Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Terrorism in Moscow; President Obama Set to Deliver State of the Union Address
Aired January 24, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: carnage and chaos inside an airport arrivals terminal. A deadly bombing kills dozens. This hour, we're showing you exactly how it went down.
Also, carrying out a terrorist attack with a bomb that weighs as little as two sticks of butter. We're taking you inside a U.S. government test chamber to see just how much damage it causes.
And unique insight into President Obama's mind-set -- what the leader of the free world asked our very own David Gergen.
Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Grim images of bodies and luggage strewn inside a smoke-filled terminal. We're following the bomb blast at Moscow's busiest airport. At least 35 people are dead. More than 150 people are wounded. Russian authorities wasted no time labeling it a terror attack.
State television says it was the work of a suicide bomber who stuffed a homemade device full of small metal objects to ensure maximum casualties.
Let's get straight to the airport in Moscow. Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is joining us now live.
Matthew, what's the latest information you're getting right now?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest information, Wolf, is that investigators are still inside Domodedovo Airport behind me in the arrivals area, where that suicide bomber detonated those explosives with such horrific impact, 35 people confirmed as dead.
More than 150 -- 154 I think is the number of people who were injured in the attack, 35 of that figure said to be in critical condition. So there's a fear, an expectation even, that the death toll could rise in the hours and possibly the days ahead.
Across Moscow, police authorities have been placed on a higher state of alert, here at Moscow Domodedovo Airport, other airports as well, but also at train stations and metro stations, because there is a fear that this isn't just a one-off event, that it could mark the beginning of a concerted suicide bombing campaign in the Russian capital.
And people in Moscow are very concerned about that, indeed. The president of the country, Dmitry Medvedev, has vowed to bring those responsible for what happened inside this airport this afternoon to justice, but it's not clear how he's going to do that, Wolf.
BLITZER: And you have reported that the Russian authorities suspect Muslim terrorists were behind this? What are they saying?
CHANCE: Yes, well, they're not pointing the finger formally in any way. But the fact that this has been said to be a suicide bomber and the fact that, in the past, suicide bomb attacks in Russia have been carried out by Islamist separatists from the North Caucasus region, which is a very volatile area in the south of Russia, the indication -- the implication is that it was, again, Chechen rebels or rebels from the North Caucasus region that carried out this.
But again no group has said it carried out the attack yet and no formal responsibility is given to any group yet by the government.
BLITZER: I'm sure we will know more in the coming hours.
Matthew, thank you.
CNN's Tom Foreman is standing by with more on the airport that's now a scene of death and devastation -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let's take a look where this happened. The airport and Moscow are way down here on the western end of Russia.
If we zoom in, we can get a closer look at this location in regard to Moscow. It's on the south side of the town by some distance, a big sprawling airport, as you might expect, in any major city in the country. This is the main terminal. This is international arrivals down here.
And this is a sense of why it was such a vulnerable point. The blast happened at 4:32 in the afternoon, a busy time at any airport -- 15 pounds of TNT wrapped in chards of metal to tear out into the crowd. If you have ever been around any kind of TNT blowing up, you know how much blast power that is. It would be tremendous in a closed room like that.
Busiest airport in Russia, 22 million passengers in 120, so again you know at 4:32 how busy it would be. But let's look a little more closely at the actual facility here.
If we move across, we can bring up some details inside the building. Main part of the terminal, down here. This is baggage claim up in here. This is security, and this is where we believe it happened. So the blast itself was actually just outside of security. That's important obviously, because the implication would be that the attacker could not penetrate security itself or didn't try to get past security itself. Nonetheless, it raises serious concerns for the authorities in Moscow and indeed around the world about how far do you have to extend security to keep things like this from happening when people target big crowds of people at an airport? -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Tom, thank you.
Let's get some more now on who might carry out such a horrible, horrible attack on innocent people. There are several groups whose hatred of Russia could drive them to this deadly extreme.
Our Brian Todd has been working on this part of the story for us.
What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Still too early to say who's behind this. But Russia's got some very dangerous enemies who use tactics like and they are operating on Russian soil.
TODD involve Experts say this explosion carries the M.O. of Russia's deadliest enemies. Russia state TV says at Domodedovo Airport near Moscow, a suicide bomber set off a homemade device.
Though it can't be linked definitively yet, experts say it's a tactic emblematic of groups fighting Russia's government from within its borders.
(on camera): Is it the Chechens doing this? Has it expanded a little bit?
ANDREW KUCHINS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Yes, what's happened in the last couple of years, Brian, is that the insurgency, so to speak, in the Northern Caucasus has expanded beyond Chechnya, into a number of different neighboring republics. And it's not a unified insurgency.
(voice-over): Analyst Andrew Kuchins says rebels in the Northern Caucasus region of Russia, from Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, are fighting for an independent, mostly Islamic republic.
They have recently taken their attacks into the heart of Russia to transportation hubs and cultural centers in Moscow and elsewhere. Though loosely aligned, many of them follow Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov. Linked to a suicide bombing in Moscow's subway last year that killed dozens, he's on the State Department's list of terrorists.
(on camera): As deadly and distinctive as the militants from Russia's North Caucasus region are, within their ranks, experts say, is a group which carries a special designation.
(voice-over): They're commonly known as the Black Widows. KUCHINS: Typically the bomber is a woman. One of her family members has been killed in the insurgency. And that is what motivates her and trained to do this job specifically. Now, we don't know yet whether that's the case here at Domodedovo Airport, but that is sort of the pattern.
TODD: Women were the bombers in the Moscow metro last year. They took part in the horrifying siege at a Russian school in 2004 that killed nearly 200 children, and women were leaders of a deadly 2002 hostage siege as a Moscow theater. Despite appearances, analysts say this isn't just a Russian problem.
(on camera): If I'm an American or a European, why should I care about this?
NIKOLAI ZLOBIN, WORLD SECURITY INSTITUTE: I think it's extremely important, because stability of Russia, which is a big nuclear superpower, biggest country in the world territory-wise, very important economically, stability of Russia is extremely important for stability of the entire word.
TODD: Nikolai Zlobin and other analysts point out Russia is a key U.S. ally in the war in Afghanistan. It's very important in the transshipment of goods into Afghanistan. If that Caucasus region is destabilized again, it could be very dangerous right now, Wolf, especially connected to Afghanistan.
BLITZER: And the price of oil, the worldwide price of oil, which is already high, could get even higher.
TODD: That's right, another reason for Americans to care about this. Russia is a big oil and gas producer for Europe. But of course all oil prices around the world are kind of interconnected. If Russia goes through with another insurgency or it implodes somewhere in the North Caucasus region, the price of oil for all of us could be affected.
BLITZER: So there's a lot at stake right now what's happening in Russia. Thanks, Brian. Thanks very much.
Being president of the United States is certainly one of the toughest jobs in the world, if not the toughest.
Jack Cafferty has got some thoughts on that. He's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The 2012 presidential campaign will soon get into high gear.
Before it does, here's something that's worth thinking about. What if you had to pass a competency test in order to run for president of this country, you know, prove to the voters that you have some kind of a clue? It might go a long way toward eliminating some of the intellectual lightweights who have tried to pass themselves off as presidential timber in the past.
An evangelical supporter of Mitt Romney is calling on Christian conservatives to consider what he calls a new litmus test beyond the traditional cultural issues. Politico got hold of the memo that Mark DeMoss sent to 200 pastors, donors and intellectuals on the Christian right.
In the memo, DeMoss writes that a candidate -- quote -- "should be capable of becoming president, and then competent to be the president" -- unquote. There's a concept.
He thinks Romney is the answer, since he can raise the money to mount a campaign against President Obama, he is doing well in the polls, and he has a business background. Of course, he tried this two years ago and didn't do so well.
DeMoss seems to take a swipe at some of the other contenders. He says a candidate's values alone aren't enough to get his vote -- quote -- "My pastor shares my values, but I don't want him to be my president."
That could be aimed at Mike Huckabee.
And then there's this quote: "By the way, energizing a crowd is also not enough. Justin Bieber can do that, but I don't want him to be president either" -- unquote.
Are you listening, Sarah Palin?
Putting aside the guy's support for Romney, a competency test for the next leader of the free world doesn't sound like such a bad idea.
Here's the question then: Should presidential candidates have to pass a competency test?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Get ready, Jack. You're about to get a lot of e-mail. You know that, don't you?
CAFFERTY: Let's hope so.
BLITZER: Yes. You will. All right, Jack, stand by.
A close friend and former top aide to President Obama is booted, booted off the mayoral ballot in Chicago. You're going to find out why and what's next for the former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Plus, a race to find a date on Capitol Hill for tomorrow's State of the Union address -- the lengths some lawmakers are going right now to find a bipartisan buddy.
BLITZER: He's certainly the front-runner in the race to lead America's third largest city with the backing of two, two U.S. presidents. Now a huge shakeup. An appeals panel has kicked former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel off Chicago's mayoral ballot, saying he does not meet the residency requirement due to his time in Washington.
Rahm Emanuel is appealing the decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: When the president asks you to serve the country as his chief of staff, that counts as part of serving your country. And I have no doubt that we will in the end prevail at this effort. As my father always used to say, nothing is ever easy in life. So, nothing is ever easy. So, this is just one turn in the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's dig deeper with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
He's appealing to the state Supreme Court. What do you think his chances are?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's right on the law. I have to say I was not very persuaded by this opinion by the two judges in the majority.
I thought the dissent had the better of it. But this is a very obscure area of the law. There are not a lot of cases about what the word resident or reside means. And the majority in this case said that, even though he still votes in Chicago, he doesn't count as a resident because he was working in Washington for President Obama.
BLITZER: Well, as of now, they're going to start printing the ballot without his name on it and send it out to folks for early voting. That would be a huge setback for Rahm Emanuel if his name isn't on the ballot, at least the early ballots that are going out.
TOOBIN: The elections board has already delayed printing the ballots and they said they have to start tonight. So early ballot voting starts Monday, January 31. There are a lot of moving pieces here and time is not on Emanuel's side.
He's got to get the Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court, to issue some sort of stay to overturn this, or at least stop the printing of the ballots.
BLITZER: Yes, I think his lawyers as early as tonight they are filing an appeal with the state Supreme Court, but that's going to take several days, and then the other side has a chance to respond with their briefs. This is not easy. As Rahm Emanuel's father used to say, everything is hard in life.
What makes this entirely problematic as a ruling is that, you know, Chicago -- Illinois law has a specific provision that says, if you are doing the business of the United States -- it was designed certainly for people in military service -- you still count as a resident.
He was working as the chief of staff to the White House. That certainly seems like the business of the United States to me. But the judge in the majority here said, no, no, that only counts if you want to keep voting as a Illinois resident. It doesn't apply if you want to run for office, which is a distinction that I thought was kind of slippery.
BLITZER: Let's switch gears to the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And you're an authority on the United States Supreme Court.
He's just finished speaking to the Tea Party Caucus in the Congress right now. Is that appropriate, inappropriate for a sitting justice?
TOOBIN: I don't think there's anything ethically wrong with it. The Supreme Court justices speak all the time in front of various different groups.
But I think we are justified in drawing conclusions based on the fact that he decided to speak there. This is a partisan political group. Antonin Scalia is a partisan conservative justice. And that's why he's there. I don't think it's inappropriate, but I do think it's revealing.
BLITZER: Is it inappropriate for, tomorrow night, for example, Samuel Alito, another Supreme Court justice, not to come with the other justices to the Supreme Court because he was irritated by what President Obama said last year?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with declining to attend. Lots of justices have not attended.
A few years back, in the '90s, Stephen Breyer was the only justice to attend. Eight justices didn't attend. Attendance has gotten better in recent years. But, you know, the justices don't attend. Some do attend. But I don't think there's anything inappropriate about making a decision one way or another.
I can understand why Samuel Alito was frustrated by all the attention on his grimace and saying "Not true" last year. I can understand why he would say the heck with it.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thanks very, very much. Jeff Toobin is our senior legal analyst.
Just when you thought you knew everything about Oprah Winfrey, the queen of talk she reveals a big family secret that she says shook her to the core. And how much damage country just half a pound of explosives make? We're taking you deep inside a U.S. government test lab. You're going to find out.
BLITZER: The young man accused of the Tucson shooting massacre was in federal court this afternoon, pleading not guilty to the rampage that left six people dead and a U.S. congresswoman gravely wounded.
CNN's Ted Rowlands was in the courtroom; he's joining us now live.
Tell us what happened, Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Jared Lee Loughner came in with a version of that familiar smirk that was on his face in that police-released photo. He had that smile when he entered the courtroom.
Then he sat down and settled in. For most of the proceedings, he stared straight ahead as he did the first time he was in court. But a couple times he did smile at something that happened. At one point he looked up into the gallery. The courtroom he was in had a second floor sort of balcony. He looked up. And it looked to me as though he actually chuckled, but he definitely smiled when he looked up and saw that so many people were looking down at him.
It was a very quick hearing. He basically entered not guilty pleas to three counts. The judge entered the pleas on his behalf. So he didn't have to speak. But he has pled officially not guilty to three counts of attempted murder. Those two murder counts have not come through yet. In terms of the grand jury indictment, the prosecutor told the judge that they do expect in the next 30 to 45 days for more charges to be leveled against Loughner.
He left the courthouse here in Phoenix under very high security with a police escort. From here on out, it looks like all of the hearings will take place in Tucson. The federal government asked the judge to move the venue to Tucson, saying that the family members of the victims deserve the opportunity to be part of the process. The defense says they don't have problems with that as long as they can work out the details.
So it appears as though when Loughner left the courthouse today here in Phoenix, it will be his last trip to Phoenix, and from here on out, everything will take place in Tucson. The next hearing in this case, Wolf, has been set for March 9.
BLITZER: Ted Rowlands on the scene for us, thank you.
BLITZER: It's not every day the leader of a superpower asks for tips. But President Obama came to our own David Gergen for advice. We're talking to David about what the president asked, what he told the president. David is standing by live.
And the face-off in the GOP over who speaks for the party following the State of the Union address, and that's not the only rift within Republican ranks.
BLITZER: In just over 24 hours, the president of the United States will deliver his State of the Union address from the Capitol.
But when it comes to details of the speech, the White House not saying a whole lot, at least today.
Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent Dan Lothian is standing by.
Dan, what are you learning?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, publicly wanting to make sure that they keep all the details of the address fresh for the president's delivery tomorrow night.
But the president did give some hints in a videotape released to supporters over the weekend. Broad theme will be on jobs and job creation, not only in the short term, but over the long haul. The president will also touch on the deficit, and also two buzzwords that we have heard a lot around here at the White House recently, competitiveness and also innovation, how to help the United States win on the global stage through investments in things such as education. A top aide here telling me that the president will be laying out a plan how to win. Some of that will be things that we have heard before. There will also be some new concepts.
But, again, as you pointed out, Robert Gibbs was very reticent today to give any additional details, waiting for the president to deliver his remarks tomorrow night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, look, I'm -- I think many of you will find this to a semi-unsatisfying briefing; the fact that I am not at noon on Monday going to talk or give a lot about what the president's going to say at 9:00 on Tuesday.
I'm going to wait until wait and until the speech.
I think most of the people in this room would probably grade me as not having given a ton away at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Now, the president worked extensively, we're told, on the address last week, then also over the weekend. This morning, he met with some advisers to go over components of that address in the Oval Office. And one other thing, Wolf. You know, it's tradition for the president to invite honored guests to sit in the box of the first lady. No exception this year. Around the president has invited the family members of the 9-year-old girl who was shot out in Arizona; also one of Representative Giffords' doctors in Arizona; and then a young man that everyone has been calling a hero, Daniel Hernandez, an intern of Representative Gifford, who was with her during that horrible shooting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Daniel Hernandez is going to join us tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM before the address. Then he'll go to the first lady's area, the box up there, to listen together with the first lady and her other invited guests.
We're also going to speak live tomorrow right at the top of the show at 5 p.m. Eastern with Roberts Gibbs. We'll see what he has to say tomorrow.
By the way, if our viewers have any questions, they recommend me asking Robert Gibbs; @WolfBlitzerCNN, just tweet those questions to me, and I'll try to maybe ask some of those questions to Gibbs tomorrow.
Let's bring in our senior political analysts, David Gergen and Gloria Borger.
David, you had a chance to meet with the president not that long ago. He invited some experts in, I think to pick your brain. How did that go?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I was appreciative, of course, of the opportunity. He asked me to come in for -- to meet with him one-on-one, and we talked for about 40 minutes.
I hope you don't mind, but because I did agree with him it would be an off-the-record session, I really don't feel like I could break any confidences from that.
I will tell you that -- that off -- just right up front, he took politics 2012 off the table. We didn't talk about that at all. He really wanted to talk about his governance: how to govern the country, where to take the country over the next two years.
And I respected the fact, because I do think that presidents sometimes can be in bubbles. And coming out of the elections, he asked me, he asked others to come in from the business community, the political community to talk with him for a while. And I -- I respect him, a person who -- who's willing to do that. I think it's a healthy sign for a president to reach outside the bubble.
BLITZER: David Gergen is a very smart guy. He's worked for four presidents. Maybe some day you'll work for a fifth president, too, David.
GERGEN: Wolf, I don't think so. I think he's smart enough not to do that.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, David, I think you're being -- I think you're being appropriately humble here, but he understands also that you have a great deal to offer, particularly since you were there during the Clinton years.
He also spoke to other people who were there during the Clinton years. And it seems to me, if he's role modeling himself on anybody as he -- as he heads into this next session of Congress, he's looking at the -- at Bill Clinton's people to see exactly what they did, how they behaved, and how they managed to work with Republicans.
GERGEN: That's true, Gloria, but he's -- as you know, he's reading Lou Cannon's book about Ronald Reagan.
BORGER: Reagan, that, too.
GERGEN: Reagan -- Reagan's leadership intrigues him. Not the policies.
BLITZER: Gloria, I know you've been -- you've been doing some reporting. What's the big coming clash between the president and the Republicans in Congress?
BORGER: Well, you know, it's interesting. First -- and we'll have to see what kind of a clash it is. I mean, it's clear to me that, when you hear Democrats talking, they're talking about a strategy about investing and growing.
In other words, very Clintonian: have a framework of fiscal discipline, but investing in things like technology, competitiveness, research development, those kinds of things, education because what the president will say is those are things we cannot afford to stop spending our money on or it will be very short-sighted.
What you hear Republicans saying is you have to cut first in order to grow, that the government's grown too fat, out of control. And we need to do the budget cutting first.
And it will be interesting to see whether this becomes a standoff like we saw in the '90s or, to go back to David's point, as during the Reagan years, where there can be some kind of way where the president can appeal to some Republicans and work some of these fiscal issues out.
BLITZER: His approval numbers in our new poll, 55 percent job approval. David, it was only a few months ago, it was in mid-40s, even low 40s. He's -- he's got a major comeback going right now.
Here's the question to you. What's the single most important thing he needs to do tomorrow night?
GERGEN: He has to persuade the country to lift itself onto a new track. Yes, we have to be much more disciplined about spending and get these deficits under control because they threaten our future. But we also have to be more serious about being -- competing with the rest of the world. Being innovative and creating quality jobs here at home. And we can do that, in part, by cutting the budget deficit, but in part, by regaining -- we were once the most competitive nation on earth. We were the most educated people on earth. We have to regain that. And I, for one, am pleased the president is trying to make this much more central to our national agenda.
BORGER: Yes, I think he -- I think he has to first of all convince the American public that he wants to be nonpartisan. And that he has to convince the Congress that the public wants him to pursue what David is talking about, which is to make America No. 1 again and to start producing the way we used to produce. And if he can do that, he'll -- he will have done a good job.
BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll continue this conversation tomorrow. We'll have lots to assess. Thank you.
And stay with CNN for complete coverage of the president's State of the Union address tomorrow night. We'll have the best political team on television right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Our primetime coverage begins right after THE SITUATION ROOM, 7 p.m. Eastern. Then the president's address at 9 p.m. Eastern, followed by the Republican response and a full wrap-up with reaction and analysis.
Two Republicans each giving their own response to tomorrow's State of the Union address. But a GOP leader says only one speaks for the party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Terrorists continue to target the airline industry. Scientists here at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab are conducting sophisticated explosive testing to better understand the threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There may be two House Republicans giving high-profile responses to President Obama's State of the Union address tomorrow night. But House majority leader Eric Cantor made it clear today that Congressman Paul Ryan is the one speaking for the GOP, not the Tea Party favorite, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. So is this a sign of potentially some sort of growing rift between the Tea Party movement and establishment Republicans?
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here with more on this story of intrigue and mystery. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of intrigue, Wolf. And you know, top Republicans will say, "Look, this is not a rift. It's what you get when you have an invigorated movement," which they owe for much of their recent success.
That said, tomorrow night it does look like the Tea Party could be stealing some of the establishment's thunder.
YELLIN (voice-over): This year Republicans will offer two different rebuttals to the State of the Union.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are greasing the skids.
YELLIN: The official pick? Budget expert, Congressman Paul Ryan. And speaking for the Tea Party, headline grabber Michele Bachmann. Her message doesn't always square with the establishment.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: And the question, quite frankly, is this. Will America endure? And I don't say this melodramatically, and I don't say this to scare you or to say it lightly.
YELLIN: Read the tea leaves, and you'll spot more chances of friction ahead. In New Hampshire, a Tea Party activist beat out an establishment Republican to run the party in that crucial early voting state.
JACK KIMBALL, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP CHAIRMAN: We are fighting now for the soul of our country.
YELLIN: On Capitol Hill, a group of Tea Party activists made a plea for Senator Richard Lugar, who has a history of working across the aisle, to retire and make room for one of their own.
MARK HOLWAGER, TEA PARTY ACTIVIST: Hoosiers are ready for a conservative voice in Indiana, and we don't feel Richard Lugar is that voice.
YELLIN: Not everyone is choosing sides. Tea Party darling Marco Rubio, the new Florida senator, has yet to decide if he'll join the Tea Party caucus. One of his advisers tells CNN, quote, "He thinks the strength of the Tea Party movement lies in what it does on the grassroots level, not in what political clubs are created in Washington."
Does the Tea Party spell trouble ahead for the GOP?
VIN WEBER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think that that issue becomes resolved relatively soon when you start seeing Republican candidates for president emerge and people will stop focusing on Tea Party versus official Republican Party, and they'll focus on the people that want to be nominated to run for president.
But certainly, in the short run, it creates some confusion on people's parts about who actually speaks for the Republican Party.
YELLIN: Who speaks for the Republican Party? Well, as for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's speech, her office says, look, she was invited to give the speech by the Tea Party Express. A Republican adviser says Republican leadership welcomes many voices in the GOP.
But Wolf, you know she will be getting plenty of airtime during primetime.
BLITZER: She certainly will. And we're going to carry not only Paul Ryan's response to the president but Michele Bachmann's response to the president.
YELLIN: There you go.
BLITZER: So we'll have the president's very long State of the Union address, Paul Ryan's much shorter response to his State of the Union. Michele Bachmann will have extensive live coverage.
YELLIN: What else could we add?
BLITZER: Let me change gears and talk about Chicago for a moment.
BLITZER: A huge setback for Rahm Emanuel today, who was poised to run -- not only run but be the next mayor of Chicago.
YELLIN: It's an unbelievable development. As you know, Rahm Emanuel today, the appellate court there in Illinois decided that, because he lived here in Washington, D.C., while he was working as chief of staff, he does not qualify to run for mayor in that city in Chicago, even though he is well ahead of the other candidates.
I've been on the phone and dealing with some people who are very well briefed on the situation. The Emanuel team -- I have a copy of the filing. They've filed a motion tonight with the appeals court there in Chicago, in Illinois, asking them to stay that decision.
The big problem for Rahm Emanuel is that two million ballots go to print tomorrow without his name on them. And then early voting begins on Monday. So they are asking for the ballots to be printed with his name and see if they can delay some things, but they've got to hope the Supreme Court takes this up in Illinois quickly and makes a decision in his favor quickly, or this could drag on.
BLITZER: Yes. What a development. All right. Thanks very much. We'll stay on top of that. Jessica Yellin reporting.
Also on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are looking for dates to the State of the Union address tomorrow night. How's that going? Stand by. And inside this chamber, we're about to give you a firsthand look at what terrorists can do with a bomb that weighs just half a pound. You're going to want to see this.
BLITZER: Today's deadly blast in Moscow's busiest airport is a frightening reminder of how vulnerable all of us are.
Now CNN is getting an inside look at what investigators are doing to track down and outsmart master bombers, whose lethal weapons of choice may be less than half a pound of explosives.
Let's get a little bit more with CNN's Deborah Feyerick. She's got this exclusive report for us.
Deb, what did you learn?
FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, you know, what is just so scary is how fast a terror attack can happen. And we met with scientists who specialize in high explosives as well as nuclear weapons. They're the ones who are constantly thinking about the next threat and how maybe to prevent it from a scientific perspective.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charging. OK, we're at voltage. Firing in three, two, one.
FEYERICK (on camera): All I saw was black.
(voice-over) But it's there. Captured by high-speed camera, an explosion in 30 millionths of a second.
JON MAIENSCHEIN, LIVERMORE NATIONAL LIBERTY: No human eye can see that.
FEYERICK: Jon Maienschein blows things up for a living. He and his team are testing a bomb made of a half pound of explosives like the kind used by terrorists.
(on camera) Since 9/11, have you seen things you never thought you'd be testing, for example?
MAIENSCHEIN: Yes, the explosives that the terrorists use, improvised explosives, are, frankly, mixtures that I didn't really expect would work. And so it's been eye opening to us what actually will explode when you put it together.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The 20-ton bomb blast chamber, one of the largest in the world, is at Lawrence Livermore National Lab near San Francisco. Here, scientists and experts of all kinds study everything there is to know about explosives, assessing the overall threat.
BRUCE GOODWIN, LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY: Their job in many cases is to think about what could happen, what could be done. You know, how could -- how do you red team, we call it, you know, the terrorists, beat them at their own game.
FEYERICK: Bruce Goodwin heads up defense and nuclear weapons here.
GOODWIN: An ounce of high explosive would ruin your whole day.
FEYERICK: This national lab has analyzed the threat to airliners by testing explosives similar to those used by the underwear bomber.
(on camera) With the underwear bomber, it was PETN, which is relatively...
GOODWIN: It's a good explosive. And it's something that is used by the military. It would be interesting to see where that fellow got that material.
GOODWIN: Let me leave it at that.
FEYERICK (voice-over): By fingerprinting explosives, scientists can understand how they were made, the blast potential, even who may have put them together.
GOODWIN: Making high explosives in your kitchen. We think about that. We've been thinking about that for a very long time. And as a result, we can provide advice on certain things that people shouldn't be able to bring onto airplanes, even though they look like, you know, you're getting ready for Momma to make cookies.
FEYERICK: Understanding bombs to protect the public.
FEYERICK: And Wolf, even before printer cartridge bombs were sent from Yemen, scientists at Livermore were working on techniques to detect explosives in luggage checked through cargo. They're able to advise policy makers from a scientific standpoint and then helps officials better understand what the threat is and how they should respond, Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick with that report, thank you very, very much. Good reporting.
Should presidential candidates have to pass a competency test to become president? Jack's got your e-mail, your answers. Stand by.
And lawmakers are still looking for dates to the State of the Union address tomorrow night. How is that going for them? We'll tell you.
BLITZER: Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "Should presidential candidates have to pass a competency test?"
Dee in Ohio: "It certainly would thin the herd, wouldn't it? And if the tests were given as a prerequisite to even getting on the ballot, it sure would save a lot of the truly gullible from making campaign contributions to some totally unqualified numbskull."
David in California: "We used to have an independent press that did that for us, but now that they saw teem to work for one or the other of the political parties, I would say your suggestion has merit."
Raul writes, "The grueling presidential primaries have done a great job of weeding out the candidates over the years. I don't see how a so-called competency test will do a better job. The beauty of our.." I'm not reading the rest of that.
Lando: "Yes and double yes. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, pilots, drivers, even many retail clerks have to pass a competency test in order to do what they do. Presidential candidates should also. Members of Congress should also."
Chris in Los Angeles: "What good would it do if the voting public is still largely incompetent in its ability to understand the issues?"
Jess writes, "I've been suggesting this idea for discussion in my college history classes for a long time. In ancient China, there were famous civil service exams that engineered the whole meritocracy system that China operated under. The best and brightest went forward to help run the government. Heck, my mail carrier has to take a civil service test. Why in heaven's name wouldn't the future president of the United States have to one, too?"
Ken in California: "You betcha."
Bob in Iowa, "Jack, this is the funniest question you've ever asked. Of course not. Did you think of this when you were shaving?"
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I thought it was a good question, Jack.
CAFFERTY: I did, too. And this guy's opinion, bottom line, doesn't matter.
BLITZER: Yes. You've asked funnier questions. You've asked funnier questions than that.
CAFFERTY: And dumber ones, too.
BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack.
BLITZER: Thank you. Some are calling it a congressional prom. What lawmakers are doing to ensure a bipartisan date to tomorrow's State of the Union address.
BLITZER: So who's pairing up with whom and who's going solo just may be a question of the night at tomorrow's State of the Union address. CNN's Jeanne Moos has this "Most Unusual" date night.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forget standing up and sitting down. Now it's who you're sitting with that counts. The State of the Union is not only starting to sound like a political prom, but a gay prom.
REP. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I've already asked Tom Coburn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Kirk and I are going to sit together. I'm bringing the popcorn. He's bringing a Coke with two straws.
MOOS: Republicans and Democrats are sending out joint press releases, resemble engagement announcements. Senates like Democrat Chuck Grassley are tweeting their date to be. There's matchmaking live on TV.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHINSON (R), TEXAS: I don't have a date.
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Kay, I'm available.
I just asked Kay.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS: I know! All right, well, we'll see you two sitting together.
MOOS: Even those who have really gotten on each other's nerves are getting into the act.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I will not yield to the gentleman! And the gentleman will observe regular order!
MOOS: Now we're going to observe both gentleman sitting together. It was Republican Congressman Peter King's wife's idea.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (via phone): She said, "Why not have the two biggest loud mouths that are always fighting, have them sit with each other?"
I said, "Who are you talking about?"
She said, "You and Anthony Weiner."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Let me hold you tight, if only for one night.
MOOS: The press is having a field day nicknaming couples.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are the Land of Lincoln Laddies, the Southwest Soulmates.
MOOS: Michelle Malkin's Web site even dressed them up for their prom photo.
And the front-runners for prom king and queen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cutest couple might go to the South Dakota Republican John Thune and New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.
MOOS: At Politics Daily, they made up personal adds: "Cap and trade Democrat seeks pro-life Republican for one-nighter."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting a little icky, guys.
MOOS (on camera): And if one date isn't enough, how about a State of the Union orgy involving, say, a softball team?
(voice-over) Maine Democrat Chellie Pingree says she's sitting with some women of the bipartisan congressional women's softball team.
Even the South Carolina Republican who once yelled "You lie!"...
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!
MOOS: ... will be sitting between two Democratic congresswomen, no lie.
Not everyone's playing the state of the date. Take Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I'm going to sit where I usually sit.
MOOS (on camera): Now, if only I could get someone from FOX News to sit with me while I watch the speech.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): If only for one night.
MOOS (voice-over): But even a one-night stand beats all that standing. Just keep your hands to yourself.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Remember, you can follow me on Twitter. You can get my tweets: Twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN, @WolfBlitzerCNN.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.