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B-Plus for President on Afghanistan; Massive Fish Kill Discovered in Maryland; City Bans Sidewalk Smoking

Aired January 6, 2011 - 18:00   ET



Happening now, a move toward the middle over at the White House. The president picks centrist William Daley as his new White House chief of staff. Some conservatives are applauding. Liberals, though, less than enthusiastic.

Senator Lindsey Graham answering criticism from the Taliban. He's about to tell us why the U.S. should consider keeping some permanent -- permanent -- bases in Afghanistan.

And two million fish wash ashore in Maryland. It's but the latest massive sudden death of wildlife. We're finding out why.

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.

A White House shakeup and a shift to the center. After a disastrous mid-term election for Democrats and big Republic gains in Congress, the president moves toward middle ground and names a moderate as his new White House chief of staff. The appointment of William Daley, a former Clinton commerce secretary and a banking executive, already drawing some criticism from parts of the president's own policy -- party, that is.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

Dan, what is going on over there?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some of the liberals believe that this is someone who comes from big business, he comes from the very Wall Street that is being blamed for the economic collapse, and so the president should not be choosing someone like this for his chief of staff.

But there are others, including Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell, who say this is the same kind of experience that this White House really needs, because while they have professors here, they have former elected officials, he joked that they don't have anyone who had -- quote -- "run a lemonade stand."


LOTHIAN (voice-over): It is the latest move in what the White House is calling a major retooling.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm convinced that he will help us in our mission of growing our economy and moving America forward.

WILLIAM DALEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I am pleased to answer your call.

LOTHIAN: Bill Daley becomes President Obama's third chief of staff at a critical stage in the administration's post-election course correction.

MATT BENNETT, THIRD WAY: He believes strongly that the party needs to move towards independents and moderates if they are going to win national elections, and I think that's important for the president as well.

LOTHIAN: Daley's strongly worded opinion piece in "The Washington Post" in 2009 revealed his blueprint. "Either we plot a more moderate, centrist course," he wrote, "or risk electoral disaster."

But moving to the center is just what makes this choice unpopular with some on the left.

ADAM GREEN, BOLDPROGRESSIVES.ORG: This was an unfortunate mistake. William Daley is one of the people in Washington, D.C., that has a wild misconception of where the center of the country is.

LOTHIAN: But Daley, who was Bill Clinton's commerce secretary when Republicans took over both chambers, understands the value of compromise. And his brother, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, another member of that city's political dynasty, says he is right for the job.

RICHARD DALEY (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: I believe he brings a passion, a commitment of service both in the public and private sector.

LOTHIAN: Daley's most recent private sector job at J.P. Morgan Chase may help smooth things over with the business community after battles over health care reform and government regulations.

In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that rarely roots for this White House was quick to heap praise, calling Daley a strong leader that they look forward to working with.

Some may draw parallels to former Chief of Staff and Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel -- well, almost.

BENNETT: He is not a yeller. He is not an F-bomb hurler, as others have been, but he also does demand results and I think he will expect to get them.


LOTHIAN: Now, by making the choice today, most likely Gene Sperling to replace Larry Summers tomorrow, the president is staying within the circle that he knows well.

And that is being criticized -- in fact, he is being criticized for that from some liberals who say this is an opportunity that the president has to reach beyond that to bring in some fresh faces, and so far, he has not done that, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan, thank you.

Let's bring in some members of the best political team on television. Joining us here, CNN's John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING, USA" that airs right after our show at the top of the hour. Also joining us, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger and our CNN political contributor the Democratic strategist James Carville.

Gloria, first to you. Are we seeing the Clintonization of the White House, all these former Clinton officials coming in?



BORGER: Yes. Yes, we are.

Look, you have Gene Sperling who is going to be announced as head of the National Economic Council...

BLITZER: Tomorrow.


BORGER: ... which is a job he actually held in the Clinton administration. Bill Daley, former commerce secretary under Bill Clinton coming into this White House.

What this really is, though, Wolf, though, is a turn to the 2012 election, because I think -- don't think of Bill Daley as Bill Clinton as much as somebody who ran Al Gore's campaign. And they are making a pivot over there at the White House. They know they have to reach out to those independent voters, to a lot of blue-collar voters that they have lost.

And I think they believe that Bill Daley, working with David Plouffe, who is also coming in to the White House, who ran the president's campaign in 2008, the two of them working together will be able to get Barack Obama reelected.

BLITZER: I know that you had sit-down interview today with the new minority leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and you spoke to her about this.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": I did, Wolf. And we were delayed a few minutes because part of Nancy Pelosi's challenge today, she is moving into her new office. She's the Democratic leader. She's no longer the speaker.

And word of the Daley appointment comes out and many liberals in her own caucus are coming to see her, saying, oh, my God, because they don't like this because Bill Daley supports NAFTA. Bill Daley wrote an op-ed a year ago saying the Democrats need to move to the middle and stop being so liberal.

He didn't like the timing of the health care reform bill. He didn't like the Wall Street reform bill. So, I asked Nancy Pelosi, a lot of your people don't like this. What do you think?


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think the president is the boss. And the president supported comprehensive health care reform.

The president called for Wall Street reform with the greatest consumer protections in history. The president has made a tremendous difference in our country. And I just had a conversation with some of the base on this subject.

So, Mr. Daley -- and he is my friend and I respect him -- is an employee. The president is the boss. The president supported all of the initiatives you said Mr. Daley iced. It is not a question of the president yielding to Mr. Daley. It's a question of Mr. Daley yielding to the president.



KING: My follow-up, you want to hear more later, was, you don't think this is the president moving to the middle?

That is the concern of so many Democrats, Wolf. I was about to say Speaker Pelosi -- Leader Pelosi being a good team player there. The left does not like this.

BLITZER: Yes. They're not very happy.

Well, let me ask James Carville to weigh in.

You worked with Bill Clinton for a long time. What do you think? Tell us something we don't know about Bill Daley.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's a -- who doesn't like Bill Daley? He is a great guy. He's personal. He's talented.

He did a great job as commerce secretary. And, look, the president, I think, is just -- the reality is, is that they are not going to get an expansion of health care. They are not going to get any more on financial reform. They will be lucky to keep what is in place. And I think the president's appointment was in his mind reflecting that reality. The other thing is, President Obama -- and I think Speaker Pelosi is exactly right. He is the guy in charge here. And he is comfortable with people he knows.

He has known Bill Daley for a long time. They are both Chicagoans. They are from the same hometown. He and Rahm were very close. Gene Sperling worked in the Obama White House. I think the president probably going and working with Gene came to sort of like him.

It strikes me that he is not -- David Axelrod is being replaced by David Plouffe. That is not a huge change. I think the president is comfortable with certain people and that is the kind of people he likes to have close to him.

Whether that is a good thing or bad thing, I will let historians debate that, but it is certainly a thing.

BLITZER: All of us who covered the Clinton White House, and I know all of us did, and James obviously knows them all very well, we are very familiar, not only with Bill Daley, but Gene Sperling who will get presumably this big job tomorrow.

But when Bill Daley -- James, watch this video, because I will show it to our viewers. When the president, then Bill Clinton nominated him -- there you see Bill Daley falling down. He fainted. Bill Richardson was nominated to become the secretary of energy at that event. It was at the Old Executive Office Building.

I was sitting at the front row. And all of a sudden, Bill Daley went down. Gene Sperling, by the way, was there as well. I just rushed -- I just got up right away and basically saved his head from going into an anvil case. Watch this other angle.

You see me there catching Bill Daley as he faints. I don't know why he fainted. But whenever he sees me nowadays, he always thanks me for saving him, because I grabbed him, it was instinctively, as he went down there.

BORGER: I know why, because I once -- I asked him.

And he said he had just lost a lot of weight, and he had not eaten lunch. So I'm sure today -- his announcement was at 2:30 -- I guarantee you he had a little bit to eat.

KING: His first stop at the White House mess maybe since he's been back?

BORGER: Probably.


BLITZER: But did you notice who was there?

Go ahead, James. You want to weigh in?

CARVILLE: I was just saying, you and the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, you are all getting all the saves today.


It was an emotional moment for Bill Daley, the president of the United States. It was a Friday the 13th in December 1996. And he just went down. And there he is. You can see him. And it was a painful moment for all of us.

I had this huge steel anvil case up right in front of me because I had been standing up there doing a live shot before all of them walked into that room. And as I saw his head begin to go toward there, I just grabbed him and saved what could have been a huge disaster.

That was it. Were you there at that news conference, John? Because you were working there at the time as well.

KING: I was not at that event. I was covering the administration at that time, but I was not at that event.

But I remember that event. I remember watching it as it played out. And good catch.


BORGER: Yes. He still talks about it.

BLITZER: Oh, whenever he sees me, he thanks me for that.


BLITZER: What do you make -- and I will get James to weigh in on Gene Sperling, who was also at that event. He was named by then President Clinton to run his National Economic Council.

All of us know Gene Sperling. He has been an adviser, a counselor to the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, the first two years.

What do you think of the decision to have him succeed Larry Summers, James?

CARVILLE: Oh, me? I'm sorry.

Well, Gene was -- when I was running the Clinton campaign in 1992, he was the guy who led our economic team. And the thing that I remember most about Gene is, you would come into the office like 6:15 in the morning, and he would still be there. That guy could pull -- he didn't pull all-nighters. He would pull back-to-back all-nighters.

I don't know if there is a single person -- and I bet you John King would verify that -- in the entire United States government who puts more hours in or works harder than Gene Sperling. And, apparently, he was able to get the president's trust and he got this appointment.

KING: And has earned the trust of the treasury secretary. He's over at the Treasury Department now. He was rumored to maybe go to Office of Management and Budget. That one went to Jack Lew, another Clinton guy.

Gene Sperling is taking this. You used the word Clintonization. It is a good word on this day. Gene is one of the hardest-working people in this town, without a doubt. Again, though, again, the fear of the left is all these centrist guys, all these pro-business guys, all these guys who have a good relationship on Wall Street.

Where is the Main Street guy? Is the president going to triangulate heading into reelection and run to the center, not fiercely defend the left? You can't question Gene Sperling's work ethic or Bill Daley's work ethic. You do have a political conversation going on in the Democratic Party right now, wondering, if it is not just change of personnel, but if the president is going to move and change as well.

BORGER: Well, and don't forget Gene Sperling was very involved in the tax cut deal, which lots of the liberals, as we know, opposed, because it kept the tax cuts for the wealthy.

But the thing that is interesting to me is when Gene Sperling was sleeping at the White House, living at the White House, eating pizza, as you know, James, living there, he was the wunderkind in the White House.

And today the "New York Times" headline was that President Obama goes to old hands. And so now Gene Sperling has gone from being the young guy to the old hand.

BLITZER: He was a lot younger then. I remember he had this desk over there in the West Wing. And there were nights 3:00 and 4:00 in morning, he's working, he got an hour's sleep.

One final thought, James. I got to run.

CARVILLE: My favorite Gene Sperling story is when George Stephanopoulos and I got him his first appointment with then Governor Clinton, when he was running.

He had worked so hard. And he had an ink pen. And the thing just went all over his shirt, and he had this big blotch. And Clinton just busted out laughing. I thought the guy was going to -- he was going to die sitting there in the governor's mansion in Arkansas.

But, Gene, you have come a long way. Congratulations.

BLITZER: All right. We will see. The president is expected to make the announcement tomorrow.

Guys, thanks very much.

And John, of course, will have the interview with Nancy Pelosi at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING, USA." Nancy Pelosi and John King, the new minority leader -- that would be Nancy Pelosi.

A seismic shift in how people stay informed.

Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: We, meaning those of us in television news, could soon go the way of the dinosaurs.

A new report shows that the Internet is gaining on television as Americans' main source of national and international news.

A Pew survey shows overall 41 percent of those polled say they get their news now from the Internet. That's up 17 percent from just three years ago.

Television still tops the list as the main source of news at 66 percent, but that number is down significantly. It was 82 percent in 2002.

Newspapers and radio are at the bottom of the heap in this survey.

Although the use of the Internet for news is growing among all age groups, it's particularly pronounced among young people.

For the first time, in 2010, the Internet was the main source of news for people under the age of 30.

There are also differences when it comes to education and income.

The survey found that college graduates are just as likely to get their news from the Internet as they are from television, while those who only have a high school diploma are much more likely to say TV is their top source of news.

When it comes to money, wealthier people are more likely to get their news from the Internet than those with incomes under $30,000.

So, take a good look at Wolf and me while you still have the chance.

Here's the question: Is the Internet destined to replace television as the primary source of news?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.


BLITZER: We have still a little while, right?

CAFFERTY: Well, yes, two more years and I can retire.


BLITZER: Jack, don't retire. Thank you. It is a wildlife mystery. Millions and millions of fish suddenly die in the Chesapeake Bay, the latest in a serious -- series of massive fish bird and kills. What is going on? We are asking the experts.

And investigators are telling CNN details of a -- some new clues in the murder of a former Pentagon official whose body was found in a landfill.

And a stunning change of fortune for a homeless man with a golden voice. First, he became an Internet sensation. Now he has an amazing new job.


BLITZER: Police are giving CNN new information about their probe into the murder of a former Pentagon official whose body was found in a Delaware landfill.

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is working the story for us. She is joining us now with more on what is going on.

You're in New Castle, Delaware, right now. Susan, what are you learning?


CNN is learning new details about the final hours of John Wheeler's life. Police telling us that Wheeler was wearing a dark- colored zipped-up sweatshirt when he spent the last night of his life wandering around two floors of that office building.

Now, this is different from what he was wearing the night before, somehow, somewhere changing his clothes when we saw him walking around that parking garage with a shoe in his hand. It is just one more aspect of this mystery surrounding his death, stunning police and baffling neighbors who live down the street from him, longtime neighbors, who say that his behavior was way out of character.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Robert and Phoebe Dill are as baffled as anyone about the mysterious and bizarre final hours of their neighbor John Wheeler. They called him Jack.

ROBERT DILL, NEIGHBOR OF WHEELER: What do you think? I think, gosh, what is he doing? But, obviously, I have never seen him like that before.

PHOEBE DILL, NEIGHBOR OF WHEELER: Obviously, something was wrong.

CANDIOTTI: Seeing him apparently disoriented, wearing only one shoe on a parking garage video two days before his death, has thrown them for a loop. R. DILL: It has got us totally confused. When you see all these pieces, nothing fits together.

P. DILL: It certainly is unbelievable. You just -- it is a story that you might expect to see in the movies, but you would not expect to see it with people that you know.

CANDIOTTI: Mr. Dill dropped off Wheeler at the Wilmington train station heading to New York Christmas Eve, in his briefcase, an antique dish, a Christmas present for his wife. It was the last time Dill saw his friend.

R. DILL: Helped him get his stuff out of the inside of the car and said, "See you, Jack." And that was it. I was out of there.

CANDIOTTI: Like investigators, the Dills cannot figure out how Wheeler got from this office building in Wilmington to a dumpster in Newark at least five miles away.

R. DILL: Somebody had to be up to something.

CANDIOTTI: But what?

R. DILL: I just hope they solve this thing and figure out what happened to him.


CANDIOTTI: And so do a lot of people, especially Wheeler's family, including his widow, who remains in seclusion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. All right. Thanks very much.

Susan will continue looking into this story for us.

Fish dying by the millions, the millions. The deaths are now raising serious concern about an unfolding ecological disaster. What is really, really going on? We are digging deeper.

And the homeless man who became an overnight sensation with his amazing voice is now revealing his new high-profile job.



BLITZER: Worldwide financial collapse and calamity. What is going on? We will talk about that and more with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. There are plenty of people who don't want to raise America's debt ceiling. What would that mean? My interview with Lindsey Graham, that is straight ahead.

First, it was birds dropping from the sky -- now millions and millions of dead fish washing ashore. We are on the scene, investigating what is behind this latest disaster.

And no smoking outdoors -- outdoors. Is a New York State town out of line with its latest law?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their intentions are good, but it is another right and another privilege that the government is taking away from us.



BLITZER: Even though the U.S. is supposed to start drawing down its forces in Afghanistan this summer, more U.S. combat troops are being sent to the war zone right now to boost the effort in the Taliban heartland.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He is a key member of the Armed Services Committee.

Senator Graham, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, we are now learning that the Obama administration wants to deploy another 1,400 Marines to Afghanistan. Instead of reducing the number, they want to build up the U.S. troop presence.

I assume you agree this is a good idea?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, I am very pleased with this idea, because it has an express purpose, to secure Afghanistan during the winter.

The Taliban don't fight very well during the winter. We do. And the extra Marines will keep the pressure on the Taliban and will advance our security plan. And it is going very well, beyond my expectations, in terms of clearing the Taliban in the south.

And these additional forces will help cement the gains. And by next summer, I hope that we will be able to bring some troops home because of progress. I expect that will happen.

BLITZER: What grade do you give President Obama when it comes to Afghanistan?

GRAHAM: I'll tell you what. Once we have cleared up 2011 and 2014, I will give him a B-plus.

The reason I believe that is that we have a very good clearing plan in place. Holding and building is going to be much more difficult. But, by focusing on 2014 as the transition date, that gives our troops and NATO forces time to develop the Afghan security forces. Sending these Marines in during the winter will keep pressure on the Taliban.

And pushing the Karzai government's on governance and pushing Pakistan to deal with the safe havens is going on at a level I haven't seen before. So I'm going to give the president and his team a B- plus. I think they're on the right track.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of U.S. analysts have totally lost faith in President Karzai of Afghanistan. They think he's going off the deep end. He's behaving erratically. Maybe he's taking medications. What do you think?

GRAHAM: Well, it sounds like our Congress. At the end of the day, President Karzai is a partner, imperfect as he is, but we had the same statements made about Prime Minister Maliki being too sectarian.

I do believe that President Karzai is encouraged by the success of the surge forces, and that he has to step up his game when it comes to fighting corruption. There are two words that will define our success in Afghanistan in 2011: Pakistan and corruption in Afghanistan. It is fair for us to put more pressure on the Pakistani army to deal with the safe havens across the border in Pakistan, and Karzai mentions that -- mentions that regularly.

It is also a fair criticism that the U.S. has used contract dollars to empower some unsavory forces in Afghanistan, so we need to change our spending ways. But I do believe that President Karzai this year is going to step up the fight against corruption, and -- which will eventually lead to better governance. I'm hopeful that he will.

BLITZER: On Sunday, you recommended that the U.S., even after 2014, maintain at least one, maybe more permanent bases in Afghanistan. Now the Taliban is going after you and saying that this lifts the curtain from the colonialist -- colonialist motives of America. They're saying you made it clear that the United States wants to occupy Afghanistan forever.

Go ahead and respond to the Taliban.

GRAHAM: Well, I don't know if the Taliban are watching, but the fact that you think it's a bad idea encourages me. Because here's what I know about Afghanistan after being there many times.

The Taliban are not well-liked by the Afghan people. There is no desire by the Afghan people; 70, 80 percent plus do not want to go back to the Taliban days. And our goal is to provide the ability of the Afghan people to chart their own destiny. To give them an army and a police force that can control the Taliban forever.

And to have an enduring relationship with the Afghan people. They know that we're not the Russians. We're not the British Empire. We're not Alexander the Great. When you go out and talk to people in Afghanistan, they don't like foreign troops, but they understand that we're different. We're there to help them secure their country, which helps secure our country.

If, after 2014, the Afghan people would like an enduring relationship politically, economically and militarily with the United States, I think we should jump at that opportunity, because it would make sure that Afghanistan becomes stable, never goes back into the terrorist camp again, and it would be reassuring to Pakistan to know that Afghanistan is a more stable country.

So a couple of air bases in Afghanistan with their permission, at their request, will always give the edge to the Afghan security forces against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and I think it would secure our long-term national security interests and be beneficial to the region. But it must come from them, and it must be something we feel is a good deal for America. To be determined yet.

BLITZER: You said on Sunday something that has raised a lot of eyebrows. As you know in coming weeks and the next few months the U.S. is going to have to raise the debt ceiling. Otherwise America's credit worthiness is going to go down the -- down the drain.

You said you'd be willing to vote to do that but only -- I'm paraphrasing now --

GRAHAM: Right.

BLITZER: -- if there's a deal in place to deal with Social Security, a deal in place to deal with Social Security, and unless we go back to the 2008 spending limits. Those are your two conditions.

GRAHAM: Right.

BLITZER: How realistic are those conditions, because you know what's involved if the U.S. credit worthiness is evaporated.

GRAHAM: Well, let me tell you what's involved if we don't lift the deaf ceiling -- debt ceiling. Excuse me. Financial collapse and calamity throughout the world. That's not lost upon me.

But we've done this 93 times. And if we keep doing the same old thing, then that is insanity to the Nth degree. We're going do have a calamity of a different fashion if we don't get our spending under control.

So what I said was the House is going to go back to 2008 spending levels. I would like to see the Senate mirror what the House does. Now, that means tightening our belt, but name somebody in America who hasn't had to tighten their belt.

Now, when it comes to entitlements like Social Security, I'm not expecting we solve that problem by March or April, but I'd like to see a serious effort, bipartisan in nature, led by the White House, where we look at extending the age of Social Security retirement. We all know we have to do that.

And when it comes to means testing benefits, that should be on the table. When I retire I'm going to have an income apart from Social Security near $100,000. I can afford to take some less from Social Security to make it solvent, and I'm willing to do that.

So I'd like to put on the table spending controls at the 2008 level, which is something we need to do, and come up with a process that will lead to some form of entitlement reform for lifting the debt ceiling. To me, that's a win-win. BLITZER: Finally, the new White House chief of staff, Bill Daley, in your opinion, a good idea?

GRAHAM: A great idea. I think he's the kind of Democrat a guy like me can do business with. He knows that what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did to extend the age of Social Security from 65 to 67 1/2 has to be looked at again. I think he understands the consequences of over taxation to job growth.

I think he's going to be a very good pick by the president and is someone that a guy like me can work with and other Republicans to find common ground when it comes to spending and entitlement growth. And if we don't deal with this in a bipartisan fashion, our best days are behind us, and I don't -- I don't want to think that to be true.

BLITZER: We started out with a B-plus from you on the president's Afghanistan policy wound up, I guess with an A-plus as far as Bill Daley is concerned.

GRAHAM: Yes, I think it has a lot of potential, and the plan in Afghanistan is making progress but not yet sustainable. To make it sustainable, the president is going to have to stay focused and make sure that we have enough troops and make everything condition-based and push Pakistan. But I give him credit for putting in place a plan that can work, and I think Mr. Daley can -- can help him on the domestic side.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: It's a new anti-smoking law. Critics say it simply goes way too far, though, leaving the smokers in one town almost no place to go.

Plus this.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brian Todd along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, where there's been another massive fish kill. Roughly 2 million of one particular species of fish died very suddenly recently, this on the heels of fish kills in Arkansas, Brazil and other places. What's going on? We'll have some answers coming up.



BLITZER: David Kurtz (ph) suddenly with devastating results. A series of huge fish kills. We'll have the latest involving 2 million fish in Maryland. Our Brian Todd has gone to the Chesapeake Bay to investigate -- Brian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Wolf, if you take a look behind me, they look like parallel strips of trash and debris along the beach as far as the eye can see. That's not what it is. Come on down here, and you can see what it really turns into; this is a massive fish kill.

Some 2 million fish have died suddenly and washed onshore here along the Chesapeake Bay, this coming on the heels of fish kills in Arkansas, Brazil and other places. So we came here to talk to wildlife officials and local residents to find out just what's going on.

(voice-over) She came around a small patch of trees and onto the sand for her usual walk along the beach, and that's when Dorothy Hobson came upon it, a huge swath of dead fish.

(on camera) So what's going on your mind when you see all these fish?

DOROTHY HOBSON, RESIDENT: I was shocked. And I was thinking, what's going on? Is this a natural thing? Because I'm only here seven years. Or is there something seriously wrong?

TODD (voice-over): Hobson then grabbed some camera equipment and started taking stills and video. She captured reams of dead fish rolling onshore and piling up just yards from her home on Kent Island, Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay. Wildlife officials say roughly 2 million of one particular species died very suddenly.

CHARLIE POUKISH, MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT: It's 99.99 percent spot, which is a drum species.

TODD: Charlie Poukish of the Maryland Department of the Environment says the investigation is ongoing, but they believe this was caused by one traumatic event called cold stress.

(on camera) You're looking at what wildlife experts call the juveniles of the species, the babies. They say that this time of year in this area, spot fish migrate out of the Chesapeake Bay into the Atlantic ocean further south to get into warmer water. These babies didn't make it and got caught in a sudden drop in temperature.

(voice-over) Officials say water temperatures in the bay were measured at their coldest levels in 25 years. But this came at about the same time that thousands of birds died suddenly in Arkansas and Louisiana, and millions of fish were killed in separate incidents, from Arkansas to South America to the South Pacific.

(on camera) You've got millions of dead fish washing up in Arkansas, in Brazil and New Zealand, Britain, now Maryland, people wondering is there some kind of catastrophic event going on?

POUKISH: I don't think so. You know, the sky is not falling. This is really, you know, something that we see from time to time in Chesapeake Bay, and as a matter of fact, we've had two incidents occur in history. Actually 1976, we had over 15 million spot die under the same circumstances. I think it's related to timing of the cold and actually the population density, as well. The young of the year are really left over and don't have the inclination to migrate as quickly as some of the adults would to get out into the warmer water.

TODD: What the officials here are worried about now is the effect of this fish kill on the food chain. These spot fish, they say, feed larger species like striped bass. That's a very popular fish for catching and eating in this area, so wildlife officials are going to be monitoring those populations, as well -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

No smoking on the sidewalks or even in the park, outside. What's going on? Is one New York state town simply going too far?

Also, ahead of his debut here on CNN, Piers Morgan now revealing his first guest. You're going to be intrigued when you find out who it will be. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A new crackdown on smoking is causing controversy in one New York City suburb, with critics saying the tough new law simply goes way too far. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now with details.

Mary, what's this all about?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're talking about a 1.4-square-mile village that's part of Great Neck, New York. It made a move this week that's getting a lot of attention, both good and bad.


SNOW (voice-over): Lighting up in Great Neck, New York, may now cost you. The local board of this wealthy New York City suburb voted to ban smoking on sidewalks along the village's main street.

MAYOR RALPH KREITZMAN, GREAT NECK, NEW YORK: The merchants complained to me that smoke was coming into their buildings, that their customers were complaining.

SNOW: Ralph Kreitzman is the mayor of the village and a former smoker. He says the ban also extends to the park benches in this park. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

KREITZMAN: What we want to do is, for the benefit of our residents, avoid the inconvenience and the detrimental effect of second-hand smoke.

SNOW (on camera): We talked to a number of people who say this is just too extreme.

KREITZMAN: You know, they may think it's too extreme. Again, we're not telling them they can't smoke. We're just telling them don't inconvenience and hurt other people by their choice of smoking.

SNOW (voice-over): Kreitzman touts this as the first ban of its kind in the state, and people are divided.

DAN OSTAD, WORKS IN VILLAGE OF GREAT NECK: I think it's a good idea. I think you're going to tick a lot of people off.

SNOW: And that includes Sophia, who's a smoker and works in Great Neck.

SOPHIA, WORKS IN VILLAGE OF GREAT NECK: If my smoke bothers people, how about the (INAUDIBLE) from the engines of the cars, that we breathe carbon monoxide?

SNOW: Restaurant owner Bruce Seitz (ph) has mixed feelings.

BRUCE SEITZ, RESTAURANT OWNER: Their intentions are good. But it's another right and another privilege that the government is taking away from us.

SNOW: Berkeley, California, is considered the first to ban smoking on sidewalks. New York City is now considering a smoking ban in public parks and beaches and pedestrian malls. Some smokers' rights advocates expect bans to only continue.

GARY NOLAN, THE SMOKER'S CLUB: It's junk science that's being used to take away personal and private -- private property rights, and it's been extended now out into the streets, and one wonders how far the government can go.


SNOW: And the ban in the village of Great Neck is expected to be officially in effect next week. Many people, though, are questioning whether it really can be enforced, since the village doesn't have its own police force and will be relying on parking enforcement officers to be on the lookout for smokers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Mary Snow reporting.

An update now on an evacuation over at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Lisa Sylvester is here. She's monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What's the latest at Dulles?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a story that we brought our viewers earlier. Well, the suspicious package scare is now over at Dulles Airport. A TSA dog singled out a bag about 3:40 Eastern Time this afternoon, and officials evacuated part of the main terminal as a precaution. That impacted both baggage claim operations and ticketing for United Airlines, one of the airport's main carriers. But officials have just sounded the all-clear, and operations are getting back to normal.

For TV talk shows, it's all about getting the biggest and the best guest, and CNN's Piers Morgan has hit the jackpot for the premier of his new show. We're going to let you tell -- we're going to let him tell you who.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, I'm determined to start my new show with the ultimate bang. And for that, I needed the biggest star in the world, but also somebody who was one of the most powerful people in the world, and that narrowed the list down, well, as far as I was concerned, to one person.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: And that person wasn't available, so he got me. Hello.

MORGAN: Thank you, Oprah.


SYLVESTER: It should be great, Wolf. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" debuts January 17 at 9 Eastern right here on CNN. So something to look forward to.

BLITZER: I'm looking forward to it. I'll be watching, of course. I know you will be as well.


BLITZER: Oprah, that's a huge get. Thanks very much.

And is the Internet destined to replace television as the primary source of news? Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.

Plus, the new Congress kicks off with not necessarily a huge bang. What's going on? CNN's Jeanne Moos getting ready to take a "Most Unusual" look.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour: "Is the Internet destined to replace television as a primary source of news?" (INAUDIBLE) Popular media future.

Rich in Texas: "Not for a while yet. Even if people look at their computer screens instead of their TV screens, there will still be a need for responsible news reporting that people trust. The Internet has no police or lie detector, and that makes it very hard to tell what's true and what's not true. Since anyone can post to the Internet, bad information flies around there like crazy."

Bob in Ohio: "Unfortunately, the validity of television as a news source has become highly suspect because of biased news presentations by certain other networks. People who are able to think for themselves can get all sides of the story online easier than on television. But I hope this doesn't mean I can't think for myself because I like to watch THE SITUATION ROOM."

Jerry in Georgia: "Television is approaching an event horizon. It will almost totally be replaced by the Internet in the very near future. Television will share a small place in inter-human communications, about as significant as ham radios today."

Frankie writes, "My computer has a newer screen than my television. I believe TV and the Internet are going to become the same thing before very long. We will always need newsmen and newswomen however the technology changes, though. So not to worry!"

Arlene in Illinois: "Well, Jack, welcome to the wonderful world of retirement."

Jim in Colorado: "You're making a distinction that's rapidly disappearing. I watch about half of my television via the Internet. Right now, I'm watching Al Jazeera via the Internet because it's not available on cable or satellite here. I'm responding via the Internet to a question you just posed on television. I'm using what was bought as a TV as a monitor, so it works great when I watch TV via the Internet."

Bill writes: "No, Jack it won't. There are still those of us who are sometimes just too lazy to read."

And Carol writes from Massachusetts, "You have a blog, Jack. That's 21st century; you are cool. We may be looking at you and Wolf on our little screens soon, though."

If you want to read more on this, go to the blog that she was talking about,

BLITZER: Changing news environment, indeed. Slowly but surely.

CAFFERTY: Indeed. There will always be a need for guys like yourself.

BLITZER: We hope. We can only hope.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: You too, Jack. Thank you.

John King interviews the former speaker of the House, now the minority leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi. That's coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."

Also, it may not necessarily have been the most compelling TV ever, but Jeanne Moos says this reading qualifies as among the "Most Unusual."


BLITZER: The Constitution is certainly the most important document here in the United States. But does that make it a good read? CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look and listen. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Normally, politicians like to wave it around.

REP. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I'm asking you about this, the United States Constitution.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Now, we have to stand for this Constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can and do read it for myself.

MOOS: Instead of reading it to themselves, House members read it to us. We learned the Constitution doesn't always roll off the top.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pass any bill of a tender ex post facto law.

MOOS: Or read like a John Grisham novel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But to no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture.

MOOS: Huh? Sure, there were sexy parts, like the amendments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

MOOS: Versus the not-so-sexy parts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the word "the" being interlined between the 43rd and the 44th lines.

MOOS: As representatives took turns, some made it sound like a bedtime story for kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In which case, it shall not be a law.

MOOS: Others read it as if they were kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he approved, he shall sign it, but if not, he shall return it.

MOOS: The most famous part went to the new speaker of the House, John Boehner.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We, the people of the United States.

MOOS: Not quite "School House Rock" style.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We, the people...

MOOS: And no one likes to be interrupted while they're reading, as Democrat Frank Pallone was. He was reading the requirement that only a natural-born citizen...

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW YORK: Shall be eligible to be the office of president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Except Obama, except Obama. Help us, Jesus.

MOOS: The so-called birther was called off by police.

The biggest applause came for the 13th amendment outlawing slavery.

(on camera) If you're wondering how long it took the House to read the entire Constitution...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or the emoluments whereof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or of such other body.

MOOS: An hour and 24 minutes, though it seemed a lot longer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Begun and held at the city of New York on Wednesday the 4th of March.

MOOS (voice-over): Watching live coverage of this would make even a Tidy Cat commercial seem like a relief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep your home smelling like home.

MOOS: But forget the House. There was another important document in the Senate this week. Vice President Biden swearing in new senators when a kid...


MOOS: ... refused to return the VP's script. Vice President Biden reached for a mint.

BIDEN: Which hand? Look at that.

MOOS: And distracted young William.


BIDEN: There you go.

MOOS: Hey, that should be unconstitutional.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is not constitutional.

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Clever on the part of the vice president. Good work.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.