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Update on Representative Giffords; President Taps CEO to Create Jobs; Tennessee's "No-Fly List" Nightmare; Back to the White House; Fixing a 'National Disgrace' in Detroit; Hawk Takes Shelter in Library of Congress

Aired January 21, 2011 - 17:05   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: All right. There you have it, the update on the condition of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

A rather upbeat assessment from this team of doctors -- the new doctors in Houston, Texas that will begin what we just heard, a four to six month rehabilitation process. We also heard from some of her doctors who took care of her over the nearly two weeks since the shooting incident in -- in Tucson, including Dr. Friese, Randall Friese, who spoke of what it was like when she left the hospital in Tucson heading toward the airport.



I am very pleased to bring the news that the transfer of Gabby from the University of Medical Center in Tucson here to Memorial Hermann in Houston went flawlessly. The trip was well planned. And I asked Mark if I could share with you, when we were traveling through the streets of Tucson, there were several times when we got -- we could hear applause in the ambulance with Gabby. And she responded very well to that, smiling, and, in fact, even tearing a little bit. It was very emotional and very special.


BLITZER: A very emotional day, indeed, for not only the family, for a lot of people in Tucson, now in Houston -- indeed, for the entire country. Remarkable, remarkable progress Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is making.

We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up. Stand by. We'll get some more information for you. But let's turn now to some other important news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including this. Just days before the president's State of the Union address, he's refocusing in on the two things Americans are most worried about. That would be the economy and jobs. He went to a General Electric plant in New York State today. And he named the company's boss to head his new council on jobs and competitiveness.

The president says G.E. Chief, Jeffrey Immelt, has something to teach businesses all across the United States.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to reverse that. We want an economy that's fueled by what we invent and what we build. We're going back to Thomas Edison's principles.

We're going to build stuff and invent stuff.


OBAMA: Now, nobody understands this better than Jeff Immelt. He understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy. As he mentioned, I have appreciated his wisdom during these past two years. We had a difficult, difficult crisis on our hands.


BLITZER: Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, got the only TV interview with Jeffrey Immelt today.

Allan is joining us now with more.

You're in Schenectady. That's where the president was, right -- Allan, how did that interview go?


Very well, Wolf.

The president came here, to this very factory, because he agrees with Jeff Immelt that the way to grow jobs in the United States is to increase exports. Over here in this factory right behind me, where they manufacture steam turbines, 90 percent of everything here is exported. The president saw huge portions of turbines that will be sent to Saudi Arabia, to Peru, to Kuwait, literally all over the world. And that, he believes, is critical to growing jobs in this country.

Jeff Immelt told us that he wants other CEOs to expand their opportunities with our trading partners.


CHERNOFF: Well, we're not going at full speed yet -- 9.4 percent unemployment.


CHERNOFF: Unacceptable?

IMMELT: It's very high. Look, it's a function --

CHERNOFF: What can we do about it?

IMMELT: It's a function, really, I'd say, of two or three things. One, we're coming out of a difficult economic time period, number one.

Number two, American business is more productive today than it's ever been. And -- and -- and that has had an impact on overall employment. But the most important part is we've got to invest and we've got to drive exports. You know, 95 percent of the world's population is outside the United States. Ultimately, to create manufacturing jobs, we've got to be innovating and we've got to be exporting.

CHERNOFF: A lot of folks have said manufacturing in the U.S. is dead. You don't agree.

IMMELT: I totally don't agree. You know, we're -- we're one of the country's biggest exporters. We have great manufacturing people. The fact is, in the high tech products we make, it's mainly material content. Labor content is lower. So our guys can compete.

Our people can compete with anybody in the world. So I -- I think our markets, our export markets, that's going to drive manufacturing.

CHERNOFF: And what would your message be to other chief executives, especially now that you're leading this council?

Would you say to them, hey, have the confidence to hire?

IMMELT: Look, I think it's about confidence. I think the president is reaching halfway. Getting some certainty around taxes helps. And I just think for -- for the other CEOs that have cash, now is the time to invest. The economy is getting better.

Let's go.

CHERNOFF: Now, about a year ago, you had said that you were worried about the Chinese as to whether they were really receptive to our exports.

Are you feeling different now, after striking, what, five big deals with the Chinese?

CHERNOFF: You know, Allan, when President Hu was here, he really made very clear statements that if you are an American company investing in China, you will be on the same footing as any local Chinese company. And I respect that.

CHERNOFF: You believe it?

IMMELT: I really do, because we've been there a long time. You know, I've been going there myself 25 years. GE has been in China for 100 years.


CHERNOFF: Well, exporting certainly is working for General Electric. The company today reported quarterly earnings up 31 percent. And Immelt says he's hired about 10,000 Americans over the past year.

Certainly, Wolf, he's hoping that others will also add to their hiring -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's going to stay on as the CEO of GE. He's not leaving that job. This will be a little part-time job for him, trying to help the president create some jobs.

Did you get a chance -- how does he feel about the economy and the potential for economic growth right now?

CHERNOFF: Wolf, he certainly has a very good position from which to view the nation's economy and the global economy. He said to me that every single day, he believes the U.S. economy is improving. He's seeing business picking up. And he, obviously, is looking at many, many businesses that GE is involved in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff, thanks very much.

Allan is in Schenectady, New York.

He's right near Albany.

A Muslim-American teenager says he was kidnapped and tortured in Kuwait. Now he's back in the United States and he's suing the U.S. government.

And a new glimpse of the shooting suspect, Jared Loughner, years before the Tucson massacre.


BLITZER: A Muslim-American teenager from Virginia is finally back home today after being trapped in Kuwait for nearly a month. He's blaming the U.S. government and its airline security policies for his nightmare ordeal.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is following this story for us. It's a pretty bizarre story -- Jeanne, what happened?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is, with a lot of twists and turns. He's a U.S. citizen unable to return to his country because he's on a no-fly list -- until today.





MESERVE (voice-over): Gulet Mohammed, back on U.S. soil at last.

GULET MOHAMED: You know, it feels great to be home. Wonderful. It feels great. You know, God bless America.

MESERVE: Mohamed, a 19-year-old Muslim, was born in Somalia, came to the U.S. when he was 3 and is now a U.S. citizen. In 2009, he traveled legally to Yemen, then Somalia and finally Kuwait. He was, he says, studying Arabic. But last month, when he tried to renew his visa in Kuwait, he was detained by local authorities.

In a lawsuit, Mohamed claims Kuwaiti interrogators whipped him with sticks and threatened to run electricity through his genitals, and that FBI agents threatened him and refused his request for legal counsel. Mohamed's supporters say he was held and questioned at the request of the U.S. government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a test for this administration. The Obama administration promised to end the practice of proxy detention.

MESERVE: The State Department denies that's what happened to Mohamed.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: He was not detained at the behest of the United States government.

MESERVE: When the Kuwaitis tried to deport Mohamed initially, they couldn't. U.S. officials confirmed he was one of fewer than 500 Americans on the no-fly list, designed to keep people the government believes are a threat to aviation off airplanes. Mohamed had traveled to Yemen, headquarters for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Anwar al Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric. He had also visited Somalia, home of another terrorist group, Al Shabab. Two government officials say his travel is not the only reason Mohamed is on the no-fly list. They will not give specifics.

After his lawsuit was filed, Mohamed was given a waiver to fly back to the U.S., but when he touched down at Dulles airport outside Washington Friday morning, his lawyer had to wait to talk to him because, he says, Mohamed was again being interviewed by the FBI. Mohamed has not been charged with any crimes and insists he is harmless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to know, are you a terrorist?

MOHAMED: No, I'm not a terrorist. What kind of question is that?


MESERVE: Mohamed's supporters and lawyers say that the government indulging in innuendo and has yet to produce any evidence against Mohamed. The FBI and other government agencies are refusing to comment on the case because of privacy concerns because of the pending lawsuit, which accuses the U.S. government of violating Mohamed's constitutional rights, and possibly because of an ongoing investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Does he have an explanation what he was doing -- forget about Kuwait -- but in Yemen or Somalia, for that matter? MESERVE: Well, you know, he's from Somalia originally. He says he went over there to visit some family members, but principally to learn the language and to learn more about his faith. He claims that's what he's been doing over there.

BLITZER: Yes, the no-fly list, that's been getting over the years a lot of attention right now. They've tried to streamline it, haven't they.

MESERVE: Yes, well, immediately after the attempt to bring down an airliner on Christmas Day, it expanded because you'll remember there was a lot of criticism that Umar Farouk Abdumutallab was not on the list, even though there had been warnings from his father, in particular, about what he might be up to. So they expanded the list. Then they culled through it, and they've reduced it now -- I'm told it's about 10,000 names, but only about 500 Americans are on there. So he is one of, actually, a very few Americans on that list.

BLITZER: Is his name still on the list, or has it been removed from the list?

MESERVE: We believe that it is still on the list. He was granted a waiver to come in today.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne, thanks very, very much.

An unexpected ambush for France's foreign minister in Gaza today. We're going to tell you what set the protesters off, but why some Palestinians in Gaza are very angry right now at France.

And look at these pictures. This fishing vessel fought through turbulent waters to find a safe harbor. All that ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As we showed you at the top of the hour, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is just settling in over at a hospital in Houston, starting the next phase of her recovery. Well-wishers lined the streets as she was driven to the airport in Tucson this morning almost two weeks after she was shot in the head. We heard her doctors talk about her successful but emotional transfer just a little while ago.

Also today, we're also hearing for the first time from one of Giffords's aides, Ron Barber, who was wounded in the shooting. He vividly described the rampage that killed six people and injured 13 others.


RON BARBER, TUCSON SHOOTING VICTIM: I was standing probably less than a foot away from her. We were in our normal position for a "Congress on Your Corner" event. As she greets the constituents, I stand beside her to help facilitate any further follow-up action after we've had the conversation. And I was standing right next to her when the gunman came past on my left and raised his gun and shot the congresswoman in the head.

I don't think I knew anything was happening until I saw him come past me, and almost immediately, he fired his gun, and then he swept his gun around shooting as he did, probably shot 15 or 20 bullets in a very short period of time, sort of panning the people in the immediate area, shooting me, and as I understand it, Judge Roll, shot our wonderful outreach director, Gabe Zimmerman, who fell between myself and the congresswoman.

It was pretty horrific. And it was over, it seemed, very quickly, but it's still very vivid, unfortunately, a very vivid memory.


BLITZER: We also got a new glimpse at the accused gunman, Jared Loughner, years before the shooting. CNN obtained this home video of Loughner playing saxophone in the 8th and 9th grade. Loughner is due back in court, by the way, in Arizona on Monday.

A break in communication between Cuba and the United States. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. Well, Cuba says it's suspending delivery of all mail headed to the United States. Cuba says it's because the U.S. is turning the letters back due to anti-terrorism measures. The U.S. Postal Service confirms there are some issues related to the Transportation Security Administration. It says that this caused mail to accumulate but that it is still accepting mail from Cuba.

A Palestinian mob of about 20 people attacked the French foreign minister's car in Gaza today. They were family members of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. The mob pounded on her Jeep. You can see the pictures there. They also threw eggs and shoes at the vehicle. They are angry because France is asking the Red Cross to visit an Israeli soldier captured by the Palestinians.

South Korea's navy says it rescued 21 sailors, killed 8 pirates and captured 5 others in a daring rescue mission. The ship was carrying chemicals to Sri Lanka when it was hijacked by Somali pirates. The South Korean captain was shot in the stomach, but no other crew members were injured. South Korea says the U.S. military helped in that operation.

And take a look at this. Check it out, amazing video from New Zealand, where flooding has led to very dangerous river conditions. Watch here as these fishing boats get pulled by the current, absolutely hammered by the waves. These waters are considered some of the most dangerous in the region, but luckily for these fishermen, they made it safely back to port. Some amazing pictures there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Getting seasick just looking at those pictures.

SYLVESTER: I know! BLITZER: Yes, they're lucky. Those are big waves. Thanks, Lisa.

President Obama is marking the halfway point of his first term, but to hear one Republican tell it, the nation is actually in the midst of Bill Clinton's third term. What does that mean?

And will Rudy Giuliani run for president of the United States again? He says it may depend a lot on what Sarah Palin does.


BLITZER: We've got a lot to discuss in our "Strategy Session." Joining us are CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and the Republican strategist Rich Galen, the publisher of (ph). Thanks very much, guys.


BLITZER: Newt Gingrich -- he said this. He says a lot of provocative things, but he just said this. Let me play a clip and then we'll discuss.


NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The same three people are in charge of the Democratic Party that were in charge before the disaster of 2010. So why would you assume any kind of dramatic changes? I think it's fascinating. You're sort of seeing the beginning of the third term of the Clintons because the first two years of Obama was such a failure in popular acceptance.


BLITZER: He's suggesting that the first two years, forget about it, but now the influence of Bill Clinton, all the new people coming in, like Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff, and a lot of these others, Clinton-experienced folks, so it's really the third term of the Clinton administration.

ROSEN: You know, I started to look at Newt Gingrich's approval ratings this afternoon relative to President Obama's, and the spread was so wide, I was trying to figure out how to even think about this. But you know, Democrats have -- have been in public service for a long time. It's natural for a Democratic president to look to other Democrats, to bring them in. I don't think it's a particularly Clinton attachment.

BLITZER: But it's not the first -- he's not the first guy.

ROSEN: I think it's -- I think it's a party attachment.


BLITZER: He's not the first guy to suggest the Clintonization of the Obama administration. RICH GALEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, and it does fly in the face of change, change, change, which -- this is changing back to what was before the change that wasn't.

BLITZER: A lot of people liked the Clinton administration.

GALEN: Oh, yes, with good reason. But you know, the -- Newt does know from whence he speaks here. Remember, in 1988, we lost five seats. We were supposed to gain 12. Newt lost his job over that. So the notion of losing 60 seats and Mrs. Pelosi keeping her job I think is probably interesting for many people...


BLITZER: You know who might want to run for president of the United States, did you hear? Piers Morgan -- not running for president, but he spoke with Rudy Giuliani, who ran for the Republican nomination, didn't do so well in 2008, but he's thinking about it again, especially if one woman decides to run.

Listen to this.

GALEN: Michele Bachmann.

BLITZER: Listen to this.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Would you be more tempted to run if she wasn't?

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: Maybe the opposite.

MORGAN: Really?

GIULIANI: Maybe the opposite because, you know, my one chance, if I have a chance, is that -- I'm considered a moderate Republican.


GIULIANI: So the more Republicans in which I can show a contrast, probably the better chance that I have.

MORGAN: So you've become the acceptable face of the Republican Party.

GIULIANI: Well, I don't know if I'm acceptable, but the question is -- the way I got elected mayor of New York City was not being acceptable. My slogan was, "You can't do any worse." Things were so bad, you need me.


BLITZER: He says if Sarah Palin decides to run, that would encourage him perhaps to run once again for the Republican nomination. GALEN: Well, you know, if he runs a better campaign than he did the last time. I mean, he was frankly a flawed candidate with a flawed strategy that was executed badly. But other than that, I thought it was a great campaign.

ROSEN: There's no room for Rudy Giuliani in the Republican Party. They just -- the Republican primary voter is a radical conservative voter. They are -- you know, right now in the lead is Mike Huckabee, who, you know, conservative evangelical.

But the good news for President Obama is none of these candidates right now are more appealing to the American people than the president, who has brought them health care, financial regulation, compromises on taxes. They are seeing a president that they like, and he's beating every potential Republican match-up.

GALEN: Yes, but they see a president that they like over the last six weeks. The president that they saw over the first, whatever that is, you know, 13, 12 months, whatever it was, they didn't like that very much. It was when he got into re-election mode.

BLITZER: He made a successful pivot right now, and that could turn things around for him looking ahead.

Let me go through the notion -- I thought it was originally far- fetched -- when Senator Udall of Colorado recommended instead of having the Democrats sit on one side and the Republicans sit on one side during the president's State of the Union Address on Tuesday, they sit together in the aftermath of what happened in Tucson. Now a lot of them want to do that. We've got some couples who have already agreed.

Look at this. Chuck Schumer of New York, he's going to sit with his good friend Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, he's going to sit with his new good friend, the new Senator, the Republican from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, she's agreed to sit with Senator John Thune.

It looks like a prom almost. They're sort of making dates, who they're going to be sitting with.

GALEN: Well, Gillibrand and Thune are going to be prom queen and king, I think, because --

BLITZER: I mean, they're good looking, both of them. Right?

So what do you think about all of -- is this serious or is it not serious if they wind up sitting together on Tuesday night?

ROSEN: Oh, I think it's a serious message, and I think it -- the American people want to see this. We've seen CNN's poll on this. But I think what it's saying is that they care about showing that they can work together, and I think most importantly, you're going to hear the president say a lot that have in his State of the Union speech.

And so there are going to be applause lines for Democrats and Republicans.

BLITZER: Let me show our viewers that poll.

ROSEN: The challenge will be whether Republicans will actually speak the truth and applaud the president as much as the Democrats.


BLITZER: Seventy-two percent like the idea of them sitting next to each other, 22 percent not so much. By the way, more Democrats like it than Republicans. Republicans are a little wary.

GALEN: Well, because Democrats are in the (INAUDIBLE) and they're looking for something to hang on to.

ROSEN: I'm for the ultimate same-sex couple. I want to see Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell sitting next to each other.

BLITZER: So if they sit next to each other, that would be a significant, significant moment.

ROSEN: A big signal.


BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.

A scary online posting after the Tucson shooting that seems to threaten -- get this -- every single member of Congress. That's under investigation right now.

And we're going to tell you what's on a new tape believed to be from Osama bin Laden and why counterterrorism officials find it so disturbing right now.


BLITZER: The daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. won't be following in his footsteps, at least in one way.

Lisa is back. She's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What's happening here?

SYLVESTER: Hi again, Wolf.

Well, the Reverend Bernice King has turned down the job her father once held as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King says it's because she wanted to be more than a figurehead. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference says it wishes King great success. The group played a key role in the civil rights movement.

Well, get ready to pay even more at the pump. The American Petroleum Institute says strong worldwide demand and a lack of supply are to blame for rising gasoline prices. Others say it's because more people want to invest in crude oil.

The nationwide average for gas is now about $3.12 a gallon. That is up 12 cents in the last month.

And baby, it is cold outside, freezing cold. A wave of arctic air is causing the coldest temperatures of the winter in many parts of the country.

The northern plains and Midwest are already feeling this chill, and subzero temperatures now headed to the Northeast this weekend. Parts of Maine and Vermont might not reach zero degrees on Sunday, so brace yourself. Bundle up. Get that jacket, the hat, the mittens, the whole works -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's good to watch football games this weekend inside, as I'm going to be doing.

SYLVESTER: Yes. And you're rooting for the Bears, right?

BLITZER: No, not necessarily.

Let's talk about who is though rooting for the Bears. It will be cold in Chicago on Sunday, when the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFL playoffs. At least the Bears can count on support from the Oval Office.

Speaking today in New York, the president of the United States -- that would be Barack Obama -- said he expects his hometown team to win.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, let me just begin, if I'm not mistaken, Governor Cuomo, who is going to be an outstanding governor --


OBAMA: He tried to give me a Jets hat. I had to refuse it. I had Secret Service confiscate it. But I will say both the Jets and the Bears, I think, are slight underdogs, so we're going to be rooting for the underdogs on Sunday.


BLITZER: A White House aide says the president even has a score in mind -- the Bears, 20, the Packers, 17. If Chicago does pull off that upset, the president says they can count on him cheering them in person at the Super Bowl in Dallas.

I wonder if he can get a ticket to Cowboys Stadium. I suspect he can. Security though will be intensified.

A hundred thousand-plus folks getting in through magnetometers if the president of the United States shows up in Dallas. Let's see if the Packers can avoid all of that in Dallas. If the Packers beat the Bears, they don't have to worry about all that security, because the president says he'll only go if the Bears go.

He's a familiar face over at White House. We're talking about William Daley. He's heading back there as the chief of staff.

We're taking a closer look at how the Chicago politician and businessman could influence the conversation inside the beltway.

And three decades ago, the Iranian hostage crisis captivated Americans as a fitting end to a difficult decade. Now the men and women at the center of that drama, they are reunited.


BLITZER: As President Obama tweaks and rehearses his State of the Union Address, you can bet his new chief of staff, Bill Daley, will be playing a critical role in creating the finished product.

Our Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry has more on Daley's influence -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bill Daley has a monumental task -- trying to help fix the economy, end two wars, and stop Republicans from tearing down the president's top accomplishment, health care reform. And oh, yes, try to get the president re-elected.


HENRY (voice-over): Just minutes before President Obama was sworn into office two years ago this month, outgoing president George W. Bush pulled a top Obama confidante aside.

DAVID AXELROD, SR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: President Bush said, "Axelrod, you need to enjoy this. This is going to be the ride of your life. And it's going to be by quicker than you imagined.

I think Bill knows that. Bill understands that, and I think he will value every minute of it. And so he comes in with his eyes wide open.

HENRY: Bill is the man launching Obama 2.0 at the midpoint of his first term.

OBAMA: A devoted patriot, my friend, fellow Chicagoan, Bill Daley, to serve as my chief of staff.


HENRY: Daley's first priority is to use his time in the Clinton cabinet and as a banker to get the White House tightly focused on jobs.

STEVE ELMENDORF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Having a big impact on the Clinton economic recovery, and I think he will help bring real focus to the economy, which is the issue for the next two years that I think the president has to focus on. HENRY: Top aides say the twin themes of the president's State of the Union Tuesday will be creating jobs and promoting American competitiveness, the point he hammered again and again as salesman in chief during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit.

OBAMA: We want to sell you all kinds of stuff. We want to sell you planes. We want to sell you cars. We want to sell you software.

HENRY: Insiders also tout Daley as a bridge-builder to business leaders who have sparred with the president but are effusive about his new top aide.

TOM DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: He's traveled the world and he's a damn good manager. But I told our folks here he's not going to be a pushover for the business community. He's a very tough guy.

HENRY: Don't tell that to liberals, who believe Daley bends over backwards too much for business.

ADAM GREEN, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Every policy fight in the past two years ranging from trying to hold Wall Street more accountable, to trying to take on the big health insurance companies, William Daley has urged the Democratic Party to take a more corporate position that's wildly out of touch with where most Americans are.

HENRY: Daley fancies himself a moderate who is steering the president back to the center to reel in Independents in time for the 2012 re-election battle. After all, campaigns are in his blood since his dad and brother have served as mayor of Chicago.

COLLEEN DOLAN, DALEY CHILDHOOD FRIEND: His first convention he went to, he was probably 7 or 8, and he had been to two conventions before President Obama was born.

HENRY: Then there was Daley's time as Al Gore's campaign chairman in 2000 --



HENRY: -- cool under fire during the contested election.

DON BAER, FMR. GORE ADVISER: The best thing about Bill Daley, more than anything else, is he's a real grownup. And I think people believe he's capable, competent, fair-minded, and will do a very good job for President Obama.


HENRY: Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore's campaign manager, told me that Daley is every bit as tough as the president's first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. But Brazile said there's also a key difference. Daley is more diplomatic. In her words, he can administer the medicine but not tell you to drop dead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House.

Thank you.

Detroit has fallen on some hard times recently, as we all know, but nowhere is this more obvious than in the city's school system. Fraud, corruption and declining numbers have pushed the system to the brink, but officials are doing their best to try to bring it back.'s Poppy Harlow is joining us now with more on this.

Poppy, it's a sad story what's going on in Detroit, but it's happening indeed in a lot of major urban areas all across the country.

HARLOW: No question about it. I mean, Detroit and the decline of that city, their school system, it is emblematic of the problems across this country that are trying to be tackled by different officials right now.

One man in Detroit in charge of turning all this around is a man named Robert Bobb. You see him right there next to me. He has his supporters and he has his very harsh critics, Wolf. This school system is in academic disarray, it is in financial disarray, and this man is on an all-out assault to fix it.


HARLOW: And this is sort of ground zero for the education crisis in this country, isn't it?


HARLOW (voice-over): Some call Robert Bobb a villain. Others, a hero. His task: fix perhaps the nation's most broken school system.

BOBB: If the school district does not succeed, the city of Detroit will not succeed.

HARLOW: In 2009, Bobb was brought in by Michigan's governor to overhaul a system replete with waste, fraud and abuse, assuming the role of emergency financial manager of Detroit schools. He is dead set on rooting out waste and corruption, while boosting the graduation rate from 57 percent to 98 percent in just five years.

He is shrinking the school system as more and more families move out of Detroit.

(on camera): You have closed 59 schools, more than a quarter of Detroit's public schools, and that has angered parents and teachers.

BOBB: We're going to anger more individuals in the next few months, because I'm going to close somewhere between 20, maybe 40, schools within the next few months.

HARLOW: The Lemonious family applauds Bobb's drastic cuts, but says the problems extend far beyond the schools.

GARFIELD LEMONIOUS, DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS PARENT: It's not the building, it's not the principal, it's not the teachers. It's the parents. You know, it really is the parents.

HARLOW: High school teacher Edna Reaves has mixed feelings about Bobb's overhaul.

EDNA REAVES, TEACHER: Come on. Let's go.

He has not achieved what he came here for --

HARLOW (on camera): Reducing the deficit.

REAVES: -- and that's reducing the deficit. It has grown since he has been here.

HARLOW (voice-over): Bobb argues the deficit he inherited was twice as large as previously thought, most of it from borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars with no money to pay it back.

(on camera): Is this system stronger because of Robert Bobb?

REAVES: I would say it is better, because he has been bold enough to make the moves that the community never really wanted to make.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a criminal!

HARLOW: But those bold moves included major academic changes, some the school board wasn't consulted on. They sued Bobb for academic control and won.

Despite these challenges, the kids of Detroit made their mark on Bobb.

BOBB: Give me that big voice.


BOBB: I grew up on a Louisiana sugarcane plantation. The only way out was to get a public education. And for these kids, the only way that they're going to succeed is to get a solid public education. And so it's not just professional for me, but it's personal.


HARLOW: And Wolf, you can see it in his eyes, how much these kids mean to him.

Robert Bobb has made AP classes available to every student. He's almost tripled the time that they have to spend on reading and math. But the issue that the school board takes, they say it was his way or the highway.

He didn't consult us on these educational changes. He was brought in to fix the deficit, to close that big gap. He hasn't done, that Wolf. The deficit has gotten bigger under him.

But he has improved the education. For the first time in four years, what has happened is that the Detroit public school system has passed the federal standards for education, so things are getting better in Detroit.

A long way to go for this school system though. He is certainly taking no prisoners -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, we wish him only success. And all the kids in Detroit, obviously, as well.

Poppy, thank you.

A predator is lurking over the stacks at the Library of Congress here in Washington. We're going to show you what officials are doing to try to flush it out.

And South Korea sends a message to pirates -- yes, pirates -- threatening ships off the Somali coast. We'll have more on a daring raid.

That's ahead, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here in Washington, a hawk spotted inside the Library of Congress. Yes, a hawk.

CNN's Brian Todd went to check it out -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're here at the main reading room of the Library of Congress, where researchers have gotten an uninvited visitor. It's a hawk that has made its way somehow into the lantern area. That's that top of the dome inside there where that mural is.

This mural has just been restored. They've just restored some windows up there.

There is a Cooper's hawk that has been there for a couple of days now. Can't get a glimpse of it now, but we did get some video of it earlier.

And we're here with Victoria Hill. She's the acting chief of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division of the Library of Congress.

Victoria, do you know how the hawk got in here?

VICTORIA HILL, ACTING CHIEF, HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES DIVISION, LIBRARY OF Congress: We don't know how the hawk got in, but we assume that it got in through the outside roof that goes around the dome.

TODD: And what steps are you taking to try to catch it and get it out of here?

HILL: We've contact ad person from the Northern Virginia Raptor Conservancy, and she is here, she's up in the lantern. And she has set several traps to try to capture the bird.

TODD: And obviously researchers are still allowed to come in here and do their work. Any concern for their welfare and maybe the welfare of the bird as well?

HILL: We are taking the steps, and the conservator is paying attention, obviously, to the hawk to make sure that the hawk is OK. And the readers are fine. The hawk is staying up in the lantern.

TODD: You've been here for a while. Anything like this ever happen?

HILL: Twice before. We had a crow once, and we had a pigeon once. But having a hawk is really wonderful.

TODD: OK. Well, good luck in trying to safely get that bird out of here. Thank you, Victoria.

HILL: Thank you.

TODD: Wolf, the hawk has been here since at least Wednesday. That's when they first got a glimpse of the bird up in that lantern area. It has not left that area since then as far as we know. So it's been here since Wednesday.

They don't know exactly how long it's going to take to get the bird out of here. And they hope to obviously expedite that, get it out of here safely, as soon as possible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Let's hope they do.

Brian Todd over at the Library of Congress.

A new message purportedly from Osama bin Laden. Why it's sending chills up the spines of U.S. counterterrorism officials right now.

And a bittersweet reunion for a group of Americans held hostage for 444 days.


BLITZER: It was the hostage ordeal the nation had to endure for 444 days and helped sink the Carter presidency. Today, some of the captives freed by Iran 30 years ago were reunited.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She was there.

How did it go, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was very emotional Wolf. And some of the former hostages hadn't seen each other in decades.

West Point also holds special meaning for this group. And as one of the former hostages today said, the reception the group got here today was just overwhelming.


SNOW (voice-over): These West Point cadets weren't even alive during the Iranian hostage crisis, but thousands of them lined up in the bitter cold to welcome 15 former hostages who marked the 30th anniversary of their release this week.

Fifty-two Americans were freed on January 20, 1981 after 444 days in captivity. They were taken hostage when students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. After their release, they first landed in the United States at New York's Stewart Air Force Base and were then taken to nearby West Point.

Barbara Rosen was there with her two young children to greet her husband Barry, a press attache.

BARBARA ROSEN, WIFE OF FMR. HOSTAGE: That was an absolutely amazing ride because all along the road people were out.

BARRY ROSEN, FMR. HOSTAGE: We were isolated. We had no idea that we would receive such a homecoming, and that we were the center of one of the biggest news stories of the decade.

SNOW: And today --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time, please welcome our distinguished and honored guests, the survivors of the Iran hostage crisis.

SNOW: -- the former hostages and a widow of the group were joined by members of the military mission that tried unsuccessfully to rescue them. Eight servicemen were killed in that mission.

Former hostage Paul Needham was an Air Force captain.

PAUL NEEDHAM, FMR. HOSTAGE: Yes, it was pretty emotional. Very moving to see that reception from these kids that weren't born then.

SNOW: Part of the reason for going to West Point is to give the cadets a history lesson up close and personal.

B. ROSEN: I think they're really seeing a documentary history living in front of them. And perhaps there's certain things that we can help them understand about U.S./Iran relations, U.S./Islam relations.

SNOW: Colonel Dave Roeder served in the Air Force when he was taken captive. He says the bond that's formed in this group is hard to explain to outsiders.

DAVE ROEDER, FMR. HOSTAGE: Well, any time you lose your freedom, you have a very definite respect for what that means. And unfortunately, that's hard to convey to anybody that hasn't experienced it.


SNOW: And Wolf, one of the former hostages wore a yellow ribbon that read, "Free the hostages," not referring to himself, but to draw attention to two American hikers jailed in Iran on accusations of spying -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, at West Point for us.

Thank you.