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THE SITUATION ROOM
Farewell to Youngest Shooting victim; Obama White House Forced to Defend Democracy; Talking in A Way That Heals; Back to Bipartisanship As Usual?
Aired January 13, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And now, Wolf Blitzer coming up here next in THE SITUATION ROOM with an update -- an optimistic update -- an outlook of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and many other stories here evolving in Tucson and beyond.
Wolf Blitzer with THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brooke, thanks very much.
Happening now, the funerals begin in Arizona -- we get a rare glimpse of the youngest shooting victim's family and their grief.
The president's memorial remarks in Tucson have raised hopes for political healing. But in a surprising twist today, the Obama White House was put on the defensive about democracy and American values.
And the president says he is a hero whether he wants the title or not. I'll speak live with Daniel Hernandez. He's the 20-year-old intern who's credited with helping to save Congresswoman Giffords' life.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We have a lot of new developments to tell you about in the Arizona shooting and the fallout. We want to begin, though, with this image. That's a flag from Ground Zero raised in tribute in Tucson today to the shooting victim, Christina Taylor Green. The 9-year- old's funeral service ended just a little while ago. The story of this young girl, who was born on September 11th, 2001, has certainly touched us all. And we want to join the entire country in saying good-bye.
We also want to note that -- take note of what Representative Gabrielle Gifford's friends and even doctors are now calling a miracle -- the Congresswoman opening her eyes just days after a bullet tore through her brain. Today, we heard from her colleagues, who were in the hospital room when it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: All of a sudden, the -- the slits -- the slits of her eyes started to open. You could see the determination, that she was struggling to get them open. Then -- then Mark started encouraging her and telling her, honey, if you can -- if you can see me, give me the thumbs up, give me the thumbs up. And she didn't at first.
Then we kept talking to her and Speaker Pelosi was talking to her, talking to her about how much her colleagues care about her. And then she opened them up more and then -- and stayed open a little bit, then opened -- it was about five times that she got -- she finally got them almost all the way open. It was the most amazing thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on her recovery.
Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Tucson right now. He's a neurosurgeon. He's been speaking with the doctors. We're going to have a live report from Sanjay on what's going on at the hospital. Stand by for that.
But let's get to the funeral right now for Christina Taylor Green.
CNN's Ted Rowlands is joining us from Tucson.
He's watched what's going on -- what a sad, sad moment for the city of Tucson, indeed, for the entire country -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. You see that image of that flag. That was stirring. But there was nothing more stirring than what we saw here just about 20 minutes ago and that was the casket of little -- with little Christina inside exiting the church.
Take a look and a quick listen to the bagpipes.
ROWLANDS: The service itself lasted about an hour-and-a-half -- 1,800 people. A fourth of those in attendance were children, friends of Christina, some from her Little League, some from her elementary school. The bishop of the diocese here gave the homily. At one point, she said that Christina wanted to make a difference with her life, to make her mark. She has done so in such a powerful way.
The other speaker at the service was John Green, Christina's father. And he talked about Christina growing up, playing outside, giving orders to all of the other kids. And at one point, spoke to Christina, saying that you have affected the whole country. He also said, Wolf, that everybody is going to be OK because that's what Christina would have wanted.
A very, very emotional day here in Tucson, as you can imagine. People have been touched by this young girl, not only here, but as you mentioned, across the country.
BLITZER: Five other funerals are taking place as well, Ted. What do we know about those funerals?
ROWLANDS: Well, they'll -- they're going to come in succession in the next few days here in the Tucson area. And, of course, Judge John Roll will be one of those laid to rest in the coming days -- the federal judge that was also murdered in this horrific rampage. Starting with last night's memorial service that the president attended, it is going to be a difficult week for the folks here, as they say good-bye to all of the victims of the tragedy.
BLITZER: What a sad, sad story.
Our deepest condolences to all the families involved.
All right. Ted, thank you.
Thank you very much.
President Obama is getting widespread praise for his remarks at last night's memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims. But we saw a pretty surprising reaction to the massacre from a critical U.S. ally today. And it played out in the White House Briefing Room. It prompted the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, to declare that the violence we saw in Tucson was not American.
CNN's Kate Bolduan is over at the White House for us -- Kate, there was an extraordinary exchange in the Briefing Room between Robert Gibbs and a Russian reporter today.
Tell our viewers what happened.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there sure was. Wolf, well, clearly, the Tucson community -- and, really, the country -- are still trying to heal from the weekend's tragedy, the issue made for what some are describing an unusually cold-war-esque moment at the White House briefing today.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent his country's condolences over the Tucson shooting to Scott Kelly, Congressman Gabrielle Giffords' brother-in-law, aboard the International Space Station this week.
SCOTT KELLY, BROTHER-IN-LAW OF REPRESENTATIVE GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Thank you very much. Of course I will pass on your words to my brother.
BOLDUAN: But back in Washington, a chillier encounter between White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, and Russian journalist, Andrei Sitov.
ANDREI SITOV, BUREAU CHIEF, ITAR-TASS NEWS AGENCY: This is America. The democracy and the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition your government. There are many people outside who would also say and the, quote, unquote, freedom of a deranged mind to react in a violent way is also American.
How do you respond to that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, It's not.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. No. I -- I would -- I would disagree vehemently with that. That is -- that is not American. There -- I think there's agreement on all sides of the political spectrum. Violence is never, ever acceptable. We had people that died. We had people whose lives will be changed forever because of the deranged actions of a madman.
BOLDUAN: Later, when we caught up with Sitov, he said he meant no disrespect to the families and victims of the shooting.
SITOV: What happened is only a terrible tragedy. We feel the pain of the people.
BOLDUAN: But with he also stands by his remarks, saying it's a legitimate angle of the story that is not being covered.
SITOV: Americans, unfortunately, are paying a terrible price for abuse -- and I stress this -- abuse of their freedoms. This is what I was trying to say and this is what I was trying to ask about.
BOLDUAN: But one former State Department official who follows Russia closely says this isn't abuse shared by most abroad.
HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The prevailing global reaction has been one of shock, one of sympathy. I think it is important to note that those who have anti-American views will use this tragedy as an example of -- of, in part, what America is -- is reaping what it has sowed through its -- its policies. And, unfortunately, that's -- gratefully, it's a minority view. Unfortunately, there are some around the world that believe that.
BOLDUAN: And, Wolf, although you could see it was a pretty tense Briefing Room moment, I'm told not to expect, really, any follow-up, fallout, really any comment from the part of the White House coming from this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of foreigners, especially in Europe, but in Asia, in Africa, they don't understand how easy it is to purchase guns in the United States. This isn't, by any means, the first time a foreigner has raised this issue involving guns and freedom in the United States.
BOLDUAN: That's right, Wolf. And I talked to several foreign policy experts about this today. And they say that that, in part, is largely attributed, as you said, Wolf, kind of to the perspective. Russia, as well as most European countries -- and many countries -- have much -- guns are much more regulated, much more controlled. And they look at it through that perspective. I'll tell you, the conversation going on here at the White House seems to be more one of apro -- maybe more appropriate timing and delivery. You have to remember that Robert Gibbs and the president, early, early this morning, are just now returning from meeting with victims and their families and giving that very powerful speech at the memorial service. So take that in account.
BLITZER: We certainly will.
All right, Kate, thanks very, very much.
Politics and the shooting in Tucson also on Jack Cafferty's mind this hour.
Jack is joining us now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Sarah Palin may have done herself in this time.
The tragedy in Tucson presented an opportunity for Palin to reach beyond her base and to strike a note of unity, to say something that showed she's capable of true leadership. You see, before Sarah Palin opened her mouth, there was a good deal of sympathy for her. A lot of people thought it was wrong to drag her into the debate to begin with.
But then she spoke and it was just awful -- defiant, inflammatory. Palin invoked the historically painful term "blood libel" in attacking the media.
This was a phrase used hundreds of years ago to describe anti- Semitic myths about how Jews killed children and then used their blood in religious ritual.
NBC News correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, suggested the use of the phrase "blood libel" was ignorant. It was.
A CBS analysis suggested Sarah Palin played the victim card. She did.
And ABC said Palin, quote, "Once again, has found a way to become part of the story," end quote that. True.
It's being suggested that the scope of the Tucson situation is quite simply beyond Palin's limited skill set. And when you compare Palin's response to the uplifting speech we heard from our president last night, you can draw your own conclusions. President Obama still has work to do, no question about it, when it comes to delivering on his campaign promises to change Washington and elevate the national dialogue. But last night went a long way in reminding a lot of Americans why they voted for him. And comparing the president's lofty words to Palin's small ones must have many Republicans rethinking their support of a woman who has great difficulty getting beyond her image of some sort of a rogue Mama Grizzly Bear, whatever that is.
Here's the question -- did Sarah Palin's reaction to the Tucson massacre effectively end her chance of ever being elected president? Here's a hint -- yes.
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and weigh in.
BLITZER: And they will, Jack.
You know they will.
All right, we'll get ready for those responses.
We have new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now about what the suspect, Jared Loughner, was doing in the hours leading up to the massacre. And a key piece of evidence apparently has just been found.
And we're going to discuss a new idea to bring Republicans and Democrats together here in Washington on Capitol Hill.
Could it be as easy as simply changing the seating arrangements for the president's State of the Union address?
That's coming up.
BLITZER: The room was certainly packed with lots of people and emotion when President Obama paid tribute to Tucson shooting victims. As promised, he spent most of his speech last night talking about those who lives were lost and shattered. But he also touched on the renewed debate in the United States over the bitter political climate in the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But at a time when our discourse has about become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that -- that heals, not in a way that wounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Strong words from the president.
Let's bring in our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. I guess the question, is it going to last, this healing process, or is it just going to be a few more days of this and then we go back to the bitter political environment that -- that certainly has been evident over these past many months?
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": I don't -- I don't know how long the shelf life is for this. I think it will go on a little bit. But, in the end, we have seen these moments before -- these horrible tragic moments.
I think, personally, they tend to change people. I think everybody takes a sort of an inward look, be they a Republican or a Democrat or someone that doesn't care about politics. But in the end, politics remains hardball.
I mean remember at 9/11, we talked about the new normal and -- and everyone was going to get together. And then by the following January, we were talking about the divisions between the parties, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Tone, rhetoric, maybe it goes down a little. But you know what the heat of the campaign is like.
So, no, I don't think it's a permanent thing, but I think it's a necessary thing for now.
BLITZER: A lot of conservatives, pundits and others, are praising the president's speech last night. They thought he -- he was responsible, did a good job. And today in "The Wall Street Journal," I read a column by Karl Rove, the former Bush adviser, saying this. He said: "Big changes are in store" -- referring over to the White House -- "Mr. Daley" -- the new White House chief of staff -- "is unlikely to constantly outsource the drafting of legislation to Congress. He'll also end the West Wing's habit of only talking to Democrats and instead speak often with senior Congressional Republicans. During the president's first two years in office, GOP leaders were more objects of contempt than conversation."
They -- they think Daley coming in, Robert Gibbs, for example, Karl Rove makes a big point of saying his decision to leave, that's all good for the president moving to the center.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. And I think this is separate and apart from the speech. I think this president would have given this speech regardless of whether he still had hardliners in his -- you know, White House or he had brought in someone seen as more of a moderate.
I think the minute he picked Bill Daley, we knew that he was charting a course that as more centrist.
Because you can't win an election without support from moderates, from centrists. And Bill Daley is just that. And he's also a more orderly, a more organized person, I think, than Rahm Emanuel. And you will see a more sort of concerted effort that things go step by step. And I think the same thing holds true of some of his economic advisers. While the policy won't change, I think he's brought in some -- some businesspeople -- Bill Daley, obviously. I think that's also a signal that the president is having a course correction, but it's the same president.
BLITZER: It's not every day that Karl Rove is praising the White House and the president for making some of these decisions. And we do see his approval numbers hovering around that 50 percent mark right now, which is pretty good.
CROWLEY: They're going up.
BLITZER: All right, Candy.
Thanks very much.
The usual partisan bickering has been on hold here in Washington in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting. But most everyone agrees it won't last forever.
Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is over at a conference of House Republicans in Baltimore, Maryland -- Dana, what are the Republicans planning for the immediate days ahead?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Wolf, we learned today that House Republicans are, in fact, going to hold that vote to repeal the health care law that was originally scheduled for this week but was postponed because of the tragedy in Tucson. That will go on next week.
But, meanwhile, Republicans, who now, of course, have the majority, are having their first big meeting to talk about their agenda. That's going on here in Baltimore, in the hotel behind me.
And I talked to several members who are just gathering here. Almost all of them made very clear they do think it's time to move on -- to move on to, as many of them said, the people's business.
Jed Hensarling is the Republican Conference chair. He's running this. And he said, look, obviously, we didn't know that these would be the circumstances when we planned this particular conference, this retreat. And he said that this time, he believes it will be more subdued.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: And we have hope for our dear friend, Gabby. We have hope for the other survivors. We will we continue to pray. We'll continue to mourn. And we'll continue to hope. But we cannot let one act of evil deter us taking care of the people's business in the people's house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've all had a tough week. We're all still thinking about things. The tone is still somber. It's still reflective. We are all still concerned about Gabby and about what happened and about what changes we might need to make in the future. But the business of the country has to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next week, the American people have asked us to do -- to repeal job killing bill. So I think that it's extremely important that we do follow through on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, Republicans, as I said, really just began to gather here, Wolf. There will be two-and-a-half days of presentations from a host of different people. There will be pollsters talking to them about where -- where the mood of the American public is. There will be sort of blasts from the past, if you will. Some of the people who were here to bring on the Republican Revolution, so to speak, in 1994. Newt Gingrich will speak tomorrow morning; the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, who was involved in that in 1994, he will also be here; and Frank Luntz, the -- the Republican pollster, who's also involved. He will be here, as well.
But, you know, for the most part, these are 87 new Republican members. And they also have their families here. So this is, in many ways, also kind of a get to know you few days.
BLITZER: Eighty-seven freshmen Republicans, only nine freshmen Democrats.
What about the security situation in Baltimore for these -- for these new members of Congress.
What's that like?
BASH: Well, it's very interesting. There are so many members here. You have probably over 200 members, even more, who are going to be here. So there is a heavy police presence. But it's almost as if the Capitol has moved here, Wolf -- moved to Baltimore, because there are so many people here.
It does appear to our eyes that maybe it has been stepped up a little bit. Whether or not it has been, I can tell you just in -- just the feeling, the sense here, there is, understandably, a lot more of -- of attention being paid to that, at least by the members and their staffs.
BLITZER: As it -- as it should be.
All right, thanks very much.
Dana Bash in Baltimore.
We're monitoring other important stories happening right now, including new indications that Iran's alleged attempts to build a nuclear bomb have been significantly hindered. We'll try to explain why.
And horrifying images as deadly floods ravage Brazil -- why officials say residents there are facing the extreme risk of simply being washed away.
BLITZER: We're going to check in with our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's in Tucson right now, meeting with the doctors over at the hospital.
We'll check in with Sanjay.
That's coming up.
But there's other important news we're following, including some deadly flooding that is now plaguing Brazil.
Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?
FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
Well, horrifying images of residents trapped on top of their homes in the raging waters. Officials say thousands are at extreme risk of being washed away. Almost 400 people have already been killed and many more are feared dead. Authorities are ordering thousands of mandatory evacuations in the most dangerous areas. Heavy rains are forecast through the end of the week.
And escalating tensions in Tunisia, as angry citizens protest high unemployment, alleged corruption and limitations on rights in their country. Twenty-one people have been killed in the riots, which were prompted by the December suicide of an unemployed college graduate. A message reportedly from an Al Qaeda affiliate has surfaced supporting the demonstrations. The U.S. State Department warns against non-essential travel to the region. Tunisia's president today said he won't seek a new term in office.
And experts are monitoring Europe's most famous volcano after it began rumbling and spewing lava. Scientists say right now, Mount Aetna is showing rather weak activity and may be producing ash. But it is not a threat at the moment. The volcano is one of the most active in the world -- Wolf.
All right, thanks very much for that, Fred. We're going to check back with Fred shortly.
Investigators in the Arizona shooting case now are studying a new discovery -- a black bag that may belonged to the suspect, Jared Loughner.
And we'll share the story of a police officer who survived a bullet to the brain. It's an injury very similar to the one Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering from right now.
BLITZER: Check out the first photos we've seen of the president and Mrs. Obama visiting shooting survivors over at the hospital in Tucson. Here, they're with one of the Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' wounded aides, Ron Barber, and his family.
The president also visited with Congresswoman Giffords yesterday and soon after, she opened her eyes for the first time. Giffords' doctors talked today about her remarkable progress.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, CHIEF OF NEUROSURGERY: They've asked her very specific things and -- and she's used her hand to communicate with them. Beyond that, it -- it's hard to quantify. But I think there is that communication going on, yes.
QUESTION: Are you able to say that she's actually seeing, that not only are the eyes open, but that messages are getting through to (INAUDIBLE)?
LEMOLE: That's harder to assess. What I will say is we have seen the eyes begin to track. So think about it. When you first wake up in the morning, you're all bleary-eyed and your eyes aren't focusing. Then the eyes sort of come together and start to focus. We're just starting to see those signs and -- and her trying to track her gaze to wherever she wants to look. That's very, very encouraging. Again, it reflects on a level of alertness.
QUESTION: When the breathing tube is out, has she attempted to talk at all?
Is that -- is that even possible?
DR. PETER RHEE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, UMC TRAUMA CENTER: Well, so she still has the breathing tube in, and we're doing maneuvers, like physical therapy, dangling her on the side of the bed, and so on, and hopefully, tomorrow, we'll get her up into a chair. But she still has the tube in her throat. She's still on the machine.
But even though she's on the machine, the machine is not pushing her. She's just breathing on her own with warm, humidified air that's going in there with very little support.
Instead of just laying on the bed, OK, we actually do physical therapies, so her legs are off the side of the bed, and we start using her -- exercising her muscles, getting her balance in shape, getting stimulus to the brain. And that's all part of the rehabilitation process.
LEMOLE: And I want to make a point about that dangling. When people are dangling, we're also able to assess the strength in their legs much more readily. And I will say that she is able to move both of those legs to command. And that's huge. Everyone's been talking about right-sided versus left-sided, she's moving both her legs.
QUESTION: Is she actually sitting up on the bed?
RHEE: Yes, so she's sitting up. And you know, Gabrielle, you know, lift your legs up, and she will lift both legs up. She'll straighten both of them up.
LEMOLE: Miracles happen every day. And in medicine we like to very much attribute them to either what we do or others do around us. But a lot of medicine is outside of our control, and we're -- we're wise to acknowledge miracles.
BLITZER: These are excellent doctors, I must say. Our own doctor, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, himself a neurosurgeon, has spent all day today in Tucson, speaking with these doctors. We're going to debrief Sanjay later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He'll join us live. You'll be interested to get his take on what's going on, as well.
The story of a Florida police officer should give Gabrielle Giffords and her family even more hope right now. He also survived a bullet shot into his brain, a case doctors have declared a miracle. Here's our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.
ELIZABETH COHEN, SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some call him the miracle cop, a Florida officer who took a bullet in the brain and lived to tell about it. He has some advice for Gabrielle Giffords and her family.
COHEN (voice-over): A bullet through the brain, a coma.
(on camera): You were once where she is now?
SGT. MAURY HERNANDEZ (RET.), BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: I was.
COHEN: You were in that coma.
HERNANDEZ: I was there.
COHEN (voice-over): Maury Hernandez is a police officer in Broward County, Florida. Three years ago, he was off duty when he noticed a man on a motorcycle running three red lights. He pulled him over, and the man pushed Hernandez and fled.
HERNANDEZ: A couple hundred yards into the pursuit, he turned around, pointed a gun at me and fired twice.
COHEN: Hernandez was just a few blocks away from Memorial Hospital and chief neurosurgeon Dr. Greg Zorman (ph).
(on camera): So the bullet entered here?
DR. GREG ZORMAN, NEUROSURGEON: Right. So the bullet entered here.
COHEN: And went up here?
ZORMAN: And as it did that, it was tumbling and turning and heating and destroying brain tissue.
COHEN: When Mr. Hernandez was brought in and you saw this scan, this damage, did you think he'd live through it?
ZORMAN: I was pessimistic.
COHEN (voice-over): But Hernandez says he always knew he'd survive.
(on camera): There are so many similarities between what happened to you and what happened to Congresswoman Giffords.
HERNANDEZ: I know it.
COHEN: And what have you been thinking when you've been watching the news stories about her?
HERNANDEZ: First thing I thought was, was she could make it. You know, she's going to be able to survive.
COHEN: Why are you so confident? I mean, she got a bullet in the brain.
HERNANDEZ: So did I. So did I. And where there's a will, there's a way.
COHEN (voice-over): When Hernandez was discharged after nearly three months in the hospital, he had vision problems, speech problems and couldn't walk. Today, he's weak on his left side, but that's it. He says he's never listened to people who told him he'd never fully recover.
(on camera): As she goes down her path to recovery, what advice would you give her?
HERNANDEZ: I would give her the advice of not listening to the negativity that's going to be around her. I would tell her not to listen to that, to listen to herself and listen to her heart and let that guide her way. If she does that, she's going to be OK.
COHEN: Hernandez says he would love to meet Giffords and her family someday, and his neurosurgeon agrees that positive thinking really does help you recover from a brain injury. He says it also helps that Hernandez's brain injury was confined to just one side of his brain -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.
We're also learning more about secret attacks that appear -- appear -- to be putting a crimp in Iran's nuclear program right now.
BLITZER: Some other important news we're following right now, including new indications that mysterious attacks could -- could -- be hindering Iran's alleged efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been doing some digging. She's joining us now with details.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, new indications, indeed. The question may be, Could Israel and the United States be behind this secret campaign against Iran's nuclear program?
STARR (voice-over): Iran's nuclear scientists attacked by car bomb assassins, inside Iran's nuclear bomb plants, critical equipment believed damaged by a computer worm attack. The result, intelligence officials in the U.S. and Israel believe Tehran's march towards nuclear weapons has been slowed.
The outgoing chief of Mossad, Israel's secret intelligence service, told his government it could now be 2015 at the earliest before Iran has a nuclear weapon. Mayer Doggin (ph) cryptically blamed a series of malfunctions. American officials, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are eager to cite U.S.-led sanctions as the major inhibitor.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The most recent analysis is that the sanctions have been working.
STARR: But in an interview with CNN's Jill Dougherty, Clinton spoke of secret operations.
CLINTON: Just recently, the outgoing head of the Israeli intelligence agency made that point, that -- and he was also publicly saying a combination of sanctions and covert actions have significantly slowed down the Iranian program.
STARR: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has acknowledged his country's enrichment program was sabotaged. U.S. officials believe it was the Stuxnet computer worm. One private analysis suggests more than 1,000 centrifuges critical to making nuclear fuel were damaged because of the virus. The computer code had a chilling word which may refer to a dead engine.
Ahmadinejad is blaming Israel and the West, which is officially denied, but experts say the sabotage isn't enough to permanently slow down Iran.
JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, NUCLEAR WEAPONS EXPERT: Iranian scientists are very clever. Their engineers are very good. They can recover from this.
STARR: The more problems in Iran's nuclear program, the less chance Israel or the U.S. will launch a military strike to stop it.
STARR: Now, many experts, Wolf, say it is going to be those financial and economic sanctions that really will have to work over the long term, forcing, encouraging, forcing again Iran to try and change its outlook to move towards nuclear weapons. That still may be, they say, the long-term solution -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much for that new information.
CNN, by the way, has just received -- gotten some exclusive access to the trauma room where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been treated. Just ahead, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's, interview with the first doctor to care for her.
Plus: He's scheduled to command the last shuttle mission to space, but plans could change for the astronaut Mark Kelly in the aftermath of his wife's severe brain injury. We're going to show you what's going on.
BLITZER: Let's go right to our "Strategy Session," the political fallout from the Tucson shootings. Joining us, two CNN political contributors, Roland Martin and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.
Ed, let me ask you first. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado -- he has an intriguing proposal. During the State of the Union address that the president will deliver on January 25th, should the Democrats and the Republicans sit together, as opposed to what's normal, one group sits on one side of the floor, the other group sits on the other side of the floor?
ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's a nice suggestion and it would be a nice gesture. I don't think it's going to happen. I think they both sort of enjoy standing and cheering at different periods of time. And they kind of -- and I think the Republicans now, particularly with a majority in the House, sort of want to show some of their strength. But you know, at the end of the day, it might make for a more congenial floor.
BLITZER: Roland, what do you think about that idea? Sort of intriguing, although I agree with Ed, it's probably not going to happen, given the tradition of the State of the Union addresses.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, but here's the deal. Traditions change. It's not like this is written in the Constitution somewhere. I mean, look, I look at it, if you go to, you know, a football game, hey, guess what? You might have fans of opposing teams actually sitting next to one another. And so it happens. I don't see any big deal if they're sitting together, if you want to stand up while the other person is sitting down.
I think, frankly, some of these so-called traditions we have are utterly silly in terms of -- because it does sort of promote this whole notion of, Well, you're on one side and then the other side. We always talk about crossing the aisle. Look, we should have folks who know how to get along and actually work together. So I would say sit down, break bread, have a good time, and then go home.
BLITZER: You would see Democrats standing and cheering certain parts of the speech, Republicans sitting, but they wouldn't all be on one side or the other side of the room. They'd sort of be intermingled...
MARTIN: Happens at church all the time.
ROLLINS: I do want to see what football team Texas A&M is going to share its stadium with. And Roland have to explain that to me.
MARTIN: No, actually, I hate the University of Texas, but every year, they do it with Oklahoma in the Red River Classic. We also do it with Arkansas in the Cowboys stadium. So it does happen.
ROLLINS: Very generous of you. Very generous of you.
BLITZER: Should the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Ed, have accepted the president's invitation to fly to Tucson on Air Force One with him to attend the memorial service last night?
ROLLINS: It was a nice gesture on the part of the president, and if I was advising the Speaker, I might have advised him to go. I think what happened, though, is he -- he -- they had an event yesterday on the House floor for all members, and he had some events leading up to the Republican National Committee. And I think he felt his schedule was such that he was honoring her on the House floor with his other members. But it was a nice gesture on the part of the president, and I think if they continue on that path, there will be times they travel together. It'll be better for the system.
BLITZER: They did issue a statement, the office, saying yesterday, "Representative Giffords's colleagues on both sides of the aisle honor her and mourn those were lost. The Speaker felt his place was here in the House with them." He was very, very passionate and remorseful and sad when he delivered those remarks yesterday, holding back tears, John Boehner, as you saw, Roland.
MARTIN: Look, I certainly understand the obligation that he had in the House. The issue for me is not really him accepting the president's invitation. I thought it would have been important for the country to see President Barack Obama, to see Speaker John Boehner walking into that memorial service for the people of Tucson, for the state of Arizona, for the country because it would have symbolized something that's very important.
So I understand what the House did, but I do think he should have been there to be able to say, Look, we as a nation are united. And also, he is not the Republican leader of the House. He is the Speaker of the House, over the entire House. So I do think he certainly should have been there. But I understand what took place earlier in the day, as well.
BLITZER: We did see several other Republicans attend the memorial service with the president, including both Republican senators from Arizona, Jon Kyl and John McCain, as well as a freshman Republican, Ben Quayle, the son of the former vice president, Dan Quayle, even though he was bitterly negative towards the president during the campaign. So it was a bipartisan spirit there.
ROLLINS: They were Arizona members, and I think that's a great deal of it. And obviously, she was a young, rising star and is a young, rising star in that state.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming in, Roland Martin and Ed Rollins.
MARTIN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is asking did Sarah Palin's reaction to the Tucson massacre effectively end her chances of ever being elected president? That's his question. Your e-mail coming up.
And an exclusive look inside the trauma room where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was treated. We're going to hear from our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots."
In India, look at this, a worker spreads out chiles to dry at a market.
In Australia, a man paddles his surfboard down a flooded street.
In Switzerland, fighter jet practice flying in formation.
And in Qattar -- look at this -- a young soccer fan cheers for Japan in the Asian Cup.
"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words, and one of Jack Cafferty's favorite parts of this show.
Jack is joining us now with "The Cafferty File." That happens to be another favorite part of his...
CAFFERTY: Yes, and I like (INAUDIBLE) cute picture of that kid at the end. I like those pictures. They're nice.
Question this hour: Did Sarah Palin's reaction to the Tucson massacre effectively end her chances of ever being elected president? Jeff in Hawaii: "Caribou Barbie is a simple-minded, hateful, money-grubbing, vindictive liar. In the past -- in the past two years, she has consistently shown her true colors through her rhetoric, whether it was death panels, Don't retreat, reload, or her current hoof in mouth, blood libel statement. She has never been nor she ever will be a viable option for president."
Cory writes: "If the American voters choose to elect a person with such a lack of compassion, intelligence, et cetera, we'll be in serious troubles. We need leaders who are smarter than a 5th grader."
Carla writes: "Palin's a typical reality show in the flesh, all show, very little reality. The woman will find a way to insert herself into any situation, no matter how tragic, and use it as a vehicle to promote herself. One can't serve self and the people of this country simultaneously. Sadly, she has no grasp of this. And not knowing the meaning of the term `blood libel' before using it in a public speech is inexcusable."
Ray writes: "This was just one more example, maybe the 50th, of Palin pontificating in a protected, unchallenged vacuum. She has proven both her inability to participate in public discourse and discussions and to think or speak independently of her advisers and speech writers, who are clearly doing her no favors."
Jacqui in Illinois writes: "It's despicable she uses this time of national grief to turn the spotlight on herself, but moreso that she uses the term `blood libel' in her discourse. Too bad she didn't look it up on Wikipedia. Too bad her advisers didn't do so, as well. Palin in 2012? Even hard-core Republican conservatives aren't that dumb. She stepped way over the line this time, and even her fellow Alaskans cringe at her ignorance."
Dave in Utah: "Obama, It's all about us. Palin, It's all about me."
And Terry writes: "I don't agree with you a lot of times, but this time I think you are 100 percent right on."
If you want to read more on the subject -- we got thousands of e- mails on this...
CAFFERTY: ... go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: And were most of them very critical of Sarah Palin or was it sort of balanced?
CAFFERTY: No, they weren't balanced at all. It was overwhelmingly negative, probably -- I mean, I didn't read 2,500 e- mails in the last half hour, but I read a couple of hundred, and I didn't see probably three that were supportive.
BLITZER: Wow. But the question remains, at what point do you think Republicans, especially those who want to try to get the Republican presidential nomination, will try to distance themselves from Sarah Palin?
CAFFERTY: I think this is a turning point. I think -- you know, if you watched that tape, a couple of things occur to me. One, she didn't write it. And two, this absolute lack of awareness of the historical significance of that phrase "blood libel" is offensive to civilized and intelligent folks. And I would think that civilized, intelligent Republicans will react accordingly.
BLITZER: I suspect you might be right. I think they'll be getting -- she'll be getting some heat, as she always does from Democrats and the liberals, but she might be getting some heat from some Republicans, as well.
CAFFERTY: I think so.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens, Jack. Thanks very much.
Tucson police are studying a black bag with ammunition in it. Did it belong to the shooting suspect, Jared Loughner? Stand by for the latest on the investigation.
And you can relive John F. Kennedy's presidency, the glamour and the drama, on line. Stay with us.
BLITZER: The once homeless man known for his golden voice has reportedly checked himself into rehab for alcohol and drug abuse. Ted Williams, who sprang to fame last week after a video went viral on the Internet, was offered a number of jobs, including a contract with Kraft Foods. Williams, who originally claimed to be sober, admitted to television's Dr. Phil that he's still drinking.
The Kennedy years are going digital right now. Starting today, there's a new high-tech way for all of us to access one of the country's most famous presidents. Our Mary Snow is joining us now with details of what's going on -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is really unprecedented. It's the largest on-line digitized presidential archive, and it coincides with the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's inauguration that'll be marked next week.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!
SNOW (voice-over): It is one of John F. Kennedy's most famous quotes, but before he delivered his inaugural address on January 20th, 1961, his draft read, "Ask not what your country is going to do for you." And aide and speech writer Ted Sorenson sent this Western Union telegram to historians and politicians seeking suggestions. They are among hundreds of thousands of documents, videos and recordings put on line by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, led by the president's late daughter, Caroline.
CAROLINE KENNEDY, JFK LIBRARY FOUNDATION: His time is becoming part of history not living memory, and we need to reach across the generations in new ways.
SNOW: Where historians once had to physically go to archives to seek out items one by one, history is now a click away. This is a phone call recorded between President Kennedy and former president Dwight Eisenhower discussing the Cuban missile crisis.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General, what about if the Soviet Union, Khrushchev, announces tomorrow, which I think he will, that if we attack Cuba that it's going to be nuclear war? And what's your judgment as to the chances they'll fire these things off if we invade Cuba?
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I don't believe they will.
KENNEDY: You don't believe they will?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SNOW: As the two men end their conversation, some surprising levity.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
EISENHOWER: I'll say this, I'd want to keep my own people very alert.
KENNEDY: Well, hang on tight.
KENNEDY: Thanks a lot, General.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SNOW: Documents during the crisis even show the president's doodles, with the words "decision" and "warheads." Included with them, a personal one, daughter Caroline writing her name. One presidential historian says a new generation will be introduced to Kennedy. PROF. DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, RICE UNIVERSITY: There's a reason the Kennedy library has gone forward with this. They think it makes their guy look better, and it does because any time that you're listening to a president ask all these bright questions about a crisis, worried about nuclear war, worried about the prestige of America and you're getting to hear them and you're young and -- it's putting you in the White House.
SNOW: Douglas Brinkley says he expects that all presidential libraries will try to replicate what the Kennedy library is doing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Mary, thank you.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: The Tucson suspect's college police records are now in our hands. Find out why teachers and other students were so concerned about Jared Loughner. Plus the new clue in the investigation. Stand by for that.