Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Health Care Repeal Debate Begins

Aired January 18, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Nancy Pelosi vows to stand firmly on the GOP's push for health care repeal. She talks about the new Speaker's tendency toward tears and tells us about her own emotions when she saw the wounded colleague, Gabby Giffords, open her eye.

My one-on one interview with the former Speaker coming up.

And the former dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier is taken into custody after a sudden and puzzling return to Haiti.

And we'll also hear this hour from the original shock jock, Howard Stern, in a sneak preview of tonight's explosive interview with our own Piers Morgan.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Republicans are pushing ahead relentlessly right now in their vow to repeal the president's health care overhaul. House GOP leaders began a formal debate today, and have set a vote for tomorrow. Democrats are digging in, and today they brought out patients with preexisting conditions to testify in favor of the reform law.

Listen to this cancer survivor.


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.


BLITZER: Republican Steve King calls the testimony staged, his word, and says that's not a good enough reason to keep what he called Obamacare.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: It's still wrong because what it does is it expands the dependency state in America for political reasons. And it takes away the liberty of the American people. And it's unconstitutional.


BLITZER: With the battle lines joined, I sat down on Capitol Hill for a wide-ranging interview for the former speaker of the House, now the Democrats' minority leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.


BLITZER: Madam Leader, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Let's talk about the repeal of the health care reform law. Our brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll out today shows 50 percent of the American public want to repeal all provisions -- all provisions in the new health care law; 42 percent oppose. Why does the American public believe repeal is the way to go?

PELOSI: Well, I'm not sure that I completely agree. But there are polls and there are polls that -- that show a different trend. But the fact is, is that overwhelmingly, the American people support ending discrimination on the basis of a preexisting medical condition. They -- they oppose lifetime limits, even annual limits, on care for people, as the -- the patient protections that are in the bill are wildly and widely supported by the American people. ...

BLITZER: Except in this poll, it shows that maybe the way it was put together, the whole package, they don't like. Because even independents -- even -- forget about Democrats and Republicans, but independents, there's a majority of independents who oppose the health care law and want the whole thing repealed.

PELOSI: Well, let me say this. You're saying maybe the way the bill was put together. Maybe the way the poll was put together.

But the fact is, is that what we are hearing from people and what we've hear -- heard most recently today in our hearing from people who are directly affected, if you're a woman with breast cancer, if you're a man with prostate cancer, if you're a parent with children who turned 23 and now can stay on their parents' policy until they're 26 years old, the list goes on and on of strong support for patient protection that are in the legislation.

Those protections cannot happen unless you have comprehensive health insurance. So we'll still continue to make the case to the American people. But the strongest, most eloquent voices are those of people who are directly affected. Just think of it, any one of us, any one of us is one phone call, one diagnosis, one accident away from needing health care. And 100 -- up to 129 million Americans under the age of 65 have a preexisting medical condition. Seventeen million of them are children.

BLITZER: Remember, a year ago, during the height of the debate, you said that once the American public sees what's in this bill, they'll begin to like it. Well, they've -- they're now seeing what's in the bill. But according to this poll and other polls, they don't like it.

PELOSI: Well, they're getting to like it better. The fact is...

BLITZER: I'm not so sure. The polls don't necessarily...

PELOSI: Well...

BLITZER: ... say that.

PELOSI: Well, your poll doesn't. But...

BLITZER: Other polls, too.

PELOSI: Well, on specific elements of it, in September, as you know, lifting the discrimination for children with preexisting conditions from having access to health insurance is -- is very popular, which the polls showed...

BLITZER: I guess bottom line, who failed in explaining all these things to the American public? Why are they saying repeal?

PELOSI: Well, I think some of this takes time because it is change. And there has been fear-mongering associated with it. We all know that. Issues that have nothing to do with the bill, but used effectively by the insurance industry to use some issues to pay -- to -- to protect them and protect the health of the insurance industry...

BLITZER: But you and Democrats and the president, for that matter, have done a better job explaining this to the American public.

PELOSI: I think in the House of Representatives, we saved health care reform. We had town meetings. We had media events across the country in -- in that August of last year. I believe the House of Representatives Democrats saved health care reform. The long time it took in the Senate because of the obstruction of Republican senators gave an opportunity. But you know what?

We have to look forward. And what we're looking forward to is to saying to people, in your own life, this is what this means to you. And we will stand firm against any attempts to prevent you from having access to quality health care. It's now look -- use looking back or assigning blame. It's about taking responsibility...

BLITZER: All right...

PELOSI: ... for the future.

BLITZER: So what would you do to improve this law, to make it more acceptable to the American public, a specific example?

PELOSI: Well, I think the law is a very good law. No law is perfect.

BLITZER: So what would you do to make it better?

PELOSI: Well, one thing that we tried to do and passed -- tried to pass in the House but the Republicans resisted was to -- to repeal the 1099 provisions in the bill that affect small businesses. I think that's one place where we have bipartisan agreement, but not enough Republican support to pass it in the House of Representatives, which required two thirds. Of that, 41 would be a place that place...

BLITZER: But are you open to legislation to improve it?

PELOSI: We're always open to legislation. This is not theology. It's not ideology. It's -- it's problem-solving for the American people. If people have ideas about how to help solve those problems in a better way, then we're open to it. But understanding that this is about patients' rights, not about health insurance companies' profits.

BLITZER: How worried are you that the courts will say it's unconstitutional, the mandate part, that you must purchase health insurance?

PELOSI: Well, the argument for a mandate is that if you're going to lower costs, improve access and improve the quality of care, you have to increase the risk pool. You have to have more people in the poll to lower the cost and spread the risk. So that is essential to the patient protections. We believe the way the bill was written was constitutional.

BLITZER: Do you think -- you think the courts will go along? What -- how worried are you about that?

PELOSI: Well, I'm not worried about it. The court -- most of the court -- whether there have been 14 decisions, 12 have been -- have just not addressed it. One went against it. One went in favor of something like that.

It's -- it's part of the fight. But this is about change. It's about changing the leverage from the special interests to the people's interests they will always challenge, whether it's in court, in the court of public opinion, wherever. But this is very important for us to protect for what it means to the American people.

BLITZER: You're the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.


BLITZER: How many Democrats, tomorrow, will join Republicans in voting to repeal the health care reform law, in your opinion?

PELOSI: Well, we'll find out tomorrow.

BLITZER: What do you think?

PELOSI: But I think very few.

BLITZER: How many?

PELOSI: I think very few.

BLITZER: Give me a ball park.

PELOSI: I don't -- I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do that. What's important, though, is that we will have a very overwhelming vote to say no to repeal. And even some members who have voted against the health care bill will be against the total repeal.

BLITZER: The other day -- not that many days away from now, 87 freshmen Republicans were sworn in to the House of Representatives.

PELOSI: Right.

BLITZER: Nine freshmen Democrats were sworn in. What a lop- sided...

PELOSI: Yes, it was.

BLITZER: ... victory for the Republicans. And you know a lot of those Republicans say they were sworn in because they ran against you.

PELOSI: Oh, they were sworn in because we had 9.5 unemployment in our country. That is the overwhelming issue...

BLITZER: But you saw the...

PELOSI: ... we were told...

BLITZER: ... nasty ads...

PELOSI: Yes, I did.

BLITZER: ... some of them were going after you.

PELOSI: Very personal.

BLITZER: ... mid -- very personal...

PELOSI: And very threatening.

BLITZER: I mean talking about...

PELOSI: Very threatening.

BLITZER: ... you know, a witch or whatever they were saying.

PELOSI: They were very threatening.

BLITZER: I think there was one example, calling you the wicked witch, another 50 foot...

PELOSI: That was in my own district and I got over 80 percent of the vote. But let me say this...

BLITZER: How do you feel personal...

PELOSI: ... why do we look at...

BLITZER: ... personally, on a personal level, how did you feel...

PELOSI: I -- I really don't care. I mean, from the standpoint of reaction, I care about what happens to the American people as a result of the Republicans being in charge and where they've been before. But you know what?

Let's look forward and hope that -- for the best and wish them well. Secondly, I think that it -- at this time, it's not use rehashing what happened before. We lost tremendous talent in our caucus and I'm concerned about that. We had two wave elections. We won 30. Then we won 25 on that. They won 60 some. We'll be back.

BLITZER: Well...

PELOSI: And we look forward. We'll be back.

BLITZER: You need a net gain in 2012 of 25 seats...


BLITZER: ... and you'll be back in the majority...

PELOSI: Well, we won 30 to -- in '06.


PELOSI: And we won 25 in '08. But again, let's look forward.

BLITZER: Well, let's look forward.

PELOSI: Yes, of course.

BLITZER: Will you be the speaker of the House again?

PELOSI: But the -- the issue is how -- let's wish the Republicans well. If they have solved -- can solve problems for the American people, we salute them. We extend a hand as a willing partner to do so. Job creation, job creation, job creation.

BLITZER: Issue number one?

PELOSI: We see that right now, right.

BLITZER: If -- but in 2012, if you get a net gain of 25 seats, the Democrats become the majority. Will Nancy Pelosi once again be the speaker of the House?

PELOSI: We live in the here and the now. And that is what our fight is now, is to have firm opposition to their attempt to repeal patient protections that are in the health care bill. We live in the here and now to create jobs for the American people. BLITZER: But I assume...

PELOSI: That was resisted.

BLITZER: ... like the great speaker, Sam Rayburn, you would like to be spe -- he was speaker, then minority leader, then speaker and minority leader...

PELOSI: What's important to me is that the Democrats are in the majority. But let's not worry about elections. Let's worry about results, solving problems for the American people. If the Republicans can accomplish that, God bless them.


BLITZER: We will have much more of my interview coming up with Nancy Pelosi. I asked her what she likes about John Boehner, the current speaker. And you will be surprised at what she says. And she also chokes up when she talks about something very, very special to her. Stand by for that.

The U.S. population is getting older, and that's raising an important question. Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: As snow and ice cover many of the nation's roadways, here's something for you to think about: At what point should elderly drivers be taken off the roads?

America Online reports that elderly drivers now make up almost 20 percent of all motorists. And that number is growing as the baby boomers age. It's no surprise that one recent survey shows almost one in 10 adults are worried about an older family member driving.

Experts say the top thing is to understand the importance of mobility for the elderly. Driving gives them a huge sense of independence and autonomy.

They suggest that if you're worried about a family member's driving, you should take a ride with them and watch, and then, if necessary, have a conversation about it. Good luck with that. It's a sensitive topic, in many cases, for sure.

Nevertheless, here are some things to look out for when a senior citizen gets behind the wheel. Stopping in traffic for no reason, that's a clue. Difficulty staying in the same lane, getting lost in familiar places, being easily distracted or irritated while driving, difficulty turning around to see when backing up, loss in confidence, other drivers often honking horns at them and scrapes or dents on the garage and/or the car -- clues, one and all.

There is no specific age when the elderly have to stop driving. But there comes a point when they become a danger to themselves and to others.

Many states have special requirements for senior citizens to renew their licenses. Sometimes they have to apply for a renewal more frequently. In some states, they need to retake road or vision tests or renew their license in person, instead of through the mail.

Here's the question: Should the rules be tightened for senior citizens who drive?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.


CAFFERTY: I'm a senior citizen, and I'm not giving up my car or thank driver's license. Pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

BLITZER: You're going to get a lot of e-mail from senior citizens. We have a lot of senior citizens watching this show, Jack. And they will be responding to you.

CAFFERTY: That's from my people.

BLITZER: Thank you. My people, too. Thank you, Jack.


BLITZER: We're following some fast-changing developments in Haiti right now, where the former dictator has been taken into custody. Will he face charges? We're going live to Port-au-Prince. Stand by.

And he was one of the first law enforcement officials to speak out publicly after the Tucson massacre. And his remarks prompted a huge backlash. Does he stand by them? I will ask the Pima County sheriff. Stand by for that as well.


BLITZER: The former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier was taken into custody today, two days after he suddenly and mysteriously returned to Haiti from nearly 25 years in exile.

Let's go live to CNN's John Zarrella. He's our man in Port-au- Prince right now.

John, what are you learning about this?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, I can tell you that Duvalier at this time has returned to the hotel, the Karibe Hotel. We're out in front that hotel right now.

Just moments ago, he was brought around the back entrance to the hotel, hundreds of media chasing him chasing after him. He was brought into the hotel, and at last word he was holed up in the kitchen until they can get all of the journalists out so that they can bring him back up to his room.

But this comes almost six hours to the minute that he was led out of this hotel by Haitian police and members of the Haitian SWAT team. As he came down the three flights of stairs, he waved to the people, mostly to the members of the media gathered here, smiling as he left. He got into a police vehicle and was taken to the courthouse.

Now, over the course of the afternoon, he appeared first before one judge. Then he was taken to another court, where a judge had to decide on what to do with him. So at this point, we understand that the Haitian government did bring charges against Duvalier.

We understand they are charges of construction. Of course, we know that back in 2007 the Preval government, the current government in power, said that if he came back, he would face corruption charges, believed accused of smuggling or stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the people here and bringing it out of the country when he fled into exile a quarter century ago, perhaps also human rights charges.

But we just do not have the details. But they have not formally charged him with these crimes. Now, it could be up to another 30 days before the courts here in Haiti decide whether or not there's enough substance, enough merit to these accusations, to these charges to actually file official charges against Duvalier. We don't know if he's being held in house arrest here at the hotel.

One thing we had heard, Wolf, was that he would not be allowed to leave the country, although we have not been able to confirm that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's still a mystery why he decided to come back at this point. But we will try to find out. All right, thanks very much, John Zarrella, reporting live from Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

He's had five heart attacks and multiple operations and procedures. Will a heart transplant be next for the former Vice President Dick Cheney? He's speaking out about it.

And details of an unusual tribute and the unusual effort to make sure the New Jersey Jets saw it.



BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi gets emotional as she talks about the Tucson shootings and how she watched wounded colleague Gabby Giffords open her eyes -- more of my interview with the former speaker, that's just ahead.

And Bill Clinton goes to bat for one-time aide Rahm Emanuel, who is now running for Chicago mayor. You will hear why that's making another candidate in the race very unhappy.


BLITZER: The midterm election campaign was nasty and bitterly fought, but even after watching the House of Representatives change hands, the former Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists there are no hard feelings.

More now of my interview with the House minority leader.


BLITZER: I asked my Twitter followers to send in some recommended questions. And a lot of them had a variation of this question.

What do you like about the new speaker, John Boehner?

PELOSI: That was the question they asked?

Well, I like all people. And make sure you understand, none of this is personal, despite what they may have done in the campaign to me. From my standpoint, it's not personal.

I respect people for who they are, for the constituents they represent. And I wish John Boehner all the success in the world. It's important for our country for him to be successful at job creation and meeting the needs of the American people. He's a...

BLITZER: Is there anything

PELOSI: He's a...

BLITZER: ... you like about him?

PELOSI: Well, yes, we're friends. We have a -- an amiable relationship. And he knows that I wish him well. And that is a sincere wish.

BLITZER: All right. You know he's -- he's getting a lot of attention because he cries. He cries a lot and they're calling him weeper of the House.

And I guess the question is, could a woman, as speaker of the House, cry like that and be treated the same way that he's treated?

PELOSI: I don't know how he's treated, but I don't think it's important. If he shows his emotion in that way, so be it.

BLITZER: Did you cry when you were...

PELOSI: I'm working...

BLITZER: When you were speaker...


BLITZER: ... did you cry?

PELOSI: I -- well, I -- I was very, very sad when we got the news of Tucson. I wasn't speaker then, but nonetheless, that's what gets me. But you know what?

BLITZER: You started to cry when you heard about Gabrielle Giffords?

PELOSI: Oh, of course. Of course. But...

BLITZER: Well, let's -- let's talk about that.

PELOSI: No, but I mean I was in the privacy of my home and then I was in temple.

As a matter of fact, I was going to a bat mitzvah that morning. And Gabby being Jewish, I felt very connected to her. But let's put it this way. It's not important whether somebody cries or not as speaker. What's important is what the legislation they present and lead with means to the American people. That's what's important.

What their personal behavior is, is not important to me. What is important is what -- how we're going to create jobs, how we're going to protect patients' rights, how we're going to go forward in a way that we judge by three things -- does it create jobs, does it reduce the deficit, does it strengthen the middle class? I care more about that than whether Mr. Boehner cries.

BLITZER: Was Sarah Palin treated unfairly in the immediate aftermath...

PELOSI: I don't even know. I have no idea. I have no idea.

I don't -- in other words, I think that what happened in Tucson was something that made us all worry about the people who were shot and their families, those who lost their lives and the sorrow that they will live with. I think we're still in that mode. I'm not here to talk about anybody's comments on it, except to say I thought that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, did a masterful job.

I was there. I saw it firsthand. It was a very powerful and emotional speech for him and something that I think was very good for the country. And that is what I would like to focus on, the positive message, not the conflict over who said what about whom. It's really not important. What is important is that we give our energy to those families that have been affected...

BLITZER: Take us inside, as much as you can, into that hospital room...


BLITZER: ... when you were there and you saw Congresswoman Giffords.

PELOSI: Well, first, I was very honored to receive the invitation from her husband, Mark Kelly, to come to the hospital as we were going to Tucson for the service, and we went in with her girlfriends, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Gillibrand now. And he had a wonderful conversation with her -- her husband and her parents. They're so powerful. And Tea her chief of staff. We were there. It was a very close-knit group. And with one thing, talking about going out to dinner, going for summer vacation, or this or that. Mark said, to her, you know, "Gabby, if you can hear us, do this, do that. Open your eyes, open your eyes." And she did. And she really, you know -- it wasn't just we imagined it. You could see the beautiful blue eyes when she opened her eye.

BLITZER: She had a bandage on the other.

Did you sense she knew you were there?

PELOSI: Well, what Mark told me in an e-mail the next day is that she was -- his view is that she was so happy we were there she had to open her eyes to make sure it was true, which was very sweet of him. But again, it was personal with their family, since we were in the room with her mother and father, Spencer and Gloria, who are wonderful, and Mark. It's such a beautiful love affair. But once she opened her eyes, she gravitated to the husband.

BLITZER: Is that when you started to cry?

PELOSI: Well, for all of us, it was this emotional experience.

BLITZER: The other congresswoman and the senator?

PELOSI: Well, they will speak for themselves. And they have beautifully conveyed what happened in the room. It was very exciting and, I think for all of us, something very special. She looked like an angel. She's so strong.

BLITZER: Is she going to come back to the Congress, you think?

PELOSI: I think so. Yes, I think so. The reports that I've been getting from her husband are very positive. You see what's in the press. And we'll be looking forward to welcoming them back to her committee assignments and her special commissions that I'm just about to point her to, the board of the West Point (ph) of the U.S. military academy, which is something that she wanted.

BLITZER: How worried are you now about your security and your staff's security, for that matter?

PELOSI: Well, security is always an issue, as you know, since a dozen years ago when we had the incident at the Capitol where two of the Capitol police where killed. And every year we commemorate that.

It's not about us, though. It's about everyone who comes here. Our constituents, visitors from all over the world. The press who covers us, other staff who work here, as well as the members of Congress. And so we have to be appropriate. You can't over secure.

BLITZER: You have security. But should the average Democrat or Republican right now beef up security?

PELOSI: Well, I think it's important for the sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol police to make the evaluation of who has what threats and what precautions should be taken. But we should always be vigilant.

What's important, though, is that we not curtail the freedom that people have to witness government. What's really sad for us about Tucson was that Gabby Giffords is a fabulously wonderful person. It was an assault on her life. In the performance of her duties, listening to her constituents, answering their questions, six people died. Six people died at the Congress on your Corner. That's a stunning thing. It takes you such aback.

And -- and so we have to make sure that whatever, whether it's local officials or whomever, we have to make sure that we're vigilant about how we expose those who come to see us. Their security is really more important.

BLITZER: That -- that -- we're out of time, but my point is, with hindsight, we all have to learn, you have an event like this, there has to be some police. Because not just to protect a member of Congress, but protect people who show up.

PELOSI: The people who show up.

BLITZER: If there had been at least one cop car, some police officer, there at that Safeway in Tucson, maybe this wouldn't have happened.

PELOSI: We don't know that, but maybe not. But whatever it is, I was near police because the day of the shooting, in the morning. It's an hour earlier for us in California, 9 something. I had a big event at 2 p.m. And I thought, should we cancel it? Well, nearly 1,000 people showed up. And I was so proud of their courage to show up.

And as you can see, since then, colleagues have had their own Congress on the corner, other public events to -- to be representatives, to listen to the people they speak for -- whom they speak for in Congress. So I'm proud of the fact that the -- that tradition of openness continues. But we do have to be careful.

BLITZER: It's an unfortunate fact of life: you've got to have security. That's my opinion. Madam Leader, thanks very much.

PELOSI: Thank you, Wolf. Pleasure to be here. Thank you.


BLITZER: Rhetoric and rampage. One Arizona official created an uproar by linking them together. Does he still stand by his remarks? I'll ask the sheriff in Tucson. Stand by for that.

Plus, Howard Stern comes clean about his hair. Is it dyed? Is it real? CNN's Piers Morgan is combing for answers.


BLITZER: He was the first public official to link the Tucson shooting rampage to the heated political rhetoric that's out there right now. And even though he has no evidence, the Pima County sheriff, Clarence Duke, is standing by his controversial remarks, which sparked a huge backlash.

We spoke about it during the last hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I asked him if he regrets making that statement.


CLARENCE DUKE, PIMA COUNTY SHERIFF: I set what I felt at the time, 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, in my judgment that bill was born out of prejudice, born out of bigotry. And I still feel that way.

And, based on some of the legislation that's been introduced, for example, on 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 the supermarket, that shopping center, and open up fire that day?

DUKE: None at all. There's no way 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: 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.

DUKE: Well, I think all the flame flowers are responsible.

BLITZER: Give me some specifics. Who?

DUKE: Well, the -- 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: The sheriff stresses he's only speculating, based on his 52 years in law enforcement. The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, landed here in Washington just a little while ago. He's heading into a busy round of talks with President Obama, including a small private dinner tonight with top administration officials.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

Dan, the dinner tonight is a small one. A state dinner tomorrow night. Who's at the dinner tonight?

DAN LOTHIAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The president, who will be sitting down with President Obama, also Secretary Clinton, and national security advisor, Tom Donilon. As you pointed out, that big dinner, the state dinner, is a more formal setting.

This is happening in the private residence of the White House here, in the old family dining room, a more intimate setting. A chance for these leaders to sort of meet and talk on a more private level. And to deal with a lot of issues that the U.S. has really been pressing China on for quite some time. He's been applying a lot of pressure to China, but so far China has not made any significant movement, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you have a good sense what they're hoping to accomplish?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, one U.S. official said that there will be no big deliverables from these meetings. But what they see it as is a chance to really set the agenda, to sit down and discuss -- discuss a whole host of issues, such as human rights, as trade, and also the currency issue, as well.

But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today pointed out and essentially admitted that nothing significant will happen overnight. It will all take time.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: This is a long road. And whether we're dealing with economic discussions, whether we're dealing with -- with those in the security realm, or whether we're doing those with human rights, I think this is -- this is an argument that we have, and we'll continue to make to the Chinese, and push them to do better.


LOTHIAN: As for the tone for all these meetings, one U.S. official pointed out that, in the past, face-to-face meetings that President Obama has had with President Hu, privately he has been very direct; he has been tough. But probably -- publicly, they tend to talk about areas of agreement, suggesting that that's the same kind of tone that we can expect this time, pressing China in a private session on all of these big issues but publicly talking about how both of these countries need each other in order to boost their economies. BLITZER: We'll cover it tomorrow extensively. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian, for that.

Bill Clinton endorses former aide Rahm Emanuel for mayor of Chicago, but that's adding insult to injury for another candidate.

And he spent most his life in front of the camera. Now Regis Philbin getting ready for the next chapter. He makes a big announcement today.


BLITZER: Former President Bill Clinton gave a strong endorsement to his one-time aide, Rahm Emanuel, today. Emanuel, who became a congressman, then chief of staff in the Obama White House, is now running for mayor of Chicago and is the front-runner in a heated primary race. Here's his campaign pitch.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Need a big person for the job. Rahm is not even six feet tall. He probably weighs about 150 pounds dripping wet. But in all the ways it matters, he is a very big person for this job.


BLITZER: That was the president of the United States.

That doesn't necessarily sit too well, though, with another former Clinton stalwart. Carol Moseley Braun is also running for mayor. Her spokesman says, and I'm quoting now, "Bill Clinton doesn't live or vote in Chicago. He's an outsider, parachuting in to support another outsider."

We'll watch this race. Election in about a month.

A U.S. sailor is missing in the gulf of Oman. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. Well, a search is underway for a female sailor who may have fallen overboard from the USS Halsey. Naval officials say the woman didn't report to watch, and after the ship was searched, commanders called man overboard. Helicopters and other aircraft are looking for the sailor. British forces are helping out, too.

The merger between Comcast and NBC Universal is on. FCC commissioners voted four to one to let the largest U.S. cable operator combine with the entertainment conglomerate with a few conditions. Comcast will be required to expand local news coverage, expand programs for Spanish-speaking viewers and offer Internet access to schools and libraries. And the Kennedys have lost another patriarch. Robert Sargent Shriver died today after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. His daughter is Maria Shriver, the wife of former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his late wife was Eunice Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy. Shriver was the first head of the Peace Corps and a former vice-presidential candidate. Wolf, he was 95 years old.

BLITZER: And our deepest condolences to Maria and all the Shriver family. Thanks very much for that. Sargent Shriver was a great man.

Should the rules be tightened up for senior citizens who want to drive? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail, that's coming up.

And CNN's Piers Morgan untangles the truth about Howard Stern's hair.



HOWARD STERN, RADIO SHOW HOST: The hair is real. And I don't -- and I don't color it.



BLITZER: Premiere week for "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" continues with Howard Stern, an hour with the man who put the "shock" in shock jock. Here's a sneak preview.


MORGAN: Who do you most admire in your business?

STERN: Well, Letterman being one of them. I like Jimmy Kimmel a lot.

MORGAN: Why Letterman? What makes him, to you...

STERN: Because Letterman is an original. Letterman came on there; he was a breath of fresh air. He -- he was able to do new types of bits. Even the way -- even the format of his show. Even the way he'd do his monologue, walk to his desk, which you wouldn't see him walk to his death. Everything has been imitated now.


BLITZER: Piers also asked Howard Stern a question that probably is on a lot of people's mind right now.


MORGAN: Is it real, that hair?

STERN: The hair is real. And I don't -- and I don't color it. Don't get too frisky.

MORGAN: If I give it a good yank?

STERN: No, it wouldn't all fall out. No. I have my own hair.

MORGAN: And you dye it, obviously.

STERN: I do not color it. As you can see, I have some gray in it, but no, I'm very blessed.

MORGAN: Look me in the eye and repeat that.

STERN: I swear on a stack of Bibles that I don't color my hair.

MORGAN: Really?


MORGAN: You're 57 and you have a naturally pretty dark...


MORGAN: ... curly...

STERN: A big bouffant as we call it.

MORGAN: Yes, yes.

STERN: I'm very lucky.


BLITZER: Piers' Premiere week continues tomorrow with Condoleezza Rice. Then Ricky Gervais tells viewers what really happened behind the scenes over at the Golden Globes Awards. And the week wraps up with one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, George Clooney.

That's "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," every week night, 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Piers will be on our show tomorrow. We'll talk about Condoleezza Rice and more.

Let's talk about some other stuff right now with Jack Cafferty. He's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "Should the rules be tightened for senior citizens who drive?"

Chris in Virginia writes, "I believe the DMV should modify testing after 70. My father exhibits all the signs. He denies all of them. He stops at green lights. He goes 40 on the highway, constantly cuts people off, et cetera. He just interviewed for a job delivering pizza. Lord help us all." Betty in Texas writes, "I think you and everybody else ought to leave the senior driving situation alone. Remember you, too, will be a senior one day. As for me, I don't need you or the government to tell me when to quit driving. In case you're not aware, most seniors are full of common sense and will know when to put the keys away when the time is right."

John in Utah writes, "Absolutely. I'm 64 years old. It was virtually impossible to get my parents to stop driving, even though they were both accidents waiting to happen. In both cases we had to take action with the state to get their licenses revoked before they killed somebody. My only serious auto accident was when a 92-year-old man ran a red arrow and I hit him broadside. The D.A. plea bargained the old fellow down to revocation of his license rather than 90 days in jail. I wouldn't want him to spend time in the slammer. He didn't have much left. But I also don't want him on the highway."

San Diego, anonymous: "Hi, Jack. My father-in-law lives with us, still drives. He's 84 and loves his independence. We also like him staying alive and not killing anybody else with his Cadillac. After 70, there should be an actual driving test with a human being to maintain your license every two years. Dad is going to sell the Caddie when he turns 85."

Dick writes, "I am one and I scare myself."

Allen writes, "Maybe we ought to set up sanctuary cities for seniors. It seems to work quite well for illegal aliens, who crash cars with no insurance and just walk away."

And Jerry in Georgia says, "Not till I reach 90, in 20 more years."

You want to read more on this, go to the blog:

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thank you.

A record-breaking TV run is about to come to an end. CNN's Jeannie Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look after this.


BLITZER: Morning TV will never be the same. Regis Philbin is retiring. CNN's Jeannie Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Regis has watched co-hosts come and go.

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, FORMER CO-HOST, "LIVE WITH REGIS & KATHIE LEE": I'm going to be leaving our show. Oh, I was hoping you'd do that.

MOOS: But this time it's his turn. REGIS PHILBIN, CO-HOST, "LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY": This will be my last year on this show. No, I know, it's been a long time. It's been 28 years.

MOOS: Twenty-eight years of food fights...


MOOS: ... of slow dancing with Borat...

PHILBIN: Borat, not too close!


MOOS: ... of playing the older man...


MOOS: ... to a younger co-host.


MOOS: Famous enough to be parodied on "Saturday Night Live," even if he's not a household name to everyone.

RIPA: Regis Philbin, do you know who he is?


MOOS: But most of us know who he is. It's his co-hosts folks mix up.

JOY BEHAR, HOST, HLN'S "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW": Kathie always said -- or was it Kelly? I never get...

PHILBIN: No, it's Kathie Lee and then Kathie. I mean, and then Kelly.

MOOS: And when Regis messed up, he usually turned it into a better joke, like the time he gave Meryl Streep shocking news about her own daughter.

PHILBIN: And then the third daughter broke her leg. I mean, it never ends in your place.


MOOS: Oops. Misread a cue card.

PHILBIN: "Daughter Grace just got her big break."

MOOS: Regis was the first guest to welcome back Letterman after Dave's heart surgery.

PHILBIN: It's good to have the big man back, isn't it?

MOOS: When Regis came back from his own bypass surgery...




MOOS: ... Letterman was his first guest. Soon, they were baring their legs to show off their bypass grafts.

At 79, Regis doesn't look or act his age.

PHILBIN (singing): You make me feel as though spring has sprung.

MOOS (on camera): Regis holds the Guinness world record for most time spent in front of these, TV cameras.

(voice-over) He was Joey Bishop's sidekick back in the late '60s.

PHILBIN: Any special significance?

SAMMY DAVIS JR., SINGER/ACTOR: No, it's like a thing, man. That's his thing.

PHILBIN: I'm glad he finally got one.

MOOS: Now more than four decades later, Regis will stop doing his thing, his daily show.

PHILBIN: I'm not going to retire. I just will be gone.

MOOS: One minute he was singing goodbye to Larry King.

PHILBIN (singing): So long for awhile.

MOOS: Next thing you know he's ready to say goodbye, an announcement that snuck up on us.

Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Love Regis. Like millions of you, I'm going to miss him. We wish him only, only the best.

Remember, you can always follow what's on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can follow my tweets:, @WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.

You can also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to to become a fan.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Michael Steele tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.