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North Korea "On Brink of War;" "Carnival of Resistance"; What Triggered North Korea's Show of Power?; Body Scanner Protest Fizzles

Aired November 24, 2010 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, U.S. battleships head into war games, while North Korea says it's on the brink of a real war. This hour, the one country that could stop tensions from exploding after an unprecedented attack.

Also, thousands of university students face-off against police. Now they say they're fighting for their education and against higher tuition.

And the Tea Party may be getting some competition. We'll tell you who's trying to launch a new grassroots movement designed to appeal to the political center.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are now getting a better view of the damage from North Korea's brazen and deadly attack on a South Korean island yesterday. But it is not yet clear how this provocation will play out. U.S. and South Korean forces are set to begin war games in the region on Sunday. And the Obama administration is cautiously weighing its options, hoping to tamp down any fears of an all-out war that could go nuclear.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is following the story for us -- Ed, we know that one of the most important players in all of this is China, a very important trading partner with North Korea, a big influence there.

What do we know about what the Obama administration is doing to reach out to China and play a more significant role?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you're absolutely right. And we're told by administration officials that there have been a lot of calls back and forth between Washington and Beijing over the last 24 hours. But it's going to ramp up over the course of the next couple of days. Administration officials saying President Obama is now planning, in the next couple of days, to call his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao to try to discuss this situation and try to figure out how to diffuse it.

You're absolutely right, China holds all the key cards here in trying to reach out to this secretive regime in North Korea. Now, this follows the president, last night, late in the evening here at the White House, calling his South Korean counterpart, President Lee. They have a pretty good rapport. They've met face-to- face a couple of times over the last year. President Obama's message to President Lee, who has been very direct in -- in warning that there will be massive retaliation against North Korea, potentially, to try to prevent another strike from North Korea. The message from the president, we're told by senior officials, was to try to calm this down, make sure President Lee understands the gravity of the situation and try to make sure this does not escalate over the course of the next couple of days.

But as you noted, the other key here is China. Various U.S. officials, including Admiral Mike Mullen, saying that they may be the ones who can really reason with North Korea here.

Take a listen to what Admiral Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman, said to Fareed Zakaria for his program this weekend.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Have you had any message from the Chinese government, from the Chinese military, about whether they have been able to restrain North Korea or in some way communicate with North Korea?

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The only thing I've actually heard, Fareed, is the -- is the statement from the Chinese government that this should certainly be a restrained environment and -- and that we shouldn't let this thing break out in any significant way.

I believe that it's really important that Beijing lead here, as well. I believe, for some time, that probably the country that can influence North Korea the most is -- is clearly China and --

ZAKARIA: But they are not doing enough so far?

MULLEN: Well, I think it's -- it's too soon -- in this particular incident, it's too soon to tell. I mean the Chinese certainly were involved in the sanctions -- I'm sorry, in the -- in the response at the U.N. When the North Koreans sank the Cheonan. The South Koreans, among others, were not taken back by the -- the strength of that, as far as the response from China.

But we really think it's important for the international community to lead, but all -- but in particular China.


HENRY: Now, it's important to note that President Obama has already had at least seven face-to-face meetings with President Hu over the course of the first two years of his presidency. And in January, President Hu is coming here to Washington for an official visit. So there's obviously a lot of business that's going to be conducted. But that's in January. There's going to be this phone call in the next couple of days, obviously much more urgent. They're going to jump ahead a little bit sooner and get this conversation going, of course.

Another important thing to note. You mentioned the USS George Washington heading to the region. Now, administration officials careful to note that that was already planned. It was supposed to be there by early December. But it's just been accelerated now so those war games can go forward this weekend. Again, the administration wants to stress they're trying to keep peace here, they're trying to calm the situation.

But as you noted, Suzanne, a not so subtle signal to North Korea that the U.S. is ready to defend South Korea, if necessary.


Thanks so much for the update.


MALVEAUX: Now to a different kind of crisis.


MALVEAUX: Thousands of students poured into the streets of London and cities across Britain today. They are protesting the government's plan to allow universities to increase tuition dramatically. Now, police had some mixed success trying to make sure the demonstrators didn't cross the line.

Our CNN's Atika Shubert has been in the middle of all of it.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can see we're in the heart of the protest in Central London. A number of the students have lit up a bonfire. We're actually at Whitehall, before Parliament Square, just in front of Westminster there. And the students have taken over this part of the road in their protest.

And you can see over here, there's actually a police van that they attacked. They've scrawled graffiti all over it. Earlier, they were rocking it back and forth. They've managed to smash in a window or two. But there are no police inside it.

So it was an unruly protest at its height. But police still seem to have everything under control.

I want to just take you around a little bit now and show you what's happening. A lot of these students here not just university students, but high school students -- sixth formers (ph) -- who say that when they graduate, they're going to be affected by this hike in tuition fees -- not just any hike, almost a tripling of tuition fees. And a lot of students here say they do not have the kind of saved up college funds to afford a tripling of tuition fees. And that's why they say they're protesting. And amazingly enough, a lot of their parents apparently supported them coming out to the protest today. Not only that, but a lot of students have told us that their teachers also supported them, saying they have authorized absences to walk right out of the classroom.

Here's what some of those students said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think each individual protest can't make much of a difference. But the protests are going to keep going on until they stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scratch tuition fees. Make education free for everyone. Education is a right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This protest is specifically desired -- designed for people that didn't want to be violent. We don't want to make -- be unruly or anything like that. We're here to say we're upset about it. We're angry. We're not here to make a mess or like get in the way of people's lives.


SHUBERT: Now, some of the protest organizers have called this a carnival of resistance. And that's definitely what appears to be happening. In fact, if anything, they have pumped up the music and it's a bit like a rave. They've got Michael Jackson playing now.

So there's a lot of anger. But this is clearly also an opportunity for a lot of students to basically hold a kind of a street party.

Will this have any effect on the government?


SHUBERT: That remains to be seen. But, clearly, they're going to be feeling the pressure from the street, because these protests -- this will not be the last one. Students say they will be continuing to protest and that they're hoping these protests will reach out more than just to the students. They're hoping to get the unions involved, as well.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.


MALVEAUX: Back here in the United States, Sarah Palin isn't shying away from a spat with a fellow Republican and former first lady, Barbara Bush. You may remember Mrs. Bush was dismissive of Palin's presidential prospects in a recent interview with CNN's Larry King.


LARRY KING, HOST: What's your read about Sarah Palin?

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I sat next to her once. I thought she was beautiful. And I think she's very happy in Alaska. And I hope she'll stay there.


MALVEAUX: Today, the former Alaska governor responded to Mrs. Bush's jab.

Listen to what she said in a national radio interview.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the majority of Americans don't want to put up with the blue bloods. And I say it with all due respect, because I love the Bushes -- but the blue bloods who want to pick and choose their -- their winners instead of allowing competition.


MALVEAUX: Palin has said she is considering a bid for the White House and that if she did run, she could beat President Obama. She also cautioned that she'd step aside if she thought her candidacy would hurt her party.

Well, if you still have a plane to catch before Thanksgiving dinner, stand by to find out if a planned protest of airport body screenings actually panned out today.

And we're going to tell you what happened when an American student convicted of killing her British roommate returned to court today.

And there is late word on when the Space Shuttle Discovery may finally launch the last time.


MALVEAUX: As millions of Americans travel through airports this holiday weekend, Jack Cafferty has security on his mind -- and we don't blame him.

With The Cafferty File -- Jack, it's a good thing you and I don't have to fly this holiday season, huh?


As the national debate over full body scans and pat-downs at airports rages on, there is another idea that perhaps deserves a second look -- profiling.

It works pretty darned well in Israel.

Questions of political correctness, though, always seem to put an end to the discussion here in the United States. Instead, we are now reduced to getting our crotches grabbed.

However, a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows 70 percent of Americans support using available information about passengers to determine who gets picked for extra security screening.

When asked what criteria ought to be used to select those passengers, 86 percent said personal behavior, 78 percent say travel history, 55 percent nationality and 50 percent, personal appearance.

This goes to the point that not all profiling is equal. There's a big difference between smart profiling and the less effective kind based on race, religion, gender or country. What's important is for the United States to improve profiling based on things like behavior, no-fly lists, data and travel history. It turns out a lot of pilots -- commercial pilots -- support this kind of profiling. "The Daily Beast" reports that online pilot discussion groups show that they complain the government's wasting resources by applying the same broad security measures to everybody.

Meanwhile, with all the hype over airline security, consider this. Politico has a story -- 99 million domestic flights -- 99 million domestic flights carrying seven billion passengers in the last decade. There have been zero bombs snuck on to airplanes and detonated. Zero.

Here's the question, then -- when it comes to airport security, is it time to reconsider profiling?

Go to and let us know your thoughts -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: It's a surprising statistic there.

Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: It will be interesting to see what people have to say.

It is not easy trying to figure out the motives of a U.S. adversary described by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as, quote, "belligerent, dangerous and destabilizing," But we're hearing a lot of speculation about why North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, might have approved the most serious attack on the peninsula since the Korean War.

I want to bring in our senior political analyst David Gergen. Thanks for joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

I want you to take a listen here, this is a quote from former President Jimmy Carter in an op-ed today. This is how he put it, he says, "No one can completely understand the motivations of the North Koreans, but it is entirely possible that their recent revelation of the uranium enrichment centrifuges and Pyongyang's shelling of a South Korean island Tuesday are designed to remind the world that they deserve respect in negotiations that will shape their future. Ultimately, the choice for the United States may be between diplomatic niceties and avoiding a catastrophic confrontation." What do you think? What do you think of his assessment? Do you agree?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Suzanne, the North Korean outrages have brought tensions in that region to the highest level in two decades and with it, a lot of people who are expressing their views.

President Carter does have special standing here. He has been received by the North Koreans in the past. He has laid the groundwork for important negotiations. So it's important that we hear his voice.

And what he's basically saying is this is a rational regime that is looking for respect and the United States ought to consider the possibility of having direct talks, U.S. government sitting down with the North Korean government, to settle these matters.

Now, there are others, including his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski , who had a piece in the "Financial Times" today, and he's arguing basically these folks are insane. That -- or there's a regime totally out of control.

He takes a much harder line than his old boss and says, no, this is an opportunity really to show that the U.S. and China working together can bring North Korea back into the fold as a more responsible nation.

I happen the to think the Brzezinski argument is more persuasive.

MALVEAUX: Having covered President Bush for a good eight years there, he always took this pretty hard-line stand on North Korea saying he did not want to negotiate, he did not want to talk unless it was broad six-party talks, other nations getting involved, and that never seemed to really get Kim Jong-il to behave.

What do you think would change his behavior?

GERGEN: Well, it's not clear. But let's also understand that the negotiations of President Carter helped to kick off and got an agreement in 1994 with the North Koreans. But the North Koreans proceed to violate that agreement. That's when they broke out, in effect, and started developing nuclear materials and reprocessed plutonium and now, they have material enough for six to eight bombs, some people think more.

You know, I think that in general, the world believes that this is a time to make sure that the North Koreans are not rewarded for their behavior, but instead, you know, find a very firm response.

These kind of situations, Suzanne, which are often look like they're really threatening are also opportunities. And I would have to tell you, there are opportunities for two parties here.

There's an opportunity for President Obama to show leadership working with the Chinese. He could really form the alliance that Brzezinski is talking about. And if China and the U.S. working together can get a solution to this, that would send a major signal to the rest of the world that the next few years, China and U.S. can work together on a lot of issues.

There's another opportunity here, and that's for the South Koreans. You know, the South Koreans just jammed President Obama on trade when he went there to Seoul just a few weeks ago. We've got our people on the line there. We pour plenty of money in there. We've got ships going in there to help protect them.

Don't you think they have an opportunity to show us we really appreciate what we're doing, what you're doing, and now we're going to reach an agreement on this trade deal with you also that you can get your cars in here, your goods in here and sell America and American goods? And our country, after all, we're protecting you. We're protecting you, South Korea, this is your opportunity to step up.

MALVEAUX: All right, we'll see if South Korea does that. We know that President Obama will be reaching out to the leadership, as well, of those in China.

So thank you so much, David. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

A U.S. jury did something today that hasn't been done in almost 200 years. The history-making verdict is up next.

And Britain's Queen Elizabeth is making headlines in the Persian Gulf. Hear why her trip to the region is so significant.


MALVEAUX: Brianna Keilar is monitoring a rare piracy trial that is happening here in the United States of all places, and some other top stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Brianna, good to see you, but what are you working on?


Well, for the first time in almost 200 years, a federal jury in the U.S. has convicted five men of piracy. The defendants, all from Somalia, attacked an American warship in the Indian Ocean this past April thinking it was a merchant vessel. Well the USS Nicholas thwarted the attack and captured the pirates and now they all face mandatory life sentences.

An American student convicted of killing her British roommate will have to wait until next month before appealing her case. Amanda Knox is serving a 26-year prison sentence in Italy for plotting with her boyfriend and a third accomplice to murder 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. Fifteen minutes after Knox's appeal hearing today, the judge adjourned the proceedings until December 11th.

And the Senate Armed Services Committee has just announced two days of hearings on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The hearings are scheduled next Thursday and Friday just two days after the Pentagon releases its review of the impact of lifting the ban on openly gay service members. The authors of the review will testify along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top military officials.

And mark your calendars, the Space Shuttle Discovery now tentatively scheduled to blast off December 17th. Liftoff has been delayed several times because of bad weather and mechanical problems, including cracks found in the spacecraft's external fuel tank. NASA wants to figure out what caused the cracks before launching what's expected to be Discovery's last mission.

That last mission for Discovery, not the last shuttle mission.

MALVEAUX: That's right. There's another one scheduled for late February. I was going to actually attend that Discovery launch, but it kept getting pushed back and back further.

KEILAR: Have you seen one?

MALVEAUX: I haven't seen one up close and personal. Have you seen one?

KEILAR: It's amazing, yes. An unbelievable experience. It's one of those things you really have to see in person. It's really cool.

MALVEAUX: I'm going to get my tickets.

KEILAR: Good. Very good.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Brianna.

On this super busy flying day, a planned protest of body scanners threatened to create travel nightmares. Stand by to find out what is happening at the airports now.

And the Republican takeover of the House is likely to change the political climate on the issue of global warming.

Also --


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kate Bolduan in Williston, North Dakota where it is freezing. That's part of the problem in this boom town. I'll explain coming up.


MALVEAUX: Well, an airline spokesman is calling a planned protest today of new body scanning techniques as a non-event. That is probably just fine with most fliers who are already worried about crowds and delays on one of the busiest travel days of the year, but the uproar over revealing scans and embarrassing pat downs may not be over yet.

We want to go to Jeanne Meserve at Reagan National Airport just outside of Washington. Hey, Jeanne, what has the day been like? JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, all that huffing and puffing about gridlock at the nation's airports turned out to be a lot of hot air. There are people who have concerns about some of these new enhanced security techniques. Some of them may have chosen not to fly, those who did were not opting out in large numbers.


MESERVE (voice-over): Holiday travels with all of its joys and few of its hassles. From Washington to Denver and cities all across the nation, security lines moved relatively quickly with no sign that significant numbers of passengers were protesting by opting out of revealing body scans in favor of slower pat downs.

Many passengers said they were fine with trading some privacy for more security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't want to go through it, walk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I figure anybody wants to look at me under my clothes at my age, go for it.

MESERVE: Even some parents with children said the body scanner was fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We told them about the X-ray. Told them they're going to take a little picture --



MESERVE: There were some travelers with a different viewpoint. And at some airports, protesters showed up.

BRIAN AEFSKY, OPPOSES TSA PROCEDURES: Trying to wake people up. Our freedoms are slowly being taken away. Where does it end? I mean, are they going to start doing body cavity searches on us?

MESERVE: The new security was imposed, officials say, to better detect something like the underwear bomb that almost brought down an airplane over Detroit last Christmas. But uproar over the new measures has the TSA promising to explore alternatives and opt out day organizers say that constitutes a victory, even though their protests appear to have fizzled.

BRIAN SODERGREN, OPTOUTDAY.ORG: TSA has taken a step back saying can we modify those pat-downs? Can we change certain procedures to respect privacy, respect passengers a little more? In that regard, it's been extremely successful.


MESERVE: But TSA is also pleased. The agency took a lot of heat for rolling out these new security measures without explaining them. But the administrator has been everywhere for the last week making his case.

A lot of people clearly bought into the argument that this security is necessary. But we talked to a lot of travelers today whose priority wasn't security, it wasn't privacy, they just wanted to get home to the holidays.

Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jeanne. You get home for the holidays, too. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Well, there's more evidence that most air travelers are not riled up about revealing airport security screenings. A "USA Today"/Gallup poll finds that 71 percent of fliers believe the potential loss of privacy is worth it to prevent terrorism. More than half of those surveyed, 57 percent say they are not bothered or angry about full- body scans. There is slightly more discomfort with the extensive pat- downs with fewer than half saying they aren't bothered by that procedure.

Well, some fliers who aren't concerned about privacy issues may be worried about possible radiation exposure from airport scanners. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been looking into that part.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you're traveling this holiday season, you're probably wondering just how safe are these new scanners at the airport? After all, they do use radiation.

Well, Rapiscan, the company that makes about 200 of these scanners out there, they say the amount of radiation is well within safety standards. And they're not the only ones who say that. The TSA also says the same thing as does the FDA, John Hopkins University, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

So let's talk about how much radiation comes out of these machines. You would need to have 1,000 scans in order to get the amount of radiation in one chest X-ray. So if you're getting scanned coming and going, that's 500 trips to get the amount of radiation that you have in one chest X-ray. And again, the experts we talked to said they are not terribly concerned about the amount of radiation that's in one chest X-ray.

But there are some researchers who are questioning this number and who are questioning the way that Rapiscan measures their radiation. They say they think it doesn't take 1,000 scans to get the equivalent of a chest X-ray. They think that 100 scans may give you the amount of radiation that's in one chest X-ray. And that's obviously a huge difference.

Even with this more concerning number, you would still have to fly about once a week. That's about 50 trips a year, once a week, in order to get the amount of radiation in one chest X-ray. What does this mean to you?

No matter which estimate is right, the experts we talked to said this is still a small amount of radiation. If you're still concerned about that radiation, you can always ask for a pat down.

Back to you.


MALVEAUX: And we want you to know that CNN followed up and contacted the maker of those new scanners in Elizabeth's report. The company says it stands by the original calculation that the risk of radiation is minimal.

On another story, an actor who appeared on the hit TV show "Ugly Betty" is accused of murdering his mother with a sword. CNN has learned stunning new details in an exclusive interview with the man's father.

Also, a health emergency for a powerful leader involved in the Middle East.

Why Queen Elizabeth has to step away from royal wedding planning, at least for now.


MALVEAUX: Brianna Keilar is monitoring other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a new announcement from President Obama.

Brianna, what you got on President Obama?

KEILAR: Well, actually, on President Obama we're going to be talking about that a little later. But first, we have something on another president, former President George Bush. He's now a member of another elite group. The presidential million book sales club. Bush's new book "Decision Points" has sold just more than 1 million copies in the first two weeks out. The former president has plenty of company in his new club. President Obama and former presidents Clinton and carter all wrote books that sold millions of copies.

And the king of Saudi Arabia is recuperating from back surgery at a New York hospital. According to Saudi state media, King Abdullah was suffering from a herniated spinal disk and a blood clot. Saudi officials called today's surgery a success, though. The crowned prince sultan is in control of state affairs while the king recovers here in the U.S.

And on to queens. Queen Elizabeth is in the United Arab Emirates, her first state visit there since 1979. She's accompanied by her husband, Prince Phillip, her son, Prince Andrew as well as the British foreign secretary and this visit is intended to strengthen ties between the two nations which share a historical connection. The emirates were British protectorates until 1971. And tomorrow they head to Oman for a three-day visit. And that's why the queen has had to take a little break from wedding planning. Cakes and flowers and stuff.

MALVEAUX: All right, Brianna, thank you.

In a hypothetical race with President Obama, Sarah Palin, and Michael Bloomberg, who would come out on top? The results are just ahead in today's "Strategy Session."

And later, a gruesome case involving an actor who appeared on the show "Ugly Betty." He's accused of killing his mother with a sword while shouting references to the bible.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the son saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moses, Jesus said pick up your bed and walk.



MALVEAUX: If President Obama were to take on Sarah Palin and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg in a three-way race in 2012, well, the question is who would come out on top? That question tops today's "Strategy Session."

Joining us, two CNN contributors, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. Thanks for joining us.

What do you think of that? We've got a poll that says the hypothetical match-up, President Obama would get 45 percent of the vote, Sarah Palin 31 percent, Michael Bloomberg 15 percent, 9 percent are unsure. Does this tell us --

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, the conventional wisdom for the last couple of months has been that if somebody like Michael Bloomberg or an independent were to jump into the race, that would take away from President Obama. This poll is pretty interesting because clearly he's taking Republican votes away from Sarah Palin or the Republican nominee. I might be for it.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Fascinating numbers. It divides the anti-Obama vote. Obama holds firm at 45 percent, the anti-Obama vote is split, and Palin's numbers are fascinating. She ties with men, but loses with women by 20 points. She loses independents. Obama gets 90 percent of Democrats, she only gets 60 percent of Republicans, this doesn't say that Sarah Palin should run for president.

MALVEAUX: Does it say anything about Bloomberg? The fact that he's not getting more support as an independent. All the independents feel they're independent-minded and want to go for somebody in a third party?

ROSEN: I just don't think there's enough of an independent block to carry a presidential race. I think you can -- you can make a difference around the edges in Congressional races even in Senate races. I'm skeptical that this works at the presidential level.

CASTELLANOS: I hate it when Hilary's right all the time. Because she's exactly right. There isn't enough oxygen in the middle. You know, politics is about differences. And those differences are on the edges, not in the middle. Everybody talks about an independent candidacy, but it never works. Ask Charlie Crist in Florida.

MALVEAUX: Right. Well, let's talk about whether or not President Obama has any real competition here. This is another poll. It says Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents were asked this question. Should a Democrat challenge President Obama in 2012? Pretty evenly split. You've got 45 percent say yes, 46 percent that say no. Hilary, is it a smart strategy for the Democrats to perhaps nurture someone else if it's that split in the Democratic Party?

ROSEN: I don't think so. I think that, you know, we just took a beating at the polls. I think people are unhappy with where some Democrats are unhappy that President Obama didn't go far enough to the left. Some Democrats are unhappy he didn't compromise more to the middle. Thing is going to shake out. And I think you're going to see extremely strong united Democratic Party.

CASTELLANOS: Hilary and I have to stop meeting like this. Because the biggest political professionals look at a race like this and say what are the most powerful indicators of an incumbent president's going to lose? A bad economy and a divided party. And if you try to divide the Democratic Party now even by nurturing potential opposition to Obama, it would be a disaster for the Democratic Party. The first black president challenged from within in his own party. But these are scary numbers for Obama because they do say half the Democrats are thinking about something else.

MALVEAUX: What Republican would you want to go up against Obama if he wasn't --

CASTELLANOS: Barack Obama is going to bed every night praying for Sarah Palin. That's -- they don't have a strategy for re-election yet. The campaign is young, but they have a hope. And they hope they run against somebody like a Sarah Palin. What Republican would I love to see running against? I'm not sure of the name, but I know what they need to say. They need to say -- they need to offer the country that's kind of mired in a little pessimism a lot of hope. They need to say, look, there's a new economic frontier out there, global frontier. America can compete and win there, don't tell me Barack Obama's ruined this country. Americans can do anything. The candidate who will win is the Obama on the Republican side, the yes, we can Republican.

ROSEN: Sarah Palin takes one thing away from this presidential race, which normally would be a referendum on President Obama. But if Sarah Palin's the Republican nominee, it ends up being as much about her and I think President Obama wins.

MALVEAUX: Let's see what the president thinks about Sarah Palin in his interview with Barbara Walters. Let's take a quick listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I don't speculate on what's going to happen two years from now.

BARBARA WALTERS, JOURNALIST: Mr. President, you will not tell me that you think you could beat Sarah Palin?

OBAMA: What I'm saying is I don't think about Sarah Palin.


CASTELLANOS: He's thinking he'd beat her like one of those fish in a boat. He's absolutely thinking that.

MALVEAUX: You obviously don't believe him.

CASTELLANOS: No, not a single -- they really are hoping that's who they run against. But a hope is not a strategy. And I don't think Palin's running. Palin looks at this race, she'd lose everything she has. She's a tremendous -- the best ever campaign is the day before she announces for president. It's downhill from there.

ROSEN: This is why what the president says is credible. Because what he is most focused on is how do I regroup within Democrats and independents? How do I recreate the Obama coalition, which was not just Democrats. How do I focus on jobs and give people what they want to help me get reelected and to move the country forward?

MALVEAUX: And obviously he's focused on jobs, as well. Talk a little bit about the economy. Because we're getting the numbers. We understand that the record profits for businesses, but there's still a lot of people unemployed. And the fed say they believe it's going to be pretty bad in the next couple of years. How do the Democrats deal with that reality here? When it's still going to be pretty bad in two years. Alex?

CASTELLANOS: Again, that's one of the toughest hand of cards that any incumbent president has to defend is stagnation. He has to return to the Obama -- if I were advising him, return to the Obama of the campaign. Quit pitting one American against another, Wall Street against Main Street. There's some good Americans or bad Americans. Instead say, look, see those Chinese over there? They're going to eat our economic lunch. We all need to work together and we can do it. Americans can do anything. He needs to return -- he was the secretariat of vision during the campaign. He can go back.

MALVEAUX: All right. Alex, Hilary, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you and have a happy Thanksgiving.

CASTELLANOS: Happy turkey day.

ROSEN: Same to you.

MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is asking, when it comes to airport security, is it time to reconsider profiling?

Also, could war games off the Korean peninsula lead to the real thing? We're going to look at the U.S. military's strategy.

And it's that time of year. Yep, that's right. The presidential pardon story that the white house wants people to gobble up.


MALVEAUX: Jack joins us again with the Cafferty file. Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne the question this hour is when it comes to airport security, it is time to reconsider profiling?

C. in Phoenix writes, "Of course the TSA should use profiling. Law enforcement does it all of the time. There are even professional profilers that build up descriptions of criminals to better aid the cops in catching the bad guys. The reason, it works. The idea of randomly selecting people for additional screening is stupid."

Gail in Texas writes, "I don't know, Jack, we are damned if we do and perhaps dead if we don't. We have become a nation of cry babies and afraid of our own shadow. Profiling is not the answer. Timothy McVeigh was a white, domestic terrorist and the signs were there and we didn't follow up on it. And same with 9/11. I'm afraid there is no answer."

Dee in Ohio writes, "Common sense is a better idea. There is always the possibility that grandma might go off of the deep end and decide to take a plane full of passengers with her, but common sense tells us that is not likely. We need to focus on those who have already shown that they want the kill us and leave the old folks and little kids alone."

Amitoj in New Jersey, "The TSA should not profile. Where would the line be drawn? Profiling leads to racial profiling and discrimination, and would profiling have helped to catch the so-called shoe bomber Richard Reid who was a Caucasian? The majority of people wearing turbans in this country are Sikhs and not Muslims. That causes confusion when it comes to the TSA. This would also cause innocent Muslims to be victims of profiling."

Guester writes, "We should have been profiling all along."

Paul in Ontario, "Yes, profile me. We Canadian retired English teachers rarely blow up airplanes."

Jeff in Georgia writes, "Mr. Cafferty, anything that offends those hens on the view, I will most likely support."

If you want to read more, you will find them on my blog at Cafferty.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack. As world leaders discuss ways to restrain North Korea, hundreds of South Koreans are on fleeing the island that was targeted in a deadly attack by Pyongyang. That story is straight ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But first, a housing crisis in a North Dakota town triggered by an economic boom. The story straight ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Here is a look at hotshots. In China a decathlon athlete is flanked by medical officials after being injured. In Mexico, a police officer gets a last minute hairspray touchup for a ceremony. And a Ukrainian president meeting folk singers. And in the U.K. amid all rising protests, one demonstrator wants his favorite canceled TV show back. Hotshots, pictures worth 1,000 words.

Well, Williston, North Dakota is a town in the northwest corner of a state that is tackling other issues that other towns could not dream of right now. Our CNN's Kate Bolduan has the story.

BOLDUAN: Suzanne, they have got a unique problem up here in Williston, North Dakota, and many would not call it a problem, more jobs than they know what to do with, but it has created a crisis you would not expect.


BOLDUAN: Welcome to boomtown, USA. Population, 17,500. Help wanted signs, 2,000 to 3,000.

MAYOR WARD KOESER, WILLISTON, NORTH DAKOTA: Williston is in a unique situation where we have less than 2 percent employment.

BOLDUAN: That's amazing.

KOESER: I know it is.

BOLDUAN: Great news, right? Well there is this. The town now faces a serious housing crisis, hotels, houses, apartments, all full forcing many like Galen Booth to live in campers.

GALEN BOOTH, PLUMBER: It is something you have never seen before on the drive out here and drive home, there are places like this all over, the whole towns and the streets. It is just crazy.

BOLDUAN: Booth has been living here for six weeks with three other men while working on one of the new hotels going up in Williston.

BOOTH: It is not as bad as a person would think. It takes a little adjusting to get used to, but it is not horrible.

KENNETH LEONG, OIL WORKER: I have my sleeping bag and pillow. BOLDUAN: We found Kenneth Leong sleeping in his car outside of a big box retail store. From Rapid City, South Dakota, he is in search of a better job he had back home. How much more are you going to be making than if you went home?

LEONG: $10.

BOLDUAN: That makes a difference?

LEONG: Big difference, offsets the fuel, and offsets the extra effort, and it is worth it.

BOLDUAN: Williston mayor Ward Koeser says that they just can't build housing fast enough.

KOESER: They come here and they find a job usually within a day. It is the not a problem to find a job, but then they have trouble finding a place to live. That is what is happening here, we have builders coming in to build homes and apartments and places for people to live.

BOLDUAN: It is all thanks to oil. New technologies have led to huge oil discoveries in western North Dakota, and oil companies say they are just getting started.

LANCE LANGFORD, EXECUTIVE V.P., OPERATIONS, BRIGHAM EXPLORATION CO.: This is the one unique oil find in the United States that we have had in a long, long time. We have just scratched the surface, and that is not just for us, but that is for the entire industry.

BOLDUAN: With no other option, companies like Halliburton are now building their own man-camps to offer their employees some place to stay. This one is made of shipping containers.

TRAVIS KELLEY, PROJECT MANAGER, TARGET LOGISTICS: We will put this building up to house 158 people in 90 days, so it is quick construction.

BOLDUAN: That is the point?

KELLY: That is the point.

BOLDUAN: Although a long-term solution may still be a couple of years away, Mayor Koeser knows that he is facing a crisis other small town officials only wish they had. Do you like the idea of being called Boom Town, USA?

KOESER: Well, there is good and bad. It sounds exciting and obviously those who have been in one, there are challenges that comes with it, and we are dealing with those in the city level, but I would rather have a boom than bust.


BOLDUAN: City officials fear with the rest of the country in dire straits people will do anything for work, and the weather here is about to shift from cold to deadly. The mayor knows that the housing crisis is not to be solved anytime soon, and he says please come, but wait until spring. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Kate.