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Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Effort Dies; Interview With New York Congressman Anthony Weiner

Aired December 9, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now, House Democrats defy President Obama, saying they won't even consider the tax cut compromise he hammered out with Republicans unless there are major changes. The latest in a series of stinging setbacks for the president.

Also, online activists on the attack right now against those they perceive as enemies. They are targeting major companies, and some fear this could be the beginning of an all-out cyber war.

And a new twist on those controversial airport security pat-downs -- they are now impacting U.S. diplomacy, after a top foreign dignitary was subjected to one.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just a little while ago, we saw President Obama help light the National Christmas Tree here in Washington, but, tonight, there are no political presents for him, only lumps of coal.

Two of his key issues have gone down in defeat in the last 24 hours, including the DREAM Act and repealing don't ask, don't tell. And now House Democrats are in open revolt against the president, declaring the compromise tax cut plan he brokered with Republicans leaders is simply unacceptable.

In a surprise move, they have approved a resolution rejecting the plan as written, and they say they won't even vote on it unless significant changes are made.

Let's go to the White House.

Our senior correspondent, Ed Henry, is standing by.

Ed, first, on the disappointment that the president must feel over the Senate's decision not to even go forward with a vote on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to repeal it, so that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the United States military.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You are right, Wolf, a huge blow for this president. Robert Gibbs in the last couple days had been saying they were very, very close to getting the supermajority of 60 votes they needed to move forward on this and repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

They only got 57 votes, very close, obviously, but not enough. And the president has just put out a statement in the last couple moments. We have it. He is expressing deep disappointment about this, but vowing to fight on, the president saying -- quote -- "While today's vote was disappointing, it must not be the end of our efforts. I urge the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame- duck session."

They are running out of time, however. And so there are two basic strategies that are emerging that I'm hearing about just now. One is that Senate Democrats are exploring the option of having the House to take this issue once again. They passed it long ago, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

If they take it up again, there may be a speedy way for them to get it back to the Senate floor. Secondly, here in the administration, they are looking at whether the president can do some sort of an executive order, use executive authority to overturn this.

As you know, that is tricky, because there are some legal experts who say that that is not the full force of the law, that Congress needs to do this. There is some divided legal opinion on that, but they are scrambling to figure out their next move, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, stand by. Thanks very much.

Let's dig deeper on this and a lot more with Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. He's joining us along with senior political analyst Gloria Borger and chief political correspondent Candy Crowley who is host of "STATE OF THE UNION," which airs Sunday mornings.

Congressman Weiner, I know you are bitterly disappointed at the president's willingness to go forward with this deal that he brokered with the Republican leadership, but take us behind the scenes. What happened today, the Democratic caucus in the House voting not even to take up this measure on the House floor in the lame duck session?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, first of all, to a person in that caucus, you have a group of people who very much want the president to be successful, who want to help him move forward, but who believe that the deal was struck that just wasn't very good. It didn't reflect the best we could get, and it does not reflect Democratic values and frankly, does not even reflect where the American people are.

So with all of the changes that we need to make, I mean, we have an obligation. We want him to be a successful president, of course, but we also have obligations to the constituents and to our districts. And so one by one, people stood up with suggestions on how the bill -- on how the package can be approved and now we're going to go to work on trying to do that. BLITZER: But you know, the president keeps saying, as Bill Clinton used to say, you can't let the perfect be the enemy of good, you got to compromise.

Listen to what he said. I will play this clip.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a big diverse country, not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. You know, "The New York Times" editorial page does not permeate across all of America; neither does "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page.

Most Americans, they are just trying to figure out how to go about their lives and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it is a big diverse country and people have complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we're going to compromise.


BLITZER: Well what's wrong with that thinking, Congressman?

WEINER: It's 100 percent right. I mean, compromise is part of how governing happens.

But two steps happen before the compromise. One is you forcefully state your position, the second is you campaign hard to get it done, and then, yes, there are oftentimes you do have to compromise. We missed steps one and two here, and I think that's the critique.

And also, just because you strike a compromise does not mean it is a good one. It does not mean that you are immune to criticism if you do something that is, frankly, is not in the best interest of the American people. And that is why you have a Congress -- we count as well.

And I think that's why, when you see so many of the Congress who have concerns about this, one of the things that the White House can do is to say, listen, these are people who want success also, they're smart people, maybe they can offer us something. And that's what we're going to do now, we're going to try to improve upon the deal.


I wanted to read something that one of your colleagues, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, had to say. He, a member of your caucus. Quote, "We are allowing the liberal wing of the Democratic caucus to hold these critically need tax cuts hostage."

Are you prepared, in fact, to leave Congress without any kind of tax cut if it means that you would have to -- tax cut extension if it means that you would have to accept extensions for everyone? WEINER: I believe that compromise means that sometimes you have the give things, but I also believe that we have the benefit and the president has the benefit that the things he wants to do are very popular. Tax cuts for the middle class, unemployment insurance and the like, these are the popular things. Things we've added on are, frankly, unpopular with the American people.

I am not --

CROWLEY: But the question, Congressman, if I could, the question is, will you leave, you and your fellow Democrats, leave for Christmas break until the next session of Congress without extending those tax cuts if you have to in order to get those tax cut extensions accept them for everyone? Will you just walk away from it?

WEINER: No. We are committed to getting the tax cuts for the middle class and those struggling to make it. We are committed to extending unemployment insurance. We're committed to doing all of that in the next two weeks.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, this is Gloria Borger, Congressman, joining in the questioning.

Do you believe that President Obama sold you out?

WEINER: I don't think he sold us out, I just don't think he made a very good deal.

BORGER: And so, if it comes back to the table, Republican says, to follow up on Candy, Republicans say, we're not going to vote for anything that doesn't also include these tax cuts for the wealthy, which by the way are $95 billion of this whole cut package, you will walk away from it?

WEINER: Well, it is $95 billion not including the estate tax. But --


WEINER: But hold on, let me answer your question.

You know, it's funny how everything is couched in, well, the Republicans won't go along if dot, dot, dot. Well you know what? There are other people in Congress. We control the House, the Senate and the presidency right now.

BORGER: But they will control when they come back.

WEINER: Well, I understand, but let me answer your questions, let me answer your question.

You know, we control the House, the Senate and the presidency right now. We should be driving a very hard forceful bargain and trying to rally the American people to our side.

But our intention is to change this package but to get tax cuts for the middle class, unemployment insurance extended and do it all within the next two weeks.

BLITZER: I don't know, Congressman, if you saw this analysis that was in "The Washington Post" by one of their writers, Ezra Kline, who pointed out that of the $800 or $900 billion that this deal will cost in terms of the lower revenue for the Treasury, most of it goes to the middle class.

I mean the Republicans, they did get $95 billion for the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year, $30 billion for the estate tax cuts, that's $125 billion, but look at what the Democrats got. They got $120 billion in payroll tax cuts, $40 billion in refundable tax credits, $56 billion in unemployment insurance, $30 billion to $180 billion -- that's an estimate -- in the business tax incentives, that's either $246 to $396 billion, and another $300 or $400 billion for something that everyone supports, continuing the tax break for the middle class.

It looks like the Democrats got a better deal than the Republicans?

WEINER: This isn't about Democrats and Republicans, this is about 97 percent of the American people are on the side of what I've been describing and advocating, what the --

BLITZER: Well, you can't get everything, Congressman --

WEINER: Hold on, hold on, hold on.

BLITZER: -- you got to make a deal sometimes.

WEINER: No, but hold on. Remember now, you have 97 percent of the American people on one side of the ledger and 3 percent on the other side. The president, the Congress representing the 97 percent, and you are saying, yes, the 3 percent, but I am saying that the 3 percent got too much.

BLITZER: But look what happened -- look what happened on November 2nd at the elections, Congressman. The American people repudiated the Democrats, especially in the House, big time.

WEINER: I want to tell you something, it was not over this issue. I think we should have engaged this issue. And this was one place I agree with some of the critics of Congress, we should have engaged this issue. But so should have the president --

BORGER: Why didn't you vote on it then?

WEINER: Hold on, hold on, hold on, let me do one thought at a time.

The president should have done what past presidents have done when they're trying to get things like this done. You remember, Wolf, when President Reagan took on Tip O'Neill and a 65-seat majority in the House of Representatives the Democrats had, got what he wanted cause he made a campaign out of it. He made it clear to the American people what it meant, he fought for it. And that's the type of campaign we should have had.

BLITZER: So you're saying that this president is incompetent, is that what you're saying?

WEINER: You know, I think I'm saying what I am saying. I don't know why you keep saying well what it is I'm saying.

BLITZER: Well, go ahead, cause --


BLITZER: -- it sounds like you think he blinked and he could not negotiate a good deal?

WEINER: No, I'm saying that he didn't and I'm saying that he can still and he should. But this -- I'm not saying he is incompetent, I want him to be a success and I think he can be.

I think the critique I do make is that I don't think that the president realizes the power that he possesses to be able to move the meter on the votes that we have. We don't have votes that are static things, we don't have a number of votes that stay still.

If the president of the United States truly tries to do something, he can do it, and I will give you a case in point. Right now, the approval for this deal is creeping up and up, why? Because he is going out and selling it. As bad as it is, he is going out and selling it.

And I am saying is what he should take that same force and say, you know what, we made some mistakes here, I'm going to accept what the House of Representatives is proposing and fight for that and make it happen.

CROWLEY: Congressman, I am assuming that a lot of what you want, all of the things that Wolf just read to you are in this package. Tell me what would make it palpable to you. This package, what do you want out of it that when then make it so it had your yes vote?

WEINER: What do I -- well, I'm not going to negotiate now, because I think a lot of the members of the caucus are going to bring forward other ideas.

I think the estate tax is particularly odious. It is more generous even than the Republicans were proposing. I think that it affects, literally, 32,000 families in the country and costs an enormous amount of money. That's particularly odious.

BORGER: What does this tell you about President Obama if anything, Congressman, about how he is going to behave in the next two years as he deals with the Republican House and strengthened Republican caucus in the Senate?

WEINER: I think that's a great question.

Look, one of our great concerns as a caucus is that this is -- this is a harbinger. That we need to make sure that we, as Democrats, fight very hard for the American people, for the middle class and those struggling to make it. And we have to even -- and knowing that we might lose some fights, but we have to make them. And I think that one of the things that I heard on the Democratic caucus over the last couple of days is we need to do a much better job at doing that.

So I hope that what it tells us is that the president is going to learn is that we, his allies, are prepared to fight right alongside with him for success here if he only gives us the chance to do that.

BLITZER: On the -- with the notion that it takes two to tango, it not only the House of Representatives, Congressman, it takes the U.S. Senate. Look what is going on in the Senate right now, Congressman. They could not bring up this vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," they could not bring up the vote to try to pass, what you passed in the House of Representatives, the DREAM Act that would allow thousands and thousands of young kids who were brought here illegally to get citizenship by going to college or serving in the United States military, and a subject so close to your heart, compensation for 9/11 first responders. You have been working so hard on this in the House of Representatives, they couldn't even bring it up in the Senate today.

It must be so frustrating to you to see what is going on. And I got to tell you, it is only going to get worse when the new Congress convenes in January?

WEINER: Well, thanks for cheering me up, Wolf.


WEINER: Look, I'll sell it -- I'll tell you this, when people say, oh, Congressman, how come you didn't bring up this vote on the tax rate back in August or September, well, you know, Ben Franklin said that the Senate was the cooling sauce of democracy, it's been like a meat locker over there, everything goes there to die.

It is a real problem. The Senate has become a minority-rule body and that is truly troubling. And I just hope on the one issue, on the 9/11 first responders that some partisanship can be set aside even for a moment so this can get done.

But I have to tell you, why should we think it is going to get any different in the future? If all it takes is a bunch of senators writing a letter saying, I'm not going to do any work until you do A, B or C, if the president kind of acquiesced to that without much of a fight, it is just going to encourage that behavior later on.

BLITZER: I'll tell you this, Congressman, and you know this as well as I do or as well as anyone knows this, if the Republicans do well next time around and become the majority in the United States Senate which is certainly possible, it's certainly possible, that filibuster rule, you will be happy that you have it. The Democrats will use it as the Republicans have been using it right now. It's been going back a long time and something, I guess, the Senate and the country is going to have to live with. WEINER: Perhaps. And I hope you don't accuse me of being inconsistent when I support it when it's in that case. But I hope it never reaches -- hope it never reaches that place.

Look, but let's remember what this is about. This isn't about rules in the House or rules in the Senate, let's focus on what is best for the American people. And I fundamentally believe that adding $50 billion or $60 billion to the deficit to give exemptions to the super rich who are passing along estates doesn't make a lot of sense.

And trying to make sure that the middle class and those struggling to make it are successful is what the president campaigned on and what we want him to do. And I know that a lot of folks at the White House are saying, boy, why are the people on the left being so harsh on us. We want him to succeed. Unlike Mitch McConnell and his people who want him to fail when they make their critique, we are eager fight right alongside him. He's going to be a two-term president because he's going to get this right with our help.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note.

But I just want to be precise once again, what the Republicans got out of this $900 billion deal, about $125 billion for the wealthy -- the tax cuts for the wealthy, the estate tax, that's about $125 billion -- the Democrats got about $750 billion of what they wanted, so it is obviously --

WEINER: Yes, but you're making one math mistake. What we want impacts 97 percent of the American people.

BLITZER: It's a fair point.

WEINER: So it should be 97 percent of the deal.

BLITZER: But sometimes you got to accept something you don't like in order to make a deal. That is the nature of compromise, the nature of the negotiations.

WEINER: All right. Well, tell the 97 percent of the American people that.

BLITZER: Just trying to be a factual kind of guy.

WEINER: I appreciate that. Thank you.

BLITZER: Hey, Congressman, you're a good person for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, thanks very much.

WEINER: It's my pleasure.

BLITZER: And thanks to Candy and Gloria as well.

Pathway to citizen or backdoor amnesty?

Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Looks like it might be nothing more than a dream after all.

Senate Democrats voted to pull the so-called DREAM Act from consideration today. They don't have enough votes to pass it.

DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act and would have offered a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The measure passed the House yesterday, but, unless the Senate acts, it will die with the lame-duck Congress.

The DREAM Act would apply to illegal aliens who came here when they were younger than 16, who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, received a high school diploma or GED and shown good moral character.

They would be given a six-year conditional status before the next stage, where they would be required to either go to college or serve in the military for at least two years and pass criminal background checks.

Those who don't fulfill those requirements would lose their legal status, and they could be deported.

Supporters say the measure offers legal standing to youngsters who are brought here who have bettered themselves and served our country. Critics say it's nothing more than backdoor amnesty for as many as two million illegal aliens.

They also say the bill allows illegal aliens to get in-state tuition at public universities and is a -- quote -- "magnet for fraud" -- unquote.

Here's the question: Should illegal aliens who came here as children be given a path to citizenship?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. Thanks very much.

Pat-down diplomacy -- those controversial airport checks are causing headaches, after one top diplomat says she was humiliated publicly.

Also, they are called "hacktivists," and their real concern -- there is real concern right now about what they're trying to do, perhaps launch a cyber-war?

And mixed messages from the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, about a possible, possible presidential run.


BLITZER: It certainly looked, even sounded like a campaign speech, but the speaker insists he is not a candidate at all. We are talking about the independent New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Let's go to New York.

CNN's Mary Snow has got the details for us.

What is going on with Michael Bloomberg, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, New York's mayor says he is not running for president, period. But if the billionaire mayor is trying to dampen speculation about 2012, he did the exact opposite with a speech yesterday taking aim at Washington and both political parties.


SNOW (voice-over): One day after a speech that has got the political world buzzing, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is brushing aside questions about a potential run for president.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Look, number one, I am not running for president. OK? Could not be clearer about that.

SNOW: But a speech Wednesday on how Washington is failing on the economy and creating jobs didn't do much to dampen speculation about 2012.

BLOOMBERG: Both parties follow the mood of the moment, instead of leading from the front. They incite anger, instead of addressing it, for their own partisan interests. They tell the world about every real or imagined problem in America, and not what is right with America. Especially in these tough times, we need our leaders to inspire the whole country, not criticize half of it.

SNOW: Headlines that followed raised the possibility that this was the opening salvo for a Bloomberg campaign. Online in The Daily Beast, Ralph Nader wrote 21 reasons why Bloomberg can win.

But Mayor Bloomberg insists a presidential run is not in cards. Ditto for Howard Wolfson, now a deputy mayor of New York. He was a top adviser to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

(on camera): If he is not running for president, as he has insisted he is not, how would you describe the role, then, that he is kind of shaping for himself?

HOWARD WOLFSON, NEW YORK DEPUTY MAYOR: He wants to be a voice for moderation. He wants to be a voice for centrism. He wants to be a voice for many Americans who are independent, who are not necessarily partisan Democrats or partisan Republicans, who believes that Washington needs to come together and get things done in the middle.

SNOW (voice-over): This is not the first time there has been speculation about Bloomberg eying the White House. It came up in 2008, but went nowhere.

CNN contributor John Avlon, who worked for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, does not see Bloomberg running. JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I take a man at his word. I think there is a larger movement here. There is a bigger story. And Bloomberg is a hook for that story.

SNOW: That story about Bloomberg, says Avlon, has to do with the independent movement.

AVLON: Recognize that independent candidates are increasingly getting elected to governor, to senator, to mayors across this country. And that is what we should be paying attention to, the larger dynamic that he is just a symbol of.


SNOW: Now, one thing the speech did do is gain Bloomberg attention. The presidential speculation is keeping him in the spotlight. The speech is one of several he is planning. And this Sunday, Wolf, he is scheduled to appear on "Meet the Press."

BLITZER: And he has got billions and billions and billions of dollars if he wants to run. There is one scenario out there. If he runs as an independent, he could take a lot of votes away from President Obama. If Sarah Palin were the Republican nominee -- and that's a huge if right now -- it could be a three-way split, and nobody would get the 270 electoral votes that you need to be president of the United States.

You know what happens then? It goes to the House of Representatives. And in the new House, the Republicans have a significant majority. Sarah Palin, under that scenario, if she were the Republican nominee, she could be elected president of the United States, one scenario that a lot of people are thinking about if Bloomberg decides to run.

Mary, thanks very much.

Can smoking just one cigarette seriously damage your health? A new government report has some disturbing news.

And the list of the richest Americans committed to giving away their fortunes is growing.



BLITZER: They call themselves hacktivists, but do they pose a real threat?

Also, a major setback to the effort to allow gays and lesbian to serve openly in the United States military.


BLITZER: A major setback for President Obama today: A bill ending the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the United States military failed to pass a procedural vote in the Senate.

With Republicans taking control of the House next month, the effort to repeal don't ask, don't tell, one of the president's campaign promises, appears dead, at least for the foreseeable future.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is working the story on Capitol Hill.

There is a lot of concern right now among all of those at the Pentagon and elsewhere who wanted to see the Senate take action.


And this was really just three votes shy of the 60 needed to start debate. And that is really what we are talking about here. And it was a really big blow to supporters of a repeal, because they actually were feeling like there was momentum lately. More Republicans were coming out and saying that they agree that the policy should be repealed.

And, in fact, negotiations with one Republican senator in particular, Susan Collins, appeared to be going well. That is why she came out after the vote and expressed frustration that Senator Reid took this ill-fated vote.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I am extremely disappointed that the Senate majority leader walked away from negotiations in which we were engaged and which were going well. The majority leader decided to prematurely hold the cloture (ph) vote that he knew would not succeed. I just don't understand that decision.


BASH: Now, the reason why Senator Collins and other particularly Democratic supporters of a repeal are so frustrated, is because they believe that there actually are 60 senators who now support repealing this.

But the problem is that some of the Republicans didn't want to take this vote right now, that they believed that dealing with tax cuts is more pressing for the country, that that needed to be done first.

And now the question is, why did Reid do it? Well, he said he didn't believe that Republicans in general mean it when they say that they have the will and the faith to do this even afterwards.

Nevertheless, Wolf, there is a lot of pressure on Senator Reid. I'm hearing from gay rights activists that they feel betrayed by him for taking this vote now, and in fact, during this ill-fated vote, Senator Lieberman got approval from Harry Reid that they would take up later on in this lame duck sometime, a stand alone measure to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" bill. That is something that I'm told now may start in the House and may end in the Senate. But I've got to tell you: despite this promise, despite the fact that people are saying that they're not giving up, there's a jam- packed schedule before the Senate between now and the Christmas holidays. You have tax cuts. You have the START Treaty and many other things, and there are a lot of questions about whether senators are going to stick around here, maybe into Christmas and even new year's if that's what it takes to do this.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a good question. All right, Dana. Thanks very much.

Let's dig deeper right now with our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, and our chief national correspondent, John King. He's host of "JOHN KING USA," which begins right at the top of the hour. This is a rough, rough time for the Democrats, very rough time for the president of the United States. What -- what is going on here, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of pressure. I can tell you a little about the pressure that is coming from advocacy groups, which is that, if the president does not get this through Congress, if Congress...

BLITZER: Get what through Congress?

YELLIN: Do not get a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" through Congress, then the White House is under extreme pressure for the president to act alone. The White House is convinced that they do not have legal authority to individually, through executive order, overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

BLITZER: Because that's the law of the land.

YELLIN: The law of the land. The president can't do it on his own. But gay rights groups, advocacy groups think that there are other means the president can use, other legal remedies to temporarily lift "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or in some ways halt it. And it's up for legal debate whether he can or can't. It would be very controversial for the White House.

BLITZER: Harry Reid is baffling, at least to me, John. I don't know if you have a better appreciation, but when 42 Republican senators sign a letter saying, "We're not going to deal with anything until the tax cut issue is resolved." One of them, Susan Collins, she bolted, but the others all stayed united. What made them think that they could break a filibuster?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I don't mean to be flip, but I think there's a sense that he just went through a campaign where he was repeatedly asked to man-up, and they have -- there's a little bit of a testosterone challenge in Washington right now. The Democrats are still the majority, and they say, "No thank you. We will set the agenda for these final few weeks."

So when they hear Senator Lieberman, who's a Democrat but really an independent, and Senator Collins saying, "Give us more time, give us more time," Leader Reid would say he gave them enough time, in his view.

They say with another day or so, they think they might have been able to get "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the finish line. So some of this is about the specific issues. Some of this is about who's in charge and Democratic resentment of the losses.

BLITZER: Because Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, Scott Brown, the Republican senator from Massachusetts, they want to repeal it, but they just said to Harry Reid, "Wait a little bit. Give us some time so that we can do it. We can do the tax cuts first, and then we'll come through."

KING: And those Republicans are caught in bit of a box, because they've committed to their own leader. Tax cuts first, how to fund the government first. Then we'll do other things.

And essentially, Senator Reid's patience ran out, because there's the trust deficit. They don't trust each other. So Senator Reid is thinking, "If I give them another day, then they'll ask for two days. If I give them two days, they'll ask for three days. Then all of a sudden, we'll be looking at Christmas, and we won't get anything else done, so let's force the vote."

The lack of trust in this town is debilitating.

BLITZER: And the president of the United States gets slapped today by House Democrats. I don't remember a time -- I just assumed that that would not happen, but it says a lot when they meet in caucus and they say, "You know what? The president may have worked out this deal on taxes with the Republican leadership, but we hate it, and we're not even going to vote on it."

YELLIN: It is a pretty strong stand and reminiscent, as Gloria Borger pointed out, of NAFTA and when President Clinton went up against his own party.

There are some in the Democratic Party, the broader party, who believe that the president gains a little bit by taking on his own party that he has, and I hate the phrase "man-up," but we're all using it. He's manned-up on this one, and that it's helping him. But it is clearly not a fight this president wanted to have or relishes. And you talk to people in the White House, they're not excited to be having this fight.

BLITZER: Are you surprised that these Democrats are really revolting against the president?

KING: I'm surprised it became so public. When you hear the language that was spoken at the Democratic House Caucus meeting today, the disdain for the president and his team is quite remarkable. And again...

BLITZER: Some of the words, coming out of that meeting, I don't even want to repeat some of those words.

KING: They're not friendly. They're not -- and just think for perspective, something again, we forget too much in this town. It wasn't all that long ago January 2009 the Democrats came into power. This was a president elected with a big mandate. They had huge majorities in the House, huge majorities in the Senate. Now the Democratic Party is in disarray. The House, it's in full mutiny against the president of the United States, the House Democrats. The Senate Democrats keep putting forward their proposals, their top proposals for this lame duck session. They keep getting voted down. And the Republicans are sitting back, saying, "We don't really need to say much. Let's just let this all play out."

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, guys. You're going to have a lot more at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA." Thanks very much. Jessica, thanks to you, as well.

Attacks by supporters of WikiLeaks have damaged or shut down the Web sites of several large companies. Is this the start of an all-out cyber war?

And on a recently aired episode of a reality show, Sarah Palin is seen shooting a caribou. Now, it's her critics that are taking direct aim. Jeanne Moos has a "Most Unusual" look.


BLITZER: Cyber attacks by supporters of WikiLeaks against perceived enemies have shut down the Web sites of several major companies, but there is growing concern these skirmishes may be just the beginning of a broader cyber war.

CNN's Brian Todd is investigating -- Brian.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, all sorts of concerns right now about whether this kind of attack could escalate and take down some major companies. Well, we've come to a place here at Northrup Grumman that could find itself on the firing line but which is also doing a lot to protect itself and its clients.

(voice-over) They've got a buzzword name, and an ominous-sounding M.O. Hacktivists, launching denial-of-service attacks on major companies. They have a scary-sounding weapon.

MARK RASCH, COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION: They have a tool which they've called the low-orbit ion canon.

TODD: That's software enabling thousands of people online to all bombard a Web site at once. So far the attacks have slowed down or temporarily shut down the Web sites of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, companies who have refused to do business with WikiLeaks. Is it just a cyber protest, or could they seriously wound their targets?

FRED GUTERL, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN": It doesn't seem like MasterCard is going to go out of business or PayPal is going to go out of business because of this. But I think it -- it tells us that it's kind of a new game in town. I mean, that this -- these kind of capabilities to disrupt commerce do exist, and it doesn't take much.

TODD: "Scientific American" magazine editor Fred Guterl and other experts say an all-out cyber war could wreak far more havoc, using more destructive tools like viruses, worms and other software that can infiltrate companies' networks and steal data, or wipe it out. Experts say hackers have had that capability for years. Mark Rasch is a former cyber crime prosecutor at the Justice Department.

RASCH: A group of individuals who get mad at a company can now shut down that company's Web site, break into that company, steal information, do whatever they want.

TODD (on camera): Experts say most American companies have prepared themselves for cyber attack with a series of layered protection. This is a facility called the Triad, a research and development facility at Northrup Grumman Information Systems. This is where the defense contractor tests out all sorts of machines to protect itself and its clients from cyber attacks.

(voice-over) Northrup Grumman Information Systems has to not only protect Northrup Grumman computers, but also those of government agencies and some private-sector clients. We got inside access to the triad with chief technology officer Robert Brammer.

(on camera) What is Northrup Grumman doing to protect itself and its clients from a serious cyber attack that could take one of these companies down?

ROBERT BRAMMER, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, NORTHRUP GRUMMAN: Well, we do several things. We have extensive training and awareness programs for our employees. We have various systems that guard the network, things that are called firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

We also have other systems that guard the network from the inside-out, to protect information from being leaked out of the corporation appropriately.

TODD: Brammer says most major corporations have sophisticated mechanisms to combat against cyber attack, but he says nobody is fail- safe, and if something does happen to bring down a company, if only temporarily, it could cause enough of a disruption to cost them a lot of money -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. India's government is furious right now about the way one of its top diplomats was treated by U.S. security screeners at an American airport. We're going to tell you what happened. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: It seems no one is exempt from those controversial airport security pat-downs, including top diplomats from around the world, and that's causing some headaches for the U.S. State Department. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is joining us now with details on what's going on. What do we know about this story, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, humiliating and high-handed, that's what some Indians are calling it. U.S. officials say it was handled by the book.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Last week at the Jackson, Mississippi airport, India's ambassador, Meera Shankar, traveling with a trade delegation, was about to board a plane back to Washington, D.C. She was selected for a thorough secondary pat-down visible to other passengers. The ambassador was wearing a sari, a traditional Indian dress. TSA officers called it bulky clothing.

Some passengers agreed it was the right thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody's got to go through it. Everybody's got to do the same.

DOUGHERTY: The Indian government is outraged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me be very frank, that this is unacceptable to India. And we are going to take it up with the government of the United States.

DOUGHERTY: Homeland security chief Janet Napolitano defends the pat-down.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It is a pat-down that followed our procedures, and I think it was appropriate under the circumstances.

DOUGHERTY: With a diplomatic storm brewing, Hillary Clinton say she's concerned.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Certainly, we will be looking into it and not only responding to the Indian foreign minister, but also reviewing the policies.

DOUGHERTY: Mississippi authorities, meanwhile, say there has got to be a better way.

LT. GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: This is the ambassador to the United States of America. Certainly, at some point, common sense should prevail.


DOUGHERTY: Now homeland security says that if a diplomat is travelling within the United States, that they can actually work with them if that diplomat notifies the department in advance. But Secretary Napolitano is indicating that that was not done in this case. Regardless, Wolf, though, of the procedures, this is yet another diplomatic headache for Secretary Clinton.

BLITZER: Just what she does not need right now. Thanks very much for that, Jill.

Should illegal immigrants who came here as children be given a pathway for citizenship? Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.

And Sarah Palin drawing some fire for hunting. CNN's Jeanne Moos is getting ready to take a "Most Unusual" look.


BLITZER: OK. Right back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: "Should illegal aliens who came here as children be given a path to citizenship?" That's the subject matter of that DREAM Act thing that was taken out of consideration in the Senate today.

Shane in Boston writes: "Sure. I have no problem with that. Just make sure it's the same path my grandmother and grandfather took through the front door (see: Ellis Island) and not through some window that a vote-pandering politician left open."

Reggie writes: "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. This will only encourage more illegal immigration, people coming to America, and then the whole thing starts over again. I'm sorry I don't have any sympathy for the children of illegal immigrants, because the parents knew what they were doing was wrong, and therefore, the whole family should be sent back."

Jane in California: "Of course they should. For many, this is the only country they've ever known. Some of them have younger siblings that have been American citizens since birth. They've grown up with American values. This is their home. They're just like everyone else who has been raised here except their citizenship. They should have an opportunity to become American citizens."

Ken in New Jersey writes: "No, they ought to be sent back on the path to Mexico. What's the difference if they came here as children or adults? Laws are made to be complied with, no exceptions. Enough is enough. They take your job. They get free health care at hospitals. They get a free education at taxpayer expense. And we're all supposed to welcome them with open arms, because employers are too cheap to hire Americans, and rich people are too lazy to cut their own lawns."

Dee in Ohio writes: "The children who were brought here illegally by their illegal alien parents ought to have the opportunity to achieve citizenship. It's clearly not their fault that they're here. Little kids didn't cross the desert by themselves to get here. They did not contract with some smuggler to bring them here. They deserve a chance." And Mike says: "Jack, I really do feel sorry for the kids who are literally stuck in the middle of all this. But let's not forget the basic point: they are here illegally. The sign on Lady Liberty needs to be updated to: 'Sorry, no vacancy.'"

If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog:

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Check out this next story. I think you would be interested. A new study shows occasional smoking, even second hand smoke, can cause serious illness or death. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked today if President Obama has managed to kick his cigarette habit.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is not something that he's proud of. He knows that it's not good for him. He knows that it's -- he doesn't like it. He doesn't like children to know about it, obviously, including his. I think he has -- I think he has worked extremely hard.

I think he would tell you even when, in the midst of a tax agreement and a START deal and all the other things that accumulate, that even where he might have once found some comfort in that, he's -- he's pushed it away.


BLITZER: The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs.

Jeanne Moos coming up next.


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

In London, a policeman is covered in paint during today's student protests over tuition hikes.

In India, worshippers hold swords while escorting a holy book in a religious procession.

In Berlin, customers walk through a shopping mall decorated with Christmas lights.

And 80 miles to the south in Germany, a small dog wears a coat in the freshly-fallen snow.

"Hot Shots:" Pictures worth a thousand words.

Sarah Palin under fire right now for her part in a made-for-TV caribou hunt. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sarah Palin may have shot this caribou dead, but the story still has legs. When they showed the viewer discretion warning, who knew that the person who would be disturbed would be Aaron Sorkin, creator of "The West Wing"?

A couple of days after "Sarah Palin's Alaska" aired, Sorkin eviscerated her on the "Huffington Post," saying, "I don't watch snuff films, and you make them. You enjoy killing animals." Sorkin called her "phony pioneer girl" and "Cruella."


MOOS: Actually, Palin prefers camouflage, with a "Girls and Guns" cap. Hunting caribou with her dad, she missed five times.


MOOS: But it was only because the scope was faulty that she missed. When they handed her another rifle...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go, baby. There you go.

MOOS: In his rant against Palin's hunting, Sorkin called it "the first moose ever murdered for political gain."

(on camera): Hey, Mr. Sorkin, you keep calling it a moose, but it was a caribou.

(voice-over) The moose, screen right, is way bigger with way wider antlers than the caribou, screen left.

Palin twittered a preemptive strike before the episode even aired, saying, "Unless you've never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather couch, or eaten a piece of meat, save your condemnation of tonight's episode."

But Sorkin has condemned Palin before.

AARON SORKIN, CREATOR OF "WEST WING": Sarah Palin's an idiot.

MOOS: In his attack on Palin's caribou kill, Sorkin veered off into politics: "What a uniter you'd be, bringing the right together with the far right." And if that sounds familiar, "West Wing" fans...

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Actually, what you've done in Florida is bring the right together with the far right.

MOOS (on camera): Now, hunters tend to love Sarah Palin, but she did get some flak for her hunting techniques.

(voice-over) "Why can't she load her own gun?" wondered some. PALIN: Thank that mighty animal for living a good life and now sustaining a nice family.

MOOS: "A nice family" meaning hers. Jimmy Kimmel put Palin's hunting audio to a classic Christmas cartoon.

PALIN: Good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go, baby. There you go.

MOOS: As they shouted out in glee, Rudolph the caribou, you'll go down in Palin history.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...


MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: That's all the time for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.

KING: Thanks, Wolf.

And good evening, everyone.

Wow, what a dramatic day here in the nation's capitol. An all- out mutiny by House Democrats --