think it should go through the committee process. We're $2 trillion in debt. We should not be adding on these little special projects that senators add on as bonus points that they're giving to particular individuals. And I don't think it should occur that way.

BLITZER: Because some -- some, like McConnell and other Republicans and Democrats, say there are bad earmarks and good earmarks. If an earmark goes to a hospital, for example, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, would that be a good earmark?

PAUL: I think it should go through the committee process. So let's say we were going to spend money on roads in Kentucky, let's determine which roads need to be repaired, which bridges need to be repaired, in a deliberative process in the committees, but let's don't have a clerk put it on at 2:00 in this morning and then call it Rand Paul's bridge.

I'm not going to do that. I think it's wrong. And it's evidence of where Washington is broken. The people want it to end. I think the House of Representatives will go forward with a ban on earmarks. And I hope the U.S. Senate will, also.

BLITZER: And -- and you've just signed on, with Senator DeMint, to support legislation that would end all earmarks, is that right?

PAUL: Yes. I've also taken a pledge during the campaign not to earmark. That's why it's a little bit disturbing that that was misreported in the news, because I've signed a document saying I won't earmark from the Citizens Against Government Waste. And I'm not changing that pledge. That's a steadfast pledge.

BLITZER: Stand by for much more of my interview with Senator- Elect Rand Paul and the big issue that's making him say enough is enough. That's coming up.

And Governor Schwarzenegger's surprising declaration that no one cares -- his words -- if people smoke marijuana, even though it's illegal.

And rescue boats head toward a stranded cruise ship with over 3,000 passengers on board.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Maybe -- maybe this time will be different. Maybe 2012 could be the year when a third party candidate has a real shot at the White House.

It's still two years away, but some potential candidates are already making some noise, including our mayor here in New York City, Michael Bloomberg, who, by the way, would make a terrific president. The Republican turned Independent is out with some colorful criticism of the incoming members of Congress.

During a trip to Hong Kong, Bloomberg said many of them, quote, "can't read and probably don't have passports." He warned that we're about to start a trade war with China because, quote, "nobody knows where China is, nobody knows what China is," unquote. Bloomberg added that the United States ought to stop blaming China and everybody else and take a look at ourselves.

That's a thought, huh?

Some suggest that if the Republicans nominate a far right candidate, like Sarah Palin, in 2012, it could provide a perfect opening for a politician like Bloomberg to jump in and run for president. It wouldn't hurt to have somebody who knows a thing or two about the economy and business in the Oval Office, especially if the economy remains sour and unemployment remains high.

Of course, there are always the same challenges for a third party -- getting on the ballot, raising buckets full of money, generally trying to make yourself heard in a political system that's intentionally built to keep two parties in and keep everybody else out, witness the Electoral College.

But if the voters are as fed up in two years as they were this past November, a couple of weeks ago, if they're as set on voting against the status quo, then maybe -- maybe we'll try something new.

Here's the question -- who would you like to see run as a third party candidate in 2012?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is wrapping up his six years as the governor of California. He's getting ready for his next assignment. We're not sure what it's going to be, though. He's not shying away from putting a spin on politics in America right now.

On "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last night, Schwarzenegger offered this rather unusual take on the 2010 election.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: If people are screaming on one side, you know, we shouldn't spend any more money, and the other side, you know, spend all the money in the world. The other side was screaming, hey, let's go into Iraq and continue with the war, into Afghanistan; and the other side, no, let's pull out of Iraq. There were the people that were against having sex with themselves.



And then there were people that want to have sex with everybody so --

JAY LENO, HOST: Right. Right.

SCHWARZENEGGER: And there was a whole --

LENO: A little bit of everything.

SCHWARZENEGGER: -- all the extreme things. It was whacky, the whole thing. It was really whacky.


BLITZER: They're interesting comments.

Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

She's joining us from Los Angeles right now.

How do Californians in general feel about their outgoing governor, Jessica?


Well, you know, some of the policies Governor Schwarzenegger has promoted are popular, but like many politicians these days, he personally is not so popular with the voters here in California. The latest polling shows only 29 percent of Californians have a favorable view of him, 65 percent unfavorable.

Remember, that is a huge change from the days when he first went on "The Tonight Show" promising a new governorship to run as this reform-minded governor. Now this state has a $19 billion budget hole, more than 12 percent unemployment.

And last night, Governor Schwarzenegger said he feels bad about the economic situation. Listen.


SCHWARZENEGGER: No matter how much I brag about what we have accomplished, it is horrible when you see so many people unemployed, so many people losing their homes, so many people suffering, businesses closing down and all of those kinds of things.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, he -- his team will point out that he has championed a number of reforms during his time that should make it easier for the incoming governor to do his job, especially something that should make it easier to close the budget gap, at least get a budget through California's legislature; and also some environmental reforms.

Bottom line, they're looking for history to look more kindly on his governorship than voters do right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: He also is creating a little bit of a stir with his latest comments on marijuana in California. Tell our viewers what he said.

YELLIN: It's the perpetual topic out here, isn't it?

Yes, so let me get a little context. Remember that there was something called Proposition 19 on the California ballot that would have made it legal to use marijuana recreationally. It failed.

OK, so here was the governor speaking on pot in that measure last night.


SCHWARZENEGGER: No one, you know, cares if you smoke a joint or not, but I mean this Proposition 19 went a little bit too far, I think, and it was written badly.


YELLIN: OK, Wolf, so what he's talking about there is nobody cares if you smoke a joint, under his term he signed a bill that said if you're caught smoking a joint, just a little possession of marijuana, it's not even a misdemeanor. It's an infraction, even more minor than a misdemeanor, kind of equivalent to a speeding ticket. So they've made it barely illegal to smoke a joint here in this state. Maybe that's what he's talking about, but bottom line his team said it wasn't his initiative. He never put that forward himself, he just signed it, and he'd like to be remembered for his environmental and political reforms, not so much the marijuana reforms.

BLITZER: And as you say, he opposed Proposition 19 because he thought it wasn't written well.

All right, thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

Hillary Clinton can certainly negotiate deals that change the world, but how does the secretary of state negotiation what's for dinner with her husband. We're going to serve up the light-hearted answer that she gave, stand by.

And a mysterious flying object off Southern California's coast has lots of people wondering, was it a missile? What was it? We're getting to the bottom of this high-flying mystery.


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

Deb, what have you got?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're going to talk about the stranded ship. The USS Ronald Reagan is helping deliver supplies to a Carnival Cruise ship stranded off the coast of Mexico. The Splendor lost power after an engine fire yesterday and more than 3,000 passengers are aboard that vessel, which left Long Beach, California Sunday. Tugboats headed to the Splendor today to tow it to show. Carnival says passengers will receive a full refund and a complimentary future cruise.

And gripping testimony today in the kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart case at the trial of her alleged abductor, Brian David Mitchell. Smart told jurors about an encounter she had with a Salt Lake City homicide detective back in 2002, just months after she was snatched from her family at knifepoint. Smart said the detective tried to see her face behind her veil, but Mitchell wouldn't let him. Smart says when the detective walked away it was like hope was walking out the door.

And a new round of talks over Iran's controversial nuclear program hasn't even begun yet, but there may already be dispute over where it should take place. Iran wants the talks held in Turkey, but diplomatic sources tells CNN that the U.S. and its allies prefer a different location. Iran, the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany are all taking part in the negotiations, which could resume this month.

And an Orlando man says it was the second luckiest day of his life -- take a look at that -- when he caught a huge alligator. And it really is huge, more than 14 feet long and 654 pounds. That breaks a 13-year-old record for Florida's longest documented gator. Robert Ammerman (ph) caught the giant gator late Halloween night. It was longer than the boat Ammerman and his fellow hunters were in. And by the way, he says the first luckiest day of his life was when he married his wife.

I would think avoiding the alligator altogether would be the better thing to do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. That's a big, big alligator. Don't want to rush into that.

All right, Deb, thanks very much.

An influential group is taking sides in the battle to be the number two Democrat in the new House of Representatives. Party leaders divided right now after being trounced on election night. Stand by.

And more of my interview with Republican Senator-Elect Rand Paul and his colorful take on the bloated federal budget.


PAUL: It's not that the emperor has no clothes, it's that the emperor has no money.



BLITZER: A new promise today by the Republican leadership in Congress to listen to newly elected members in the party's November 2cd sweep, including those backed by the Tea Party movement.

More now of my interview with a Republican Senator-Elect and Tea Party-favorite Rand Paul. I asked him about a "Wall Street Journal" interview he gave over the weekend in which he suggested that the Tea Party seems to be more important than the Republican Party.


PAUL: Well, I'm not sure I really said that. I did say, though, that the Tea Party is shaping the debate.

It's an enormous movement. I mean, I don't think I've ever seen a political movement like this. There is no leadership form the top down, every individual city in Kentucky has a Tea Party, maybe not every city, but many cities in Kentucky have Tea Parties. They don't communicate even with each other, much less with the national party, but they're people who are concerned and worried about the debt.

And it's not just us. I mean, look at the statements from Bernanke, look at the statements from Greenspan. Reasonable people who are trying not to be alarmists are all out there saying the debt is a major ticking time bomb and we have to have an adult conversation how we're going to get rid of the debt. BLITZER: He quotes you, Kaminski, in that "Wall Street Journal." He says that Mr. Paul puts the movement, in his words, above partisan -- partisan loyalties. "I'm somebody who believes that the issues are more important than the party." That was the quote he had from you.

PAUL: I do agree with that, and I think that I've always thought that. I have people come into my office every day and they'll tell me that the man or the woman is more important than the party, and I've always thought that.

And I guess your -- going back to your original question, maybe I did say it that way, but I don't mean it to be disparaging to my party. I think the Republican Party does believe in limited government. I do believe in the Republican Party platform, I've always been a Republican, but I think we need to be more true to our platform and we need to represent the party of small, limited government and balanced budgets.

One of the other things that's going to be pushed here, which I think is bigger than earmarks, is we're going to push for a balanced budget amendment. We're also going push through spending cuts. Because, you know, many on the other side come up to us and say, oh, that's all good and well, but these taxes -- you know, the Bush tax cuts -- if we keep them, lose a lot of money to the Treasury. Well, I say, well let's cut some money, then. Let's have spending cuts.

And so, I will be part of introducing a balanced budget and I will be part of introducing bills that have significant spending cuts so we can get our fiscal house in order.

BLITZER: But before any of that happens, Congress in the coming months, is going to have to raise the debt ceiling; it's about $14 trillion right now. Do you understand what would happen if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling? What would happen?

PAUL: Well, I think before we even get there, though, that's going to be two or three months down the line. I propose that, in January, we propose a spending plan that balances our budget. I propose, also, that we talk about reducing spending.

I agree with you that just talking about extending the debt ceiling has ramifications if we don't do that and they could be significant, but what I'm saying is before we get there, let's talk about reducing spending. Let's talk about having a balanced budget plan that doesn't cause us to add new debt.

Now, can we do that in two or three months? That's yet to be seen and the vote will be taken. But I will tell you that I'm not someone whose going to Washington to try to shutdown the government. I want to fix things so we can operate the government and that we can operate it without raising taxes on folks, but we operate it by cutting spending.

But someone has to stand up and say, enough's enough. It's not that the emperor has no clothes, it's that the emperor has no money. We have to cut spending. BLITZER: But because at some point -- you know, and I appreciate what you're saying about balancing the budget and all of that, but at some point, you're going to have to vote yea or nay on whether to raise the debt ceiling, and if it doesn't pass, the United States will go into bankruptcy.

You appreciate that, right?

PAUL: Well, I think we have to look at what the ramifications are of the exact vote and I think we have to see where it is at the time.

But I'm not going to Washington with this plan to shut down government or to say we will no longer have the debt. We still have to do -- we have to make payments on our debt and we have to honor our obligations, but we should not be adding to the debt and that's the big thing here is. It's not can we get rid of a $14 trillion debt, but could we get rid of a $2 trillion annual deficit.

I think we could, but it's going to take people who will stand up and say, enough's enough, we've got to cut spending.

BLITZER: NARAL, Pro-Choice America, has just sent out a fundraising letter in which they say this, and I want you to tell me if this is true or false, "Senator-Elect Rand Paul, who supports legislation that would outlaw abortion and ban common forms birth control."

I know you oppose abortion, but would you ban common forms of birth control?


BLITZER: All right, so that -- so they're wrong on that, right?

PAUL: Yes, I'm not in favor of that.

BLITZER: You support a woman's right to take birth control pills.

PAUL: Yes.

BLITZER: OK. Let's talk about defense, because a lot of Republicans and Conservatives don't want to cut the Pentagon budget, they don't want to touch national security just like they don't want to cut entitlements, but you're different. You say that there's a lot of waste in defense at the Department of Defense, the Pentagon. Specifically, what would you cut?

PAUL: Well, what I would say is the most important thing that the federal government does is national defense. So that is my priority. It's what the federal government should be doing and it will always be my priority.

But that being said, you know, we're spending, depending on how you measure it, maybe up to $700 billion a year, if you're adding in all the wars, perhaps even larger, and we don't have it. We're borrowing money from China to fund our military budget. We're borrowing money from China to fund Social Security. We're borrowing money from China to fund every program in government, virtually.

And you have to look across that board. It is ultimately the compromise that will bring the budget into balance. Republicans have said, oh we'll cut discretionary spending or domestic spending. Democrats, some on the left who have been deficit hawks have said, we'll cut military spending.

The truth of the matter is you don't get anywhere close to balancing the budget unless you look at everything across the board, unless you reform the entitlement programs. You have to do everything. But the danger of doing nothing, I think, is worse than the risk politically of saying, we will step up and make these cuts.

BLITZER: I think that you've got a good point there, appreciate it very much.

One final question, Dr. Paul. Are you going to still be a doctor? Are you still going to be an eye surgeon, an ophthalmologist, over the next six years?

PAUL: Well, I'm going to try very hard. I'm doing cataract surgery tomorrow. I'll do five surgeries tomorrow and I'm seeing patients in my office.

There are some rules in the Senate that prevent you from earning income and I'm going to have to ask the Ethics Committee of they'll let me keep practicing.

I, personally, don't see it as a conflict of interest and I think we want our politicians to continue to work in their state and not be completely dependent on government, because then they'll do anything to stay elected. They need to continue with their own jobs and their own training. So I'd like to continue to be a physician also.

BLITZER: Dr. Paul, good luck to you. Welcome to Washington. We'll see you here in the nation's capital.

PAUL: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: Now that Republicans are set to take control of the House of Representatives, are some Democrats in the house ready to jump ship and join the GOP? We'll talk about possible party switchers. That's coming up in our strategy session. Stand by.

And Sarah Palin is in a fight with "The Wall Street Journal" right now and it's all playing out on her Facebook page.


BLITZER: A change at GM apparently now in the works. Deborah Feyerick is monitoring that and some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What's going on?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, good-bye, Mr. Goodwrench. General Motors is dropping the Goodwrench name on its dealership auto service and repair program. The clean cut mechanic was GM's ad mascot for more than three decades. Now the automaker wants to emphasize its remaining core brands, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC.

And a battle between the San Francisco's board of supervisors and the city's mayor could shape up over McDonald's happy meals. The board is considering banning most happy meals because they offer toys to entice kids but fail to meet certain nutritional standards. If that is officially approved as many expect, it would be the first move of this kind for a major U.S. city. Well, Major Gavin Newsom said he would likely veto it.

The reeling global economy and the war in Afghanistan may have topped Hillary Clinton's agenda during her weekend trip to Australia but during her interview with radio show hosts she showed off another side and how she handles weighty topics with her husband Bill like what's for dinner.

HAMISH BLAKE AND ANDY LEE, HOSTS, HAMISH AND ANDY: Your husband possesses those qualities. When you two can't agree on what to get for takeaway dinner who wins out on that type of negotiation?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, we practice different models of negotiation around important issues like that. If I were to say to him what shall we have for dinner tonight? If he were to say I don't care, you choose, I know that's a bad answer because then I'm stuck with the responsibility. So I will come back and say all right, so how do you feel about Chinese or Mexican or Italian and if he says a second time, you know, I really don't care, then I will go choose.

HAMISH BLAKE AND ANDY LEE: You want to make sure people hear the conversation. You have a secretary of state talking with the former president and you're o saying, no, I don't like Chinese.

CLINTON: That's why we have our room swept every day.

FEYERICK: You can see her knack for diplomacy. Two lawyers negotiating, it's going to be one way or the other.

BLITZER: The Australians obviously don't know the diet that Bill Clinton is on. He told us the last time he interviewed us he lost 24 pounds mostly lentils and grains, no meat, occasionally a little bit of fish, but soy based smoothies and stuff like that. He's on a very healthy diet right now.

FEYERICK: So we know that steak is out.

BLITZER: Chinese and Mexican. That's not happening right now. Maybe for her it is but not for him. Those Australian interviewers, they even got to do their research. Thanks very much. Now that the house Democrats have lost control, some might be tempted to reclaim the majority by switching parties. It wouldn't be the first time that happens. Donna Brazile and Tom Davis, they will reveal who may be vulnerable. That's coming up in our strategy session.

And they aren't having fun in the sun. The latest on passengers aboard that stranded cruise ship.


BLITZER: Let's do some politics in our strategy session right now; joining us our CNN political contributor the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and former Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Are we likely to see -- and I'll ask Donna, you first, any Democrats switching to the Republican Party because of what happened last week?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I hope not but as you well know we still have a very healthy caucus of Democratic conservatives, liberals, and moderates. I know there are a lot of rumors on the internet now. Let's look at Governor Manchin who is the Senator-Elect in West Virginia. He's a lifelong Democrat. Just because his party suffered across the country I don't see why this public servant who has fought for jobs and fought for healthcare in his state of West Virginia would switch parties simply because Republicans picked up a few seats across the country.

BLITZER: That wouldn't be the first time we've seen this happens. It happens fairly regularly where people switch parties.

TOM DAVIS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN FROM VIRGINIA: We've had six Democrats switch Republicans in 1994 when we won the house. One got defeated. The others were able to stick. To do a switch you have to lay the groundwork back in your home district. A switch from Washington doesn't work. Parker Griffith did that this year in Alabama. Mike Forbes did it in New York. He cut a deal with the president and Gephardt years ago, but he hadn't laid the groundwork in his district. There are some Democrats that it's time they said they couldn't vote for Pelosi with her running for speaker. I think it could be fertile ground but it's going to take some work back home as well.

BLITZER: Not for speaker, for minority leader.

DAVIS: But she still runs for speaker. They have to vote affirmatively. She'll lose. She's running for minority leader, but the way it works is they vote for her for speaker.

BLITZER: Joe Manchin, I don't think he's going to switch because he has six years before he has to worry about it. He's been elected for six years. But Jim Webb, the Democratic senator from your home state of Virginia, there's speculation out there that maybe he's up for re-election in two years, in 2012. Is it possible, do you believe, that Jim Webb might switch parties? DAVIS: He was a Republican before, he was Republican, Democrat. But he hadn't laid the groundwork in Virginia. You have George Allen getting ready to run for that seat. You have other Republicans I think after being the 60th vote for that healthcare bill it's hard to carry a Republican convention or a Republican primary.

BLITZER: Are you worried about Jim Webb switching?

BRAZILE: No, because Jim Webb is an independent Democrat who votes his values, votes for his constituents so I don't think he's going to switch. A lot of this internet rumor mill that's circulating around the Democratic Party, Democrats in disarray, the Democrats lost last week but they've gone fishing. They're not dead and they're not heading to the wilderness.

BLITZER: The House of Representatives, if you're a blue dog and you want half the blue dogs either resign, didn't run, or they lost, but if you're a conservative or moderate Democrat in the House of Representatives looking down the road, you're saying to yourself, you know what? I can switch and become a Republican? I'll be a majority in the house of representatives, might have a better chance of getting re-elected in two years, it could be pretty tempting to some of those blue dogs when they see -- when they see that the liberals are in charge of the Democrats.

BRAZILE: No, that's not true, Wolf. That's another one of those false rumors that people need to lay to rest.

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi is the leader. She's a liberal.

BRAZILE: She's a leader that can galvanize both liberals and conservatives to take tough votes on very important issues. I would hope that over the next couple of days as the Democrats sought out their leadership and the Republicans sort out their leadership, Michelle Bachmann, I mean here's a woman right now that went out there, raised money, campaigned for Republicans. They need to set out their issues, we're trying to settle our issues.

DAVIS: What our members can look at is who's drawing his lines for reelection two years hence. If you're a debt conservative Democrat you're sitting in a state where the Republicans are redrawing their lines you need to give it careful consideration.

BLITZER: Especially if you barely got reelected as a moderate or conservative Democrat.

BRAZILE: Look, look, Tom Davis you and I both know that the 2012 electorate will look a lot different than the 2008 electorate so I would caution those Democrats as well as Republicans to focus on right now solving the jobs that --

DAVIS: I got members to switch and we go with two maps. What your district looks like --

BRAZILE: That was your job.

DAVIS: And it works.

BLITZER: Some of them might switch soon if they want committee assignments and stuff like that. We'll watch the house. I think it's more likely one or two or three might switch at the house than in the Senate.

BRAZILE: I would hope that they would focus not on switching parties but getting in the leadership, focus on jobs and the health care and the things --

BLITZER: I'll argue if they can switch they can focus better.

BRAZILE: The party of no? No ideas? We'll see.

BLITZER: All right guys. Stand by. Don't go away. We have much more to discuss including the political battle for the Democrat's number two spot in the House of Representatives. Guess what? In the last hour it has heated up. Congressman James Clyburn and Congressman Steny Hoyer are squaring off big time. Now another top Democrat may be stepping into the spotlight and trying to work out a deal. And President Obama goes down memory lane in Indonesia. His childhood pals are telling our Suzanne Malveaux about their friend who grew up to become the most powerful man in the world.


BLITZER: We are back with Donna Brazile and Tom Davis. He's now the President and CEO of the Republican Mainstream Partnership. What's that?

DAVIS: It is a moderate Republican group trying to keep the Republican majority alive and diverse.

BLITZER: That is what you always were, a moderate Republican working with the Democrats, but it is probably going to be more difficult for others.

DAVIS: Well, I was conservative on the economic stuff.

BRAZILE: But he was great on the district issues, and we appreciate that.

BLITZER: On the District of Columbia. All right. Let's talk a little bit about two African American Republicans have now been elected to the House of Representatives, Allan West, Republican of Florida, Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, and I want to be precise, West says he will join the Congressional Black Caucus as a Republican. Tim Scott says he is leaning against but is not yet sure. There have been Republicans in the Congressional Black Caucus before. Do you think they should be welcomed in the Congressional Black Caucus now?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. The caucus has put out a statement saying there is no litmus test and it is not restricted to Democrats. It is restricted to those who believe in the mission of the black caucus which is about empowerment, and ensuring health care and jobs and everything that all Americans are worried about.

BLITZER: J.C. Watts, when he was the congressman from Oklahoma, was he a member of the Congressional Black Caucus?

BRAZILE: He was not. Well, Gary Franks was, but J.C. Watts worked with members of the black caucus on education and many other issues. There is no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.

BLITZER: You know these congressman, these Republicans, J.C. Watts and Gary Franks was a member of the Congressional black caucus and do you see any problem with these two new African American Republicans joining?

DAVIS: I'd say join it. If it doesn't work out you can always withdraw from it, but they need some diversity. You are going to see more African American Republicans getting elected. The difference is they'll be elected from white majority districts and that's healthy for the country. I would earn courage them to go to the caucus and if you don't like it, you can always leave.

BLITZER: It is good that there are Republican African Americans elected to Congress, not African American in the House of Representatives is a Democrat.

BRAZILE: Wolf, you'd be surprised to know that I have Republicans in my family and I'm surprised sometimes too. Let me just say it is great that Latinos picked up five statewide and they are all Republicans.

DAVIS: And how about the Indians.


DAVIS: Two new Indians.

BRAZILE: And they are not only representing majority districts, but minority, majority groups.

BLITZER: Do you think a tea party caucus is a good idea in the House of Representatives?

DAVIS: Well, there is a lot of controversy in the tea party whether the Congress should co-opt it or not, and we will see how it works.

BRAZILE: I think that we should have a tea party caucus and they should invite me to bring my strange brew, too.

BLITZER: West is leaning towards it, but Scott is not.

BRAZILE: Well, he is from Charleston, South Carolina, and maybe Jim Clyburn should invite him over to talk about joining. It is a great organization.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much. And President Obama's trip to Indonesia is being cut short by a few hours, but we had time to meet some of his boyhood pals growing up in Jakarta. He spent four years there, and stand by for that.

Help is on the way for thousands of miserable passengers on a stranded cruise ship.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some Hot Shots.

In Indonesia, a soldier wearing a protective mask searches for victims from a volcano eruption.

In Ukraine, a man performs with fire in front of a flash mob as it is called.

In Stockholm, Sweden, people walked through a park during a blizzard.

And on a beautiful day in India, look at this, a farmer working on a sunflower field.

Hot Shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

Let's go back to Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I like those. We should do those everyday. How come we don't always do them?

BLITZER: When we have time.

CAFFERTY: When we have time? We should make time. I like to look at the pictures. Talk to the people. Make it happen.

BLITZER: I have people here.

CAFFERTY: Question this hour, who would you like to see run as a third-party candidate in 2012?

Mack says, "I give my full support to Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City. The man has balanced both liberal and conservative values ensuring New York City maintains a cultural hub that is not soft on crime or swimming in debt, maybe some balance wouldn't hurt in the United States."

Kevin in Alabama, "No, Jack, I went there in 1992 with Ross Perot and all that did was to split the conservative vote. I don't want another chance at Bill Clinton."

Iris in Los Angeles, "For crying out loud, nobody wants to hear anything about 2012. The voters in this country need a break from perpetual state of campaign we are in. Give it a rest until the end of the year."

Donald writes, "A Bloomberg/Colin Powell ticket. Game over. I'm a registered Democrat by the way and I voted for my first independent ever Charlie Crist in the last election."

Kat writes, "It's sounding more and more like a bible idea. The right wingers are just plain crazy and lunatics have taken over the asylum, and Obama, whom I respect has gone soft, and the Democrats are wimps. If Bloomberg disavowed the conservative right, was pro choice and kept the healthcare bill mostly in tact, he could be a winner."

Ed in New York writes, "New Jersey Governor Christy has shown staunch independence in pursuit of doing the right thing."

Steve in California, "Absolutely I would support a third party candidate as I think the rest of the country is ready for anyone who is not a Democrat or a Republican. I don't believe a tea party candidate is the appropriate choice either. We need a good independent."

Cal in Ohio writes, "Ron Paul, period."

And Gordon says, "As much as I think that Michael Bloomberg would make a good president, I fear he and Obama would split the readers with passports vote tossing the election choice to the home shopping network voters who think that international travel is a trip to Disney World."

If you want to read more on this you will find it on my blog, Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right Jack. Thank you.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a coast to coast bust of child prostitution gangs. Close to a thousand people are arrested here in the United States. Dozens of children are rescued from the streets.

It is a food fight over the price of food as Sarah Palin takes on the "Wall Street Journal." She may not necessarily have all of the facts straight. We are doing a reality check.

And those little messages that are changing the world, I will speak with the twitter co-founder, and share questions from my own twitter followers. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Political news, and breaking news and Jeanne Moos is straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.