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Interview With Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist; GOP Prepares to Take Over House

Aired January 4, 2011 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: Voters gave them control of the House after they pledged to make America tighten its belt. Tonight, though, some Republicans will be partying with the big spenders at a lavish fund- raiser. The price: $2,500 a ticket.

President Obama returns from Hawaii to wintry Washington and the chill is on as Republicans launch a push to repeal his health care overhaul.

And Michael Jackson's family members gather in a California courtroom at a hearing for the doctor accused of giving the pop star a lethal dose of a powerful prescription drug.

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.

She was a lightning rod for critics during the midterm election campaign. Now, the Republican takeover is only a few hours away. It is Democrat Nancy Pelosi's last day as speaker of the House. She and the incoming speaker, John Boehner, will trade offices and other lawmakers are also playing musical chairs with furniture still clogging Capitol Hill hallways.

Pelosi says she has no regrets about her term as speaker. She says that in the new Congress House Democrats will focus on creating jobs and reducing the deficit.

Meantime, while Republicans ran for office vowing to keep a close eye on the budget, the money is flowing for some new GOP lawmakers at a lavish fund-raiser and a swearing-in celebration tonight.

Brian Todd is looking into that story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are 12 brand-new Republican congressmen. They have not even been sworn in yet, and this fund-raiser at a minimum $2,500 a person is raising questions about whether Republicans are already going back on the Tea Party promise to change things in Washington.


TODD (voice-over): They took back the House majority by saying they'd fight for the average family struggling in a tough economy. Republican leaders said they would change the culture in Washington and fiscal discipline would be a big part of that.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I will tell you, we are going to cut spending.

TODD: But one Republican Party in Washington, the dancing and drinking kind of party, is not so austere. And incoming House Speaker John Boehner headlines a list of invited guests.

It is a fund-raising bash Tuesday night for about a dozen incoming GOP freshman congressmen at the upscale W Hotel. According to published reports, tickets range from $2,500 each to a block of eight and a VIP suite for $50,000. Country music star LeAnn Rimes is the lead performer.

Boehner is not going. Contacted by CNN, an aide to the incoming speaker declined to say why. But a dozen incoming Republican members, almost all of whom did not return our calls today, are listed on the invitation obtained from a lobbyist by the watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation.

(on camera): We're here at the W Hotel, where the event is being held. The organizers have asked the hotel not to let us film the room, the preparations for the party, not even the entrance to the room. They don't want us to film the lobby even though the lobby is out here. We are asked to film in this designated area.

And I'm joined now by conservative columnist Matt Lewis from

Matt, the message that this sends, after the conservative victory in November, what is the message?

MATT LEWIS, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Well, look, that right now everybody is thinking about jobs and the economy. And I'm not a class warfare guy.

I don't care if you make a lot of money, spend a lot of money, but I think, if I'm advising candidates it is probably not a good idea the night before you take office to take the House of Representatives to hold a $2,500-ticket event. And that is precisely what they are doing here. So I think that that maybe is a little bit politically tone-deaf.

TODD (voice-over): But one former leading House Republican offered a counterpoint.

(on camera): What about the criticism that after the Tea Party message of fiscal discipline in the last campaign, that this is little tone-deaf?

TOM DAVIS (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, there's nothing not fiscally disciplined about this. You have to raise money and balance budgets to run campaigns at this point. And you are getting ready for the next time. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: One of the key organizers of this event is incoming Republican freshman Congressman Jeff Denham of California. He was a leader of a political action committee called America's New Majority, which is sponsoring this fund-raiser.

I called Denham's office throughout the day and went over there. His chief of staff said he couldn't speak with us. He later called and said Mr. Denham will speak to reporters in about an hour from right now at that hotel.

Now, one of Denham's campaign advisers did tell me over the phone that all he wants to do here is to help fellow Republican freshmen raise money so they can have a chance at reelection. He says there is nothing wrong with this event, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi, correct me if I'm wrong, Brian, she had a huge fund-raiser after she became speaker as well.

TODD: She did indeed. This was four years ago. This was about $1,000 a ticket at the Italian Embassy here in Washington. It featured Tony Bennett, members of the Grateful Dead.

She was criticized for that, but that was to celebrate her becoming the first woman House speaker. Some people, even those inside the GOP, are saying it just doesn't look great for incoming freshmen Republican to be doing this.

BLITZER: It looks like business as usual going on here in Washington D.C. Brian, thanks very much.

It has been going on like this for years.

While President Obama will now have to share power with Republicans in Washington, Republican governors are taking over in a number of key states, among them, the former health care executive Rick Scott who was sworn in today as Florida's chief executive.

His predecessor ran for the Senate as an independent, but he came up short.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Tallahassee, the former Governor of Florida Charlie Crist.

Gloria Borger is joining me in the questioning.

Governor, a quick question on health care repeal that the House Republicans want to get started right now, immediately. Is that a good idea?

CHARLIE CRIST, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Well, it is what they ran on, so I think it's very important that they do get about that business. The concern I think is the American people want the people in Congress to work together to try to come up with good solutions to all of these problems that we face in this difficult economy. But that's what they ran on. They should be true to their word. And so it is not a surprise that that is happening.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Former Governor, I guess, is what we call you, Governor. Once a governor always a governor.

Let me talk to you about the future of the Republican Party. You were the poster child for the Tea Party folks. We need to defeat Charlie Crist. When I say Tea Party to you now, what do you think?

CRIST: I don't know that I do have a definition of it.

I think that what we need to do in America is make sure that we have people in office that understand that they need to put the people ahead of party, that they need to do what is right for the American economy, that they need to try to reduce taxation, the size of government, but at the same time, you know, stay out of people's personal lives.

And I think that is what Americans probably want. It is what would be good for our economy, frankly, in my humble opinion. I think that's what they want, regardless of what party it is, Republican, Democratic, Tea, whatever it is.

BORGER: Well, but speaking of party, what party are you, Governor now?

CRIST: I'm an independent. I'm a very happy independent.

BLITZER: What is the most important lesson you learned, political lesson, in defeat?

CRIST: I think the important lesson is that it's better to have one opponent, instead of two.

In all seriousness, though, we had a three-way race here for the Senate in Florida.


BLITZER: But you only had a two-way race to get the Republican nomination, and you dropped out.

CRIST: That's right. Well, I felt it was important to run as an independent, Wolf. And that is why I did it.

I imagine that's the same reason Joe Lieberman had a number of years ago when he decided to do so.

BLITZER: I take it you will stay as an independent; you are not going to be a Republican and you are not going to be a Democrat?

CRIST: Right. That is my intent.

And I'm very comfortable as an independent. I think it is important when you run for office and you state what the reason is that you are doing what you are doing, that you stay true to that. And I have done that as an independent.

BORGER: Is there anybody out there, Governor, that you see as a viable candidate for 2012 who could carry that independent moniker that you talk about?

CRIST: Well, sure there is. I mean, people talk about Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York many times in that vein.

I went to an organization called No Labels not long ago in New York City.


BORGER: He says he is not running.

CRIST: I know. I have heard that, too. But you asked if I thought there was somebody who would be viable. Certainly, I think he would.

And I will add this. So would Governor Schwarzenegger if he had been born in the United States of America. I think he is the kind of independent leader and independent voice, along with Mayor Bloomberg, that could really make a difference in our country.

BLITZER: What is the most important piece of advice you have for your successor, Governor Rick Scott?

CRIST: Just to follow his heart. You know, these are tough times to be coming into office. And it's a tough economy. He is laser- focused on trying to get job creation moving more readily and more forward in Florida. And I applaud him for that. He gave a great talk today here in Tallahassee.

BORGER: Let me ask you, what is next for you? Has the Obama administration come to you with any job offers?

CRIST: What is next to me is to go into the private sector. I am an attorney, was attorney general before I was governor. I look forward to probably practicing law and entering the private sector, maybe also doing some guest lecturing at Stetson University College in my hometown of St. Petersburg.

BORGER: But nothing in the Obama administration?

CRIST: No, ma'am.

BORGER: Can I ask you to put back on a Republican hat for just 30 seconds here and tell me a couple of things?

One, do you think Jeb Bush -- I know he did not endorse you for your candidacy -- do you think he would be a viable Republican candidate for president and a good one?

CRIST: Oh, I don't think there's any question about it.

I saw Governor Bush here today here at the inauguration for Governor Scott. And there's no question he would a viable candidate, certainly has done extremely well as governor of the state of Florida, and has tremendous respect among Republicans throughout the country.

BORGER: And how about Michael Steele to run the RNC?

CRIST: I will leave that to the people within the party to make that call.

BLITZER: Governor, good luck in the next chapter, the private sector, teaching. We hope you will stay in touch with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CRIST: Look forward it to, Wolf.

And please say hello to your mother.

Gloria, it was great to be with you today, too.

BORGER: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: Charlie Crist, now the former governor of Florida, thanks very much.


BLITZER: A radical idea has Jack Cafferty's attention. Jack is here. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: As things in Washington continue to go from bad to worse, in my humble opinion, here's an idea that could really shake up the way politics is done in this country. How about we let the children vote?

And it might not be as crazy an idea as it sounds at first. has got a piece about a recent report in "The Economist" on the problem of the aging population in Japan.

The median age of the voting population in Japan will soon be 65, which gives older voters a huge amount of political power and means that it's highly unlikely they will ever support cuts in entitlement programs. Sound familiar?

The United States facing similar problems. As the baby boomers age, entitlement spending is taking up a larger and larger portion of our budget and thus growing our deficit exponentially.

Well, one expert who wrote into "The Economist" suggests an answer to this dilemma is to let kids vote. In practical terms, it would mean giving parents an extra vote for every child. This would take away some of the voting power from seniors in the U.S., who traditionally vote in large numbers at election time. And it would give the future generation, which after all is going to have to pay off this massive debt, a say in the decisions that are being made today.

However, it would also put the responsibility on parents to use those votes in the best interest of their children. That's a tall order, too.

During the Vietnam War, when young Americans were fighting and dying for this country, the voting age was lowered to 18.

Now that the country is starting to die under the weight of $14 trillion in debt, maybe it's time to lower the voting age again.

Here's the question: Should children have the right to vote?

Go to and post a comment on my blog. After all, they have a right to serve in elective office, don't they, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. That is a radical idea, though, as I said it was, Jack.

We will see our viewers think as well. Thank you.

House Republicans are moving to gut the health care reform law, an effort almost certain to fail. So why are they doing it? Why are they doing it now? We have two lawmakers, one Republican, one Democrat, standing by to debate.

And swift punishment for a U.S. Navy commander -- details of the price he's paying for a lewd and offensive video.

And a Pakistani governor who vowed he would not back down in the face of extremist threats has now been assassinated by his own security guard. We are going live to Islamabad. That's coming up.


BLITZER: He spoke out against his country's law which makes it a crime punishable by death to insult Islam. And now that has cost one of Pakistan's top politicians his own life.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us now from Islamabad with more.

A pretty shocking story, Chris. What is going on?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the governor was really one of the faces of moderate Islam here in Pakistan, so his killing could have repercussions way beyond the death of just one man.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): He never saw it coming, the governor of Pakistan's most populated province gunned down by one of his elite security guards.

Salman Taseer walked out of an Islamabad grocery store and the guard shot him 26 times. The governor died instantly. And the guard just gave himself up.

So, why Taseer? It all comes back to Pakistan's blasphemy law, which makes it a crime to insult Islam, a crime punishable by death.

SALMAN TASEER, GOVERNOR OF PUNJAB, PAKISTAN: The blasphemy law is not a God-made law.

LAWRENCE: On CNN and elsewhere, the governor of Punjab Province public condemned it.

TASEER: It is a law which gives an excuse to extremists and reactionaries to target weak people and minorities.

LAWRENCE: Taseer visited a Christian mother in jail after she was sentenced to hang for blasphemy. He helped Aasia Bibi file a mercy petition and made himself a target for every hard-liner and militant in Pakistan.

Still, he kept pushing on his Twitter feed: "Tomorrow, mullahs are demonstrating against me after Juma, thousands of beards screaming for my head. What a great feeling."

If the threats got to him, Taseer did not show it publicly, tweeting: "I'm OK with my effigy being burnt and fatwas against me, but I'm really angry that I'm not mentioned anywhere on WikiLeaks."

Islamabad police tell us the security guard told them why he killed Taseer. Because the guard felt the governor blasphemed. He allegedly said Taseer called Pakistan's blasphemy laws the black laws, which to him insulted Islam.

Now the question, was the security guard acting alone or backed by the Taliban or the governor's political enemies?


LAWRENCE: Just yesterday, Pakistan's ruling political party lost its majority in the country's coalition government. Now they have lost one of their most high-profile supporters. It's thrown the government into disarray at a time when the U.S. wants Pakistan to do even more against both the Taliban and al Qaeda -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Chris, we will stay with close touch with you -- Chris Lawrence reporting for us from Islamabad.

A plea to President Obama from the highest levels in Israel for the release of a convicted American spy -- details of a letter from the Israeli prime minister. Stand by.

And why you won't be seeing traditional light bulbs on Ikea store shelves anymore.



BLITZER: House Republicans are wasting no time. They're launching a push repeal to the health care overhaul. We will have the debate coming up, two lawmakers on different sides of the aisle. They are both standing by.

And the Navy cracks down on bad behavior and how it's punishing the carrier captain responsible for those raunchy videos.

Plus, the death of Michael Jackson -- prosecutors today lay out their case against the doctor accused of involuntary manslaughter.


BLITZER: The president is back from his vacation in Hawaii. He is here in Washington, but the chill is on. He will face new challenges and a new Congress.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. He has got more on the president now back today.

He has got a lot on his plate right now, Dan.


And even with this new Congress, the president is quite confident that they can get things done, especially when it comes to creating jobs for the millions of Americans out there who are still unemployed. He thinks that he can build on some of the successes during the lame- duck session late last year.

But Republicans have been empowered, and they're wasting no time in attacking the president's agenda.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): After 12 days in warm and mostly sunny Hawaii, President Obama returned to Washington, where the sudden drop in temperature is not the only reason for a frigid welcome.

House Republicans want to repeal his signature domestic achievement: health care reform.

QUESTION: It sounds like a relatively chilly reception awaiting you.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I mean, I think that there's going to be politics. That's what happens in Washington. They are going to play to their base for a certain period of time.

LOTHIAN: But the president seems confident that Republicans will focus on governing and put aside campaign posturing.

OBAMA: There will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012.

LOTHIAN: But a shift in control of the House could lead to big clashes.

L. RANDOLPH LOWRY, DISPUTE RESOLUTION EXPERT: Well, obviously, the president is going to need to do more negotiating and more compromising. I would suggest he might also want to do it in a private way.

LOTHIAN: The president also plans to focus on job creation and economic recovery, but big personnel changes are on his plate, too.

Former Commerce Secretary William Daley could possibly end up as Mr. Obama's chief of staff. He may not be Rahm Emanuel, who left that job to run for Chicago mayor, but he's close, a strong personality who can be a key asset on Capitol Hill, Wall Street, and in a reelection year.

And no one has been named to filled top economic adviser Larry Summers' job at the NEC, but Gene Sperling, a counselor to the Treasury secretary, appears to be a top contender.


LOTHIAN: Now, we should point out that nothing is final here. The president is still looking at other candidates, but all indications are that these personnel changes will happen soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It should be no surprise they are looking to some top officials from the Clinton administration to help out. They have got a lot of experience.

All right, Dan, thank you.

House Republicans have already launched a push to turn back the clock on health care reform, the new law, even though any repeal effort would almost certainly fail in the Senate. Even if it went through the Senate, the president would almost certainly -- would certainly veto it as well.

Let's discuss what is going on with two members of Congress, Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa, and Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

Thanks to both of you very much for coming in.

Since you really have no chance of repealing health care reform, why bother now, instead of getting to jobs?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, Wolf, I think we have every chance of getting it repealed.

BLITZER: In the House.

KING: In the House, and sending it to the Senate, where the pressure will build. And this is not about repealing it in one bill, in one motion. This is the first step in a long, hard slog. It's beginning of the beginning to repeal Obama care.

BLITZER: But if it were to be repealed in the Senate, the president would veto it. Do you have a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto in not only the House, but in the Senate?

KING: Well, we will learn that in the House on January 12, when we bring up the repeal bill.

But whether we do or whether we don't, we will have people on record. And when they're on record, then they stick with their convictions as we march through the effort to cut off the funding that would be used to implement or enforce Obama care, at every step along the way, all the way through 2011 and 2012. But the endgame is elect a president who will sign the repeal of Obama care.

BLITZER: The Republicans promised they would do it. They're living up to their promise. What is wrong with that?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Because this is a Republican obsession with repealing health care reform.

They are engaging starting tomorrow in the ultimate in hypocrisy. They talk about the importance of creating jobs and reducing the deficit. Tomorrow, when they pursue -- fruitlessly pursue repealing health care reform, they will explode the deficit, if they are successful , as I don't think they will be. It will add $143 billion in the first 10 years to the deficit and a trillion in the second 10 years. And, instead of creating jobs, it will actually reduce jobs.

In December, Wolf, the jobs report showed that the biggest increase in an industry for job creation was in the health-care sector.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Congressman.

KING: Well, we're going to see a new CBO score on this. Things have changed. This is their job...

BLITZER: This is the Congressional Budget Office, is the one that -- the numbers that she was pointing to, saying that this health- care reform law will actually cut the long-term debt?

KING: And that's if you make some assumptions, such as there's $532 billion worth of cuts to Medicare and a number of other assumptions, in order to get the score barely squeaked in, just barely in the black. And that's what happened in order to draft Obama care in the first place.

But we're in a new economic environment. We can't be creating jobs by growing government spending. This is a job-killing Obama care bill, and the result of repealing Obama care will be grow the economy.

BLITZER: I want to -- go ahead and respond to that. SCHULTZ: Well, what trying to repeal health-care reform means is that every minute that the Republicans spend trying to do that is one less minute we're focused on creating jobs and turning the economy around. And it means that we're also going to put insurance companies back in the driver's seat, and add prescription drug costs for seniors, deny people the ability to have insurance if they have a pre- existing conditions. What -- what -- taking young adults off their parents' insurance. This is going to harm people gravely.

BLITZER: There's a new freshman congressman from Illinois. His name is Joe Walsh, and he says he is not going to accept the federal government's health insurance program for himself, even though his wife has some pre-existing conditions, because he thinks to accept the federal government's health insurance program would be hypocritical. Do you accept the federal government's health insurance program for yourself?

KING: Well, I'm on it now, like other federal employees are.

BLITZER: Will you stay on it?

KING: I don't intend to pull off of it, but I give Joe a lot of credit for that. I went to Chicago to help him in the campaign, and I give him a lot of credit for standing on this principle.

So -- but as is, we see this. Debbie has mentioned a number of thing. I think she's listed everything that people think might be good about Obama care, including 26-year-old insurance. And we've got two members of Congress that were elected under that age who could have come in under Obama care on their parents' insurance. So that's one thing that I don't support, although others do.

Pre-existing conditions can be handled at the state level with some federal support. We intend to follow through and do that, but we can't leave a minor component of Obama care in place, because it will metastasize like a malignant tumor.

BLITZER: Assuming the Republicans fail in getting the whole thing repealed, and by all accounts, they will, what if they simply try to improve it? Are you ready to work with the Republicans to improve this law?

SCHULTZ: We've always been open to suggestions about how we can improve the health-care reform. And...

BLITZER: Give me an example of what we would change.

SCHULTZ: Well, one of the things that we need to change is the 1099 provision that we have all agreed is something was -- was something that is burdensome for small businesses, and we need to make sure that we change that. And there are some other things, but we need to sit down at the table together, instead of wasting time trying to make something happen that's not going to happen, we need to get together, find some common ground, and move forward together while trying to...

BLITZER: Do you like the fact that children can now stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26?


BLITZER: Would you repeal that?

KING: I would. Any state that wants to set that policy can, and some have. We don't need to do that at the federal level with a federal mandate. Federal mandates drive up costs. It's not a one- size-fits-all.

But what's really bad about Obama care, the economics of it, the cost, the loss of -- the loss of access. The list goes on, but what doesn't get said is what happens to the American spirit. This bill expands the dependency class in America. We're an independent people. We're a vibrant people. We're the cream of the crop of every donor civilization on the planet. We have too much vigor in Americans to be submitting to Obama care.

SCHULTZ: This is how extreme the Republicans are that are in the majority in the House now. They would deny health-care coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions, deny people who are -- young adults who are 26 years old.

A woman in my district, Wolf, last -- a few weeks ago came up to me in the supermarket and said, "Debbie, thank you so much for passing health-care reform. You saved me $3,000 last year, because I was able to put my two adult daughters back on my insurance." These are -- these are young adults who, they are one illness away from being bankrupt. They would put insurance companies back in control of health-care decisions, and we've made sure that that -- those decisions are between doctors and their patients.

BLITZER: So even if this new law says you can't deny people coverage if they get very, very sick, you think you would want to repeal that, as well?

KING: We will deal with pre-existing conditions and...

BLITZER: Not pre-existing, but if you get very sick, they could take you off the health insurance policy. This new law prevents it.

KING: That -- that can also be dealt with within the states with some federal support. And that's how we should be doing this, in a constitutional way. This bill is unconstitutional. It can't be afforded. It diminishes the quality and it increases the cost. And it's not a bill that's suitable for the American people, not as vigorous, free-enterprise people that believe in the Constitution.

BLITZER: Very quickly.

SCHULTZ: This bill is a sound private-sector reform that makes sure that we add in 32 million people who didn't have coverage that cut the deficit dramatically, that creates jobs and makes sure that people who are sick have an opportunity to get coverage so that they don't get sicker. BLITZER: We heard a little bit of the debate that we're going to be seeing over the next week on the floor of the House of Representatives. Guys, thanks very much...

SCHULTZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: ... for coming in. Good luck to both of you. Congratulations to both of you on getting re-elected, not an easy -- necessarily always an easy task, especially for Democrats this time, Republicans the last time.

An aircraft carrier commander is fired over a series of lewd and offensive videos. We're going to the Pentagon for new details coming in.

And a surprise discovery in space. What's even more surprising is who discovered it.


BLITZER: While he was second in command of a powerful U.S. aircraft carrier battle group, he produced a series of raunchy videos. It may have taken years for them to come to light, but it didn't take long afterward for the U.S. Navy to replace the captain of the USS Enterprise.

Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, what's the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just 24 hours ago, Owen Honors was commanding a ship of 6,000.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have to invite you to the (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It won't be the first time.

STARR (voice-over): More questionable videos made by Navy Captain Owen Honors.

ADMIRAL JOHN HARVEY, U.S. NAVY: A few minutes ago, I permanently relieved captain Owen Honors of his duties as commanding officer of the USS Enterprise.

STARR: Just days before the aircraft carrier sails for the war zone, the commander fired.

HARVEY: His profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer in Enterprise calls into question his character and undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively.

STARR: Honors is far from alone. In 2010, the Navy removed 17 commanders from their posts. Captain Holly Graf was fired as commander of USS Cowpens for cruelty and maltreatment of her crew. Others have been dismissed for offenses ranging from adultery to failing to meet professional standards.

Some say the Navy has been holding its people accountable since the notorious Tailhook convention of Navy pilots in Las Vegas in 1991, when dozens of women were assaulted.

In 2008, one of the highest ranking, Vice Admiral John Stufflebeem, fired for lying about an extramarital affair while he served as an aide to President George H. W. Bush. He told the woman his wife was dead, according to the Navy.

Eugene Fidell says the problem may be, culturally, the Navy still operates on two levels.

EUGENE FIDELL, YALE LAW SCHOOL: On the one hand, you have a very puritanical set of rules and expectations. It's sort of a zero-defect environment. On another level, you do have a long-standing tradition of blowing off steam, fun-loving, hazing ceremonies.

STARR: Chairman of the joint chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen was board Honors' ship in 2007. His spokesman says he was never told about the videos. He recently spoke with what now seems a foreshadowing sense.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: Well, the Navy has this wonderful tradition. I mean, the captain of the ship is the captain of the ship. And certainly, I don't subscribe to just being the captain means you're automatically a great leader, because that's not always the case.


STARR: Well, now, the investigation will continue, and it will look at other senior officers who may have known about the videos and try and determine what, if anything, they did about it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for the latest. Barbara is over at the Pentagon.

Coming up at the top of the hour, by the way, on "JOHN KING USA," a former petty officer who worked under Honors, would he work with Captain Honors again? You're going to find out right at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."

More than 30 years after he was imprisoned on rape charges, a Texas man is now free. What he has to say about that. Stand by.

Plus, a California judge deciding whether Michael Jackson's doctor should stand trial. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A hearing has begun to decide whether Michael Jackson's personal doctor should stand trial on manslaughter charges for the singer's death from a powerful anesthetic. Beth Karas is a correspondent for TruTV's "In Session." She's joining us now -- now live from Los Angeles with more. The -- Lay out the case against Dr. Conrad Murray.

As you know, Beth, you were in the courtroom today. What was the main point of their opening argument, the prosecution?

BETH KARAS, TRUTV CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Wolf.

The prosecutor, David Walgren, told the judge that he was going to put on a number of expert witnesses to demonstrate to the judge how Dr. Murray deviated from the standard of care in many areas of his treatment of Michael Jackson, particularly at the moment he was dying.

He did not know how to do CPR. The judge heard from a witness today who said Dr. Murray said, "Does anyone know how to do CPR?" as he was trying to do it on the bed with one hand on Michael Jackson, who hadn't been breathing for a while already.

Also, Dave Walgren told the judge that Murray deviated from the standard of care in how he gave this anesthetic to Michael Jackson, this Propofol, a drug used in surgery. He left the room. You don't leave a patient when they're taking this drug, which can be fatal and obviously was for Michael Jackson. You need to be there. If they stop breathing, you have to start breathing for them. You need ventilation equipment around. That's why you need to be in a surgical setting.

So the judge is aware now that the testimony is going to revolve around all sorts of things he did wrong as a doctor.

But also, he tried to clean up the scene, according to the prosecution, before even calling 911, and Michael Jackson may have been dead for as much as an hour before Dr. Murray found him. His body was cold at the time the paramedics arrived.

BLITZER: I take it we also learned, Beth, how often this Propofol was administered to Michael Jackson?

KARAS: According to Dr. Murray's own words he gave the police two days after Michael Jackson died, he was giving Michael Jackson Propofol about six days a week for two months. He started to wean him off it and hadn't given it to him for two days but gave it to him on this fateful night, and something went wrong, because a lot more went into him than should have.

He had so much in him he had, like, ten to 100 times more than the doctor said he gave him. And we don't really know how all of that got into him, if the I.V. bag kind of -- something went wrong with the valve and it sort of whooshed into his system. But he had enough into him to cut him open and perform surgery on him. He was deep, deep, so deep that he lost the ability to spontaneously breathe, and there was nobody there to help him.

BLITZER: Wow. So what's going on now in the session that's under way?

KARAS: Well, three witnesses testified today, but it just broke for the day. The Jackson family just left. It broke a little bit early for the judge. He's got a jury out on another matter. He had some things to attend to with that jury trial, so it resumes in the morning.

BLITZER: And what about outside the courtroom? What's happening there? Give us a little flavor.

KARAS: Well, a lot of Michael Jackson fans, a small group, but a noisy group, and a group called Justice for Michael arrived today with posters from different countries, signed by citizens of different countries. Twelve different countries represented. The sidewalks lined with these posters: Singapore, Canada, Australia, Latvia, all over the world, Israel, people showing their solidarity for this prosecution.

There were Michael Jackson look-a-likes outside the courthouse. There was a plane circling with a banner of Michael Jackson's image, "No Justice, No Peace" trailing behind it. Even an anesthesiologist in -- in scrubs and a white lab coat showed up with all sorts of gear to do a little show-and-tell about how dangerous Propofol is, but safe if given properly. And he had his equipment to show how you could use it safely.

BLITZER: If given properly, indeed. We'll check back with you, Beth, tomorrow. Thanks very much.

Beth Karas is with TruTV's "In Session" joining us.

A Texas man is on the verge of having his name cleared 32 years after he was jailed for a rape that DNA testing now shows he did not commit. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?


Well, good news for Cornelius Dupree. He was paroled six months ago when the test first proved his innocence. He is now waiting for a judge to set aside his conviction. He talked about it with CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is there any bitterness? What are you feeling right now?

CORNELIUS DUPREE, PAROLED, WAITING FOR JUDGE'S DECISION: Well, I'm feeling a bit of mixed emotions. I must admit that there is a little anger, but there is also joy. And the joy overrides the anger. You know? I'm just so -- so overwhelmed with the joy of just being free.

I think it was just a fair system, but you know, I think that could have happened to anyone. And just so, you know, I'm just so unfortunate that it happened to me. And I just feel that the system needs to be corrected somehow. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: Only two other people in the United States have spent more time in prison than Dupree before being cleared by DNA testing, according to the Innocence Project.

And a 10-year-old amateur astronomer has become the youngest person ever to discover a super nova. Kathryn Gray of Canada, 10 years old. She had been trying to take the record away from a 14- year-old. She found the exploding star over her Christmas break in a series of pictures she and her father took with a friend's telescope. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada confirmed her find.

And a little-known holiday here in Washington is giving all Americans three extra days to file their taxes. Emancipation day celebrates the freeing of slaves in the District of Columbia in 1862. This year it happens to fall on Saturday, April 16, but will be observed on Friday the 15th, normally the tax deadline day. So the IRS is moving the tax-filing deadline to Monday, April 18, and I'm sure there will be folks out there still pushing that deadline right up to the limit there, Wolf.

BLITZER: There will be a lot of folks getting that extension, as well, asking for a little tax extension. Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next. And later, a magical voice gives a homeless man a second chance.


TED WILLIAMS, HOMELESS MAN: Have a great voice.



BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Question this hour: Should children have the right to vote?

Carrie writes: "I don't see a problem with dropping the voting age to, say, 16. It could be the added benefit letting the kids vote at school during school hours. We could increase the number of people actually voting. I like the logic of them being able to vote on matters concerning the debt, since they're the ones who are going to get stuck with it."

Nick writes: "Not a bad idea, but the potential for abuse, voter fraud, et cetera, seems astronomical. I think it's misleading to say let kids vote. It should be give parents an extra vote for each child they have. I can't imagine the logistics of trying something like that, but at this point, it might be worth a shot."

Lisa writes: "Sure, children should be allowed to vote. After all, they'd be voting for their peers."

David writes: "Are you crazy? Most American adults aren't qualified to vote due to ignorance. What we need is a benevolent dictator for a short period of time to do away with the government. Our current form of government is the problem and not the answer."

Anna writes: "No, children should not be allowed to vote. There is no way to ensure that parents would place the vote that the children wanted."

Jill in Pennsylvania: "Children who pay taxes ought to be able to vote and have a say in how their money is spent. If a 16-year-old kid has a little part-time job and pays taxes, let them vote. But a 7- year-old voting? No."

Larry in Ohio: "Unless a person is serving in the military, no one under the age of 21 ought to be allowed to vote. President Obama is living proof that 18-year-olds have no idea what they're doing when it comes to politics!"

And Dick writes: "This question clearly shows that at least on 'Cafferty File' producer has not yet recovered from ringing in the new year."

I only have one producer. If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog,

BLITZER: I know that producer. She is terrific.

CAFFERTY: She is terrific.

BLITZER: You're a very lucky man.

CAFFERTY: I am a lucky man. I have her, I have you. I mean, my life is so full.


BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

He lost his home but not his voice, and now that is turning his life around. Stand by.


WILLIAMS: Don't forget, tomorrow morning is your chance to win a...



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

In South Korea, soldiers participate in cold endurance training.

In India, a Braille instructor talks about the language to schoolchildren.

In England, a zookeeper counts llamas while taking inventory of 16,000 animals.

And near Washington, D.C., with vacation clearly over, White House staffers carry surf boards off of Air Force 1.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

A "Most Unusual" talent may help a man turn his life around. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He may be homeless, but he's not voiceless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been this guy with an interesting sign on I-71.

MOOS: A panhandler's sign saying, "I have a God-given gift of a great voice. Wait until you hear it."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want to make you work for your dollar. Say something with that great radio voice.

WILLIAMS: When you're listening to nothing but the best of oldies you're listening to Magic 98.9. Thank you so much. God bless you. Thank you.

And we'll be back with more right after these words.

MOOS: And folks wanted to hear more. The homeless man with a golden voice blew up on Web sites like Reddit. "I just had an eargasm." "He should be an NBA announcer." "He should do audio books." "Get this man's voice on everything."

The man is Ted Williams.

WILLIAMS: The voice just became something of a development over years, and I went to school for it. And then alcohol and drugs and a few other things became a part of my life. I got two years clean.

MOOS: A videographer for "The Columbus Dispatch" Web site is the one who shot and posted the video.

(on camera) The first thing that went through your mind when you heard his voice?


MOOS (voice-over): Next thing you know, job offers are being posted, including one from the Bo Radio Show in Meadville, Pennsylvania. SCOTT "DJ BO" WOLOSZYN, MAJIC PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Absolutely. He would have his own show live on the air. He already has radio experience, obviously. So he would just need a little tweaking.

WILLIAMS: And don't forget: tomorrow morning is your chance to win a pair of tickets to see this man live in concert.

MOOS (on camera): How much is the station willing to pay? Well, they say at least minimum wage.

(voice-over) But there may be a bidding contest. Through a Columbus radio station, Central Ohio Credit Unions is offering up to $10,000 in voiceover work, saying, "We are all amazed by Mr. Williams' gift."

He may not end up being the next James Earl Jones.


MOOS: But Ted Williams has dreams.

WILLIAMS: So, you know, I'm hoping one day, "Watch 'Family Guy,' weeknights at 7:30 on FOX 28."

MOOS (on camera): Watch homeless guy find a home behind a microphone.

WILLIAMS: When you're listening to nothing but the best of oldies...

MOOS: Jeanne Moos...

WILLIAMS: ... you're listening to Magic 98.9.

MOOS: ... CNN...

WILLIAMS: Magic 98.9.

MOOS: ... New York.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.


BLITZER: Very nice. That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.


And good evening everyone.

Tonight, Washington is on the verge of dramatic and historic change. Republicans take control of the House tomorrow, and --