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America's "Palin Fatigue"; America Divided on Obama Presidency

Aired January 20, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, Gabrielle Giffords is just hours away from taking the fight of her life to a new level. This hour, her husband talks about the big move and the small gestures that are inspiring him and, indeed, the entire nation.

The Chinese president may have gotten some glares on Capitol Hill today, but wait until you hear what Donald Trump is saying about him. The business tycoon joining me to talk about the country he calls -- and I'm quoting him now -- "the enemy."

And exactly two years after Barack Obama was sworn in as president, Democrats share some important news about his political future. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Less than two weeks after she was shot in the head, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is about to begin the next stage of her remarkable recovery. Her husband spoke today about plans to transfer her to a rehab facility in Houston tomorrow and what a fighter she is.


MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: I'm extremely hopeful that Gaby is going to make a full recovery. I've told her that. She recognizes it. She's a strong person, a fighter. I mean she is a fighter like, you know, nobody else that I know. So I am extremely confident that she's going to be back here and back at work soon. I've been telling the hospital staff that they should expect to see her walking through these halls and into the ICU within a couple months. I -- I'm sure of that.


BLITZER: Mark Kelly also says every time he interacts with his wife, she does something, quote, "quite inspiring."


KELLY: She'll smile at me. She'll do some -- a couple of things that she'll only do around me, like pat me on the face. She used to do that before, you know, just very gent -- gently. I just look in her eyes and tell. I mean she -- she's well aware of who's around her, just, you know, just very aware of the situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Paul Vercammen.

He's over at the University Medical Center in Houston.

Is it true she is actually standing, getting ready to talk? What do we know about this, Paul?

VERCAMMEN: Absolutely, Wolf. She has been standing. Now, this is with assistance, of course, from her doctors and nurses. But they were able to get her to stand. And her husband says that she can bear her own weight. Quite remarkable.

In terms of talking, they say she's been scrolling through her iPad. She has not been talking per se, but Mark Kelly says she seems to be attempting to mouth words. She does have the type of tube in her trachea that does not allow her to talk. But doctors are debating everyday whether or not they should replace that tube and give her a full go at trying to talk -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That would be encouraging to hear her voice. Of course, I know you're in Tucson, not in Houston.

She's going to be transferred to Houston tomorrow.

What do we know about this transfer?

VERCAMMEN: What they're going to do here at the hospital is at 9:00 local time, she will leave via an ambulance to a nearby air force base. She will then be flown directly to Houston -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the rehab facility there, what do we know about that?

VERCAMMEN: We know it's one of the great rehab facilities in the world for anybody who's undergone trauma to their brain. Also, Mark Kelly, being an astronaut, a commander, lives in Houston. He has two teenaged daughters. They are Giffords' stepdaughters. He said it was important to him that when he does or if he can return to work, that he's nearby. And, also, this is good for the daughters, who are in school.

So the idea was keep the whole family together. And there's mutual respect between the doctors here in Tucson and the doctors in Houston. They've been in contact with each other. And they are very con -- confident that this tag team will prevail and they'll get Giffords back on her feet and in great shape.

BLITZER: And one of her key doctors, Dr. Reed, will be joining John King on "JOHN KING USA" right after THE SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Paul, thanks very much.

The accused Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, now facing federal charges for attempting to murder Congresswoman Giffords and two of her aides. A federal grand jury issued the indictment yesterday. Legal experts say more federal charges against Loughner are likely, perhaps involving the six people killed in the shooting. Loughner's next court appearance is set for Monday in Phoenix.

Now to the Chinese president's meetings with Congressional leaders here in Washington today. Members of both parties have openly vented concerns about the communist regime. The Senate majority leader went so far as to refer to Hu Jintao as a, quote, "dictator."

But how much were lawmakers willing to say to his face?

Let's turn to our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana, what was it like on the Hill today?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, President Hu definitely faced a Congress determined to be tougher on China than they have in the past. Over the past few days, you mentioned one of the words used to describe him -- dictator. Others were gangster, even emperor.

But today we're told in a pair of meetings, lawmakers were tough, but polite.


BASH (voice-over): Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid is known as someone who doesn't smile much. But look at this diplomatic smile with Chinese president, Hu Jintao, even though Reid said this about Hu the other day.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: He is a dictator. He can do a lot of things. He, through the form of government they have -- maybe I shouldn't have said dictator.

BASH: We tried to ask about that.

(on camera): Senator Reid, what do you expect to accomplish with a man you called a dictator?

No answer. But behind closed doors here and in the House, lawmakers say leaders pressed the Chinese president on their long list of concerns. Nancy Pelosi brought up human rights.

REP. SANDER LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: And his answer was every country has their own laws, their own level of development and everybody has to follow the laws of their country. If I had a chance, I would have said I did not find that a satisfactory answer.

BASH: And House Speaker John Boehner.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I expressed my concerns about intellectual property and the issue of North Korea.

BASH: These rare meetings with the Chinese president are no small matter for lawmakers, especially since China is a politically charged topic when it comes to American jobs, which candidates tried to exploit in the last election. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pat Toomey -- he's working to bring jobs -- to China.


BASH: But some Congress men were frustrated they didn't have time to push President Hu on economic issues, trade imbalances and currency manipulation.

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), TEXAS: I had a lot of trade concerns that I wanted to discuss, as well as currency.

BASH: John McCain admitted they did not win new commitments from the Chinese president, but said that it's worth the effort.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think the meetings can play a role in helping improve our regul -- not only improving our relations, but also understanding the depth of commitment here in the United States on these issues.


BASH: Now, some lawmakers came out of the meeting in the House saying that they were frustrated that there wuj -- wasn't much of a dialogue, Wolf. Only the House speaker and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, got to talk to President Hu formally.

But in the Senate, it was a smaller meeting and the Senate Foreign Relations chairman, John, Kerry, he was a little bit more upbeat. He said that he believes China is slowly beginning to better appreciate its responsibilities as a global power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Let's bring in one of the most famous names in the big business community, the corporate world. He has some big problems with China and its economic policies. We're talking about real estate mogul and TV personality, Donald Trump, who says he's thinking of running for president.

He's joining us on the phone right now.

Donald, if you were in one of those meetings with President Hu Jintao, in a nutshell, what would you say to him?

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE AND HOTEL MOGUL: Well, I wouldn't be having fancy steak dinners on a coun -- to a country -- and he's the primary representative -- that's done nothing but take advantage of the United States. I find it amazing, when I listen to some of the political leaders talking about how we're making progress -- they're making $300 billion a year and probably more than that each year -- let's call it profit -- off the United States. They're manipulating their currency. Intellectual property rights and everything else are a joke over there. They're making stuff that you see being sold all the time on Fifth Avenue, copying various, you know, whether it's Chanel or whatever it may be, the brands, and just selling it ad -- ad nauseum.

I mean this is a country that is ripping off the United States like nobody other than OPEC has ever done before.

BLITZER: And a...

TRUMP: And I certainly wouldn't be saying, as I've been hearing you for the last few minutes, as your representatives and people on the show have been saying, oh, we're making progress with China.

These are not our friends. These are our enemies. These are not people that understand niceness. And the only thing you can do, Wolf, to get their attention is to say either we're not going to trade with you any further or, in the alternative, we're going to tax your products as they come into the United States.

BLITZER: China also is America's leading banker. They have nearly a trillion in T-Bills, in U.S. Treasury notes.

When you have bankers you have to deal with all the time, aren't you nice to your bankers?

TRUMP: And who's done better with bankers than I have? Look, the fact is, it's very simple. The tax would be 25 percent, is what I estimate, in a short period of time -- in a matter of a few years -- the hundreds of billions of dollars that they've really bought for their own benefit -- they didn't buy it for our benefit, they bought it for their own, so they think they can have some control over the country, and, by the way, at the same time, get interest -- get a nice rate of interest.

So what happens is the tax to be paid on the products that come into this country would more than pay off those loans in a very short period of time. And the fact is, we -- we're the highest taxed country in the world. We are the highest taxed country in the world. We would -- I would lower the taxes for people in this country and corporations in this country and let China and some of the other countries that are ripping us off and making hundreds of billions of dollars a year, let them pay.

BLITZER: You know that General Motors sells more cars in China than it does in the United States.

There's a lot of American jobs at stake right now, isn't there?

TRUMP: Well, you know what's happening, I mean what -- China will -- will -- it's very hard to do business with China, first of all. It's almost impossible. You just have to ask...

BLITZER: But G.M. is doing a pretty good job having business with them.

TRUMP: Say it again?

BLITZER: G.M. is doing a pretty good job dealing with China.

TRUMP: Yes, and what's going to happen?

They're going to make General Motors build the cars in China. They're not going to let China -- they're not going to let General Motors take their cars from this country and sell them in China. They want General Motors to give up all of its intellectual rights and at the same time have Chinese workers build the cars, something which we are not doing, to that extent. If you look at what's happening with China and what they're selling to this country -- or take South Korea, with the television sets and everything else, they're making it over there. China wants General Motors to build the cars in China.

BLITZER: You know that a lot of the economists, the free trade experts, say if there were a trade war between the United States and China, it could cause not only a worldwide recession, but a worldwide depression, if these two giant -- the number one and number two economic powers in the world -- went to war against each other.

TRUMP: No, it will cause a depression in China, not here. China is making all the money. We're not making the money. I mean, look at the numbers. Look at the -- look at the difference as to what we import compared to what they're importing.

BLITZER: It's about three to one.

TRUMP: It's like day and night.

BLITZER: It's about they -- well, they...

TRUMP: It's much more...

BLITZER: -- export to the United States...

TRUMP: -- than three to one, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- three times as much as we export to them. You're right. You're right on that point. But a lot...

TRUMP: I like getting rid of that kind of a partnership. I mean that's called we're losing a lot of money. I like getting rid of it. And that has nothing to do with free trade or fair trade. I like to call it fair trade, because free trade is not -- forget it. I mean it doesn't exist between this -- these two countries. And I like to say fair trade. And I'm a big believer in free and fair trade. But this is unfair trade.

BLITZER: I take it, Donald, you were not invited to the state dinner last night for President Hu Jintao?

TRUMP: Well, I wouldn't have gone if I was.

BLITZER: But you weren't invited...

TRUMP: Absolutely not. No, I would think...

BLITZER: Are you...

TRUMP: I would think that they're smart enough not to invite me.

BLITZER: Are you still thinking about running for the president of the United States?

TRUMP: I'm giving it very serious thought.

BLITZER: When will we know if you're going to be a candidate?

TRUMP: Sometime prior to June.

BLITZER: Prior to June.

And what's the main -- main point that you're going to be working on, whether or not you think you can win, is that right?

TRUMP: Well, it's all jobs. I mean it's all jobs. I mean we really have an effective rate of 18 percent unemployment, not 9.4 percent. And it -- depending on the way you count the numbers, it could be more than that. We'll see what happens with jobs. We'll see what happens with the fact that OPEC is ripping us, just as badly, or even worse than China. I mean worse than anything is OPEC. And nobody from this country even makes a call to say, hey, listen, you're going to destroy our economy.

If you look at the prices now, they're up to almost $100 a barrel. It's going to be $120 and $130. And the last time that happened, we almost had a massive depression and nobody ever blamed the oil prices. They talked about the banks. And the banks were certainly at fault, but so was oil.

So if something doesn't happen with oil, gasoline now is selling for way over $3 a gallon. If something doesn't happen with that, if something doesn't happen with jobs, I very well may do it, Wolf, because this is not a respected country anymore. We're a whipping post for the world.

BLITZER: And just to be precise, you'd run for the Republican nomination, is that right?

TRUMP: I'm a Republican. I'd run as a Republican.

BLITZER: As a Republican.

And -- and can you give us a ballpark, how much of your own money you might be willing to invest in a presidential run?

TRUMP: A lot. If I decide to do it, a lot.

BLITZER: Donald Trump.

You'll let us know what's going on.

Thanks very much, as always.

TRUMP: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A new step back from war on the Korean pennisula, a region where the stakes are very high for both the United States and China, by the way. South Korea now says it has accepted a North Korean proposal for high-level military talks, but there are conditions. The South says it wants to hold lower levell talks first and only if the North takes reponsibility for military provocations last year. South Korea says high-level talks will happen only if there are no military taunts by North Korea in the future. By the way, we're finishing a major one-hour special on my recent six days in North Korea with Governor Bill Richardson. I think you'll enjoy that. Thanks very much. You'll be tuning in to see that.

Americans appear to be suffering from a new political ailment. Some are callign it Palin fatigue. We're talking about the former Alaska governors overexposure.

And stand by to find out who had a surprise close encounter with the first lady Michelle Obama.


BLITZER: The future of health care reform is on Jack Cafferty's mind. He's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It may be the law of land, but there are a lot of people out there who want to get rid of the health care reform law. The House voted 245 to 189 to repeal President Obama's signature legislation, with some Democrats joining in a unanimous Republican vote.

The bill is unlikely to see the light of day in the Senate, and if it ever gets to President Obama's desk, he would likely veto it.

Republicans acknowledge that repeal is highly unlikely, so they may try to cut funding for parts of the law or eliminate specific provisions. Democrats call the repeal vote a gimmick. Really? Not exactly.

It's not just House Republicans who are against the health care reform law, not by a long shot. More than half the states in this country are challenging the law in court. Another six states have now joined a Florida lawsuit bringing the total in that case to 26 states, plus Virginia has filed a separate lawsuit and Oklahoma says it plans to do the same.

The states insist the law is unconstitutional, because it forces people to buy health insurance. They might have a point. A Thompson/Reuters poll shows that an overwhelming 65 percent of doctors say that health care reform will mean worse patient cares in the next time years. Only 18 percent of doctors in the poll think that the new law will make patient health care better.

Those are pretty stunning numbers, better than 3 to 1. We're talking about doctors here. Finally, most of the American people aren't sold on this thing, either. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showed 50 percent want the new law repealed, only 42 percent would choose to keep it the way it is.

So here's the question -- What does it mean if more than half the states are fighting the new health care reform law in the courts?

Go to, post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

Sarah Palin looming large over American politics more than two years after she burst on the scene as John McCain's running mate. But there's growing evidence that Americans may be suffering from what some are calling "Palin fatigue."

Take a look at our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 56 percent of Americans now have an unfavorable view of Palin, that's up from 49 percent in October.

Our senior political analyst Gloria Borger writes about Sarah Palin in her new column on Also joining us right now are CNN contributor Eric Erickson, he's the editor-in-chief of

When you say Palin fatigue, Gloria, and I read your excellent column, tell us what you mean.


Well, I mean that Sarah Palin was on the scene -- when she first came on the scene, she was fresh to everyone, she was new, the hockey mom. Now she's become sort of like a salesman who knocks on your door every day, whether you want what she's selling or not.

She tweets, she's got a reality TV show, she's done books and we hear from her an awful lot, more than some people would like. And I think people are getting kind of tired of her, exhausted by her, and that doesn't help when you're a politician.

BLITZER: Are we seeing too much of Sarah Palin, Eric?

ERIC ERICKSON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: You know, I think relative to the other candidates, yes. I don't think it's a coincidence that when you look at the FOX News polling, the CNN polling, "The Wall Street Journal" polling, the candidates that are ranked higher than Sarah Palin are the candidates we're not hearing from right now.

BORGER: Right.

ERICKSON: You know, I think though, Wolf, one of the issues is, number one, I'm not even sure she's going to run for president and a lot of people take her zealous supporters and the support she has for that. But the reason she has the support right now is if you go back to 2008, we've still never seen President Obama's college transcripts or his constituent file from Illinois or what he did with ACORN as a community organizer in Illinois, but we know a whole lot about Sarah Palin and if she makes a typo on Twitter, it's going to be the lead story on "World News Tonight.

So you've got a lot of zealous support for her, but that's wearing people out.

BORGER: You know, and that's why Republican candidates, Wolf, have been staying away from criticizing her publicly because they're not afraid of Sarah Palin per se, because as Eric says, they're not sure if she's going to run, but they're afraid of losing her supporters.

But I do think, and maybe it's after Tucson and maybe this is all just built up, we are beginning to see potential Republican presidential candidates start to take her on a bit more frontally like Newt Gingrich, for example, who admonished her that perhaps she might be more careful with what she says.

ERICKSON: I agree with Gloria on that. You have this growing sense among a lot of Republicans outside of the grassroots particularly in Washington that you know she's probably not the shoe- in people think she is.

And I for one, looking at the field right now, unless someone like a Mike Pence gets in, I would vote with Palin and I've said publically, I'm not still sure even if I supported her if she could win the general election because of the fatigue among independent voters. She's going to have to combat that. She's got a year to do it, but it's going to be very be tough because whatever she says, whatever she does, she's going to get attacked and people just get tired of the attacks..

BLITZER: Forget about Sarah Palin for a moment, Eric, and I want Gloria to weigh in quickly as well.

Donald Trump, I just spoke with him, he says by June he'll decide whether to run for the Republican nomination and he'll spend a lot of his own money to get that nomination. If he decides to run, can he get that nomination, Eric?

ERICKSON: I don't see a path to victory for Donald Trump, but I'll support the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: You know, Wolf, I think he would be great in a presidential debate. So the more the merrier. Let's have more in the Republican primary field to cover. think he's be an interesting guy to cover.

BLITZER: It would be lively, indeed. All right, guys, thanks very much. Silvio Berlusconi says he, quote, "never, not once, had sex with an underage nightclub dancer." Now the teenager is speaking out with her time with Italy's prime minister. We're going to tell you what she is saying.

And Ohio Democratic Congressman Denis Kucinich accusing special interests of trying to silence him and erasing his congressional district, but he's not giving up without a fight.


BLITZER: Is there a neo-Nazi link to a backpack bomb found on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Washington? Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Pretty shocking story, Lisa.


Well, the FBI tells CNN that it has no evidence right now of any link between the backpack bomb and neo-Nazi activity in Spokane, but it continues to investigate and considers the matter an act of domestic terrorism. Authorities rerouted Monday's Martin Luther King Unity Parade after the bomb was found on a bench. The bomb is being analyzed at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

A teenage girl is denying she had sex with Silvio Berlusconi despite contradictory court documents. But the girl's former roommate claims the then 17-year-old told her she was often at the prime minister's house, ate dinner and danced for him and had intimate relations. The girl, nicknamed Ruby, also says she received more than $9,000 from the prime minister last Valentine's Day to help her.

An eight-term Ohio Democrat congressman, Dennis Kucinich, says he is now fighting for his political life. Here's a look at his current district in Ohio, take a look at this. With that state-looking two congressional seats because of redistricting, Kucinich has begun fundraising to keep the district from being eliminated. In a letter to supporters today, Kucinich said he will, quote, "not let special interests force him out," but he needs help to keep his voice and his district's voice from, quote, "being silenced."

Well, visitors to the White House today got a little surprise. It was a personal welcome by First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama greeted them as they entered the Blue Room and her office says it is to mark the two-year anniversary of President Obama's inauguration and is part of the Obama's commitment to making the White House more open and accessible to the public.

So what a nice little surprise there for the folks who were coming in. They thought they were gust going to get a tour and there's Michelle Obama.

BLITZER: That's great. Lovely. The kids were very, very happy, as they should be. Thank you. Right now President Obama is laying groundwork for a second term. We're going to tell you what Democrats are doing and saying today to promote the reelection campaign.

And a would-be hopeful Republican presidential hopeful taking a very surprising jab at President Obama. It involves the hot-button issue of abortion and race.


BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session" lots to discuss with our CNN political contributor Roland Martin and our CNN political contributor, the Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

Guys, thanks very much.

Ed, as someone who ran a presidential campaign, is it smart for the White House right now to move all their political operatives effectively out of the White House in getting ready for the reelection campaign? Sending them off to Chicago, working in Chicago and the DNC, and not necessarily through the White House?

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's a mistake to go to Chicago. I can tell you, when Reagan asked me to run his reelection campaign, it was in March of '83. I didn't leave the White House until October. We moved everything out at that point in time and set up the reelect.

I think the biggest concern they're going to have is trying getting back and forth to Chicago. You set up three difficult powerbases, you've got the campaign powerbase, the White House powerbase, the DNC powerbase where they're moving the political operatives out of the White House, and it's just not good logistics. And equally as important are the 23 Democrat senators that are up. Sort of sends the message, we're doing our own thing and we're not going to worry about you.

BLITZER: David Axelrod is going to go to Chicago, leave the White House. Jim Messina is going to Chicago, leave the White House, work on the campaign. Tim Kaine stays on as the DNC chairman.

Roland, what do you think about this effort to get out of the White House and let the DNC in Chicago take over?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, if you look at what took place in 2008, they moved a lot of the DNC operations to Chicago and away from Washington, D.C. I don't necessarily see a problem getting out of the beltway, because folks do get stuck in this crazy world here where everything revolves around Washington, D.C.

When you're in the middle of the country, in terms of Chicago, it's also easier to get to the rest of the country from that location. And you also have people who are focused just on the campaign, versus all the other drama that's going on, because you have the campaign, what's happening in Congress and the White House. And so, look, it's their call, their move. They've always done things unconventionally, so why do we expect them not to do something unconventional this time around?

BLITZER: Look at this new CNN poll. Let me show you the numbers, the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

As far as the first two years of the Obama administration -- today is exactly the anniversary of the president taking office. Were these first two years a failure? Nineteen percent of Democrats say it was a failure, 45 percent of Independents say it was a failure. Not surprisingly, 83 percent of Republicans say it's a failure.

When you look at those numbers as a political operative, what do they say so you?

ROLLINS: Well, they tell me that one out of five Democrats are at this point in time not very happy. It tells me that nearly half the Independents are not very happy.

You know, at the end of the day, two years is a lifetime. And the only issue that I would take with my friend Roland is the White House is the power center. And what you do in the White House has a total effect on your campaign. Having been both in the White House and a campaign, I can tell you that. You don't have the freedom to go out to Chicago and run against Washington when you are the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I think the president is coming back, I think he's coming back because -- the view is he's cooperating with the Congress. We'll see how that goes in the coming months.

And equally as important, people have high expectations the economy is going to get better. The economy gets better, he's going to be a formidable candidate. If he doesn't, then obviously we have got a shot.

MARTIN: Wolf, here's what I don't understand about this poll. OK, first of all, the question gets asks, is it a failure or a success? No rationale, no reason. It's not like folks assign any particular thing. And so, really, you know, what's the reason behind it?

And so we sit here and say success or failure, but the question then goes to why? I'm always one to ask the second question -- why do you think something is a failure or a success? And we don't know from this poll.

BLITZER: Let me play this clip. A potential Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, he had some sharp words. He's fiercely anti-abortion. He said this about the president. Listen.


RICK SANTORUM (R), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: The question is -- and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer -- is that human life, a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well, if that person, human life is not a person, then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, no, we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.


BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: What the hell is Rick Santorum talking about? So, is he saying that white guys get it but the black guy doesn't get it?

For him to even bring that in just makes no sense whatsoever. But also, the Supreme Court has ruled on this particular issue. You can target President Obama all you want to. Why don't you target the folks who are on the Supreme Court -- and there was only one African- American who was on that court when it happened, when they actually ruled on Roe v. Wade.

So it's an illogical statement he's making, and it makes no sense on his whole point about --


BLITZER: What he's saying, Rick Santorum, Ed -- and let me let you weight in -- he's saying life begins at conception, that there's a person there in the fetus, and that since earlier in our history, blacks were not considered full human beings, black people should be more sensitive. A black man he says, like President Obama, should be more sensitive to these human beings.

ROLLINS: Well, first of all, there's two widely viewed points, when conception -- when life begins, and obviously Rick Santorum is a very strong pro-life person, he believes life begins at conception.

At the end of the day, Roland's point is a very accurate point. Why is it black, white or anything else? It's either you believe in conception. And obviously then if you take -- you do abort that conception, or somewhere in the stage between the birth, it's a very difficult, very personal decision.

And obviously the president is pro-choice. Santorum is a pro- life leader. More and more of the debate will take place as time goes on, but I think the thing that has no place here is, as Roland said, whether you're black, white. If you believe -- you have a pro-life position, it doesn't matter who you are.

BLITZER: All right. Quickly, to both of you, because I just want you to weigh in, you heard Donald Trump say earlier on this show he's thinking of running for president, Republican presidential nomination, he'll decide by June. If he runs, he'll spend a lot of his own money.

Ed, can he get the -- can he win the Republican nomination?

ROLLINS: Absolutely not. He doesn't have a snowball's chance in heck of winning the Republican nomination. Can he go spend a billion dollars if he has it and be an Independent candidate? Sure. Can he win? Absolutely not.

BLITZER: He says he's a Republican.

Roland, can he get?

MARTIN: Ed Rollins has a better chance of being a Radio City Music Hall dancer than Donald Trump has. And frankly, it's wasted breath even talking about Donald Trump running for president.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Next time you'll tell us how you both really feel about Donald Trump. Appreciate it very much.

MARTIN: And I don't want to see Ed's legs.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

ROLLINS: That ain't going to happen.


BLITZER: If you the Mafia is a thing of the past, or "The Godfather" movies, think again. The FBI says it's nabbed dozens of alleged mobsters in a single day. Stand by.

And we've learned that the actor George Clooney has come down with a very serious disease. We'll tell you.


BLITZER: Piers Morgan, who will be joining us live in the next hour, is tweeting, and let me read it to you precisely. "George Clooney has contracted malaria."

Lisa Sylvester has that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What's going on?

SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, we are learning from the new CNN host that Clooney came down with malaria while he was in Sudan recently. The movie star/philanthropist is taking medication, but is "feeling rough." Clooney will appear on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, and we'll talk to Piers Morgan next hour and have much more about George Clooney's condition right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Michelle Obama and Wal-Mart are joining forces. The first lady was at a suburban D.C. Wal-Mart today to announce her "Let's Move" campaign. She is collaborating with the retail giant to promote healthier eating.

Under the initiative, Wal-Mart will make healthier food items like fruits and vegetables more affordable. It will also put seals on the front of packages identifying healthier foods, and will beef up support for nutrition programs.

Well, you've heard the saying "An apple a day may keep the doctor away," but is his necktie making you sick? A doctor in Canada is urging other physicians to ditch their ties at work because of concerns about bacterial buildup. He says ties may not be cleaned frequently and could transmit bacteria to patients as doctors make their rounds.

We'll let you think about what you think there on that one.

Well, here's some things to thing about also. Think your commute at work is bad? Well, let's see how it stacks up.

The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M has released its annual list of the nation's worst traffic commutes. Gridlock -- we've got the list here.

Gridlock, at number five, Dallas. San Francisco coming in at number four. Number three is Houston. Going nowhere at number two, Los Angeles. And tied for number one, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

And I saw you reacting to that tie story, so I think your tie might be carrying some bacteria.

BLITZER: I'm not a doctor, though, so I don't have to worry about it.

SYLVESTER: Yes. You are going to keep your tie on for now. Right, Wolf?

BLITZER: Washington, D.C., bad traffic. They need to tell me that? I knew that. We live here.

SYLVESTER: Yes, you know that. Every time we go home we --


BLITZER: That's right. Thank you.

A stunning surprise at Google today. There's a big changing of the guard at the technology giant. We're going to tell you who's taking in the reins and what it could mean for you.

Plus, it was a killing that horrified the world, the murder of the courageous journalist Daniel Pearl. Now we're learning new details that could further tie his confessed killer to the crime.


BLITZER: A huge and surprising shake-up at leadership at the technology giant Google today. The CEO, Eric Schmidt, announcing he will step down in April, will be replaced by Google's co-founder, Larry Page.

Let's bring in Michael Copeland. He's a senior writer for "Fortune" magazine.

Michael, what does this mean?

MICHAEL COPELAND, SR. WRITER, "FORTUNE": Well, you know, it was a surprise, as you say. And what I think it means is that Larry and Sergey, who have been sort of the creative and engineering soul of the company, they sort of want to take that soul back.

And Larry, as the leader, I spoke to some folks who are ex- Googlers and people who are still at Google, and of the two, whether it's Larry or Sergey, he is definitely the one you would pick to be the leader. The question people have at Google, and certainly outside of Google is, is he ready?

BLITZER: Well, that's a good question. Larry Page -- you're referring to Sergey Brin. Is Larry Page the best person to take over Google right now at this critical moment?

COPELAND: Well, remember, Eric Schmidt was brought in a decade ago to sort of be as he's admitted, the adult supervision. And he tweeted just recently that "Adult supervision is no longer needed."

You know, Google, in the last decade, has grown so big, and is in so many different venues -- it's got mobile against Apple, it's got YouTube in the media world. And, of course, it's got all its search advertising. But Larry is a brilliant engineer, and he didn't run it for the last decade, and, you know, it's a question, an open question, whether he's really the right guy to be running it.

BLITZER: So who would be the right guy if it's not Larry Page? And Eric Schmidt is stepping down. Sergey Brin, is he the right guy to run it?

COPELAND: I don't think so. Sergey is, again, a great and a brilliant engineer.

You know, my sources within Google are saying that, look, Eric did a great job as CEO, and it will be a loss for Google to see him step down as that CEO. Now, it seems that we are going to have Larry as CEO, they've said it, so he can do the job that he can do. And what's unknown yet is, is he going to be that leader of a public company that Google needs him to be?

BLITZER: What's the biggest challenge facing Google right now as it goes forward?

COPELAND: It's, for one -- in a name, it's Apple on the mobile front. Another company that it's facing is Facebook and, you know, this kind of spread of social media everywhere.

So if I'm turning to social media for my answers, as opposed to Google, that's a problem for Google. And Google needs to step up both -- it's done a great job in the mobile world, but it needs to keep the pedal to the metal up against Apple. And in the social world, it needs to come up with products that pull people more into the sort of Google world and make Google your friend, as opposed to sort of a source of information.

BLITZER: Michael Copeland, senior writer, "Fortune" magazine.

Michael, thanks. COPELAND: Thanks --thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Growing concerns of a new oil disaster involving a major pipeline in the United States. CNN investigates what many fear is an accident waiting to happen.

And the amazing story of a woman who was kidnapped as a baby and found her mom 23 years later.


BLITZER: Let's check out a few "Hot Shots."

In Spain, a hotel made entirely of waste opens to bring attention to ocean garbage.

In Cuba, a man updates his bookkeeping. Cuba has pushed for some private businesses as part of an economic reform strategy.

In Tunisia, a man prays at the grave of his cousin, who died protesting the country's ousted president.

Here in Washington, look at this. A new agreement between the United States and China allows the giant pandas to remain at the National Zoo five more years.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: It might be the most meaningful piece of international diplomacy that's been done in the last generation. I love those.

BLITZER: Yes. That's what I was thinking. Panda diplomacy.

CAFFERTY: Yes, absolutely.

The question this hour: "What does it mean if more than half the states are fighting the new health care reform law in court?" This following the House repeal of the reform law.

Jason writes: "A number of states fought against the 13th and 14th Amendments. A number of states fought against Brown versus the Board of Education. A number of states fought against the Civil Rights Act. Nevertheless, we continued on the path of justice, continued paving the road to equality. Now we stand at the forefront of another storm, and I think we'll continue marching undaunted in the face of the naysayers."

Jeff in Minnesota writes: "There's a lot in the health care reform law that passed last year that doesn't add up. It needs to be fixed."

Chrisanne writes: "It means the whole system has to change, not just some parts of the system. This is a process, and is a good sign that we will eventually have the kind of health care in this country that we need."

Sherri writes: "To me, it would mean more than half the states are idiotic. I know the law is not perfect, but it's better than the status quo. I have a pre-existing condition, and without this law I would be unable to get insurance should I lose my job."

G. writes: "If our leaders had been wise enough to create a single-payer system, we wouldn't have to be going through the nonsense."

Bob in Ontario: "I suspect the original legislation was such a convoluted, complex bill that nobody could be exactly certain what it entailed in terms of expenses to the individual or the quality of future health care. Try asking politicians pointed questions as to the contents, and I expect you will get varied answers. Unless a more transparent bill that answers basic questions can be structured, the health care law should be challenged in court."

And Susan in Idaho says: "Those states smell a rat."

If you want to read more on the subject, you'll find it on my blog, -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thank you.

After the Gulf Coast oil spill, could the Alaska pipeline be the next scene of an environmental disaster? CNN investigates wear and tear on this critical source of America's fuel supply.

And the inside story of the FBI's huge bust of alleged mobsters.


BLITZER: The pipeline responsible for supplying a major portion of U.S. oil is up and running after an unprecedented shutdown this month. The 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline pumps about 11 percent of the nation's oil from wells in Alaska's North Slope, down to the Port of Valdez. But operations came to a screeching halt when a leak was detected at pump station one in Prudhoe Bay.

Crews had to jerry-rig a pipe to bypass the leak. BP is one of the companies that owns the Trans Alaska Pipeline. Critics say BP has been pushing the pipeline consortium to cut corners on maintenance.

CNN Investigative Reporter Drew Griffin has been following the story. Drew is joining us now with the latest.

What's going on, Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Wolf, a lot of the criticism has come from Congress itself. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska is the latest now to call for a hearing. He wants to know, among other things, if maintenance cuts or delays are causing all this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GRIFFIN (voice-over): This latest leak led to the shutdown of the Trans Alaska Pipeline for more than three days and kept more than two million barrels of oil from market. Thirty years of wear and tear on this engineering marvel, combined with what critics say is declining maintenance, may be creating a recipe for environment disaster in a very hard to reach location.

That is the belief of Fairbanks state representative David Guttenberg, who told us earlier this summer he sees a string of small mishaps and missed maintenance deadlines as a sign the pipeline's principle owner, BP, is willing to risk Alaska's pristine environment to save money.

(on camera): I guess your fear is that the same BP corporate culture that we're seeing in the Gulf of Mexico, where corners were cut. Is the same corporate culture managing this pipeline?

DAVID GUTTENBERG (D), ALASKA STATE HOUSE: Well, that's the been the problem. I believe has been the problem, yes.

GRIFFIN: Not just an accident waiting to happen. The accidents have been happening repeatedly on this pipeline. And critics say they've been largely ignored until the Gulf oil crisis.

(voice-over): This latest leak, 13,000 barrels, was contained inside a pump station while crews built around the leak. They still do not know the cause.

And that's the problem, says Representative Guttenberg. By phone from Fairbanks, he says lack of oversight allows the Alyeska Pipeline Company to do what it wants.

GUTTENBERG: So where has the state been? Where have the feds been? Where has Alyeska been? We've constantly been told that Alyeska's gold standard of pipeline integrity, and we're looking at it and trying to figure out what's happening.

GRIFFIN: Alyeska's official dispute allegations of shoddy maintenance, saying they have addressed piping issues. An Alyeska spokesperson told CNN in an e-mail that, "We've made numerous repairs. In the summer of 2010, we replaced approximately 600 feet of buried piping with new above-ground piping." Last summer, the pipeline official in charge of maintenance flatly denied to CNN that the pipeline was under any pressure to cut maintenance costs.

MIKE JOYNER, ALYESKA PIPELINE COMPANY: We stick to what our core values are. That's safety, integrity, environmental protection, and protection of a safe workforce.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Are you under pressure to cut costs on this pipeline?

JOYNER: No, we're not under pressure to cut costs.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Representative Guttenberg says this latest leak is another warning that the next oil disaster could very well be in some of the roughest, wildest and harshest environments to clean up.

GUTTENBERG: One of these days it's not going to be environmentally safe or contained. And we're going to have another Valdez or something else on the rocks.


GRIFFIN: And the problems with the Trans Alaska Pipeline may not be over, Wolf. "The Anchorage Daily News" is quoting the pipeline operator there Alyeska, as saying, "If there's an ice or waxy buildup created during the shutdown, it could clog, possibly cause the pumps to stop working again." If that happens, the pipeline would have to be shut down again.

It's going to be another couple of weeks before they know for sure -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Drew.

Drew Griffin reporting for us.


Happening now, one of the biggest organized crime busts in U.S. history. We're digging deep into what it took to take down more than 100 suspects.