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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Claims Win on Missile Defense; Afghan War Center Stage at Summit; U.S. Beefs Up Afghan Firepower; Suspicious Bag is "Test Device"; Biden on Voter's Perception of President Obama; New Jersey Police Investigate Brutality Allegations; Senate Funds Farmer Bias Settlement; Questioning the President's Manhood; Angry Riots Spread Across Haiti; Running on Autopilot
Aired November 19, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.
Happening now, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan takes the world stage. President Obama and NATO allies lay the groundwork for a potential hand over of control to Afghan forces, which could begin as early as next year.
Joe Scarborough suspended -- MSNBC disciplines its second anchor in recent weeks for making improper political contributions.
Is a two day reprimand, though, enough?
And could this hurt the network?
They were charged with guarding his life. Now, almost half a century later, President Kennedy's Secret Service agents vividly recall his haunting assassination. You'll hear about the nightmares, the constant guilt and the second tragedy that almost occurred.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A major score in a sea of recent political and diplomatic blows for President Obama. Speaking at a two day summit in Lisbon, Portugal, the president just announced that NATO has agreed to his plans for a new, expanded missile defense system.. And he's calling the progress substantial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I'm pleased to announce that for the first time, we've agreed to develop missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States. This important step forward builds on the new phased adaptive approach to missile defense that I announced for the United States last year. It offers a role for all of our allies. It responds to the threats of our times. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is traveling with the president in Portugal right now -- Suzanne, the president also used this occasion, once again, to push for Senate ratification of the START Treaty with Russia.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
I mean, obviously, this was a big victory for President Obama, announcing the other defense shield system deal. But, also, he clearly is recognizing here he's got an international audience, but he also is looking at the domestic audience. He went directly after the Senate Republicans, essentially saying that the START Treaty is essential not only for the security of the United States, but also for the security and strength of European allies. He says that it is an imperative on all sides with the allies, as well.
This is clearly something, Wolf, that he feels he can argue on the world stage, to try to put more pressure and more force on those who are opposing or delaying the START Treaty. He feels like this is an essential win, he has got to get this. And so that's why we heard this kind of language earlier today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: This is a two day summit, a short one -- a NATO -- the NATO summit. And you and I have covered a lot of these presidential summit meetings.
Why is this one different, though?
MALVEAUX: Wolf, it's really interesting, because, as you mentioned, we -- you know, we're used to the pageantry, the pomp and circumstance. We've seen that today.
But if you think about the American soldiers, think about their families and the kinds of critical things that they are thinking, whether or not they're going to have to return for a second or third tour of duty in Afghanistan, whether or not we are going to get the kind of help we need from NATO allies, these are the kinds of questions that are going to come out of these meetings that happen in the next 12 to 24 hours, whether or not the U.S. can sit down with NATO allies and come up with a way, a plan, a strategy to get out of Afghanistan by 2014.
That is the goal. That is the deadline that they're working on. Clearly, it looks like it's going to extend beyond that in terms of the types of troops. And they're working under some serious challenges here. You're talking about at least 16 of these NATO countries have decreased their defense budgets. They're dealing with crumbling economies. And President Obama himself says, look, he wants to start withdrawing U.S. troops by July of next year.
So there are a lot of different components here. But, ultimately, they're going to sit down with Afghan President Hamid Karzai tomorrow and try to get some answers from him -- can he, essentially, provide the type of government that's necessary for them to take control of their security in the years to come -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But they want to start a withdrawal next summer. But the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will continue at least for another four years.
Suzanne, thanks very much.
For the first time since the Afghan War began, the United States is now employing its most deadly ground weapons systems available -- a specific type of heavily armed tanks.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now with that part of the story. Tanks, heavy tanks in Afghanistan.
What's going on -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the decision now has been made that about a dozen or so M1 Abrams tanks will be sent to Southern Afghanistan, to a very particular area, Helmand Province. This is one of the areas where there's a good deal of combat, flat desert landscape. They can use the tanks there, they say.
They want to use them for a couple of capabilities. This tank has a lot of optics and surveillance capability. They will put it out there in Helmand Province to keep watch for IEDs, improvised explosive devices, those roadside bombs. They will also have the heavy armor protection that a tank affords to protect troops as they move around. This is one big tank, Wolf. You know, look at some of the statistics. It's about 60 tons of armor and firepower. It uses 105-millimeter tank round. Some of the rounds use depleted uranium.
But it's a -- it's a costly proposition. It uses about 300 gallons of fuel every eight hours. So they're only putting a few of them in the field and they're going to be solely in Southern Afghanistan, at least for now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is there any downside to doing this?
STARR: Well, there's a big down side, of course. This sends a signal to the Afghan people that may get a very mixed reception. These tanks are huge. They are deadly. When they move across that desert landscape, they will tear up farmers' fields, foot paths. They may tear down mud walls of Afghan compounds. There's a real chance, unless troops are very careful, that these tanks are going to get a very unpleasant reception by Afghan civilians, who thinks the U.S. is just sending in even more firepower -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Let's go to Germany, where authorities right now have determined that a suspicious bag about to be loaded onto a flight in Namibia was actually what's being called a test device.
Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.
She's working the story for us.
What do we know -- Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf it sure looked like a bomb -- and it was supposed to. The device in a laptop bag was discovered Wednesday morning as it was about to be loaded on an Air Berlin flight from Namibia to Munich, Germany. We have a picture of it. It was made by a California company. It is a modular bomb set used to train and test screeners.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY COPELLO, PRESIDENT, LARRY COPELLO, INC.: You simply put the units together and you create an IED. And then you put it in some sort of container, like a backpack or a gym bag or a purse or a suitcase or something like that, and then you would try to breach security at some sort of institution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: The device was discovered just as Germany was raising its threat level because of intelligence about a possible attack later this month.
Namibian authorities said whoever planted the bomb test kit would be dealt with severely. An administration official says there does not seem to be any connection with any U.S. government entity. Capello, the manufacturer, says he sold thousands of the devices to governments, law enforcement and private industry. His hunch is that it got lost or separated from its owner -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And unrelated to this, you're getting new information that pilots will no longer have to be subjected to the body -- full body scanners or those pat-downs when they go through security?
MESERVE: That's right, Wolf. The Transportation Security Administration announced this afternoon that when pilots arrive at security checkpoints, they will show their airline I.D. and a second form of identification. Screeners will match that information with a flight crew database. Eventually, a more permanent program will be phased in.
Now, some pilots have been as upset as some members of the general public about the body scans and pat-downs. A couple of them sued the TSA earlier this week. Pilots have also argued it's a waste of resources to screen them for weapons when they will be at the controls of a great big potential weapon -- an airplane.
But still no sign of any change in procedures for the general public. Some fliers are still going to get the pat-downs, the body scans -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens next week, when there's a heavy travel week for Thanksgiving. MESERVE: Yes. It's a big question.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Twenty-nine miners are unaccounted for after an explosion at a coal mine in New Zealand. Now authorities say it could be days before a rescue effort is launched. We'll tell you why.
And Vice President Joe Biden lays in on Sarah Palin. You'll see what he's saying -- what he told our own Larry King.
And the Senate votes to fund a decade-old settlement for black farmers denied equal access to government loans and subsidies. We're going to tell you why it took so long.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The vice president, Joe Biden, is shedding some new light on all those rumors way back when that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will take his place as his -- as President Obama's running mate in 2012. Here's how he explained it all to CNN's LARRY KING LIVE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
LARRY KING, HOST: The White House shot down the rumors that you and Hillary Clinton were going to do a switch.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I tried, but it didn't work.
BIDEN: No, I --
KING: Because you wanted State, didn't you?
BIDEN: No. No, no, no, no, no.
KING: OK. All right.
BIDEN: No, no. Look, here -- here's the deal. The president and I -- there was never any serious talk ever that anyone ever heard about me not being on the ticket with him or her not staying at State.
KING: Woodward started it, though.
BIDEN: Well, if you look at it, even Bob backed off a little bit on that as he -- what he said, as I read it -- and I read his book. What he basically said was when she was being considered for secretary of State, it was suggested by one of her pollsters she should take it because maybe there would be the opportunity to be vice president. Hillary has made it clear right from the first time I came out, Joe, I don't want to be vice president. The president has made it clear, Joe, I expect you to be on the ticket, I want you on the ticket.
So it was really kind of, you know, sort of a Washington parlor game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The vice president also weighed in on the woman who potentially could pose a threat to the Obama/Biden ticket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
KING: Sarah Palin has apparently now confirmed that she's thinking about running for president.
How does that make Joe Biden think?
BIDEN: Well, you know --
BIDEN: I -- look, I think Sarah Palin has turned out to be -- and she is -- a real force in the Republican Party. And I think Sarah Palin is -- I -- were I a Republican senator, I would -- or a Republican political leader, I would look and say, wait, she's got a good chance of getting the nomination. But, look, it's hard enough for us to figure out our side of the aisle, let alone go over and -- and sort of handicap whether she can win or lose.
KING: What do you think of her?
BIDEN: Well, I like her.
KING: You do?
BIDEN: I mean, no. No, I personally like her. I -- I mean if you've met her, she -- she's an appealing person. When we campaigned --
KING: You debated her.
BIDEN: Yes, we -- we debated. There was not a harsh word. I mean we have a fundamentally different outlook on the world.
And I think that would be a really -- a really interesting race.
KING: Would that be a race you'd like to take on?
BIDEN: Well, you know, I -- my mom used to have an expression, be careful what you wish for, Joe, you may get it.
(LAUGHTER) BIDEN: So I never underestimate anyone. And -- but I think in that race, it would be a clear, clear choice for the country to make. And I believe President Obama would -- would be in very good shape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about that, what the vice president is saying on that issue and other issues, with our senior political analyst, David Gergen -- David, thanks very much.
Quickly, if the economy is still not great, unemployment is hovering around 9 percent, how much of a threat would Sarah Palin, if she were the Republican nominee, pose to President Obama?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, he would certainly be vulnerable then, Wolf. I think that would be a period of maximum vulnerability and a strong Republican could definitely win the White House, but she would have to overcome her negatives before she got there. You know, those negatives have grown well over 50 percent now. She's got a big, big following, but she also has a large anti-Palin following.
BLITZER: Listen to this other exchange that Larry had with the vice president last night and we'll discuss. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Should, frankly, the president had been doing a better job in the area of -- you know, what's reality and what's perception? Did he do a poor job in perception?
BIDEN,: Look, I don't think he -- he didn't misunderstand at all the dilemma we faced, but he knew, for example that -- again, this is our responsibility. It's not the other guy's. The buck stops with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The buck stops -- he went on to say the buck stops with the president of the United States, as usual. I'm sure they're doing a lot of postmortems at the White House, but what's the single most important lesson they should learn, looking ahead to 2012, from what happened in these midterms?
GERGEN: Wolf, I don't think it's a question of communication, which they keep coming back to is the excuse. I think the president fundamentally, in trying to solve the economic problems and then pushing on with the rest of his agenda, especially health care, threw too much big government at the country too quickly and people just weren't willing to follow it especially when it didn't seem to produce results on jobs.
So, I think the big lesson was pivot back to the center, take things more methodically and get more things done to solve the jobs problem. BLITZER: Obviously easier said than done. They've got a huge challenge ahead of them, David.
GERGEN: They do. They do. It can be done. Well, you know, Bill Clinton could do it. They can do it. Take care, Wolf. Have a great weekend.
BLITZER: No doubt about that. All right, thanks very much. We're following some other important top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including some desperate efforts under way right now to rescue at least 29 miners missing after an explosion in New Zealand. We'll have the latest.
And he's the Penn in the legendary duo Penn and Teller. He says he's had some bad experience of airport security pat-downs and now he is weighing in on the controversial methods. My interview with him, that's coming up.
BLITZER: A special mine rescue team is on the scene of a mine in New Zealand right now, where more than two dozen workers are unaccounted for. Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What do we know, Fred?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf. Hello, everyone.
At least 29 miners are missing after an explosion in the coal mine about 90 miles northwest of Christchurch, New Zealand. Two others got out with only moderate injuries. Rescue efforts are under way because of ventilation issues in the mine. They don't yet know the cause of the explosion.
And you'll remember the world was captivated by another mine rescue effort, that of those 33 Chilean miners trapped under ground more than two months ago. Well, they will receive a hero's welcome as special guests at "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE." That special CNN event will air Thanksgiving evening. That's November 25th, at 8:00 Eastern Time.
And a House Ethics Subcommittee is scrapping plans to try California Congresswoman Maxine Waters this month. The panel is instead asking investigators to look into newly discovered material that may be relevant to the case. Waters is accused of helping steer federal bailout money to a bank that her husband had a financial stake in.
A federal judge in Georgia accused of buying marijuana and cocaine for a stripper is pleading guilty to some of the charges against him. Senior U.S. District Judge Jack Camp Jr. was arrested last month when authorities say he bought drugs from an undercover agent. His attorney now says that he has reached a plea deal that he hopes will keep his client out of jail. He is expected to be sentenced early next year.
And Google is agreeing to delete data it collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in Britain. Google says the information was inadvertently captured by its so-called street view cars that drove around the country taking photographs. British authorities say the data probably does not contain significant amounts of personal information, but that Google was wrong to collect and store it. Wolf --
BLITZER: All right, Fred. By the way, guess what's coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You have no idea, do you?
WHITFIELD: I have no idea.
BLITZER: I'll give you a clue.
WHITFIELD: You want to give me a hint?
BLITZER: Yes. The soul train comes to THE SITUATION ROOM. Doug E. Fresh is going to be here and he's going to teach all of us how to Doug E.
WHITFIELD: All right! Because there you are, the Soul Train Awards.
BLITZER: The Soul Train Awards. Are you old enough to remember Cornelius?
WHITFIELD: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Don Cornelius. How's that?
BLITZER: Very good. We'll have a little fun in THE SITUATION ROOM. It's Friday night, so get ready.
WHITFIELD: I can't wait.
BLITZER: I think you're going to enjoy this, Doug E. Fresh, and THE SITUATION ROOM soul train dancers, they will all be here.
WHITFIELD: I love it! Who's fresher than you, Wolf?
BLITZER: Doug E. Fresh.
WHITFIELD: No one's fresher than you.
BLITZER: Stand by.
The Senate clears the way for payments to minority farmers who say they were denied equal access to loans and subsidies, but why has it taken so long?
And a New Jersey man is beaten by police after his wife is stopped for a traffic violation. Police brutality or justified use of force?
And 9/11 first responders agree to a settlement with New York City over the health effects of toxic dust at ground zero. We have the details.
BLITZER: A New Jersey man whose wife was pulled over for a routine traffic stop is recovering from severe injuries after a confrontation with the police officer. The man's wife says it's a clear case of racially motivated police brutality.
Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, has been investigating the allegations. Allan, was this police brutality or was this a police officer simply doing his job?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's exactly the question under investigation. This is the case of one man trying to protect his family, another trying to protect the community. Their wills came head to head one afternoon last month, and the result is tragic.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): James black is a month out of surgery for what he says was a stroke resulting from a police officer and a canine dog using overpowering force to arrest him.
(on camera): It started as a routine traffic stop on October 7th. A white police officer pulled over Michelle Black in the driveway of this apartment complex. Mrs. Black says her husband, a cab driver, drove up right next to her to ask what was the matter.
MICHELLE BLACK: An officer was like, "move the car! Move the car!" So, my husband was like, that's my family, officer. I was just trying to tell you, that's my wife and my kids.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Police say officer Scott Peterson repeatedly instructed Mr. Black to move on, but when he failed to do so, the officer put him under arrest.
DET. CHRISTOPHER SHERRER, LINDENWOLD POLICE: And he refused to allow the officer to handcuff him.
CHERNOFF: And what ensued?
SHERRER: A struggle between the officer and Mr. Black.
CHERNOFF: At that point, police say, the canine assisted the officer. The Blacks claim it was a vicious attack.
BLACK: I don't know if anybody could imagine sitting and watching your loved one being dragged and bitten and choked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, his teeth were sharp, you know. It ripped my flesh like paper.
CHERNOFF: Then, according to Mrs. Black and an independent witness who would not appear on camera, the officer placed Mr. Black in a choke-hold. BLACK: The officer wrapped his arm around my husband's neck, started choking him.
CHERNOFF: Trauma from that incident, Mrs. Black claims, caused her husband to suffer a stroke. He also incurred bite wounds to his legs and arms.
SHERRER: Now, Mrs. Black says that during the struggle, the officer actually choked her husband, had him around the neck.
CHERNOFF (on camera): True?
SHERRER: I have no idea. It's not a technique that would have been taught.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Lindenwold police are investigating the incident. Meanwhile, James Black remains in fragile condition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whichever way I lean my head, even though I can -- feels like my brain -- I can feel it all like slope to that side.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police charged Mr. Black with aggravated assault on an officer, resisting arrest and two counts of disorderly conduct. Now, this is not the first time James Black has faced serious trouble.
In 1997, he was convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon and he served time in prison for that. Mrs. Black, eight days after the incident, received a careless driving citation.
Lindenwold police say it's essential that their officers, to maintain control of a situation for everyone's safety, but in seeking to do so, did one of the department's officers go too far to control a situation that probably never should have escalated to such tragic consequences? The police will be forwarding their results of that investigation to the Camden County prosecutor.
BLITZER: If convicted, could Mr. Black face prison time?
CHERNOFF: Absolutely, he could. The two most serious charges each carry potential prison times of three to five years.
BLITZER: Allan, thanks very much for that report. We'll stay on top of it.
It's been more than a decade since the federal government agreed to pay minority farmers who say they were denied equal access to loans and subsidies. Now the U.S. Senate has approved more than $1 billion to fund the settlement. Our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is covering the story for us. This has been a long time in coming, and a lot of our viewers aren't familiar with it. Tell us what's going on. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a long time coming and we've been covering this story, Wolf, here at CNN for quite a while. This is about a pattern of discrimination. It went on for years and it really didn't happen all that long ago. Black farmers who were denied equal access to government loans, subsidies as well as other USDA programs. And today, the biggest obstacle to getting them the money that a court said they deserved, was cleared.
KEILAR: For years now, John Boyd has divided his time between growing soybeans and pressuring Congress, fighting for tens of thousands of black farmers like himself, discriminated against by the department of agriculture in the 1980s and '90s.
JOHN BOYD, NATIONAL BLACK FARMERS ASSN.: It takes almost 380- some odd days to process a black loan application. It takes less than 30 days to process a white loan application. They went through hell. They went through living hell. We lost land. We lost our livelihoods, our way of life.
KEILAR: More than a decade ago, a federal judge ordered the government to compensate farmers for discrimination, and thousands were, but it wasn't until February that the Obama administration announced a settlement with 70,000 more farmers. It was up to Congress to dole out more than $1 billion in damages. After missing multiple deadlines, the Senate finally agreed Friday to pay up.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: The bill is passed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is passed.
REID: I appreciate everyone's cooperation. This has been a long, hard slog to get to where we are.
KEILAR: The breakthrough follows a partisan logjam. In July, the house approved a bill that included the farmers' settlement money, but the Senate refused to pass it. Republican Senator Tom Coburn stood in the way because the measure added to the deficit.
After Democrats couldn't pay for the $1.15 billion black farmers settlement as well as $3.4 billion for a settlement with Native Americans, Coburn dropped his opposition.
KEILAR: John Boyd, who has really been the face of the black farmers in this case, says that Senator Coburn himself called him last night, Wolf, and told him that he was on board. And now the next step for this, as it goes over to the house after the thanksgiving break, but as we said before, this measure, funding for the black farmers, has passed in the house before. It's not expected to encounter any obstacles there.
BLITZER: It's been a decade in the works. Thanks very much for that. Our political contributor, James Carville, right now is at the center of a political uproar after making some controversial comments about President Obama's manhood. He's not backing down. James is here. We'll talk to him about it.
And a major multimillion dollar settlement for ground zero workers exposed to toxic debris after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
And who would make a better king and queen, the newly engaged Prince William and Kate Middleton or Prince Charles and his wife Camilla? The answer in a brand new poll.
BLITZER: We're getting word that 9/11 first responders have settled their suit with New York City over the health effects of working at ground zero. Fredricka Whitfield is here monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What do we know?
WHITFIELD: Hello, again.
New York City will reportedly pay hundreds of millions of dollars to ground zero workers exposed to toxic debris after the September 11th attacks. An attorney for the plaintiffs said that they have agreed to a settlement which will end their seven-year fight with the city. 9/11 first responders say they were not properly outfitted and were exposed to toxic dust that later caused respiratory problems.
And the mother of a Nevada man who had been locked up in the United Arab Emirates for seven weeks says not enough is being done to get answers about this case. Private security contractor Nicholas Moody was traveling from Iraq when he was arrested in Abu Dhabi on a stop-over. He was allegedly carrying firearms accessories, including a gun cleaning kit, which are illegal there. The U.S. state department says he has been visited by counselor officials.
And NASA says the space shuttle "Discovery" will remain on the ground for at least another two weeks. What's expected to be "Discovery's" final mission had been delayed several times because of mechanical or weather problems. Engineers are now conducting analysis of the shuttle. Officials say the earliest it could launch would be now December 3rd.
And a new poll shows mostly positive attitudes in Britain toward the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. In the Congress poll conducted for CNN, more than three quarters of those surveyed say they believe it will be a positive for the monarchy. And more than half say Prince William and his fiancee would make a better king and queen than Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla. Wolf? No surprise. They're very popular.
BLITZER: Despite that poll, most people think that Charles will be king, not William.
WHITFIELD: Right, yeah.
BLITZER: Okay. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Could be the prince that would be or never be king.
BLITZER: Or his dad will be king, the least that's --
The Democratic strategist James Carville, he's not backing down after making some controversial remarks about the president of the United States. James is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to explain.
And the legendary Penn Jillette comes to THE SITUATION ROOM as well after some bad personal experiences with airport security pat- downs. I'll ask him about those controversial procedures. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, our CNN contributor James Carville. He's the Democratic strategist. And also conservative commentator, editor in chief of CBSnews.com, Terry Jeffrey.
Thank you for coming in. James, you caused a bit of an uproar -- not the first time -- as you know, with your comments this week about the president and his manhood. In words appropriate for family viewers out there, roughly paraphrase what you said.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I just said that if Hillary gave one of her instruments of testicular fortitude to the president, they would both have two. It's an old joke I told during the campaign and I was making it in reference to the fact that while I support most of the things the president's done, I think that we've not been tough enough on the banks, and that was the context it was made in, and when I said it, I said I was repeating an old campaign joke.
BLITZER: But it sounds as if you're raising questions about his strength and his manhood and his character in dealing with these pressures from the Republicans.
CARVILLE: No, what I -- I used a metaphor to say I thought he could have been tougher on these captains of finance that have come within an inch of wrecking the world economy here. They may still have succeeded. We don't know that yet.
I think in some ways, he's -- in GM, he's done a really good job. With many things, he's done a good job after the initial kind of stumbling around here, I think he's done a good job down in the gulf. But I retold a joke. I didn't feel like I did anything wrong in the campaign and, you know, if anybody took offense at it, I feel sorry for them. It's not enough, you know, I am not sorry they took offense at it, I feel sorry they're so thin-skinned, they have to take offense at repeating an old one-eyed joke.
BLITZER: Do you agree with James, Terry?
TERRY JEFFREY, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: No. No. I think one of the reasons we saw the outcome of the November 2nd election, Wolf, is because people thought that President Obama came down too hard on the free market and on the private sector. They thought he was moving the country in the direction of socialism, including with the government takeover of General Motors, but most especially with the health care plan. I think if President Obama continues on that track, rather than doing what James' old boss, Bill Clinton, did after the Democratic loss in the 1994 election and try to tack back to the right, which I don't think Obama will do, I think he'll have big trouble.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt there, Terry.
BLITZER: Knowing what we know now as far as General Motors is concerned, do you believe the president did the right thing in saving those hundreds of thousands of jobs and preventing GM from failing?
JEFFREY: No, I don't, Wolf. First of all, he took the money out of TARP, which was supposed to, under the terms of the law, go to financial institutions. General Motors was not a financial institution.
BLITZER: But would the country have been better off if GM had shut down?
JEFFREY: Here's my point. First of all, it was unconstitutional and the president should never do anything unconstitutional for which there was also no legislative authority. Secondly, yes, they should have let General Motors go through the market process, let the market deal with it. I think in everything that's happened since late in 2008 where he had government intervention in the economy, we'd be in a better place now if they had let the market play it out rather than have government intervention.
BLITZER: James, go ahead.
CARVILLE: I'm flabbergasted. I'm stunned.
CARVILLE: That after these overleveraged, under-regulated speculative bubble caused by these banks that he's saying that the president was too hard on him? I mean, it's breathtaking that we're sitting here in 2010 after they came within an inch of wrecking the world economy and still make succeed. Look, Terry's a good guy, a friend of mine. I couldn't disagree with that more. I think that the irresponsibility here was on a colossal nature, and I think that the president should have been tougher. The marketplace completely failed.
JEFFREY: Let me counter your basic premise, James. I think what happened to the financial institutions in this country is you had the federal government intervene, especially in the housing market, especially through fannies Mae and Freddie Mac, which had an implicit guarantee that wrapped all kinds of mortgages into securities that were guaranteed essentially by the federal government and made a number of these banks insolvent. That I think is the genesis of the financial problem that we saw in the financial industry.
CARVILLE: You know, the people live in a fantasy world. Alan Greenspan himself said his model sort of collapsed on him. AIG was regulated. AIG financial was regulated by one regulator. Again, the leverage --
BLITZER: Hold on -- [ everyone talking at once ]
CARVILLE: Out of control, you know? And I think the president's been way to light on them.
BLITZER: I want to move this conversation on to the latest CNN poll, which we asked the CNN opinion research corporation poll, how's the economy today, good or poor? Only 18 percent said good, 81 percent poor. How will it be a year from now? 52 percent say it will be good, 46 percent will say poor. Those seem to be, James, pretty high expectations for the president, if 52 percent think it's going to be good a year from now. If it's not good, there will be a lot of disappointed voters out there.
CARVILLE: Yes. Yes. If the economy doesn't get better, people are not going to be happy. Absolutely. There's not much argument there. Some of the things that are coming out here recently, they're actually pretty good. Actually, the stock market has really liked this president. It's been pretty robust at the, you know, after March of 2009, I guess it is. The stock market always likes Democrats better. The markets have really, really traditionally have been very, very supportive of Democratic economic policy.
BLITZER: Guys, hold your thought because we've got to continue this on another occasion. Stock market has gone up over the past couple years, but then again, what goes up very often goes down, as we all know as well. We'll watch it together with you, James and Terry. Guys, thanks very much.
JEFFREY: Thank you.
BLITZER: New revelations that less than 24 hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson was almost shot as well. You're going to hear the firsthand account from a secret service agent on duty outside Johnson's home.
And two decades after Doug E. Fresh vaulted to fame with his dance "The Doug E.," it's sweeping the country this time thanks to the internet. Guess who's here in THE SITUATION ROOM today? Doug E. Fresh. Stand by.
BLITZER: The deadly cholera epidemic that's claimed more than 1,000 Haitian lives is spreading. Rumors the U.N. and Haitian government are to blame are fueling vicious riots.
Here's CNN's Ivan Watson.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The violence has spread to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. Angry locals have been gathering here, setting fire to tires in the streets, setting up barricades. They're also attacking signs and posters of this candidate, Jude Celste, why? Because he is the endorsed candidate of the outgoing president Rene Preval. And the government is being blamed as well as the United Nations for the cholera epidemic that is gripping this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government represent him. You don't need -- we don't need that, we don't need election. The situation that we're in don't need -- we're dying right now because of the cholera. We're dying right now because of the U.N. soldiers.
WATSON: You can see here kids with rocks advancing in the distance toward a jeep with the United Nations letters on it, U.N. and that has been another one of the targets of anger that we've seen unfold over the course of the day.
A convoy of SUVs just drove through here, and the crowd started chasing it and throwing stones at it saying it was the president, Rene Preval. Then we heard a volley of gunfire coming out and the crowd is riled up. What you have -- look at where we are. This is Chanda Mars, it is in the administrative heart of Port-au-Prince. And it's also a sprawling tent city for some of the hundreds of thousands of people made homeless by last January's killer earthquake. Add a deadly cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 1,100 lives and the looming presidential elections, and you have a combustible mix that is leading to scenes like this in the Haitian capital.
BLITZER: Ivan Watson is joining us live from the scene. What's the latest, Ivan, with the spread of this cholera?
WATSON: Well, one of the new communities that's being hit, a vulnerable community, is the prison population at the largest prison here in Port-au-Prince. The international committee for the Red Cross say they have gotten at least 30 infected inmates, at least ten have died. And they expect that number to grow as a result of the overcrowded conditions. Over 1,000 people have died in the last month. The U.N. predicts the number of infections could go up to over 250,000 in the months to come.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch. Ivan Watson on the scene for us in Haiti.
Outrage over invasive pat-downs by airport screeners and so are the rumors versus the facts coming up.
And are you sick of driving? What if your car could do it for you?
BLITZER: As we all know, driving can be a headache. What if we could rely on our cars to do it for us? Here's CNN's Diana Magnay.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They call it the thinking car. A car you can trust to stop for a passing push chair, for a ball crossing the road, even when there's nobody at the wheel. This researcher leads the team at Berlin's Free University.
TINOSCH GANJINEH, FREE UNIVERSITY BERLIN: We use lighter sensors which are integrated into the body of the car for detecting other cars in the surrounding other car.
MAGNAY: There are cameras to recognize lane markings and traffic signs, a GPS system to establish location, and a trunk full of computing to process all the data. But Google is also doing its own driverless car, isn't it?
GANJINEH: Yeah, of course. They do actually the same kind of thing.
MAGNAY: How you far ahead are they or you -- who's up front right now?
GANJINEH: I think they're up front because they have a lot of money and more knowledge of this. But I think we're quite close.
MAGNAY: There are a number of teams of scientists worldwide working on the concept of driverless cars. Patrick Vogel from the Free University calls it friendly competition.
PATRICK VOGEL, FREE UNIVERSITY BERLIN: People are optimistic to make those cars available for the customer in 2030. Right now we and our colleagues prove that technology is ready to be tested on the street.
MAGNAY: If I wanted to order myself an autonomous taxi, all I would need an iPads or some kind of smart phone and would press here "pick me up," "request received, I'm on the way." Here it comes. It's a fairly bumpy ride right now. Many drivers enjoy driving too much to hand over control completely to their car. But Vogel's convinced self-driving cars will prove the safer option in years to come.
VOGEL: I'm not so sure you can really say that the human is the best and most intelligent way to control a motor vehicle. So even if it's not on the market in two or three years, there's no doubt it will be.
MAGNAY: In the smart city of the future we might all be driving on auto pilot.
Diana Magnay, CNN, Berlin.