Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
New Congress Arrives in DC; New Trouble for U.S. Afghan Strategy?; GOP House Good for Country?
Aired November 15, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brooke, thanks very much.
Happening now, it's freshman orientation right here in Washington, DC. Just weeks after clinching history Republican victories nationwide, members of the new Congress are ready to start delivering on their promises to try to transform government.
But first, they have to learn the ropes on Capitol Hill.
An eye-popping new survey reveals this year's top 10 highest paid CEOs in the United States. You might be surprised to learn who they are and just how much cash they're raking in.
Plus, imagine getting trapped in a deadly 6.9 magnitude earthquake. That disastrous nightmare was reality in one Japanese city. Now it's being called disaster-proof.
Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
New signs this hour that Congress' newest members are already making their mark and not just on the Republican side of the aisle. Only mid-term elections ago, two new Democrats were sworn in by the vice president, Joe Biden.
Delaware Senator Chris Coons will complete the final four years of Biden's former Senate term. And West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin will serve the remaining two years in the late Senator Robert Byrd's seat. And in a lighter moment, we're told the vice president's advice to the Delaware successor -- don't spend the night in Washington, DC. Biden, you might remember, made a point to take the train to his home state of Delaware every night during his 36 years in the Senate. He wanted to be with his family.
Let's bring in our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
She's up on Capitol Hill with some of the newly elected members of Congress. And there are, what, at least 90 new Republicans coming into the House of Representatives, only a handful of new Democrats, is that right? DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Democrats call themselves the mighty nine. But overall, the House freshman class is going to be the biggest in over a half century, Wolf. A quarter of the House is going to be freshmen. And today, they started what you might call a crash course in how to be a lawmaker.
BASH (voice-over): Buses pulled up to the Capitol just after dawn and off came a stream of nearly 100 newly elected lawmakers. The fact that it took six buses to carry them all evidence of the scope and power of this next House freshman class.
Inside all day orientation -- seminars on ethics rules and how to set up Congressional offices.
STEVE SOUTHERLAND (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: It's surreal that -- that we're actually here after a long, hard campaign.
BASH: Many new lawmakers have never served in government before.
SOUTHERLAND: I'm a funeral director by trade. Our family is in the funeral business.
BILLY LONG (R), MISSOURI CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Auctioneer and real estate broker and I did talk radio for six years.
BASH: Some have never stepped foot in the building.
(on camera): Have you ever been to the Capitol before?
LONG: I've never been in the Capitol.
BASH (voice-over): Missouri Republican Billy Long is one of many who say they've got nothing to lose in making sure their GOP leaders keep promises to cut spending.
LONG: I'm 55 years old. I don't have a long political future ahead of me. I'm not a big rabble rouser. But I'm certainly going to come up here and do the things that the people -- they elected me to do. And that is get this out of control spending under control.
BASH: The halls overflowed with fresh GOP faces, like 32-year- old Jaime Herrera and 38-year-old Kristi Noem, but also Republicans who bear scars of promises not kept, like Steve Chabot, first elected in the GOP wave of 1994 but lost two years ago. Now he's back.
STEVE CHABOT (R), OHIO CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Republicans went off track. We were spending too much money. And the American people are giving us a second chance now. I don't know that they'll give us a third.
BASH: On the other side of the Capitol, Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell, cited that second chance in making a surprise announcement. The long time defender of earmarks will now support a ban.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Banning earmarks is another small but important symbolic step that we can take to show that we're serious, another step on the way to serious and sustained cuts in spending and to debt.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: Now, McConnell's stunning reversal means that a secret ballot to take a vote on banning more -- for a moratorium or banning earmarks in tomorrow's Republican meeting is almost sure to pass.
And, meanwhile, you know, Wolf, everybody is focused on next year's Congress, but this year is still not done. The lame duck Congress is now underway. They have a lot of unfinished business, but not many people think that they're going to get much of it done. For the most part, they think that they are going to work on keeping the government running and dealing with extending -- or how to extend, at least, those expiring Bush tax cuts -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They're going to work this week then take next week off for Thanksgiving, then come back afterwards and see what they can do. Well, they've got a lot -- a lot on their plate. Let's see what the outgoing Congress can do.
Dana, thanks very much.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from over at the White House. The president has just released a statement and I'll read it to you: "I welcome Senator Mitch McConnell's decision to join me and members of both parties who support cracking down on wasteful earmark spending, which we can't afford during these tough economic times. As a senator, I helped eliminate anonymous earmarks and as president, I've called for new limitations on earmarks and set new higher standards of transparency and accountability. But we can't stop with earmarks as they represent only part of the problem. In the days and weeks to come, I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to not only end earmark spending, but to find other ways to bring down our deficits for our children."
That statement just released by the president from the White House.
He's going to be meeting, by the way, with the Republican and Democratic leadership Thursday at the White House. Then they're all going to have dinner. We'll see how much cooperation unfolds.
Let's go to the war in Afghanistan right now and reports of a deepening rift between the country's president, Hamid Karzai, and the U.S. military commander on the ground, General David Petraeus. And it could have some very serious implications for the success of the coalition's mission in the region.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working this story for us. She's got details.
What's going on here -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know General David Petraeus very well. He is a man who picks his words and his battles very carefully. So when Afghan President Hamid Karzai poked, Petraeus poked right back to make a point.
STARR: (voice-over): When I recently spoke to General David Petraeus in Afghanistan about President Hamid Karzai, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces sounded positive.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, ISAF COMMANDER:
PETRAEUS: I believe that I have a very good relationship with him. We meet several times a week. We do at least two one-on-ones per week.
STARR: But also, a hint of trouble.
PETRAEUS: And the fact is that we do, indeed, come at issues from different perspectives at times.
STARR: Differing perspectives erupted into an open breach, after Karzai told "The Washington Post," quote, "The time has come to reduce military operations. The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan."
Petraeus told Afghan officials if they really felt that way, relations between the two countries could be, quote, "untenable."
Senator John McCain just returned from the war zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "MEET THE PRESS," COURTESY NBC)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: And Hamid Karzai is reflecting his desire to survive; also, a degree of paranoia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Aides close to Petraeus say the Afghan leader, often unpredictable, is feeling pressure to show his political opponents he can stand up to the Americans and provide security. Karzai is especially critical of raids by U.S. Special Operations forces, which Petraeus says are vital to disrupting Taliban operations. In the last 100 days, U.S. Special Forces have captured some 2,500 insurgents and killed 1,000 more.
PETRAEUS: Various people have said well, what you've really done is increased the so-called direct action operations -- Special Operations forces kill/capture operations. And we have, dramatically.
STARR: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear the U.S. is not backing down.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: These operations are conducted in full partnership with the government of Afghanistan. They include Afghan forces on each operation.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: The timing of all of this is no coincidence. Later this week, of course, President Obama attends a NATO summit, where the future progress of the war in Afghanistan will be topic number one. General Petraeus will be there to brief NATO leaders. Nobody wants any more discord from the Afghan side of the table. Now, supposedly, Wolf, these men have talked and, they say, for now, they're on the same page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm not -- I'm not holding my breath. We'll see how long that lasts.
All right, thanks very much, Barbara, for that.
Dozens killed, dozens injured and dozens more trapped right now -- a disaster at an apartment building that collapses in India. We'll have the latest.
And he's short of capital, has no lawyer and is fresh out of patience. We're talking about the embattled New York congressman, Charlie Rangel. He walks out of his ethics trial -- and that's just day one.
And someone has been taking potshots at military buildings outside Washington, DC, in Northern Virginia. Now the Feds are offering a hefty reward to try to find out who it is.
BLITZER: As the busy holiday travel season approaches, Jack Cafferty has airport security on his mind.
And he's here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: "If -- if you enjoyed your last mammogram or prostate exam, you're going to love your next trip to the airport." That's a quote from a "Chicago Tribune" column called "Government in Our Pants" that suggests airport screening is now out of control. Nine years after 9/11, it seems like airport security may have finally crossed the line. Grassroots groups calling on people either not to fly at all or protest by refusing to submit to those full body scanners -- you know, the ones that show everything.
Major airline pilots' unions are urging members to avoid the full body scans. They're worried about health risks due to repeated small doses of radiation, along with the intrusiveness and security officer behavior.
The TSA insists the machines are safe. And you believe what your government tells you, don't you? But some scientists say not enough is known about these machines.
As for the pat-downs, one pilot says it was like sexual molestation.
A California man learned all this the hard way, after being thrown out of the San Diego airport over the weekend. John Tyner first refused to submit to a full body scan, opting for a traditional metal detector and a basic patdown. He then refused a groin check by the TSA guards, saying, at one point, quote, "You touch my junk, and I'm going to have you arrested," you know that.
Tyner has been threatened with a civil lawsuit and $10,000 fine.
All this coming just days before the Thanksgiving holiday and the start of the busiest travel time of the year.
So the question is, has airport security gone too far?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Yes, get ready for Thanksgiving travel, Jack.
You make a good point.
Thanks very much.
Let's get back to our top story right now. We have new poll numbers that are coming out on the new Republican-led Congress, some of whom are gathering here in Washington right now -- lots of new members.
Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analysts, David Gergen Gloria Borger -- David, look at this -- 52 percent in our brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll -- 52 percent think the Republican control of the House of Representatives will be good for the country, 39 percent think it will be bad for the country. But that's an impressive majority for the Republicans.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, it's a majority. It's not a thumping majority. And it's -- but I -- it's also not what some liberal writers have been arguing, and that is that Americans are showing buyer's remorse since the election. I don't see the evidence of that in this poll. And you'll recall, Wolf, on -- on election night in the exit polls, only about 40, 42 percent of Americans said they approved of Republicans. Some 53 percent they -- said they disapproved. But the same number said that about Democrats.
The country clearly is not terribly happy with either one. The Democrats happened to be in power. They got displaced. But the Republicans are still on trial and they've been wise, as Senator McConnell has said several times, they've been wise to recognize they are very much on trial.
BLITZER: But look at these numbers, Gloria, because at the same poll, we asked about the Republican victories in the House of Representatives and the races there, 17 percent said it was a mandate for Republican policies, but 70 percent, 70 percent, said it was a rejection of Democratic policies. So, it was more of a repudiation of the Democrats than it was an elation over the Republicans.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was a repudiation of the Democrats, and it's really a repudiation of partisanship. I think, right now, what you have is an American public that believes that Barack Obama promised to govern differently. And it was probably a promise he could never ever have kept because you have a Congress that's so divided ideologically. When the Democrats have control of everything, that's a problem.
That's why it is a vote of confidence for a divided Congress, because people believe when the parties are so divided ideologically, the only way you can get anywhere near the center is to have some kind of divided government. And that's what they voted for and that's what they're placing their hopes in right now.
BLITZER: Do you believe that the country is always better, David, when there's one party in control of one branch and another party in control of the other branch, that a divided government is best for the American people?
GERGEN: The conventional wisdom has always been is better to have one party running things and you really get things done, but in recent years, Americans have -- and I think this goes back some decades have preferred a divided government, and there's a political scientist at Yale named David Mayhew. He's written a book about divided government and says in most cases, divided government actually can work better than united government, you know?
And look at the Clinton years. In the beginning, when Newt Gingrich and company took over the Congress, they were just the fur flew and people tried to tear each other down, but once they sort of settled some of their differences, they actually got some things done like welfare reform and three balanced budgets in a row, and both parties could take credit for that.
BORGER: You know, Wolf, we've had divided government over 21 of the last 30 years, at varying times, but people have sort of gotten used to it. And the more split that the parties have become, the more ideologically distant they've become, the more difficult it's been for the American public to find the center.
So, they like this idea of divided government. When there were moderates in both parties, having one party control, the Democrats controlling the House for 50 years didn't seem to matter as much to the public, because they could always, you know, reach some kind of compromise with moderate Republicans, but that doesn't exist anymore.
GERGEN: Wolf, I have a slightly different take, and I think the reason we get divided government so often is that the country is worried if you put one party in charge, they're going to overreach. They're going to do too much. And I want another party in there to restrain them. And I think that's what happened in this election as Charles (INAUDIBLE) had written. This is really about more of a restraining order that was issued by the public toward the Democrats.
BLITZER: Look at these numbers, though. Back in September, President Obama's approval rating was at 42 percent. In October, went up to 45 percent. In the new poll that's just out today, our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll, he's up to 48 percent, Gloria, 48 percent approve of the job he's doing. So, his numbers are going up at a time when his party suffered this crashing setback.
BORGER: Well, it's interesting, because what we're hearing from Barack Obama now, to go back to our previous conversation, what we're hearing from him is saying that, yes, I want to try and work with republicans. Today, for example, on reform of earmarks, he applauded the Republicans for going along with earmark reform or just something he talked about an often lot during the campaign.
And so, what the public is hearing from Barack Obama is what they liked about him from the first place and didn't hear about during the first two years in office.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much, Gloria and David, our senior political analysts.
We're monitoring some other important top stories here in the SITUATION ROOM, including a potential glimmer of hope on Wall Street for shoppers. We're going to tell you what it means.
And they're this year's top highest paid CEOs. The top ten we should say, and you won't believe just how much money they're making. The eye-popping report is coming up.
BLITZER: The Ohio flock is back in the Capitol. The almost 200- year-old, 11-foot time piece, also called the (INAUDIBLE) clock was removed in August for a thorough restoration. It's now back in place, except for the elaborately curved eagle on top which is still being restored. Good for the Ohio clock.
California's highest court deals a victory for college bound illegal immigrants. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the California Supreme Court has ruled that illegal immigrants may continue to receive in-state tuition at the state's public colleges and universities. Now, today's unanimous decision overturns the lower court ruling. The court found that state law allowing students who attended high school in California for three years could receive in- state tuition. In this case, it says state law trumps federal law.
The defense rested after two minutes today in a key hearing for accused Ft. Hood shooter, Army Major Nidal Hasan. There were no witnesses and no testimony from Hasan. His defense attorney told reporters he's been denied key pieces of evidence, including an intelligence review and report on what Hasan's superiors knew and said about the defendant. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding dozens more last in a shooting spree last November.
And on Wall Street today, an early bounce in investor's steps fizzle. There was a surge on a report that retail sales rose 1.2 percent in October, double what most analysts have predicted. There were a couple of less than upbeat reports. Inventories rose 0.9 percent and report on manufacturing activity showed a decline. Stocks ended mix. The Dow Jones Industrial average ended the day up nine points to close at just under 11,202 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you.
Can a tea party icon find common ground with President Obama right now? Ahead, my interview with the Republican congresswoman, Michele Bachmann, stand by.
And our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, takes us to one Japanese city where many lessons have been learned from a deadly earthquake.
BLITZER: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a big wrinkle in New York congressman, Charlie Rangel's long awaited ethics trial. The subcommittee says no to an extension and Rangel walks out. CNNs Brianna Keilar will give us the latest on day one.
And from political celeb to reality star, Sarah Palin's Alaska made its debut last night. Did cable's TLC strike ratings gold? The short answer is yes. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
It's only the first day back in session for members of Congress, but a dramatic debate is already playing out on Capitol Hill. At issue, wasteful spending. Let's bring in our Brian Todd. He's got more on what's going on. And there have been a lot of developments today on what's called these earmarks.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Earmarks, already, Wolf, the hottest political battle in Washington. This week, the battle over earmarks is pitting the new tea partiers against fellow Republicans, President Obama against fellow Democrats. It's all about who can be seen as the lead crusader against wasteful spending.
TODD (voice-over): We know them well, those unflattering symbols of government waste, the bridge to nowhere in Alaska, the teapot museum in North Carolina. Pork barrel projects called earmarks, when members of Congress steer government money to pet projects in their home states, sometimes, without adequate review.
There are projects now in the pipeline to study big-eye tuna in the pacific and assist that's ongoing on soybeans in the Midwest. But pork barreling is now a hot political battle in Washington. Tea party backed Republicans led by Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina want to ban fellow GOP senators from pushing pork projects for two years. Rising republican star, Marco Rubio, is all for the ban, citing the country's growing debt.
MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA SENATOR-ELECT: If we can't deal with the issues of earmarks, how are we going to deal with $13.5 trillion?
TODD: But that pits Rubio even before he takes office squarely against his fellow Florida senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, who's bringing a big aircraft carrier project to Florida.
BILL NELSON, (D) FLORIDA: If I didn't intend to do that appropriation, the Virginia delegation was going to eliminate a carrier coming into Florida.
TODD: President Obama is against earmarks and has squared off against fellow Democrats over them. Republicans are battling each other, too, and the tension is rising. Senator Mitch McConnell, an old bold defender of earmarks, is bowing to tea party pressure and will support the ban.
TODD (on-camera): Even with Senator McConnell now throwing his considerable power behind the proposed ban on earmarks, watch dog groups say these projects can still be wedged into spending bills, still end up wasting a lot of your money.
I asked Ryan Alexander of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense how that will happen.
RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: If Senator DeMint wins his vote and they pass a moratorium for earmarks among Republican senators, we may still see earmarks from some Republican senators. They'll have opportunities to side step the process and the Democrats still control the Senate so they'll be able to keep earmarks flowing through the appropriations committee.
TODD: And it will lead to nasty words in Washington. Republican Senator James Inhofe told the Washington Post if he didn't mark projects for his home state, the money would go to the white house to spend as they please. And he said of President Obama, he doesn't even know where Oklahoma is.
TODD: Senator Inhofe and his aides later clarified that remark saying all he meant was that he's more in tune than the president about what the people of Oklahoma need. We got no reaction from the White House to that Wolf.
BLITZER: When all is said and done, Brian, the earmarks as a part of the federal budget, is a tiny percent.
TODD: It's less than 1% of the budget. But watch dog groups say you can cut a lot of wasteful spending if you eliminate some of those needless projects that they wedge in at the last minute into bills that are meant for other things. That's kind of where it gets politically sticky. Of course, there's a battle to see who can be the real crusader against this. Right now it's Senator DeMint. We'll see if maybe Marco Rubio takes up that panel. It will be very interesting.
BLITZER: I'm sure he will and the president of the United States says he opposes earmarks. He's applauding Senator McConnell for turning around. All right, thank you very much.
They're considered to be the ten highest paid CEOs in the country. Mary Snow is taking a look at this eye-popping new list. What are you finding out, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some pretty hefty salaries Wolf. On average, consider this, that the average CEO in America will make a little more than $7 million this year. And while many people might expect the highest earners to be bank executives, don't bank on it. CEOs of media and technology companies are making the most money and this is according to a Wall Street Journal survey. It factors in salary, bonuses and incentives like stock options which make up the bulk of the pay. Now, topping the list, the CEO of Liberty Media Corporation, Gregory Maffei getting $87.1 million, that's four times what he made in 2008. This while shareholders saw hefty returns in the last year. Larry Ellison of Oracle came in second, just under $67 million. The CEO of Occidental Petroleum ranked third at just over 52 million. Rounding up the top five, Yahoo's CEO raked in just under $45 million and Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS took in $39 million. Now the compensation consulting firm that examined 456 of the largest public companies in the United States found the biggest surprise of these salaries is the way they are paid out. It finds more companies are using incentives that aren't tied to performance but rather to retaining employees. Take a listen.
IRV BAKER, HAY GROUP: It is a troubling trend in that we have seen companies move more towards non-performance based pay, rather than these performance share plans, which are clearly more pay for performance.
SNOW: There are three companies that buck the trend. CEOs at Apple and Whole Foods were paid $1, while the CEO of Bank of America, got nothing. Wolf?
BLITZER: Why is that?
SNOW: The Bank of America CEO, this was the outgoing CEO, and this was tied to restrictions because of the bank bailouts. And for Apple and Whole Foods, this is the choice of the CEOs. They have an ownership part of the company which is how they get their money. They decided not to have salaries or bonuses.
BLITZER: But they have a lot of stock in the company and the value of the stocks is going up. So they're still raking in millions, even though their salary might be $1 a year.
SNOW: Right, they have the ownership stake in the company.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Mary Snow, for that.
U.S. voters are asking Capitol Hill legislators to do it. But how would you balance the budget? Some tough choices in today's strategy session.
Also, a serial shooter fires on military facilities near the nation's capital. Now the FBI is offering a reward for help identifying the person behind the weapon.
And a kid, his bike and an American flag. How this 13-year-old's controversy got him a rolling thunder escort to school.
BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session right now. Joining us, our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and the Republican strategist John Feehery. Guys, thank you very much. You both saw "The New York Times," because we made sure you saw "The New York Times." They had a little puzzle there yesterday. What would you cut to bring down the national debt, the annual budget deficits? Tough choices if you want to go ahead through 2015 to 2030. What did you decide you would cut? Because readers could go to "The New York Times" on their website and make choices and see how difficult it is.
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's interesting. I was playing with it some last night and I realized it gets to your priority's focus pretty quickly. I think we ought to be raising the retirement age.
BLITZER: 67 to?
BLITZER: Over how long of a period?
ROSEN: I don't see any reason why we shouldn't phase it in quickly. I think people want to work. We know seniors want to work.
BLITZER: Do you want to work till you're 70?
ROSEN: Absolutely. I expect to be working probably long past that. I think we ought to reduce our troop level in Iraq and Afghanistan and saving a lot of money there. I would be okay with extending the tax cuts for the rich, but I think we ought to flatten our taxes out. I don't think we ought to be taxing unearned income at a much lower rate than earned income. You know, the waitress in the diner ought to be paying the same rate as somebody clipping coupons from grandpa.
BLITZER: What did you find out, how would you save some money?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You've got to cut spending on Medicare. As far as raising the retirement age, you've got to deal with the health care long-term. If you don't deal with health care in the budget, you're going to go bankrupt. The other thing I would do is you have to reform the tax code. You cannot get balanced budgets or economic growth and you're not going to get economic growth without a totally reformed tax code. You can go through all this and you try and hit the numbers.
BLITZER: You want something like a flat tax?
FEEHERY: I want a flat tax. I want something that's going to grow the economy, make our companies more competitive, make our workers more competitive and help us create jobs.
BLITZER: It is the most complicated tax code. You've got to simplify that tax code. Ever see how many regulations the IRS has in there? Even a great accountant sometimes doesn't know what to do.
ROSEN: And it absolutely steers investment decisions the wrong way, not towards jobs but towards saving, towards estate planning, towards other things. And I think that points out when you do this exercise, how essentially shallow the political conversation is that's going on right now, which is, do we extend the Bush era tax cuts or not? Unless you really deal with the rest of the tax code, you can't make progress, and that's something that Democrats and Republicans could work together on. It's not necessarily as partisan as others think.
FEEHERY: You can't cut all investments. You have to invest in basic medical research to --
BLITZER: You mean spending.
FEEHERY: I mean spending. You need to find a way to cure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's because those are going to driving up long term health care costs and really going to drive us into bankruptcy.
BLITZER: The country, is it ready for a third Bush as president of the United States? Candy Crowley, as you know, interviewed the former president and the former governor, his brother Jeb Bush. Listen to what Jeb Bush said when she asked about the possibility of running for president.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: You never say never about anything. I answer the questions forthrightly about 2012. I'm going to be involved. I have an education reform foundation, trying to improve the plight of our education systems around the country and I'm helping candidates that I believe in. And you know what? I'm Switzerland as it relates to the national Republican politics, which gives me a chance to have my voice heard quietly the way I like it.
BLITZER: Very popular governor in Florida. A lot of folks think he might be a good presidential candidate.
FEEHERY: Jeb Bush runs, he gets the nomination and I think he wins the presidency. He was the guy -- I know he's got the name, I know the name's an anchor but I do think he would be immediately catapulted into the candidate. I think he'd be our best candidate.
BLITZER: You're convinced if he were the Republican nominee, he could carry Florida.
FEEHERY: I think he could carry a lot of states. He's the smartest Bush, I think he's a very effective governor. I think he's someone who gets the conservatives and the moderates together. I think he shoots to the top.
BLITZER: If you're the Democratic candidate, presumably that would be President Obama, would you rather face Jeb Bush as the Republican nominee or Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee?
ROSEN: Well, you would rather face Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee. But despite our earlier bipartisanship on the budget, we part here. Jeb Bush, any Republican, they're all going to end up being the same. They're going to have to run to the right over these next two years. Barack Obama is the best president, and he's going to be re-elected.
BLITZER: But if the economy is not going in good shape --
ROSEN: The economy is growing.
BLITZER: If the unemployment rate is still in 9s, that's not boding well.
ROSEN: It is going to get better.
FEEHERY: I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Hillary Clinton running in a primary. It'll be the Clintons and the Bushes. We can't get rid of them.
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton running against the Republicans.
FEEHERY: Running against Barack Obama in the primary.
ROSEN: I'll take that bet.
BLITZER: I don't think she will but there might be some other Democrats who are thinking about it. We'll leave that for another day. Guys, thank you very much.
Disaster in New Delhi. We'll update you on rescue efforts at a devastating building collapse.
General Colin Powell, he was a chief diplomat under President Bush. Is there a role for him under President Obama's white house? He just spoke to Larry King. We'll tell you what he said.
BLITZER: Back to Mary, who is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a human disaster in India. What's happening?
SNOW: Wolf, the numbers aren't clear, but Indian officials say more than 30 people are known dead, and many more are hurt after today's collapse of an apartment building in New Delhi. They tell CNN rescuers are working to free about two dozen more people trapped in the wreckage. The city spokesman says the building came down because the foundations were weakened by water from this year's monsoons.
In New York, jurors are deliberating the trial of a man accused of conspiracy in the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Ahmed Galhi is the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in a U.S. civilian court. Prosecutors characterized him as a mass murder. His defense attorney argues he was a dupe used by al Qaeda. The terrorist network claimed responsibility for the bombings that killed 224 people.
The FBI is offering a reward up to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is taking potshots at military buildings in Virginia. Five shootings at a marine museum, two recruiting centers and the Pentagon have happened during overnight hours in October and November. Ballistics tests that have been taken have determined that they've been with the same weapon. No one has been injured.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says more than 8,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico have been reopened for fishing. NOAA says that leaves less than 1 percent of waters closed. The agency says that samples of sea life found no detectable oil or dispersant or flavors. In all, almost 83,000 square miles have been reopened since the Deep Water Horizon explosion touched off the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Mary, thank you, Mary Snow reporting.
Jack Cafferty is asking has airport security gone too far? Your e-mail, that's coming up.
My interview with the tea party icon, the Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Why she says she helped put the speaker's gavel in a Republican's hand.
Some are calling it a rocket docket, why one state's courts are being accused of ramming scores of foreclosure cases through the legal system with little regard for the homeowner.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some hot shots. In Saudi Arabia, a man prays on Mt. Arafat during the Muslim pilgrimage to the site of the prophet Mohammed's farewell sermon. In Australia, a man known as the real life spider-man holds one of the many deadly spiders he'll live with for two weeks to raise money for charity. Good luck. In England, the sun rises over a fog-covered town. And Iraqi Christian refugees play on a playground outside Beirut. Hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.
Speaking of hot shots, let's go to Jack for "the Cafferty file." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, don't do that. The question this hour, has airport security gone too far? That guy in the spider cage hopes he lives two weeks.
John writes, "This is just pushing buttons to see how well Americans are conditioned to accepting a police state. The goal is to stop people from thinking so they can then shout from the street corners how free we are while our liberty is confiscated."
Jeff writes, "Airline travel is not a right, it's a luxury. No one is making you travel by air. If you don't like the rules, take a car, bus, train or walk."
Paul writes, "I think so, yes. We're only talking about planes now. Imagine what would happen if there's a bomb on a bus or a subway or at a shopping mall. What hassles or extra costs would be implemented then? There comes a point when you have to accept a certain level of risk. You can't fully protect yourself from every bad intention out there or you risk losing everything for the illusion of safety. The terrorists are probably somewhere laughing at us all." Pardon me.
Arp in Brandon, Mississippi, "There's a cure for this. Stop flying. The TSA idiots have confused motion with progress. They refuse to profile and instead target old Irish guys like me who didn't get on anybody's flight in Sudan, didn't pay cash for his ticket, doesn't wear a burnoose or a turban, speaks English, isn't flying one way, has luggage and doesn't even faintly resemble Osama Bin Laden's first cousin. Profile, damn it. Go after the people that look like terrorists, not some grandpa on his way to visit the grandkids in Seattle."
Bourne writes, "With all the botched bombings, I find it peculiar that we're so upset over the TSA doing what we've wanted them to do for the last nine years ever since 9/11 and wish they had done before 9/11 so it could have been prevented altogether. We live in a world of airport and airplane bombers and the proper measures need to be taken to ensure our safety in the sky."
And Sabrina writes, "Yes, Jack, too far. No TSA agent is going to feel me up without getting slapped. And since there's no train, I guess it will be a long time before I get home to Jamaica."
If you want to read more on this, got some pretty funny stuff. Some of it we couldn't put on television but it's on the blog. Go to CNN.com/Caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Will do. Thank you, Jack.
Would you know what to do in the middle of an earthquake if it happened in your city? Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta gets a firsthand look at what can happen and ideas for building a safer city. Stand by for his report
And Charlie Rangel walks out on his own hearing today. He says, quote, 50 years of public service is on the line. Our own Brianna Keilar is standing by live on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: 15 years ago, the Japanese city of Kobe was devastated by a massive earthquake. The city has rebuilt. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta traveled there to find out what the city has done to render itself disaster-proof. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's something known as urbanization. It's this idea that more than half the world's population now lives in cities. And that number is expected to go way up over the next several decades. People living in cities often so vulnerable to health consequences and also the consequences of natural disasters. Are there lessons to be learned? Well, that's what the World Health Organization thinks, and that's why we're here in Kobe Japan. Had a big earthquake here 15 years ago, lots of lessons. Here's what we found.
GUPTA: Would you even know what to do if you find yourself in the middle of that? What we're experiencing here is a 6.9-magnitude earthquake. They tell you to go into the corner of the room. Also, cover your hands, cover your face. Get underneath the table if you have to, just something to protect yourself. Of course, all of this is just a stimulation. And that's what you need to do as an individual. But given that so many people live in urban centers all across the world, how do you recover and rebuild after something like that?
It's exactly the question they're asking themselves in Kobe Japan in 1995, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake just like that one, 20 seconds in length, 200,000 buildings gone, 5,000 lives lost, a lot of work to do to try to rebuild this place. Well, Kobe did it in less than ten years. Now they serve as a model for the rest of the world. A lot of lessons have been learned. For example, don't put you're your disaster resources in one particular area. Also, try to engage the survivors of an earthquake as much as possible in the rebuilding process. And finally, hospitals. They have to be able to stay open and functioning even after earthquakes. There are the buildings, the awful images like this one. Remember, 200,000 went down. This was one of them. Well, take a look at what it looks like now. This is the same building, rebuilt quickly after the earthquake. What do they do specifically? They use materials here to try to isolate this building from the ground and the shaking that accompanies an earthquake. They also use metal plates to allow the building to move as well as materials that sort of allow this building to sway if the ground is shaking.
It's by no means perfect, and if you ask Kobe officials they'll say about 80% of the city is now rebuilt. There are problems still. Narrow thoroughfares like this would be tough to navigate in the middle of an earthquake. These buildings could come down into the streets, making rescues that much more difficult. But the balance, it's always there. Trying to maintain what Japan has been for hundreds of years in the middle of all this reconstruction.
GUPTA: Wolf, I can tell you, there is a sort of human nature to wait for a tragedy to occur before anybody is ready to do anything about it. Preplanning, that's sort of the name of the game. That way you can mitigate some of the worst consequences of these natural disasters. We'll have much more all week long, Wolf. Back to you for now.
BLITZER: Sanjay, thank you.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, travelers are in an uproar over those very revealing body scanners and even more intrusive pat downs now underway at major airports across the country.