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Interview With Rep. Rangel; President Nears Deal with GOP on Tax Cuts; Elizabeth Edwards Stops Cancer Treatment

Aired December 6, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, breaking news on a deal to extend the Bush era tax cuts for everyone. We'll tell you what we're learning about the outlines of a compromise between the White House and Republicans, what it could mean for you.

Also, WikiLeaks strikes a new blow to national security. And its founder could be arrested literally at any moment separate charges. The Feds are promising to make Julian Assange and his Web site pay.

And I'll ask Congressman Charlie Rangel this hour if he's blaming everyone but himself for tax violations that got him censured by the House of Representatives. Stand by for my tough interview with the New York Democrat.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news right now.

We're told the White House is even closer to cutting a deal with the Republicans on tax cuts. This despite 11th hour talks with House Democrats, who fear the president may be shutting them out of the entire process. A compromise is in the works that would temporarily extend Bush era tax breaks for the wealthy, as well as for the middle class. That's what the Republicans want. Democrats would likely get an extension of long-term unemployment benefits that have expired and some short-term incentives for the economy, as well.

Let's go to the White House.

Our correspondent, Dan Lothian, is standing by -- Dan, what details are you learning?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, these details coming to my colleague, Ed Henry, from a senior administration official -- a Democratic official, rather, pointing out that this deal has been reached in principle. Now, we should also point out there's no done deal yet. As you know, this still has to be voted on in Congress. But this does certainly show some progress being made as the White House has been negotiating with the Republicans.

As part of that deal, that two year extension of the Bush era tax cuts, something that, as you'll recall, the president, for months, had said it was something that this country could not afford, but after the election, it was something he was willing to compromise on.

Secondly, the extension of the unemployment insurance for up to 13 months.

And then, thirdly, the extension on estate taxes.

Now, the president was talking about this in North Carolina today. He was at a community college, focusing on the economy, on job creation, but, in particular, the need to compromise on these Bush era tax cuts.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to make sure that we're coming up with a solution, even if it's not 100 percent of what I want or what the Republicans want. And there's no reason that ordinary Americans should see their taxes go up next year.


LOTHIAN: Now, in this meeting that the president had here, along with the vice president and these Democratic leaders at the White House this afternoon, the source telling CNN that the president was spelling out that this was the best time in this political climate, this is the best deal that they can get right now. And I should also point out, as part of this deal, there will be no amendments that can be made because both Republicans and Democrats would want to perhaps make some changes that could unravel the deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the Obama stimulus package tax cuts for the middle class?

I know that the White House would like to see those continued, as well as the Bush era tax cuts.

Is that part of the deal, as far as you know?

LOTHIAN: We understand that that is also part of the deal and some other incentives, as well.

What I spelled out here are just some aspects of this. And, again, this is still just in principle, still being worked out, Wolf. And we should get more details as that all unveils.

BLITZER: And it's not a deal until it's a deal. That means until the House and the Senate pass it. So that could still be problematic, as you point out.

Dan Lothian, thank you.

Right now, there's also new urgency around the world to respond to threats of another Korean War. An international court now is looking into recent attacks by North Korea on South Korean targets to determine if they amount to war crimes. America's top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, is heading to South Korea. The sudden trip a show of U.S. military support against aggression from the Communist North.

Here in Washington, the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is meeting today with top diplomats from South Korea and Japan about the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

China, by the way, conspicuously left out of these talks.

Let's go straight to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.

She's working the story for us.

The tensions are incredibly high right now and everyone is trying to cool them.

What's the latest?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the bottom line here from this meeting today, upstairs at the State Department, is that all three of these allies agree that North Korea faces severe consequences if it doesn't stop its provocations. And they're putting pressure on China to drive home that message.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): War games in international waters off a furious North Korea -- South Korea and the U.S., in a recent show of force.

But could war games turn real?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I would like to ask for a moment of silence for the victims of shelling in South Korea.

DOUGHERTY: Blood already has flowed in the North's deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island. At the State Department, a diplomatic power play -- three allies, the U.S., South Korea, Japan -- strategize on how to stop the North's provocative behavior before war breaks out. Not invited, their key negotiating partner, China -- the one country the U.S. says can talk sense to the North, but isn't.

CLINTON: They have a unique relationship with North Korea. And we would hope that China would work with us.

DOUGHERTY: President Obama called the Chinese president, urging him to tell Pyongyang to knock it off. But China so far has been timid, fearful of pushing the North to the brink.

Could the display of U.S. military might in China's own backyard stiffen its spine?

That's what Washington hopes.

VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The more disturbed the Chinese are about this accelerated pace of military exercises, the more they will try to work harder to stop the North from doing certain things.

DOUGHERTY: But after two nuclear tests and a recent boast that the North is enriching uranium, Kim Jong-il is thumping his chest.

CHA: The way they talk about their nuclear deterrent, more and more these days, gives one the impression that they really do believe that they are now untouchable.


DOUGHERTY: And, Wolf, you know, you can really feel the tension here at the State Department after this meeting that just concluded about an hour ago at the most.

A very important thing. The South Korean defense minister -- the new one now -- is warning that if the North takes action and attacks again, that they would open up air strikes against the North. Then you have that meeting -- that trip that you referred to by Mike Mullen. And one of the reasons that he is going is to try to cool down tensions, because, after all, this is getting very tense. And then, finally, some late breaking news, Wolf, there's another delegation that will be leaving later on this week.

CNN is told that that will be headed by Jim Steinberg, the deputy secretary of State; assistant secretary of State, Kurt Campbell; and, also, the president's top adviser on North Korea, Jeff Bader -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

I know we're going to stay on top of this story. The tensions, obviously, very serious right now.

Also, a possible step forward today for U.S. efforts to put the brakes on Iran's nuclear program, Iranian officials sat down with the representatives of the U.S. and other countries for the first time in more than a year. The first day of talks in Switzerland being described as "constructive." They're scheduled to resume tomorrow. We'll have coverage of those talks.

We're getting new details right now about Elizabeth Edwards' health. The details are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM and the details, unfortunately, are not good. We'll update you on what we know.

There's also no disputing that Congressman Charlie Rangel let a lot of people down. I'll push the New York Democrat about the tax rules he violated, his censure by the House of Representatives and whether he should have simply resigned.

Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear an historic lawsuit against Wal-Mart. And law enforcement appears to be closing in on the founder of WikiLeaks. There are growing fears, though, about what he'll do when he's finally arrested.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Jessica Yellin right now.

She's getting the latest on the health of Elizabeth Edwards.

And I take it, not very good.


According to the family of Elizabeth Edwards, she has decided not to continue her cancer treatment and is no longer receiving treatment for the breast cancer that recurred back in 2007, as her husband was resuming -- beginning his presidential campaign.

Now, according to the family -- a family friend has told our own John King that she was told by her doctors that additional treatment was futile. She learned that last week. Their expectation is that she still has a few weeks to be with us. But she is now getting treatment for what's called palliative care in cancer. That's medicine and aides to help with the suffering and the pain, but it doesn't address the cancer itself.

The family friend says that Mrs. Edwards is not in pain and, quote, "all things considered, there is good vibe where she is, at her home in -- in Chapel Hill."

And we are told that her husband, John Edwards, is there with her, as is the rest of her family and their children.

Now Mrs. Edwards has put out a statement on her own on Facebook. And I'd like to read you part of that. You can find it on her Facebook page. In part, it says, quote: "I have found that in a simple act of living with hope and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that, I am grateful. It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you, I simply say, you know."

That's Mrs. -- those are Mrs. Edwards' own words, Wolf, posted on Facebook.

BLITZER: Very sad. A very courageous woman.

But you say John Edwards is there by her side?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That is what a family friend has told our John King, that John Edwards and their children are there with her. As you know, this is a cancer that recurred. It came. She seemed to be in remission and then it returned at the beginning of his campaign. We all remember those days so well.

And despite their marital troubles and their differences, he is, according to this, with her today.

BLITZER: We're praying for her and her family.

Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

New concerns right now that the country's ailing economy won't be bouncing back any time soon.

In an interview yesterday with "60 Minutes," the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, shared a pessimistic view of what's in store.

CNN's Christine Romans is joining us with more -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, It's very rare for a Fed chief to sit down for a television interview. He did it once before with "60 Minutes," in March of 2009.

Bernanke is now defending why it's appropriate for the Fed to do what's been called QE2, quantitative easing, hoping to juice the economy by buying up $600 billion in Treasury securities to lower interest rates, weaken the dollar and encourage bank lending.

To critics of the Fed's stimulus, he says with unemployment still high and the recovery slow, the risk is too great to not act. And he doesn't rule out more Fed stimulus ahead.


SCOTT PELLEY, HOST: Do you anticipate a scenario in which you would commit to more than $600 billion?

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Well, it's certainly possible. And, again, it depends on the efficacy of the program. It depends on inflation. And, finally, it depends on how the economy looks.


ROMANS: It's all about creating jobs. The unemployment rate has been above 9 percent longer than any time on record -- more than a year and a half now. And he said a more normal jobless rate is years away.


BERNANKE: Between the peak and the end of last year, we lost 8.5 million jobs. We've only gotten about a million of them back so far. And that doesn't even count the new people coming into the labor force. At the rate we're going, it could be four or five years before we are back to a more normal unemployment rate, somewhere in the vicinity of, say, 5 or 6 percent.


ROMANS: A sobering analysis from the most popular economist in the world, but not a surprise. We know it takes at least 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with U.S. population growth.

When asked about the tax cut debate, Bernanke declined to talk about politics. He did, however, say we need a more efficient tax code, eliminating loopholes and lowering rates for people and businesses -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Christine Romans, thanks very, very much.

Four or five years until that unemployment rate gets down to a relatively normal number, according to Ben Bernanke. Very, very disappointing information.

We're monitoring other important stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well, including my tough interview with legendary Congressman, Charlie Rangel, just days after his public censure by the House of -- the House of Representatives. You're going to hear what he has to say was his biggest mistake.

Plus, there's a political debate intensifying right now over extending the so-called Bush-era tax cuts. Is the president close to making a deal with the Republicans?


BLITZER: Congressman Charlie Rangel is fighting to try to reclaim his reputation right now after a humiliating punishment by his colleagues for violating House rules on taxes. The former chairman of the Powerful Ways and Means Committee has been on the defensive for several days now about ethics and by his censure, formal censure in the House of Representatives. We felt he hadn't fully answered enough tough questions about what he did and who's to blame.


BLITZER: And joining us now, Democratic Congressman, Charlie Rangel, of New York. Congressman Rangel, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL, (D) NEW YORK: It's good to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know you let a lot of people down.

RANGEL: Well, I made mistakes, and of course, it's an embarrassment. And the worst thing is having people having to explain what has happened. And it lasted so long. But the nightmare is over. And I think that when the record is understood, that they would know that Rangel was about as honest as they come, worked hard, made mistakes, and I do believe that the final results as relates to a censure, what's political, and I don't think anyone (ph) would say that this wasn't a new and different standard. BLITZER: All right. Let's go through them because, you know, a lot of people -- especially when you were the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, they held you to a very high standard.

RANGEL: And that --

BLITZER: Especially on tax-related issues which your committee is in charge of.

RANGEL: And that should be -- members of Congress, especially senior members, should be setting an example for the younger members. And so, there's no excuse at all. And I'm not blaming anyone except myself. I just wanted to make it abundantly clear that there's nothing in the record that shows that I deliberately tried to deceive anyone in terms of financial holdings or taxes.

BLITZER: But let's go through specifically. One of the charges that you improperly solicited millions of dollars from lobbyists for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the city college of New York. In fact, this was inappropriate for a sitting member of Congress, especially a chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to raise millions of dollars from lobbyists for this city university of New York.

RANGEL: Had I had applied to the House rules, no one challenges that that provision would have been waived and I, like so many members of the House --

BLITZER: Why didn't you? Why didn't you?

RANGEL: Because my office and I did not know that it would be against the House rules to go to foundations that had set up themselves --

BLITZER: These weren't just foundations. These were lobbyists who dealt with your committee.

RANGEL: No, no, no. You keep saying lobbyists, and I keep saying that most of these letters were sent out to foundations. And that this is all I had to do was to have staff and I pay attention --

BLITZER: But this was sloppy. That's what you're just saying, it was sloppy.

RANGEL: I don't even say it was sloppy. It was my negligence in not checking the rules before I sent out these letters.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the next allegation. Failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets on financial disclosure forms?

RANGEL: Well, one thing that's clear that when I signed certain things, I relied on other people. That's where I made the mistake. But there's no inference or evidence I was trying to hide anything, because if you look at all of the forms and see where it was not disclosed, this other public form is where it was disclosed. And so, there's no evidence that I had --

BLITZER: But you didn't personally take a look and see what your staff or your accountants were submitting on your behalf?

RANGEL: I like so many others when they say it's time to file your disclosures, and I said, did you look over it, they say yes and I signed it. Wolf, the reason that I'm taking for responsibility is the things that we do that we're so busy there's no real legitimate excuse for it. But, heck, everything that your chief of staff brings to you, if you ask if you look at it, they say yes.

BLITZER: Let's go to the next allegation that you were, I guess, convicted of -- you don't like that phrase?

RANGEL: I don't like that phrase.

BLITZER: But they voted.

RANGEL: Because it means it was acquired.

BLITZER: They voted that you were -- you were wrong in maintaining a rent-stabilized apartment that you used for campaign in Manhattan, in Harlem?

RANGEL: The facts are abundantly clear. And I hope I can invite your viewers to go to the website, the ethics website, my website, any website, and take a look at the support that they had. One thing is clear, New York City and state lawyers that operate this stabilization program indicate Rangel and the landlord broke no rent stabilization laws. They say that I violated a lease because my son was put on there.

First of all, the landlord knew exactly what was happening. This apartment had been vacant. He wanted it filled. He knew it was for an office. By a campaign check. And so why would they include that? They would say in the allegations that it appeared as though I was receiving -- appeared as though a benefit from the landlord.

BLITZER: Which would be a violation of the House rules.

RANGEL: It would be, but where was -- if the landlord got paid maximum rent and I have not violated the stabilization laws, why would it look like -- it's so subjective. That I can't argue with them how it appeared, but appeared to whom?

BLITZER: I think the most serious charge, at least in the public, was the failure to pay income taxes on this villa that you owned in the Dominican Republic. And we've all seen of that picture of you lying on that chaise lounge in the Dominican Republic. Why didn't you pay income tax on that?

RANGEL: Well, if I told you I did pay income tax on that, the next question is then why -- this was in the Dominican Republic. The whole transaction was that if and when it made profit, those profits would not come directly to me. That these profits would go directly to a reduction of the mortgage. And so, the building was supposed to be worth an $80,000 villa.

And I paid $30,000, and it took 20 years for the $50,000 to ultimately be paid because I did not receive any cash contribution, because the non-cash contribution was the reduction of the mortgage. The taxes that were taken out were paid to the Dominican Republic.

BLITZER: But it's just the Ways and Means Committee or ranking member. You're in charge of writing the tax laws. You should have known that you had an obligation to the IRS as well.

RANGEL: There is no question that -- that the accountant -- had they known that the reduction of the -- of the mortgage was, in fact, a -- a cash reduction and should have been reported. The fact is that, hey, if you're saying should I have known, yes. Should I have been censured, I say no.

BLITZER: But at least this conversation, Congressman, that we're having, it seems - And I want to give you a chance to respond to this -- you're blaming your staff, you're blaming your accountants, but you're not really blaming yourself.

RANGEL: I am trying to say as clear as I can that there's no one else to blame except myself.


BLITZER: In a moment, more of my interview with Charlie Rangel, including his reaction to new allegations that are now being leveled against him since the censure. Stand by for that.

Also, coming up at 6:00 p.m., the top of the hour here in the SITUATION ROOM, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, issuing a doomsday threat if he's arrested or worst (ph). Standby for that.


BLITZER: The White House has just announced that President Obama will be making a statement to the nation from the White House in the next hour. We assume it's on the prospects of some sort of deal, deal with the Republican and Democratic leadership on whether to go forward with continuing the Bush-era tax cuts, not just for the middle class, those making under $250,000 a year, but for everyone including millionaires and billionaires as the president likes to say.

We'll, of course, have live coverage here in the SITUATION ROOM. Once again, the president of the United States getting ready to address all of us from the White House in the next hour. We'll stand by for that.

Just a little while ago, we heard Congressman Charlie Rangel declare no one else is to blame but himself for violating House tax rules and getting himself censured by his colleagues in the House of Representatives. But it the New York Democrat fully making amends to the American people?

In my interview with him today, I pressed Charlie Rangel with him further about what he did, the damage he's caused and what comes next.


BLITZER: You understand why so many Americans right now don't trust Congress in part because of you?

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: And that's why I got the censureship, because no member of Congress wanted to say that Rangel was sloppy, overzealous, and had a higher responsibility, so therefore he should be censured.

BLITZER: Did you ever think of resignation?

RANGEL: No, because I was elected by a constituency that has supported me all of this time. They thought that I had been doing a better than good job over the years, and that had been supported by my legislative record, by my reputation, by the mayor, by the governor, and by the political people that support me.

BLITZER: So you're not going to resign now, you're staying in the Congress?

RANGEL: I was elected. I think it would be wrong for me to hold myself out as wanting to do a good job, as I have in the past, for me to jump up and resign.

What -- where would resignation take my community, the Congress, and the country? What benefits would be received if my experience and the causes that I've supported were not fought on by me?

BLITZER: Have you seen this latest story in "The New York Post" suggesting that the Federal Election Commission is investigating a complaint that Rangel improperly used his national leadership pact, your political action committee, to fund his legal offense on ethics charge for which he was censured?

RANGEL: The group that reported that know that that's unfounded. This is the group --

BLITZER: As far as you know, is the FEC investigating you?

RANGEL: No. As far as I know, my lawyers that handled my FEC say that this is inaccurate and it had already been prior approved before these funds were used.

BLITZER: But did you use your national leadership pact to fund legal expenses?

RANGEL: Yes, I did and with --

BLITZER: Is that appropriate?

RANGEL: Yes, it is. And we have written authority from them.

BLITZER: From who?

RANGEL: From the lawyers that were asked the questions before we even done it.

BLITZER: From the lawyers from your pact, you mean?

RANGEL: From the lawyer that handles the FEC issues. We had authority before we've done it. And also, at that time, when I had a lawyer, they approved of what was going on.

BLITZER: Are you at all concerned that criminal charges could be leveled against you?

RANGEL: No, of course not. Of course not.

BLITZER: No one has suggested that?

RANGEL: They never have in all of the years that I've been in public life, and this is especially so since I'm a former federal prosecutor.

BLITZER: A lot of average Americans, they look at you and they say, you know, he got censured. What does that mean? Nancy Pelosi was on the floor and she read this censure, which was painful politically, but average Americans who don't pay back taxes, some of them wind up going to jail.

RANGEL: I am telling you that you need intent to do these things, Wolf, you know it and I know it. And I want you to know horridly (ph), if there was any evidence at all that I had committed or possibly committed any crime, than that would have been in the report that they have studied for two years.

It would seem to me that even though as embarrassing -- and even though the citizens of this great country have a right to expect a higher criteria, the whole idea of me being censured is evidence of that frustration.

BLITZER: One final opportunity for you to speak into the camera, talk to the American people, and tell them from your heart right now what your biggest mistake was and what you would have done differently if you could have.

RANGEL: My biggest mistake was not abiding by what I truly believe, and that is that people who are involved in -- have the privilege to serve the public, should have a higher standard in terms of following the rules.

These rules, even though it doesn't amount, in my opinion, to a censure, are so important to the individuals, so important to the House and so important to the integrity of the Congress as a whole, to rely on staff that's not relieved me of any of the responsibilities.

So I would hope that newer members and those that are less experienced, make certain that when you sign those papers, that you didn't leave it up to accountants and chiefs of staff, because ultimately, you will be held accountable and you should be held accountable. And you should be punished, but that punishment should be, in my opinion, fair. BLITZER: Congressman Rangel, thanks very much for coming in, taking in all of the questions.

RANGEL: Well, Wolf, I wouldn't do this with a lot of people, but your reputation for fairness precedes you. And as I said earlier, I am trying to put this behind me, but I felt that your viewers and the people had the right to know, and the only way to do this is not to put any restrictions at all on the interview and to say you were thorough would be an understatement on my part.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

RANGEL: Thank you.


BLITZER: We've just learned in the past few minutes that President Obama will be making a major statement to the nation on tax cuts within the hour. We're standing by for live coverage. We're going to the White House, we'll hear what the president has to say, presumably on whether or not there's a deal with the Republican and Democratic leadership on extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

Stand by. We'll have live coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up fairly soon.

Also, the slogan is terrorism is a choice. We'll look at an unprecedented campaign to get inside the heads of would-be attackers and stop them before it's too late.

And we also have new information about two American balloonists who are now missing.

And out of 44 presidents who've served in the White House, which one is the most popular with Americans right now?

Stand by.


BLITZER: It all comes down to choice, that's the message in a brand new global effort designed to deal with terrorism, reaching out to terrorists before it's too late. Let's go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick, she's working the story for us.

Deb, what do we know?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here's the question: How do you appeal to want to be jihadis (ph) around the world? What is the one thing they all have in common? It's not all that complicated.


FEYERICK (voice-over): For every terror attack, every failed attempt, there's a critical moment, security experts call it a crossroads for the individual carrying it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truly, terrorism is a choice. Often it's a rational choice but based on perhaps irrational facts.

FEYERICK (on camera): That terrorism as a choice may sound obvious, but as this poster shows, it's the first time it's being used as a slogan uniting countries around the world in a single message. Call it the first global PR campaign targeting potential extremists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To engage in that violent extreme is very much a personal choice by the individual.

What the poster is trying to reflect is that that it is a decision and there are alternatives.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Security experts Mark Fallen (ph) and others spent more than a year talking to police around the world, analyzing their counterterrorism strategies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What works in Singapore is not going to work in Indonesia or in Great Britain.

FEYERICK: Among the findings, some countries like France and the U.S., as seen in the recent Portland plot, treat the threat of radicalization primarily as a crime to be prosecuted.

Others, like Singapore, use intelligence to find young men at risk, then stage an intervention relying on family pressure. In some cases, even offering a job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any successful program is going to be multidimensional and it's going to involve more than police, it's going to involve more than security. It's got to involve the community, it's got to involve social systems, psychologists, et cetera.

FEYERICK: The findings were recently endorsed by Interpol, the world's largest police organization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a brilliant campaign. It shows society that there is more than one way to try to fight terrorism. The military is being used in some parts of the world. Law enforcement is being used around the world. We need to find ways to get these people to be persuaded not to be terrorists. FEYERICK: A global effort to reach disaffected youth, hoping to persuade them to disengage from violence and convince them there are other ways to bring about change.


FEYERICK: Now, through Interpol, more than 188 countries were made privy to this particular report. They realize there's no one- size-fits-all approach to fighting terrorism, but by studying what works and building a strategy around a unified message, they hope it will help police agencies tailor efficient strategies to fight terrorism -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right, Deb. Thanks very much, Deborah Feyerick, with that report.

The Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claims unemployment could have been so much worse if it weren't for the various bailouts. Is he right? Our "Strategy Session" getting ready to weigh in.

Plus, Mike Huckabee says he's seriously considering a run for president, but can he do it without the so-called buzz?

And we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. He's getting ready to address the nation from the White House on a potential tax deal with the Republican leadership. We'll have live coverage coming up.


BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

Guys, thanks very much.

They just told us at the White House the president is about to address the nation. we'll have live coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM, that's coming up fairly soon.

Paul, it looks like there's a deal in the works that's going to be causing a lot of heartburn for many of your fellow Democrats who hate the fact that he might agree to a two-year extension of the Bush- era tax rates for millionaires and billionaires, as he likes to say.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, right, if in fact. You just hear the gossip and rumors, let's wait and see what the president says a little bit after 6:00.

But certainly, what Democrats are worried about, what they hear in the grapevine is that he would say not only just agree to the -- really the top Republican economic idea, priority, the thing they want the most, it seems to me, is to continue those Bush-era tax cuts, particularly for upper income Americans.

What is he going to get in exchange for that, right? If he doesn't get something big like his own top economic priority, like, oh say, sustained funding and support for Obamacare, the health care plan, or a massive new investment on green jobs to get us off of Middle East oil, something big in exchange for this very, very big priority for the Republicans, then he's going to get a very chilly reception from his own party.

BLITZER: It looks like what he's going to get, Ed, is a very simple continuation of the unemployment benefits for those who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks, let's say for another year or 13 months, and the continuation of the Obama economic stimulus package tax cuts for the middle class. It looks like that's in the works, not what Paul Begala is suggesting. ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't -- Paul and I could sit here and debate all day, and we won't take your time to do that.

I think this is a positive thing. I think this is what bipartisanship is about. This is -- anything would be a tax increase for all Americans if this thing wasn't fixed. You know, Paul could talk about the millionaires and billionaires or what have you, but in this economic situation, any basically raising of taxes is going to cost jobs, particularly small business jobs, and you don't want to do that with 9.8 percent unemployment.

Equally as important, the unemployment insurance, extending that, which obviously we'd much rather have it paid for would paid for somewhere else, but these millions of Americans who are unemployed have to be taken care of.

BLITZER: And by the way, continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone over 10 years is $4 trillion, so that's a lot of money. If you just do it for those earning under $250,000 a year, it's $700 billion if you exclude the wealthier Americans.

I want to play you a little exchange that Scott Pelley had on "60 Minutes" last night with Ben Bernanke. Ben Bernanke defending what the Federal Reserve and the government did during the bank crisis.

Let's listen to this.


BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: Unemployment might be much, much higher. It might be something like it was in the depression, 25 percent.

We saw what happened when one or two large financial firms came close to failure or to failure. Imagine if 10 or 12 or 15 firms had failed, which is where we were almost in the fall of 2008. It would have brought down the entire global financial system, it would have had enormous implications, very long-lasting implications for the global economy, not just the U.S. economy.


BLITZER: I know some of your fellow Republicans, Ed, hate the fact that the federal government invested trillions and trillions of dollars to deal with this crisis, but you hear what Ben Bernanke says now, there could have been 25 percent unemployment and a global economic collapse.

ROLLINS: I think it's very important. The chairman of the Federal Reserve has a lot to do with what happens to the economy, presidents don't. He talked in terms of the $3.3 trillion that the Federal Reserve put in to 21,000 transactions. He made it clear that that was not Treasury money, that was Federal Reserve money.

And I think, to a certain extent, there's no question that stimulated the economy and it would have been desperate if we lost more of the big banks and the big corporations. So I think what they did was a positive thing that's kind of a bipartisan group, it's an independent entity and it wasn't taxpayer money at the end of the day. And he made it very clear that most of the money is being paid back, it's not already paid back.

BLITZER: Do you buy that, Paul?

BEGALA: Well it is the American people's money, it is taxpayers money, I disagree with Ed about that. And I -- obviously -- look, Chairman Bernanke not only is the head of the Federal Reserve and the world's most important banker, he's also an economist whose area of expertise is the Great Depression, so he knows what he's talking about there.

I think what has voters so angry and resentful is that Mr. Bernanke, President Bush, Secretary Paulson with a lot of Democratic help stepped in to save the big banks. Who's stepping in to save the middle class? Unemployment is 17 percent, frankly, if you look at the U6 (ph) measure of people who have given up looking or who are desperately underemployed.

We have about 17 percent unemployment in this country if you look at the broader, more accurate gauge and nobody seems to be stepping in for them. In fact, my argument is that the president ought to be making his chief goal jobs. He ought to be the jobs president, the jobs creation president.

And again, if he cuts the deal on taxes, people want to know, how many jobs that going to create, Mr. President, and I bet the answer is darn few.

BLITZER: All right, well we're going to know soon enough cause we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. I want you guys to stand by as well, we're not going away.

We're also going to talk about a big problem for Republican presidential hopefuls who aren't Sarah Palin. How can they attract the kind of buzz that the former Alaska governor gets almost every single day?

And it's being called an historic lawsuit against Wal-Mart, accusing the company of bias against women. Will the U.S. Supreme Court give it the green light?


BLITZER: All right, we're standing by to hear prom the president of the United States. The breaking news we're following, it look like there's a deal. A deal has been reached on tax cuts between the president and the Republican leadership, although it won't be finalized until there are votes in the House and the Senate. We'll hear from the president. Stand by, live coverage coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But let's get back to our "Strategy Session." Right now joining us, our CNN political contributors, Paul Begala and Ed Rollins. Ed, Mike Huckabee, you worked for him during his last bid for the presidency. He didn't get that bid, although he did very, very well, surprisingly well to a lot of folks. The former Arkansas governor is now complaining that he can't generate the buzz that Sarah Palin generates.

"I just don't understand," he tells Politico, "how it is that a person can read these polls day after day and the narrative is constantly everybody but me...Whether I do it or not, the fact is that if one looks at the overall body of information that's available, nobody would be in a better position to take it all the way to November."

So it looks like he wants to run, but he's frustrated that there's a show on TLC called "Sarah Palin's Alaska," there isn't a show on TLC called "Mike Huckabee's Arkansas."

ROLLINS: He has his own show and he basically does very well on another network. He has a daily radio show that 600 people -- 600 stations carry on ABC. So it's not like he's not getting his message out.

Equally as important, and I have great affection for Mike, four years ago, he was at 1 percent when the game started. Rudy Giuliani was at 35 percent leading in 50 states. Fred Thompson jumped in, he got to be 31 percent. Mike Huckabee won Iowa, came in second in delegates to John McCain.

So when the campaign starts, if he wants to go again, Sarah Palin and everybody else better get out of his way. He's head-to-head in polls, CNN poll right after the election. He's beating the president right today. And I think, to a certain extent, he is a very credible candidate when he says he wants to be a candidate.

BLITZER: Is he competing with the same conservative Republican base that Sarah Palin, Paul, is competing with?

BEGALA: I think he is. I mean, Ed would know better having run Governor Huckabee's last campaign -- successfully, as he points out, in Iowa -- but it's got to frustrate him.

As a general matter, I always advise my clients when I used to do campaigns, don't whine. Don't ever whine, don't complain, certainly don't complain about the media. And I don't think this is particularly a great message for Mike Huckabee.

But can you imagine the frustration that guy feels? I mean, here he is, a many-term governor of Arkansas, won in Iowa the last time, and he is being eclipsed, completely blotted out, by a one-half-term governor of a state -- she quit, by the way, in the middle of her term, she quit -- a state that has fewer people than my old hometown of Austin, Texas.

Now, quick: Who's the mayor of Austin? Turns out it's Lee Leffingwell. And Lee Leffignwell's been the mayor of Austin for about as long as Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska, but nobody is saying that Lee Leffingwell ought to be president.

It's got to be driving Huckabee and these other people of some substance crazy that they are being eclipsed by someone with such little substance.

BLITZER: Paul Begala and Ed Rollins -- Ed, quick -- if you want to make a quick point, it's got to be quick.

ROLLINS: The great thing is voters have a say in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina. That changes the whole dynamics.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

I just want to remind our viewers, we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. He's getting ready, he's finalizing a statement he'll be delivering from the White House momentarily, we believe, on whether or not there's a tax deal with the Democratic and Republican leadership.

Stand by, live coverage, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Deb, what's going on?

FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, first to California. A controversial D.C. school reformer, actually this is in D.C., is going national, according to her website.

Former D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee plans to launch an education advocacy group. Her hope is to put together a grassroots organization of educators, parents, people who care about public education. One educator says the idea is to, quote, "provide another voice in the political conversation."

And it is believed that the bodies of two missing American balloonists have been found off the coast of Italy. Officials say the bodies were recovered in deep under water. Their families are headed to Italy to formally identify them. Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rhymer Davis went missing during a race in September. They lost contact with officials when their balloon made a rapid decent in bad weather.

And JFK remains the most popular modern president, according to a new Gallup poll. Kennedy gets an 85 percent job approval rating. He's followed by Ronald Reagan at 74 percent, Bill Clinton at 69 percent, and George H.W. Bush at 64 percent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deb, thank you.