Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

'Strategy Session'; Budget Woes Endangering N.J. City; Dems Warn Of Millions Uninsured; President Obama's Gift To Business; New Interviews in Tucson Shootings

Aired January 18, 2011 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, new interviews with people who know the accused Tucson assassin, Jared Loughner.

Are we any closer to understanding what drove him over the edge?

This hour, I'll press the local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, about the investigation and his own politically charged comments about the case. Stand by. That live interview coming up.

Nancy Pelosi leads the Democrats' charge against repealing health care reform. As the House begins debate, the former speaker joins us for a wide-ranging interview in her new role as the Democratic minority leader.

And President Obama's new gift to the business community and Wall Street seems to have the fingerprints of his new Clinton-era aides all over it.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In the 10 days since the Tucson shooting, authorities have conducted several hundred interviews, trying to piece together what the suspect, Jared Loughner, was thinking and doing. In just a moment, I'll ask the Pima County sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, where the investigation stands right now.

But first, CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has been doing some serious digging in Tucson.

She's joining us live now with the latest.

What have you learned -- Thelma?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they have talked to more than 300 people since last Saturday. They say it's a very daunting task to try to piece together what may have prompted Jared Loughner to go on this terrible rampage. They also say that they have pieced together part of the time line. That has not been as difficult. What has been much more challenging is trying to figure out who Jared Loughner was and who he had become. So they're talking to friends, family, anyone who could have crossed paths with him.

One of those people was the owner of the Sacred Art Tattoo Shop. His name is Lenny Mental. And Lenny says that Jared Loughner came to see him twice, once in October and then another time just a couple of weeks ago.

He said that Loughner came in. He had a .9 millimeter bullet. And he told them that he wanted a tattoo of this .9 millimeter bullet on the back of his shoulder. And he says that he told the agents that he didn't see anything menacing about Loughner at the moment. He thought he was very weird because he talked about mind control and being able to control his dreams, that kind of thing. But he says he told the agents he didn't see anything else beyond that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LENNY MENTAL, MANAGER, SACRED TATTOO: I wanted to know why I thought he chose this shop, if he had chosen a particular artist. And he didn't get into it. He was just -- the first time he got the artist who was up. We have a rotation. And the second time he got the artist who did that style of work best. So he wasn't -- he didn't come in and ask for a particular artist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUTIERREZ: Now federal and local authorities have also been talking to people who knew Jared Loughner in the past. One of those people is his jazz instructor. His name is Doug Tideback. Tideback says he was the one who worked with Loughner for many years, since he was in eighth grade. He says he was a very talented jazz musician. He played John Coltrane and Duke Ellington. And he says this was a kid who had a lot of promise. He says the agents came to him. They said, what do you know about him?

Did he show us any signs of outbursts when he was in -- in your -- in your -- practicing for your jazz band?

What was his mother like?

Tideback says that Jared Loughner's mother was the one who brought him to practice every Saturday for five years. And he says, again, he told the agents he didn't really see anything, at the time, that would have suggested that he would have become violent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG TIDEBACK, FORMER MUSIC TEACHER: He quit our program. And I -- and I did not know it, that at the same time, he dropped out of high school, after his junior year. He went on a trip to us -- with -- with us to the Fullerton Jazz Festival and performed there and won an award for outstanding solo. And after that year, he just didn't come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUTIERREZ: Tideback says that he's talked to the lead investigators with the FBI for about 20 minutes. He told them that he did suspect that he may have been smoking marijuana, that to -- that Jared Loughner apparently joked about it when he was at practice, that kind of thing.

But he says that he never saw any erratic behavior and -- and he led the investigators toward Jared Loughner's band teacher from high school. And he says that they may have had more information. But he says that that's what they were trying to glean -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thelma, thanks very much.

Thelma Gutierrez on the scene for us in Tucson.

A massive law enforcement operation is ongoing at the scene of the Tucson shooting, and, indeed, across the entire city and region. Two hundred and fifty federal investigators and 130 local detectives reportedly are working the case right now.

We're joined right now by one of the first law enforcement officials to speak out publicly when the massacre happened.

That would be the Pima County sheriff, Clarence Dupnik.

He's joining us from Tucson.

Sheriff, thanks so much for joining us.

Do you have a better understanding right now why this accused shooter went ahead and opened fire on these people?

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: I don't think anybody can answer that question. And I'm not sure that anybody ever will be able to answer that question, because you're talking about irrational behavior. And when you try to rationalize it, it comes out zero.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say that this alleged shooter is insane?

DUPNIK: Well, I'm a I'm a cop, not a psychiatrist. But I -- I would say that he engaged in very unusual, bizarre behavior.

BLITZER: Is he cooperating?

Is he saying anything in jail right now?

DUPNIK: Well, he's in the custody of federal officians -- officials. We had him for about nine hours and he said nothing.

BLITZER: And as far as you know, he's still saying nothing?

He's -- he's refusing to cooperate, is that right?

DUPNIK: To my knowledge, he's not cooperating.

BLITZER: Is there any evidence that you have -- because we've seen all the public evidence out there -- that he was motivated by politics?

DUPNIK: Why, there's -- there's no way to know what motivated him. You know, he seemed to be fixated on -- on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from 2007, when he intended -- attended an almost identical event. And she had sent him a letter. And he was very upset with her because he asked her some very strange question, to which there was no rational answer. And he was very, very upset about that and went on for quite a while talking to his friends about how she ought to be able to answer his question and she couldn't.

BLITZER: As far as you know, did he attend any other Giffords' events between 2007 and this most recent massacre?

DUPNIK: Not to my knowledge.

BLITZER: Did he have any contact with Congresswoman Giffords, as far as you know, between 2007 and now?

DUPNIK: No, not to my knowledge.

BLITZER: What about his parents?

Have you had a chance to speak with them, you or your investigators, your deputies.

Are they -- are they cooperating with you, his parents?

DUPNIK: Yes, they are. The parents have always been cooperative with us. And it's very -- it's been very, very devastating for them.

BLITZER: Without getting into any violation of confidentiality or undermining the investigation, can you share anything that they're saying to you?

DUPNIK: The fact of the matter is, Wolf, they had absolutely no way to predict this kind of behavior and they were just as shocked as everyone else.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people find that strange, given the evidence that has mountain -- mounted over these past 10 days that he was engaged in all sorts of bizarre behavior. He was living with his parents. You would think they would have seen some irrational behavior and would have advised him to begin some sort of treatment or something like that.

DUPNIK: Well, I'm not aware of any. And, you know, there's been a lot of talk about what the law enforcement personnel at Pima College knew and what they were confronted with, what the officials knew, what the Pima County Sheriff's Department knew about him. But the fact of the matter is, there's no way to force somebody into a treatment for mental health unless they do it involuntarily or you have reason to believe that they are a threat to themselves or somebody else. And there has to be some very hard facts to do that or else you can't get somebody committed.

BLITZER: What are... DUPNIK: You know, years ago...

BLITZER: Yes?

DUPNIK: -- we used to take people -- go ahead.

BLITZER: No, no, no. Finish your thought.

DUPNIK: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: Finish your thought.

DUPNIK: Well, it was going to be a long discussion about the status of mental health.

BLITZER: Well, I -- maybe I -- I'm, you know, trying to find answers that you're not willing to share or maybe you don't know, but what else are the parents basically saying to you about their son?

DUPNIK: Well, we're -- it's -- it's confidential and private. And we've been asked by the lawyers not to go into that. But there's -- there's -- there's nothing out of the ordinary.

BLITZER: Was it your information that he was a heavy drug user?

DUPNIK: We arrested him on one occasion for drug use. But we have absolutely no information that he was a heavy drug user.

BLITZER: When you say you arrested him on drug use, what kind of drug was involved in that arrest?

DUPNIK: I think it was marijuana, which...

BLITZER: And in the state of Arizona...

DUPNIK: -- which normally doesn't.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

DUPNIK: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: In the state of Arizona?

DUPNIK: Nor -- normally with marijuana, you don't see this -- this kind of delusional and hallucinogenic behavior.

BLITZER: And just to be precise, as far as, you know, based on what you've heard from the parents, the parents didn't see any signs of bizarre mental beha -- irrational mental behaviors, is that what I'm hearing you say?

DUPNIK: That's what you're hearing me say. Yes, sir, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good. I just wanted to clarify that point.

And so the drug use -- you can still go ahead and buy guns, you can still buy ammunition even if you have been at least picked up or arrested on drug use in the state of Arizona, is that right?

DUPNIK: Well, if -- if it's a misdemeanor. Unless you're convicted of a felony -- and -- and -- and the laws in the state of Arizona are the same everywhere in the country. These are federal laws. And you either have to have been adjudicated by a court to be mentally unstable, mentally insane or you have to be convicted of a felony or you have to be a prohibited gun pros -- possessor.

BLITZER: A lot of people have e-mailed me...

DUPNIK: And he...

BLITZER: -- and Tweeted me, Sheriff, and have asked, why wasn't there any police presence at that event, at that supermarket, at that Safeway that Saturday morning, given the fact that her office had been vandalized, she had received some threats.

Why wasn't there a cop there or a police car there that might have deterred a shooter?

DUPNIK: Well, I -- I suppose that's speculative. But the fact of the matter is that Congresswoman Giffords didn't want protection unless there was some specific information, which there were in a couple of cases in which we did provide protection. She didn't want the protection.

And second of all, if -- if you know all the facts, protection wouldn't have prevented this at all. And there would have been nothing a security guard or a police officer could have done. Nobody knew that this was going to happen until the suspect pulled the weapon, when he was about three feet from her, and shot her in the head.

BLITZER: Because a lot of experts say even if there's a cop car there or a police officer there, some guy might not necessarily even start to open up fire. I take it you knew about this event, but you made a conscientious decision not to send a police officer there.

Is that what I -- I'm hearing you say?

DUPNIK: We did not know about the event. As a matter of, Gabrielle -- when she's home, almost every weekend in Tucson, has six to rate -- six to eight events almost every day.

BLITZER: And so -- and so you were waiting for a phone call from her office in order to ask for police protection and you never got that from her?

DUPNIK: We -- we would -- we don't go to the political events unless there's some reason to believe there might be a problem. And we had no...

BLITZER: Is that going to change now?

DUPNIK: -- reason to believe -- well, I hope it does. You know, the -- I think all the politicians in Washington, the congressmen and the senators, have tremendous protection when they're back in Washington. The minute they leave and they go back into their res -- respective districts all over the -- all over the United States, they're very vulnerable. This could happen to any one of them today or tomorrow.

And I think it's time that we take a look at how we can do a better job of protecting our elected officials.

BLITZER: Here's the statement that you made on that first day that generated a lot of commotion. I'll play it for you. And you've now had 10 days to think about this.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUPNIK: Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital -- we have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, do you regret making that statement?

DUPNIK: I said what I felt at the time. And -- and I've been feeling that way for a long time. You may recall that back in April, when -- when our Arizona legislature passed Senate Bill 1070 and it's called (ph), in my judgment, that bill was borne out of prejudice and borne out of bigotry. And I still feel that way. And based on some of them the legislation that's been introduced, for example, in gun control, we now have legislation introduced that will allow students and teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus. And from my point of view, that's just insane.

BLITZER: But do you have any evidence at all, Sheriff, that any of this influenced this alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, to go to that supermarket -- to that shopping center and open up fire that day?

DUPNIK: None at all. And there -- there's no way to -- to know precisely what motivated him. But I think every expert in the field of psychology will say when you're dealing with an unstable mind and they are subjected to this kind of rhetoric and discourse, as we have today, that is so vitriolic, that it influences those people more readily. There's no doubt in my mind that it does.

BLITZER: Is there someone specific?

DUPNIK: No, I couldn't say that. But I think that it's time -- you know, we used to have, for example, Morris K. Udall and -- in -- whom you probably know -- knew, as far left as you could get, but a statesman, not only in Arizona, but in the country. And we had Barry Goldwater, a statesman in the -- in the country, as well, on the far right. Both were elected by overwhelming margins.

But let me tell you, when -- when it came time to do business, address the nation's problems, they put ideology aside and they did what was best for this country. And this is not happening today and it's -- it's got to stop. BLITZER: And who's to blame for this, because some of your critics say you're basically implying that, you know, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin may have created the environment that led to this massacre.

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Well, I think all the flame throwers are responsible.

BLITZER: Give me some specifics, who?

DUPNIK: Well, you mentioned two of them, and I think that people who go out and call for people to take the second amendment up in order to resolve certain problems, those kinds of statements are so vitriolic, and I can't tell you how vitriolic the campaign was against the tea party candidate that ran against Gabrielle Giffords. It's just getting sickening, and I've seen some of the latest polls. People as a whole, as a nation, are tired and sick of what's going on in Congress where people aren't sitting down together to work out our problems.

BLITZER: But in your investigation over these ten days, sheriff, do you have any information that leads you to believe that this alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, was listening to these what you call flame throwers, whether Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, or anyone else on the left or the right? Do you have any specific information that he was influenced by that?

DUPNIK: No, I do not, but I can tell you that he has been preoccupied the last three years with an elected official, government official.

BLITZER: You're talking about this congresswoman?

DUPNIK: I am.

BLITZER: Gabrielle Giffords, but -- because we heard that he had Mind Comp and the communist manifesto among other books in his possession. Based on what you know, was he more influenced by the left or by the right?

DUPNIK: I have no way of knowing that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people are asking, sheriff, if you don't know that he was influenced by these individuals, whether Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or anyone else, why make the accusation that they helped create this environment that resulted in six people getting killed?

DUPNIK: Well, it just happens to be my opinion based on 52 years in law enforcement.

BLITZER: You're just speculating.

DUPNIK: I am.

BLITZER: Because I just want to make sure that you don't know something. I know you know a lot more about this investigation than I know or our viewers know, but you don't have any hard evidence that Jared Loughner was listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio or listening to Glenn Beck or anyone else?

DUPNIK: I don't know what he listened to on the radio.

BLITZER: All right. So, you're not backing away from that -- you know you're going to get a lot of criticism for making these statements, sheriff, but you're not backing away?

DUPNIK: Well, the flame throwers are pointed at me almost everywhere in the country.

BLITZER: So, you have beefed up your own security, is that what I'm hearing you say as well?

DUPNIK: We take that into consideration, yes, sir.

BLITZER: How worried are you?

DUPNIK: I'm -- I'm not that worried. I do my job. As a matter of fact, I love my job or else I wouldn't be here after 52 years doing it. I enjoy getting up and coming to work, even when circumstances aren't what I wish they were.

BLITZER: And have there been any specific direct threats leveled against you?

DUPNIK: None that I would call credible.

BLITZER: Sheriff, good luck to you.

DUPNIK: Hey, thank you very much.

BLITZER: Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is the sheriff of Pima County. Appreciate him very much for joining us.

One top Bush administration official is back in the spotlight. Jack Cafferty is here, and he has the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In his first interview since heart surgery last summer, former Vice President Dick Cheney says he thinks that President Obama will be a one-term president. Cheney told NBC News Mr. Obama chose a course of action that didn't have as much support as he thought it did. Cheney points, specifically, to a lack of job creation, deficit spending, and big government programs, including health care reform. Cheney also suggests President Obama has taken some lessons from the Bush administration. Cheney says the president has learned from experience that some of his predecessor's decisions concerning terrorism were necessary, things like not being able to close the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison camp.

Also, Cheney cites the Obama administration's expanded use of drones in Pakistan. He believes now that he's president, Mr. Obama, quote, "Found it necessary to be more sympathetic to the kinds of things we, the Bush administration, did," unquote. So, how about Cheney's prediction that President Obama won't get a second term? There's a new poll out that shows President Obama's approval rating is up five points since December and that more Americans think he is a strong leader who can handle a crisis.

CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll puts Mr. Obama's approval at 53 percent, and what might be most significant here is that the increase comes from the ever important independent voters. Also, President Obama's rating of the start of his third year, six points higher Than Bill Clinton's was, 16 points higher than Ronald Reagan's was.

So, here's the question. Dick Cheney says President Obama will be a one-term president. Is he right? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very, very much.

The Tucson shooting put politics as usual on hold, at least, for a while. Right now though, the House is back at work on a controversial issue, debate over repealing the health care reform law. We're going to tell you how Democrats are pushing back, and I'll talk about that and much more with the new House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. My interview coming up. You'll want to see why the Democrat got emotional during our interview.

And what's next for the ex-dictator of Haiti after his shocking return? And now, a court appearance.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The House is debating repealing health care reform. Democrats acknowledge they haven't done well enough, at least, so far, in selling the public on the new law's merits, but they're trying to change that. Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, for the latest -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Democrats were doing quite the hard sell today on health care reform, even before debate on the repeal began on the House floor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): A mock hearing staged by Democrats. Their witnesses, people with pre-existing conditions who insurers will soon be forced to cover. Repeal health care reform, Democrats say, and insurance companies can refuse coverage.

VERNAL BRANCH, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR: I wish I could explain to you what it is like every day with the knowledge that your breast cancer could come back. And to couple that fear with reality and being uninsured is devastating.

KEILAR: Also in the Democrats' corner, a new study from the Department of Health and Human Services showing nearly 129 million people, about half of all Americans under the age of 65, have pre- existing conditions that could make them ineligible for insurance coverage if they change or lose jobs. And the liberal group, Americans United for Change, put out this ad. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The affordable care act gave your family the same health protections members of Congress get, but Republicans want to take that protection away from your family.

KEILAR: Republicans staged their own PR battle showing boxes and boxes of petitions signed by Americans who want the health care law overturned.

REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: Tomorrow is the day that we begin to undo the damage of the government takeover and control of health care in this country, and it couldn't come a moment too soon.

KEILAR: And all of this before debate on the bill to scrap the health care reform law even began. Republicans accused Democrats of overreaching in their efforts to force all Americans to buy health insurance.

REP. JUSTIN AMASH, (R) MICHIGAN: If this law is constitutional, if Congress has such broad power, our limited federal government will become limitless and all without changing our constitution or the approval of the Americans whom it protects.

KEILAR: They claim Democrats manipulated numbers so they could say the package would not add to the deficit.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R) WISCONSIN: All of the smoke, all the mirrors, the double counting, the non-counting, the discounting, what does this bill ultimately do when you really look at it all? This bill blows a hole through the deficit.

KEILAR: As both sides promised, there was no vitriol, but Democrats threw a few sharp elbows.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT, (D) TEXAS: This bill isn't repeal and replace, it's repeal and forget.

REP DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: By ensuring that Americans have vital coverage rather than cruelly denying it to them, we can live up to the dreams of liberty and justice for all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (on-camera): Tomorrow, there will be hours more debate on the repeal. There's going to be a vote in the afternoon. It's expected to pass the House handily, but it's not expected to even see the light of day in the Senate, but, Wolf, house Republicans say they had to do this. They say this was a campaign promise that they're going to try to repeal health care reform, and they're making good on it.

BLITZER: And they're moving forward. We're going to speak to Nancy Pelosi about that and more in the next hour. Thanks very much, Brianna, for that.

We're also monitoring a major earthquake that has just rocked Pakistan. We'll have the latest.

Plus, President Obama takes a major step towards repairing that strange relationship he's had with Wall Street.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama's reaching out to the business community today, taking new steps to try to strike the right balance between government regulation and economic growth. He ordered a government- wide review of health, safety and environmental rules and wrote about it in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed article.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger and David Gergen. He said among other things in the article, sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business, burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs. It's part of this campaign to win back his friends on Wall Street, isn't it?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A little bit of a charm offensive here. First of all, I spoke with somebody at the White House who said, look, we have been working on this for more than a year. It's not that Bill Daley got to the White House, and suddenly, we decided to change our view of regulation, but they do understand that there's been an explosion in new regulation stemming from both health care reform and regulatory reform, and they're willing to admit that, perhaps, the pendulum swung too far to one side, and they're trying to right it which is why you see this outreach to the business community. They are having CEOs meet with the president of China, for example, which is huge, and they are saying, OK, we're listening to you, and, of course, by the way, they need them in the next election.

BLITZER: David, I can't tell you how many very wealthy Wall Street types, rich ones who loved Barack Obama, raised millions of dollars for him in 2008, in his campaign, in 2007, 2008, totally lost faith with him over the first two years. But now they are telling me, you know, he's reaching out to us and we might come back.

How politically important is this overture to Wall Street and his pals there?

GERGEN: I think this is less about politics at the moment, Wolf, than it is about economics, and he's not trying to coax their friendship. He is trying to coax their investment.

BORGER: Money.

GERGEN: They are sitting --

BLITZER: Investments to create jobs --

GERGEN: To create jobs.

BLITZER: -- or investments in helping him get re-elected?

GERGEN: No, no. He's got to get the economy moving first, and then he wants them for his re-election. But the most important thing is that companies in this country, as you well know, are sitting on over $2 trillion that they have not invested. And one of the reasons they haven't invested is they have said the regulatory climate is too uncertain, whether you're in health care, as Gloria said, financial, and the banks, whether your company is worried about the EPA.

There are all sorts of -- in the first two years of the Obama administration, it seemed every time you turned around there was somebody else waiting out there to unload new regulations on you, including small business, and that has dampened business investment, so he's trying to get them to come, and with that it will turn around his politics.

BLITZER: Look at these numbers, Gloria, because in the last few weeks, as he's moved towards the center with his political hires, as well as his statements, reaching out to Wall Street, back in September his job approval number was 42 percent. It went up to 45 percent in October, 48 percent in November, 48 percent in December.

Now, in our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 53 percent job approval, which is a pretty good number at this point.

BORGER: Sure. And, you know, this could be a result of the lame-duck session, where people believed that a lot was accomplished. It could be a result of the speech in Tucson.

The interesting thing to me though, Wolf, if you pull apart these numbers a little bit and you dig a little deeper, he's really improved with Independent voters by 15 points since December. That's huge, and that's -- that's exactly what they want over at the White House.

GERGEN: Well, that's what comes from moving towards the middle.

BORGER: Right. Duh.

GERGEN: That's where a lot of these Independents come from.

BLITZER: We certainly learned that when he was president.

And what I hear you saying, David, is that President Obama is learning right now.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

BORGER: That's where he always was.

GERGEN: Well, I don't think he was.

BLITZER: Well, a lot people think he was on the left.

BORGER: No, no, no. I mean when he ran for election in the first place, when he ran -- won with Independents.

GERGEN: When he ran for election you could believe he was a liberal if you were a liberal, you could believe he was a moderate, if you're a moderate. But in the first two years I think he convinced a whole lot of people that he was too liberal.

BORGER: That he was liberal, right. GERGEN: And now I think he's moved to the center. He's done it very deftly, and he's on a roll, starting with the lame duck, including the appointments like Bill Daley, now the Tucson speech. And I think he's got the State of the Union just waiting out there now, so ripe a moment for him.

BLITZER: It's a moment for him, an opportunity. We'll see if the so- called progressives, the liberals, are going to be disenchanted or what they will do.

BORGER: But liberals approve of Barack Obama by over 70 percent, so --

GERGEN: At the grassroots.

BORGER: At the grassroots.

GERGEN: A lot of the activists --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right. But at a certain point, if you're sitting in the White House, you're saying, who do we need for re-election? We need those Independent votes.

GERGEN: Tuesday night.

BLITZER: Tuesday night, the State of the Union.

All right, guys. Thanks very much.

She was in the room when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes. Now the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is sharing with me her personal take on the congresswoman and the Tucson shootings. Like John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi gets emotional in this interview. You're going to see her eyes well up.

We'll tell you what I said that got her this emotional. Stand by for the interview.

Also, today's major announcement by a veteran TV personality. We're talking about Regis Philbin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A major earthquake strikes Pakistan. Lisa Sylvester is here. She's monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What do we know?

SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a preliminary magnitude 7.2 quake in the country's southwestern region. Witnesses say it lasted between 20 and 30 seconds. Aftershocks are following this severe tremor. So far, there are no reports of damage or fatalities. Police have detained Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and charges have now been filed. A prosecutor will have 30 days to investigate the charges against the former Haitian dictator. It's unclear at this point right now what exactly those charges are.

Duvalier, who was in exile 25 years, had been hiding out in his hotel room since Sunday. His stunning return comes as Haiti struggles to overcome violence, political turmoil, deadly diseases, and last year's devastating earthquake.

And a new report indicates last year was the worst on record for piracy at sea. According to the findings, pirates captured 1,181 sailors aboard 53 ships in 2010. Most ships are taken off the coast of Somalia, which the report calls the most dangerous waters in the world. Just yesterday, Somali pirates reportedly captured a cargo ship and its crew -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lisa. We'll talk to you again in a few minutes. Thank you.

The president is about to dive into a difficult round of talks. Why the visit by China's president is so critical right now and, at the same time, so stressful.

And Sarah Palin says she won't shut up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Republican strategist, the former Bush White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Sarah Palin, she said last night, Paul, she is not backing down. She is not going to shut up.

I don't know if you saw the interview she did on Fox, but what do you think? What do you think about her stance that, you know what, she wants to speak out and she has every right to do so?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I say, amen, Sarah. Don't let them shut you up.

We need more Sarah Palin. She needs her own network like Oprah Winfrey because -- for Democrats, frankly. It's the best thing that could happen. Look, I saw one Gallup poll. At her favorable rating among Republicans, at 73 percent. And yet, "The Washington Post" poll has her favorable rating among all Americans at just 38.

Now, that's a little apples and oranges. It's not an absolutely perfect comparison.

But, basically, she's real popular with the Republican base, maybe popular enough to be their nominee for president, God willing, but not at al popular with other Americans, the kinds you need to win a presidential election. So, the best thing that could happen to Barack Obama.

BLITZER: According to this "USA Today"/Gallup poll number we have, Ari, back in July, her favorable number was 44 percent, now it's 38 percent. It's going in the wrong direction.

ARI FLEISCHER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that's right, Wolf, and I don't think she handled it as well as she could have, the whole situation in Tucson. She should have made that first video a rise above type speech where she ignored the nonsense that was thrown against her and talked about hope and healing and suffering and Americans coming together.

And then on her interview with Fox last night, she could have made her detractors look small. And didn't get that sequence right.

But, you know, if we talk about civility in politics, we could start with the Democrats treating her better, treating her well. I don't understand the disdain that they have for her.

I've never seen so many cruel and vicious and personal attacks not only her, but against her children. And it really has gone too far against her. Whether she's presidential or not is a totally separate matter, but the cruelty in politics has been applied and attacked to Sarah Palin.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What Democrat have said anything about her children? What Democrat has said anything about her children? She seems to have --

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: Paul, during the whole campaign in 2008, she took a lot of calls from the press about who the mother of her children were.

BEGALA: That's the press, and that was reprehensible.

FLEISCHER: But that's all part of it.

BEGALA: You said Democrats were unfair. No, no. You just accused my party of being unfair to this woman's very lovely family. No one has been that I know of.

FLEISCHER: Paul, stop pretending that your party isn't bad to her. The shooting in Tucson, "Daily Kos" is one of the --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That's different than her children.

FLEISCHER: -- the Democrat blogger who blogged that she was an accessory. Paul Krugman made the case that she was an accessory to murder.

I'm not saying she's presidential. She has a lot to prove before she shows she's presidential. But she can't deserve the bric-a-brac she's taking in politics.

BLITZER: All right. Quick, Paul. Go ahead and respond.

BEGALA: First off, I don't know of any Democrat that has criticized this woman's children. Her children seem to be just lovely people. But she is in the arena, ,and her ideas, such as they are -- I mean, it's kind of a little hyperbolic to call what she's for ideas.

But she served several months as governor of a state that has, you know, more reindeer than people. And I want her out there more. I want to be nice to Sarah Palin.

Like I just said, we need more -- she makes a lot more money than I do, but if she needs a loan for her filing papers to run for president, she can come to me. I'm all for it.

We need more Sarah Palin. She is the face of the Republican Party. She's a dominant figure of the Republican Party, and the party's leading intellectual figure.

BLITZER: Guys, hold that thought for a moment, because I want to continue the conversation on Sarah Palin.

Newt Gingrich saying, "She needs to be more careful and think through what she is saying." That's what Newt Gingrich is saying. We'll discuss that and more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our senior White House correspondent is now reporting that Senator Joe Lieberman, the Independent senator from Connecticut, is planning to announce tomorrow that he will not -- repeat not -- seek re-election for yet another term.

Let's bring back Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer.

Your immediate reaction, Paul? Lieberman is not going to run.

BEGALA: Well, he probably had no other options. I mean, he's been running for office for most of his adult life, a very successful politician in Connecticut. One of the few, I think, who has given major addresses at both the Democratic and the Republican Conventions.

But you know what it will be? The thing to watch will be the next two years, his service in the Senate, where he may be even more of a wildcard.

The Republicans have Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who was pretty much repudiated by her party, but won election anyway. Democrats have a parallel story in Lieberman. Those two may be the most interesting swing votes, Independent votes in the Senate for the next two years, because Lieberman, apparently, at least, is not going to have to worry about getting re-elected. He will be a total free agent.

It may not be the best thing for the Democrats, but it will be fun to watch.

BLITZER: Ari, what's your immediate reaction?

FLEISCHER: You know, I think I'm very familiar with Connecticut and Connecticut politics, and it would have been a very difficult election for him to thread the needle of being an Independent when you have a Democrat base who is so anti-Lieberman because he's a conservative on foreign policy, and he's not fully embraced by the Republicans. A very difficult path to re-election.

I think he's a great man. I think he's a courageous man. And I think he's going to want to leave with his dignity and his pride. He won't leave the way Arlen Specter did, where he leaves a defeated man. And so I think this is in keeping with the character and the depth of Joe Lieberman, frankly.

BLITZER: And it comes on the same day that Kent Conrad, the Democrat from North Dakota, has just announced he's not going to seek re- election either. Another open seat that the Democrats will have to deal with.

All right, guys. Thanks very much.

It's been a rough month for Nancy Pelosi. You're going to find out what made the former House-Speaker-turned-Minority-Leader choke up during our interview.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Former Vice President Dick Cheney says that President Obama will be a one-term president. Is he right?

Jamie in St. Louis, "It depends on who runs against him. If Palin or Gingrich wins the Republican nomination, Obama wins the presidency in a landslide. If somebody like Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, would run, it would be a close election. A third party candidate like Bloomberg would also throw a wrench in Obama's chances."

"All of that being said, if Hillary Clinton runs against Obama in a primary, I think this time she'd win." Mark writes, "Yes. When $5 gasoline and 12 percent unemployment hit the American public in two years, Obama will go back to organizing communities."

Jeff in Georgia, "Mr. Cafferty, with more than a year until the GOP nominates its candidate, it's premature for Cheney to make that prediction with certainty. If the Republicans have a dynamic ticket that can garner the Independent vote, they'll have a great chance. And if not, Obama wins a second term."

John writes from New Jersey, "Yes, Cheney is right. It's been obvious from the beginning that Obama's election had more to do with its historical significance than any meaningful policy or change in direction. Having said that, Obama's first term has failed the American people and damaged the aspirations of a generation that will follow."

Kelsi writes, "I think it really all depends on the next year and how both Obama and the Democrats in the House and Senate handle the roadblocks that the Tea Party and the far right have promised to throw their way."

And Mike says, "With a blessing like that from Cheney, I'm not at all surprised to see that the polls don't agree. When did facts ever matter to this man? Let's let time and America decide the future and leave this angry man in the past where he belongs."

If you want to read more on the subject, you can find it on my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Almost one-half of the city's police force just turned in their weapons. We're going to tell you why and where.

And from Haiti, the former dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier, he has now been detained.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's already one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. But now new fears that crime in Camden, New Jersey, is about to get worse.

Mary Snow is watching the story for us. She's joining us now from Camden.

What's the latest there, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, Camden is like so many cities in the United States facing a massive deficit. But this stands out because of the size of the cuts being made here and where they're being made.

The mayor of Camden is holding out hope that last-minute concessions will mean that laid-off workers can come back to work. But so far, that hasn't happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): It's the day city firefighters and police officers in Camden, New Jersey, were dreading. More than 200 of them were told to hand over their equipment by day's end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn our gear, two jackets, two pairs (ph) of pants, four set of uniforms, Class B, our badge that we worked hard for and wear with a lot of honor and pride.

SNOW: The city has the second highest crime rate in the country, yet the deepest cuts are to the Camden Police Department, where 168 officers were laid off. That's 45 percent of the force.

MAYOR DANA REDD, CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY: Typically, you know, we put things on the table --

SNOW: Mayor Dana Redd says there was no other choice because the city is $26.5 million in debt. She blames police and fire unions, saying things didn't have to be this bad.

REDD: Instead of protecting and serving the public, the residents of Camden, they chose to protect their high salaries.

SNOW: The mayor asked cops and firefighters to pay more for health care, freeze or cut salaries, and take furlough days. But she says denial played a big part.

(on camera): What do you think people were expecting?

REDD: I'm not sure what people were expecting other than there's this culture of disbelief because Camden has always been bailed out by state government in the past.

JOHN WILLIAMSON, PRESIDENT, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY: Every person with a set of eyes, ears and a thinking brain can see and knows that the --- you know, the city is in a fiscal crisis, the state is in a fiscal crisis, and the nation is in a crisis.

SNOW: John Williamson is head of the police union and accuses the mayor of misrepresenting the facts. At the union hall where police officers and firefighters gathered, there was sadness and concern.

WILLIAMSON: When you take away half of a police department, there is absolutely no way that the officers left can cover the same amount of ground in the same amount of time.

SNOW: And it's not just cops and firefighters. Close to 100 non- uniformed employees also lost their jobs, including Gloria Valentin, a sanitation inspector.

GLORIA VALENTIN, LAID OFF SANITATION INSPECTOR: We're not just police. We're not just public firemen. We are public servants. We do a job for our residents. I'm an east Camden inspector, and my residents know me. They know who I am, not, you know, the city employee. I'm "Gloria" to everyone out there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, to keep this city safe, the police chief is reorganizing the staff. He says officers will no longer be doing clerical or administrative duties, that they'll be out on the street. And he says he's been meeting with county, state and federal offices, including the FBI, and asking them to take an increased role here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in Camden for us.

Thanks, Mary, very, very much.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.