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THE SITUATION ROOM
Health Reform Ruled Unconstitutional; Major Snowstorm Snarling Midwest; Officials: Sweden Bomb Went Off Early
Aired December 13, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, serious questions about the future of the new health care reform law after a judge rules that a key component of the landmark legislation is unconstitutional.
Also, record snow, frigid temperatures, travel at a standstill. We're tracking a major storm that has the Midwest reeling, and it's still on the move.
And Democrats, Republicans and independents come together to try to find a way past partisanship with No Labels.
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're in the SITUATION ROOM.
It was a hard-won victory that had the president and fellow Democrats celebrating just nine month us go, but now, the future of President Obama's signature achievement is in doubt. We're talking about health care reform. A federal judge has just ruled that a major element of the new law is unconstitutional, namely the mandate that would require everyone to buy insurance.
CNN's Brian Todd is outside the U.S. Supreme Court here in Washington with more. Brian, what do we know about this ruling today?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very critical one, Wolf. This was just one ruling in what's sure to be a long legal fight, and other federal courts have been more supportive of the president's health care plan, but experts say the provision that's being fought over here is a critical part of the health care overhaul, and if it doesn't survive a likely challenge here at the Supreme Court, then the president's plan may be in some jeopardy.
TODD: A decision that raises the stakes for our future medical care and how it will be paid for. A federal judge in Virginia slaps down a key part of President Obama's health care plan that would force healthy people who don't have insurance to buy it even if they don't want to. The plan would have set that requirement for most Americans by 2014. Judge Henry Hudson rules no specifically articulated constitutional authority exists to mandate the purchase of health insurance. Twenty other states led by Florida are also challenging that provision. I asked health policy expert, Sarah Rosenbaum, who favors the mandate to purchase insurance, a key question.
If rulings like this hold through the other states and even through the Supreme Court, what does it mean to the average consumer of health care plans in, say, four years' time?
PROF. ROSE ROSENBAUM, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: For somebody like me, who has a good job and good benefits, it really doesn't mean very much. For somebody who becomes sick, who is laid off, whose employer goes under, who has a divorce and loses coverage, any of the other types of life-happens events that can cost you your insurance coverage, the effect of this ruling if it's upheld is to take away potentially the very fix that Congress put into place to make sure that none of us ever would be without coverage.
TODD: Virginia's attorney general who's leading the fight against that mandate to buy insurance says he understands the goal of the Obama plan is to cover millions who are now uninsured.
KENNETH CUCCINELLI, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: But as someone who has sworn an oath to uphold the law, I can't endorse taking away the rights of some people to fund the health insurance for other people.
TODD: Disappointed White House officials say there are other benefits in the health care law that people can take advantage of now.
NANCY-ANN DEPARLE, DIR. WHITE HOUSE OFFICE FOR HEALTH REFORM: Take advantage of the small-business tax credits that are already available. If your viewers are Medicare beneficiaries, let's say, take advantage of the fact that the donut hole for you is going to be closed next year. You know, for children with pre-existing conditions, this law already provides a benefit.
For people who have children who are up to age 26, the law now says that your health plan has to let you keep your children on your health plan.
TODD (on-camera): But experts say it could be tough to pay for all of those provisions if that one mandates to buy health insurance dies. Expect a long legal and political fight over this. Experts say the mandated purchase provision will likely make it here to the Supreme Court, probably just in time to be a huge issue in the 2012 presidential race -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are there other provisions, Brian, in the health care reform law that could wind up in the Supreme Court?
TODD: Well, experts are saying the one other one that really could is that provision to make states expand their Medicaid coverage. Experts say that's a big states rights issue. That's probably going to make it here along with that mandated purchase plan. BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
Let's get more now from our own experts. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, our senior medical correspondent. Elizabeth Cohen, and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. Jeff, first to you, how serious of a legal setback is this for the president?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, it's a major, major setback because there is a substantial body of American law and lawyers who believe that this legislation goes too far. It's an illustration of how much has changed in recent years. Frankly, ten years ago, 15 years ago, I don't think this would have been very controversial, but the conservative movement has succeeded in having judges appointed who are sympathetic to this point of view, and it is no coincidence that the two judges who have upheld the law, so far, were Democratic appointees.
Judge Hudson is a Republican appointee, and we can expect similar political polarization when this case reaches the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: This provision that the judge today in Virginia, Elizabeth, ruled unconstitutional. That's right at the heart of the entire law because if this mandate goes away, the whole thing could collapse.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Wolf, as one expert put it to me, when you have a three-legged stool and you cut off one of the legs, what happens to the stool? It falls down, and let me explain why. The thing that health care reform does that a lot of people are happy about is that it allows people with pre- existing conditions to go out and afford insurance.
Because right now, it is practically unaffordable or not even available for many people with preexisting conditions. But if you're going to start paying for people with preexisting conditions, that's expensive. Where does that money come from? So, aha, here's where the money comes from.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, I'm going to just interpret for a moment because your microphone, I think, is not where it's supposed to be right now. If you can find your mike, put it on your lapel or some place, because we're not hearing you that clearly. Stand by. We'll pick up this conversation.
I'll bring in Gloria, in the meantime. Gloria, regardless of where this goes in the courts and the medical ramifications of this, politically, it certainly does give the Republicans and those who don't like the Obama health care law, it gives them some political ammunition going forward in the new Congress.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It gives them a lot of oxygen when you want to repeal what they call Obamacare to say, look, a judge found it to be unconstitutional. And, you know, that's clearly a lot of ammunition. There are lots of suits yet ahead. Today, a leader in the House, Eric Cantor, asked that the Supreme Court expedite hearing this matter because they'd like to see some resolution to it on their side.
But that's why the White House isn't happy about this. When you talk to people privately, Wolf, they will tell you that they believe that this decision may have been more political than constitutional, that the arguments against health care may be more political than constitutional. But nonetheless, they're going to have to deal with it in the courts.
BLITZER: That there are political, medical, and legal ramifications.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Elizabeth right now. All right. Pick up where you left off, Elizabeth. If this mandate goes away, forcing individuals who can afford it to buy health insurance as you say, it could collapse -- the whole nature of the new reform law could go away.
COHEN: Right, because these reforms are expensive. What these reforms say is that if you have a preexisting condition, we're going to make health insurance companies take you on. Well, that's expensive to start insuring people with preexisting conditions like cancer, heart disease, other diseases like that. How are you going to pay for it? Well, someone said, aha, I've got an idea.
What we're going to do is there are tens of millions of Americans who are healthy and don't have insurance. If we make them buy insurance and pay those annual premiums, they're not going to use the services very much because they're healthy, and that's a lot of money. And if they refuse to buy insurance, we'll hit them with a tax penalty.
So, once you take away that mandate for those healthy people to buy insurance, it's going to be very difficult to fund the rest of health care reform.
BLITZER: And Jeff, very quickly, you're an expert on this, the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court. If it winds up there, given the current makeup, what do you suspect will happen?
TOOBIN: 4-4 and we -- we find out what Anthony Kennedy thinks.
BLITZER: He'll be the --
TOOBIN: He'll be the swing vote on this and so much else.
BORGER: And Wolf, if I could say something for our viewers, you know, the states still have to proceed with setting up these insurance exchanges if they want to comply with the law. Most of this doesn't take effect until 2014. So, if you're sitting out there and you're sort of worried, OK, how does this affect me? Not in any material way at this point, because it does have to work its way through the courts in your states are they're probably working out their insurance exchanges right now. BLITZER: And it works its way through the courts. We know the Republicans will try to work its way through the House and the Senate in repealing this entire law.
BLITZER: That's a high priority for them. Guys, thanks very much.
Up to our necks in red ink, Jack Cafferty is here. He's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: When President Obama announced the formation of the Deficit Reduction Commission last February, he looked at us all with a straight face and said he was serious about tackling the country's skyrocketing deficits and $13 trillion-plus national debt. Well, apparently that was just another feel-good moment that meant absolutely nothing.
To wit, in addition to agreeing with the Republicans to add another $900 billion or so to the national debt by extending the Bush tax cuts, President Obama is refusing his own Deficit Reduction Commission's call for a summit meeting with Congressional leaders to tackle the debt crisis. One person who attended the deficit meeting last week tells Politico that members of the administration who attended, including White House budget director and treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, quote, "didn't exactly jump at the idea," unquote.
The commission recently voted 11-7 to cut nearly $4 trillion in deficits over the next nine years through spending cuts and tax increases, but they were short the necessary 14 votes to formally recommend any of this stuff to Congress, which can now give the whole idea a wink and a nod as we continue to spiral into insolvency. Not only has the president rejected the idea of a summit on the national debt, he couldn't even be bothered to attend the meeting last Thursday.
Needless to say, the committee members were annoyed. One Democrat told CNN, the president should have at least dropped by. You think? President Obama's either getting some very bad advice these days or his once-keen political instincts have completely deserted him.
Here's the question. How serious is President Obama about cutting the deficit? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.
A cruise ship pummeled by 30-foot waves sending furniture and passengers flying. One calling it horrifying, and we're learning new details of the injuries. Stand by.
And the latest on that major snowstorm that has the Midwest reeling. It collapse the roof of an NFL stadium. We have some dramatic new video and new information on where this storm is now headed.
BLITZER: They're certainly used to snow in Minneapolis, but it's been years since the city has seen a blizzard like this one. About a foot and a half of snow fell over the weekend, causing the inflatable roof of the city's metrodome to collapse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER (voice-over): Fox sports captured dramatic video. You can actually see the roof giving way and the snow pouring, pouring in. Listen to the sound of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER (on-camera): And this is what it looks like from the air today. The collapse forced the Minnesota Vikings to move their game against the New York Giants to Detroit tonight as crews scrambled to repair the metrodome. The storm is moving on, and Chad Myers is tracking it for us in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Chad, how bad is it and where is it heading?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's heading to the big cities now. I-95 is right where the cold front is. And so, temperatures from when you went to work, Wolf, especially you, probably 20 or 30 degrees colder by the time you walk out of there tonight. Still snowing in Chicago, still snowing in Detroit and Buffalo, but the streamers are east of Chicago. South Bend into Gary and points just a little bit to the west there, I-90 and I-94 really getting pounded.
One big streamer right there just to the east of Cleveland, just to the west there of Eerie along that freeway. You know this well, snow in Buffalo, it's not a big deal. Whining in Atlanta a lot about how cold it was today, and I'm thinking back to my days of living there in Chitawaga (ph), I'm thinking this really isn't as cold as it was, but we had better equipment, I think, there to keep us warm.
Eleven right now in Buffalo, 17 in Pittsburgh, and it feels colder than that as the cold air has now pushed into New York. It feels like 14 in D.C., felt a lot warmer than that all day. Let's get to some of the video because it is very good. We'll go from Cleveland to Indianapolis to Minnesota. Just where all the snow has been coming down now for the entire time. The pictures tell the story.
That picture even looks cold to me. And you see the wind blowing through people's scarves and through -- it was that wind today, Wolf, that really was the biting flow. I don't mind if it's snowing and cold. I don't care if it's 5 degrees below zero, but that wind is blowing around (INAUDIBLE) blowing around back to WWGN here in Chicago, especially just east of Chicago, we saw the interstates just as a standstill. Some people at rest areas for 14 hours waiting for the interstates to clear up, and they're still not cleared up.
The problem with lake-effect snow is you can be driving down, and it can be sunny, but literally, five minutes later, it looks like that, you can't see the roadway. The wind is blowing sideways. And you can't find the road anymore. Three miles later, it could be sunny again, but it's that treacherous part in between -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a mess. All right. Thanks very much, Chad, for that. That's not only here, a ferocious storm in the Mediterranean caught passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise by surprise. The ship careened as it was pounded and pounded by massive waves that sent furniture and people flying. CNN's Tom Foreman is here in the SITUATION ROOM with more on what the cruise line is calling a, quote, "serious incident." Tom, what do we know?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that the cruise line is right, Wolf. Take a look at this. This is on cruisecritic.com, where people post pictures of it. This is some of the damage on board here. You see Christmas decorations knocked about, all sorts of damage here. About 30 people hurt here. Royal Caribbean is giving a full refund to all of the folks here. But Wolf, this has been kind of a rough year for the cruise ship industry.
You may recall earlier this month, there was this amazing video from down near Antarctica as this ship, that's much smaller than the other one, had about 88 Americans on board, about 77 crew people pitched in gigantic seas, kicked up by winds out there. They were about 55 miles an hour, just ten miles or so below hurricane force. They briefly lost some engine power. They lost some communications, had to go limping back to port after sailing around in this fashion.
Then, you may recall back in November, we had this amazing story from down off the coast of Baja. Remember, the Carnival Splendor down there became essentially adrift at sea there because they had a fire in the engine room. They couldn't have power to the ship. They had to have help from the navy as they flew out food and tried to help people out. Nobody was hurt in all of this. But nonetheless, a huge inconvenience as they slowly brought this ship back to port with no air conditioning. Very unhappy folks there.
A serious incident back in March. This was off the coast of Spain. look at this video from inside this ship as water comes crashing in. Same issue. Big, bad weather. Lots of storms. You see the water come rushing in over the floor here. Two people were actually killed in this incident, which was very serious indeed because of all of the storm out there. And then I wanted to show you one other picture. This is simply amazing. This is back from 2008 off the coast of New Zealand.
Look what happens here. And this is really worth watching, Wolf. This was inside. Watch this furniture and all the people being pitched back and forth, same issue, big weather. Initially, it pushes a lot where everybody seems sort of under control, but then you watch as it gains momentum. Each sweep back and forth, you see more people being swept from this side of the ship to the other side of the ship, and here comes the big rush of furniture and everything coming back.
You see people unable to stay on their feet, simply being swept across the floor. Just a really, really difficult time. That was back in 2008. But as I said, we've had a lot of incidents this year. The cruise ship business is perfectly safe. It's a reasonable thing for people to go do. But I suspect, Wolf, that at the end of this year, the New Year's celebration will be really profound because the cruise ship industry will be saying, let's get this year behind us and get into a new one.
BLITZER: Yes. There's been a lot of waves out there. A lot of choppy water, indeed. Thanks, Tom. Thanks very much.
It was the scene of the worst disaster of its kind. Now, it's about to reopen as a tourist destination, but will they come to the infamous wasteland?
And we'll show you why Sydney's iconic opera house has been temporarily renamed Oprah house.
BLITZER: A bombing in Sweden tops some of the other top stories we have here in the SITUATION ROOM. CNN's Samantha Hayes is monitoring what's going on. What have you got, Sam?
SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. federal agents are bound for Sweden to help with the investigation of an apparent suicide bombing in Stockholm. Swedish authorities say they believe a man who died in the blast Saturday was the same person who e-mailed a warning to a news agency just before it happened. They believe the bomb detonated prematurely. Two people were injured, but no one other than the bomber was killed.
Rescue coordinators hold out little hope for 17 missing crew members of a South Korean fishing vessel that sank today in Antarctica's frigid southern ocean. The search and rescue effort is already being scaled back. Water temperature is so cold that a person probably could survive no more than ten minutes. Five people reportedly died. Twenty were rescued. It's still unclear what happened.
Ukraine wants to turn the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster into a tourism hot spot. Ukraine's minister for emergency situations announced today that the Chernobyl disaster zone will be open to visitors beginning next year. Plans are in the works for organized tours of the area. In 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant resulted in highly radioactive fallout in a 19- mile exclusion zone. Vast areas were contaminated, and 200,000 people were relocated.
Speaking of tourism, Oprah Winfrey and 300 of her closest fans are taking Australia by storm. The eight-day trip billed as the ultimate Australia adventure began last week and includes two taped shows at the Sydney Opera House, which is temporally renamed Oprah house. The Australian government is footing the $5 million tab. Its tourism chief says pricey, yes, but the value of exposure is at least $38 million. How about that?
BLITZER: They're probably getting their money's worth.
HAYES: I guess so. It makes you wonder what Chicago has made over all these years.
BLITZER: A lot of people want to go to Australia, under any circumstance, but maybe now a few more. Thanks, Sam.
President Obama sends a message to House Democrats revolting against his tax cut compromise. It's just cleared one major hurdle, but there are more ahead.
Also, there are Democrats, Republicans and independents who are fed up with partisanship. Details of their high-profile move to try to get around gridlock with no labels.
BLITZER: The controversial tax cut compromise that President Obama reached with Republican leaders has now cleared a key procedural vote in the Senate, but it still faces high hurdles in the House of Representatives, where Democrats have said they won't even bring it up to the floor without major changes. President Obama spoke just a few minutes ago trying to sell the plan to those most reluctant House lawmakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I recognize that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are unhappy with certain parts of the package, and I understand those concerns. I share some of them. But that's the nature of compromise, sacrificing something that each of us cares about to move forward on what matters to all of us. Right now, that's growing the economy and creating jobs. And nearly every economist agrees that that is what this package will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by. She's got more. Dana, so, what's next?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's next is, actually, believe it or not, we're still waiting for a final vote from this key test vote in the Senate. If you look at the Senate floor, it is still going on, Wolf. As of now, our unofficial vote count is 83 for this. 83. That is really overwhelming and that is exactly why the president came out today and said what he said.
He is hoping that this gives momentum to the House and really pushes the House to go ahead and have a vote. What I'm told from House Democrats, from senior sources, is that probably the likely scenario that they will put forward is to try to bring this tax package to the floor of the House, maybe by the end of the week, with at least one amendment to change the estate tax provision.
That, Wolf, is what Democrats really are the most angry about, about the fact that they believe it is way too generous to people who are wealthy in a time that really is unnecessary from their perspective. They're going to try to change it. Unclear, if they will be able to, but if they do, the package will have to go back to the Senate. So, that is something that the White House is definitely trying to avoid in the House.
BLITZER: We're just being told, Dana, as you speak, 83-15, that's the official final vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate, as you point out, overwhelming support, but we don't have a day when the House is going to take it up yet. Is that right?
BASH: That's correct. We still have to see the final vote in the Senate. That is going to come as early as tomorrow. You see Dick Durbin, the number two in the Senate, there on the floor. He might actually telling us the answer of that as we speak, but it's going to happen pretty soon especially with this overwhelming voted. It's just -- it's all but over in the Senate.
House Democratic leaders say that they're going to wait for this and then try to figure out how to schedule a vote. But we do expect it is probably going to take place later this week. It's possible they may be here this weekend at the House of Representatives. But it's going to happen pretty soon, because time is running out. As we've told our viewers many, many times, these tax cuts that we're talking about, that the Senate and the House later will deal with, they expire at the end of the year. So there isn't much time left.
BLITZER: There isn't much time at all. All right, Dana. Thanks very much.
The battle over tax-cut extension highlights some of the partisan gridlock that's become standard in Washington, but a new group calling itself No Labels launched today with a goal of finding non-partisan solutions to some of the most serious problems facing the United States.
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in New York. She was there as this group opened up. What's this group, Jessica, really all about?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, we spent the day here trying to see what they're going to do. The group is trying to fight what they call hyper partisanship and try to find solutions for some of the endless gridlock in Washington we always talk about.
And they promise a, quote, "ruckus for democracy" and a radical center. What is that? Well, we pressed, and they'd like to find a way to get grassroots movement, a MoveOn.org or a Tea Party type movement around the middle so that when legislators are trying to reach bipartisan deals and trying to cut compromises, right now they're only getting, generally, bombarded with e-mails and protests and petitions from groups on the far left or on the far right.
And this is designed to build a mass movement of a million people in the next year who will organize and activate around the middle and support legislators who cut deals and reach compromises.
So it's a very interesting concept. If it works, it could be fascinating. Right now, it's an idea being born here at Columbia University, an elite college in New York City. We'll see how and whether it reaches out into the rest of the country, Wolf. BLITZER: We just saw the picture of the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. He clearly supports this group. He was speaking there today. He's repeatedly said he's not running for president, has no intention of running for president. What did he say today?
YELLIN: He -- he repeated a theory he's explained before in the press. He said it before when he was overseas, that he does not think a third party -- you know, most people think if he were to run, it would be on a third-party ticket, that a third party could really win in this country. This is Michael Bloomberg today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: When you have an independent candidate, not always, but almost always, it is the two major parties that get most of the votes. Now, that may be people think the independent candidate can't win, and they want the lesser of the other two evils or not. But it's not clear that the average person feels themselves disenfranchised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Wolf, he wasn't explicitly talking about himself or his own prospects of running, but it's clear this is part of the logic. He's explained why running as a third-party candidate doesn't work in his view.
Finally, I'll just add some folks have theorized that this group, No Labels, would be a stalking horse, sort of, an organization laying the groundwork for a possible Bloomberg run. Everyone denies that. He was not a founder of the group. But that idea appealed to a lot of people who are talking about it today, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's only the first day. We'll see what happens. Jessica, thank you very, very much.
Sarah Palin in Haiti keeping most of the news media at arm's length. Details of what she saw and why she was there. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Samantha Hayes is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a noted U.S. diplomat simply fighting for his life right now. Sam, we're talking about Ambassador Holbrooke.
SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Ambassador Holbrooke is in critical but stable condition after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta. He fell ill Friday during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that everyone here joins me when I say that America is more secure and the world is a safer place because of the work of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. So Michelle and I to the entire family, just know we are thinking and praying for you, you and for Richard, every single day.
And he is a tough son of a gun. So we are confident that, as hard as this is, that he is going to be putting up a tremendous fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Holbrooke is special U.S. representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is best known for brokering the 1995 Bosnian peace agreement that came to be known as the Dayton Accords.
A three-month-old girl is in stable condition after surviving a deadly crash that happened during a high-speed chase with police in Texas. Officers pulled the car over just outside Houston yesterday, and when the driver got out, his passenger locked the doors and sped away. The car crashed during the police chase, and the driver was killed. The baby was found hanging upside down in her car seat. Her father, the original driver, was not charged.
A popular news and gossip blog network has been hacked. More than 1 million user names and passwords on Gawker were exposed over the weekend. The breech exposed users' e-mails as well as Gawker source code and conversations between staff members. The site acknowledged Sunday that it had been compromised and recommended that its users change their passwords.
The U.S. Postal Service has a new stamp honoring late President Ronald Reagan. The former first lady, Nancy Reagan, was on hand for the unveiling at the presidential library in Simi Valley, California, today. The 44-cent stamp will be available in February to commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday. This is the third time President Reagan has been on a stamp.
"Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown might be doing a jig just about now. Never-before-seen symbols were found in the eyes of Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa." Art historians were intrigued by a 50-year-old book suggesting symbols might exist. The left eye isn't clear, but under a microscope, they found the letters "LV" etched in her right eye. The speculation is that could be the artist's initials.
It's a sad day for Brett Favre fans. The Minnesota Vikings quarterback ends his streak for consecutive starts at 297, the record for tops for quarterbacks and non-special team players. Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts is second behind Favre with 205 starts. A Vikings spokesman announced that Favre is inactive for tonight's game against the New York Giants because of a shoulder injury suffered last week against the Buffalo Bills.
BLITZER: It's amazing. Brett Favre, a great, great quarterback. And for those of us who are great football fans -- and we love Brett Favre, no matter what team he plays for.
HAYES: No matter what he does.
BLITZER: But no matter what. And also, no matter what he does, he's just a great football player.
Here's some fun facts...
BLITZER: ... that we -- that we just discovered. He hasn't missed a game -- the last time he missed a game, George H.W. Bush, the first President Bush, was in office. The Baltimore Ravens were then the Cleveland Browns.
Carolina, Tennessee, Jacksonville, they didn't even have teams the last time he missed a game. I was a Pentagon correspondent back in September of '92. Shaquille O'Neal, the oldest current player in the NBA, was a rookie. Just some...
HAYES: Major historical events.
BLITZER: Just to give you some perspective on what's going on. We wish Brett Favre the best. He really has done a wonderful job as a quarterback.
HAYES: He's been fun to watch.
BLITZER: All right. So what's on President Obama's Christmas list? If some D.C. kids have anything to say about it, a new suit and maybe, if he's really good, a hot tub. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: An unlikely visitor to Haiti. The former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, visited the country yesterday, seeing firsthand the ravages of the earthquake, the cholera epidemic and now political violence. Our national correspondent, Gary Tuchman, is in Port-au- Prince for us.
Gary, what exactly was Sarah Palin doing in Haiti?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sarah Palin was invited to come to this country by Franklin Graham. Franklin Graham is the son of the Reverend Billy Graham. And Franklin Graham is the CEO and the president of a charity called Samaritan's Purse.
So they toured Haiti. We got some wonderful photographs, courtesy of Samaritan's Purse. But we were not able to take photographs. And that's the unique part of this visit. You know, she's certainly not a declared presidential candidate. But she was a vice-presidential candidate, a governor. She's a VIP. And traditionally, when VIPs come to disaster zones, like here in Haiti, the journalists, the VIPs, work together to cover these visits.
Sarah Palin, her people, made the decision at the last minute not to allow any media to cover any of her visit. So we never saw her with a single Haitian. One media group was invited. That's where she does some work. The FOX News people were with her the entire time. So it was rather unusual. We were told when we came here that we would have an opportunity to see her. It turns out we did not. We couldn't ask her why, because she wouldn't take any questions. We're still not sure why.
But what was interesting was that the Palin people announced they would have a news conference. We showed up at the news conference yesterday, during the second day of her two-day visit, and Franklin Graham got up on the stage, and he said, "Sarah Palin will take no questions."
And then Sarah Palin said, "I don't want to take questions because I don't want to get political." Now one piece of advice to VIPs: if you're going to hold a news conference, you've got to take questions or else it's not a news conference. Then it's just a statement.
So either way, to make it a news conference, I tried to ask her a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Thank you. You're doing God's work. Thank you.
FRANKLIN GRAHAM, CEO, SAMARITAN'S PURSE: Thank you, Governor.
TUCHMAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) than you expected?
GRAHAM: Thank you.
PALIN: Much harsher than I had expected the conditions are. Much rougher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: And if she was only going to take one question, that was a good one. Because what's really amazing about the situation here in Haiti, you've all seen so much on television. Yesterday was the 11-month anniversary of the earthquake. But until you come here and see it, you just don't really understand the depth of it. And Sarah Palin made it clear that it was harsher than she expected. But she was here for two days. She's here with her husband, her daughter, Bristol. And they're now back in the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Gary, what's the latest on the contested election results and the violence we've seen over these past few days?
TUCHMAN: Right. Well, we've had -- last week particularly, it was very dangerous and very rough. Over the weekend, it seemed to alleviate a little bit. But there's a lot of concern that it will pick up this week. And what's happened is many people in this country think the election results were fraudulent. There's a run-off by the top two finisheres scheduled for January 16th. But the third-place finisher is very angry. He finished 5,000 votes behind the No. 2 finisher. A lot of supporters in the streets. That's what's led to the violence. The government has pledged a recount. But people who participate in the election don't want to participate in the recount. So it's anyone's guess what will happen here in Haiti in the days to come.
BLITZER: I see it's raining there. And I assume that must be awful for the folks who are living in little huts and shanties. What's going on?
TUCHMAN: Let me tell you, Wolf, this is miserable and this is pitiful. Monsoon-like conditions right now. There are thousands of homeless people behind me. I've been talking to them. I've been standing up here waving at them. Most of them don't even bother to look for cover, for umbrellas. They just wander the streets.
This park across the street from us, Wolf, when we arrived hours after the earthquake, was empty. People started sleeping in it. For 11 months now, it's been full of people. When we got here a few days ago, it was a little emptier than when I was here last time. We thought people have found homes. No, what happened was two people were killed in here because of the election violence last week. Other people said there were rumors that there would be more gunshots, so people took off and went to other places.
Now they're starting to come back again. They haven't found houses. They were just scared of getting killed.
BLITZER: Gary Tuchman, thanks very much. Be careful over there. We wish all of the people of Haiti only -- only the best. God knows what they've been through. We wish them only, only the best.
Jack Cafferty wants to know how serious is President Obama about cutting the deficit? And assuming he's been nice, what should President Obama get for Christmas? The first lady received some very special advice.
And YouTube shares its top ten viral videos for 2010.
BLITZER: It's a seasonal tradition dating back to Bess Truman. The first lady, Michelle Obama, visited Children's National Medical Center here in Washington, D.C. There was a reading of "The Night Before Christmas" and a chat with some of the young patients about her holiday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to get the president for Christmas?
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Ooh. All right. Look, look, the press is all, like, because I'm not going to tell you because it's going to be in the paper tomorrow. And then he's going to read it, and then it won't be a surprise.
But first, I have to see if he's been naughty or nice. I've been trying to figure that out. What do you think I should get the president?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
OBAMA: When -- when -- only if he's nice. Let's assume he's been nice. What do you think? Any ideas? Any president gift ideas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about a watch?
OBAMA: A watch. OK. That's a good suggestion. Any other ideas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A president bell.
OBAMA: A president's bell? How would that work?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, you put it on the roof top.
OBAMA: A rooftop president's bell. All right. We'll think that through. What about -- what do you think I should get him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should get him a new suit.
OBAMA: Good idea. President needs a new suit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what?
OBAMA: OK. We've got some...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe you should get Barack Obama a new hot tub.
OBAMA: You think he's got an old hot tub? All right. That's another -- that's another recommendation. We've got a watch, new suit, candy and a hot tub. Got it.
BLITZER: Pretty cool. The first dog, by the way, Bo, was there, as well. The kids suggested some new toys for him.
Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File." Good -- good gifts, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. The question this hour is: "How serious is President Obama about cutting the deficit?"
Ken in California writes, "The only time any president or Congress will get serious about deficit reduction is when other nations refuse any further loans and start calling for payments on all that borrowing. I guess everything comes to an end, including nations, but what's our hurry? Are we stupid or what?"
Donald writes, "Clearly, President Obama is a spender not a saver. Perhaps he naively thought that the deficit reduction commission report would contain a magic pain-free answer to America's financial predicament. More likely, though, is he viewed it as a painless way to avoid having to deal with overspending until after the midterms. A lot of good that strategy did him. The president is obviously not serious about cutting the deficit."
Tom in Maine writes: "The president's not focused on deficit reduction whatsoever. Nobody is. The left is willing" -- pardon me -- "to spend us into oblivion because they honestly think they ought to: people need the help. The right is willing to saddle generations to come simply out of greed. Sadly, I don't see anything changing in the foreseeable future. We're screwed, and so are our kids."
James writes, "Give Obama a break, Jack. The deficit-cutting decision is not made in a vacuum. He didn't cause this mess. I agree the tax cuts should end and we all need to chip in and pay our debt, but the economy is very fragile, and taxes going up right now could cause a double-dip recession. What we ought to do is cut the overinflated federal payroll by about 10 to 20 percent. It's a start on cutting the spending side of things."
Dave writes, "Obviously, he could care less. The question should be: What has taken you so long to ask this question?"
Steve in Maryland says, "Alan Greenspan told George Bush if he didn't stop running up the deficit, he'd go blind. George said, 'I'll just do it until I need glasses and let the next guy go blind'." That is an old joke. "Obama saw -- lost his sight when he got elected and now we have the blind leading the blind."
Bob in Pennsylvania says, "Is this a trick question?"
If you want to read more on this, including all the high-brow humor we get at "The Cafferty File," check out the blog.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very, very much. Good stuff.
Chances are you may have seen it on YouTube. Take a rainbow and a very happy guy with a camera, and you might just have a viral video. CNN's Jeanne Moos is next with the top ten.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL VASQUEZ, IN TOP 10 YOUTUBE VIDEO: Wow, it's so intense. Whoa!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Some things just make you stop and wonder. YouTube has released its ten most popular videos this year. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forget cats playing patty cake. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patty cake, patty cake, baker's...
MOOS: There's not a single adorable animal video in YouTube's top ten most popular videos this year.
No. 10 showcases extreme driving.
(on camera) The No. 9 video featured a 3-year-old, heartbroken over heartthrob Justin Bieber.
CODY, JUSTIN BIEBER FAN: Because I love Justin Bieber.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're crying because you love Justin Bieber?
MOOS (voice-over): So Jimmy Kimmel invited Cody on his show and surprised her with Justin Bieber.
And the group OK Go took eighth place with their Rube Goldberg- like music video.
Talk about the pot at the end of the rainbow.
VASQUEZ: Double rainbow, oh, my God.
MOOS: Many who saw the rainbow guy video that came in sixth were suspicious. "Whatever he was smoking, I want it."
VASQUEZ: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
MOOS: But the rainbow guy told Jimmy Kimmel he hadn't ingested anything.
VASQUEZ: Absolutely not.
JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: You were not?
VASQUEZ: I was completely sober in that video.
MOOS: One kid posted that his parents wondered if he was watching some kind of porno stuff.
Speaking of spicy, No. 5, it's the Old Spice Web ad.
ISAIAH MUSTAFA, ACTOR: He could smell like he's me. Look down. Back up. Where are you? You're on a boat with a man your man could smell like.
MOOS: The No. 4 video made a fruit famous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up?
MOOS: The annoying orange spawned dozens of sequels.
(on camera) The No. 3 video made a star out of a 13-year-old singing a Lady Gaga hit.
MOOS (voice-over): Viewer discretion...
(on camera) ... No. 2 video might make you gag.
(voice-over) Actually, we've edited out the gross parts. It's an parody of this music video by the singer Ke$ha.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vomit up in my hair. But I'm way too sick to care.
MOOS (on camera): And the No. 1 video...
(voice-over) "The Bed Intruder Song."
ANTOINE DODSON, WITNESS: Hide your kids, hide your wife.
MOOS: Antoine Dodson got famous when he appeared in a TV news report after interrupting an intruder who climbed in his sister's bedroom video. His reaction to being the global No. 1 video?
DODSON: Oh, my God, it's so exciting.
MOOS: From his half of the proceeds from auto-tuning the song, he bought his mom...
DODSON: A whole house.
MOOS: And next, he's buying himself a Mercedes.
(on camera) Based on the top ten YouTubes, you might think our culture is going down the tubes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up?
MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos...
MUSTAFA: I'm on a horse.
MOOS: ... CNN...
VASQUEZ: What does this mean?
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. On Twitter, you can get my tweets at Twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN. You can also follow us on -- on Facebook. Go to Facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom to become a fan. That's all the time I have. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.