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U.S. Unleashes Armed Drones in Libya; U.S.: Pakistan Working with Terrorists; Defending Controversial Medicare Changes; President Probes Gas Price Gouging; Inside Fukushima Daiichi; 'Strategy Session'; Dodgers' Owners Lose Control in Divorce

Aired April 21, 2011 - 17:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the Pentagon reveals it's now using one of its most effective weapons against Moammar Gadhafi's forces. This hour, the attack of the drones and what it means for the war in Libya.

Plus, the Obama administration launches an investigation about gasoline price gouging. The president responding to pain at the pump as he puts his re-election campaign into overdrive.

And CNN enters the evacuation zone in Japan. Stand by for a rare look at the desolation and danger around the crippled nuclear power plant.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Candy Crowley. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Breaking news this hour: the United States and its allies are unleashing more military might to try to stop Moammar Gadhafi's troops and their bloody assault against the rebels and civilians.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealing a short while ago that armed predator drone are now part of the U.S. arsenal in Libya.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Now, the president has said that where we have some unique capabilities, he is willing to use those and, in fact, he has approved the use of armed predators. And I think that today may have, in fact, been their first mission. So, I think that will give us some precision capability.


CROWLEY: Also today, NATO is issuing new warnings to Libyan civilians to stay away from military areas. The alliance, apparently signaling plans to step up airstrikes against targets that are critical to Gadhafi's forces.

We want to bring in our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. He has logged many days and weeks covering the conflict in Libya. He is with us now from Atlanta.

Nic, are the U.S. drones going to make a difference in this fight?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. They can fly lower. They can fly more safely, if you will, because they're not putting physical pilot at risk.

So, they will be able to see Gadhafi's military hardware on the ground. They can fly slower. So, they will be able to get a much better picture of exactly what's happening on the ground, as well as being able to target Gadhafi's hardware as they see it.

And perhaps, politically, for President Obama, it is less likely had that combat airmen would be lost in a mission using drones because they are not in those aircraft. And, therefore, there's less liability in the enforcing the safety and security of forces on the ground in Libya.

CROWLEY: And can these drones target something that existing equipment, NATO equipment, cannot? I'm thinking particularly of inside the city of Misrata, which is very difficult just to go over and, you know, drop something? You have to know what you're shooting at.

ROBERTSON: It will make it safer and it will make it more accurate. They will be able to see more.

But one of the things that drones really specialize in is being able to loiter over the battlefield and watch those tanks moving around, hiding under trees, coming out, firing a few shots, then going back and hiding. That's what the fighter jet these are flying over find it hard to target, and the drones will be much more effective at that. And if you couple that with a better military assessment on the ground, with advisers that maybe coming in from Britain and France and Italy, this ups the game against Gadhafi's forces a notch or two at least, Candy.

CROWLEY: As rebel fighters have been hoping they would.

When you first heard this news, Nic, what was your first thought?

ROBERTSON: One of my first thoughts is where are the drones going to be flying from? Are they going to be out? They need to operate out of an airfield that's not too far away. So, does this mean Malta? Does this mean where NATO aircraft are operating out of in the south of Italy?

And does this mean that they've got an airfield that they can use perhaps in the eastern part, the rebel-controlled part of Libya? That's very, very unlikely. But -- or is it possibly Egypt even? That seems likely.

More likely, one of these NATO facilities much closer. But they need to be relatively close. So, that's the important thing.

But I think the political safety this gives President Obama because you are less likely to lose air servicemen in this type of operation. And, therefore, you're less likely to lose public support as you try and progress this fight against Gadhafi.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Very important here with a country already involved in two other wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.

But let me ask you -- is this, you think, what the rebels most needed? Is this the equipment they most need? Is it a game changer?

ROBERTSON: It should influence the battlefield significantly around Misrata over a period of time. Gadhafi has become adept at hiding his military hardware from NATO aircraft. This is a battlefield at the siege of Misrata, is a situation that NATO hasn't been able to turn around in the favor of the rebels.

And the drone aircraft should make a difference, can make a difference. I don't think anyone should expect it to happen overnight. What the drones are good at doing, as I said, is loitering, is building up a pattern it of movement of Gadhafi's ground forces and their military hardware.

Now, it's not beyond the realms of possibility to believe that somehow the rebels might be privy at some point to that information, so they would see possibly even in real time -- although that's not being said at the moment -- but possibly in real time where Gadhafi's forces are. And that would be a real military advantage on the battlefield as well.

CROWLEY: Nic Robertson, we've been seeing so much of you from Tripoli -- but thanks for bringing your expertise to Atlanta before you go back and enjoy the relative calm there. Thanks so much.

A new report today that the United States is ready to share its drone technology with Pakistan. "Reuters" reports the U.S. will give Pakistan 85 small Raven drone aircraft. Islamabad has been asking for access to U.S. drone technology, this as America's top military officer visits Pakistan and tensions between the two countries are laid bare.

We want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.

Chris, what can you tell us about this?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, first off, you know, these Ravens not like anything like predators. They only weigh about four pounds. They're so light. You literally toss them into the air to launch them and they are only used for surveillance, reconnaissance. They don't carry any kind of bombs or any kind of attack mode on them.

Now, you mentioned the tensions -- they are certainly there between the two countries right now. They have really risen in terms of two incidents. One, you know, a recent U.S. drone attack that may have killed up to 50 people in Pakistan. And then the revelation of this CIA agent, Raymond Davis, who was in Pakistan. He shot two Pakistani men. It caused a big uproar in Pakistan.

So, tensions are high. Admiral Mike Mullen goes to the country to try to defuse some of those tensions and work through the problems, but he couldn't help himself from being very, very blunt.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan continue to spill out into the open.


LAWRENCE: In an interview in Pakistan, the chairman of the joint chiefs publicly accused elements of Pakistan's intelligence agency of working with a terrorist group.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The ISI has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani network.

LAWRENCE: Some say the ISI is a rogue element of Pakistan's government. But the CIA's former Islamabad station chief says, no way.

BOB GRENIER, ERG PARTNERS: The ISI is primary lay tool of the chief of army staff that is General Kayani.

LAWRENCE: Bob Grenier says General Kayani, the man the U.S. military touts as a friend and an ally, is pulling the ISI's strings.

MULLEN: The Haqqani network very specifically facilitates and supports the Taliban who move into Afghanistan and killing Americans. And I can't accept that. And I'll do everything I possibly can to prevent that specifically.

LAWRENCE: The U.S. is putting more pressure on Pakistan to go after groups like the Haqqanis, because those groups directly attack U.S. troops.

GRENIER: Those of less concern to the Pakistanis. And in fact, some of these groups have made themselves quite useful to the Pakistanis on their side of the border. Therefore, the Pakistanis are following turn a blind eye to actions that the U.S. considers intolerable.


LAWRENCE: And again, Admiral Mullen really seemed to acknowledge that point to say, look, he knows that the Pakistani military and their services have to first look out for the Pakistani people, the same way that he has to put American lives at the forefront. He said is a challenging relationship but he said it's one in which they are going to have to keep working on and eh said it's a matter of snapping your fingers and having things get better, Candy.

CROWLEY: Wow. Tough words from Admiral Mullen, Chris. Thanks so much for that report. Appreciate it.


CROWLEY: President Obama says there's no silver bullet to bring down gas prices, but he says he's trying something new to help Americans deal with sticker shock at the pump.

Plus, it's ghost town where few people are willing to brave spiking radiation levels. CNN takes you inside the evacuation zone around Japan's crippled nuclear power plant.

And, America's pastime tainted by a bitter divorce. Major League Baseball takes custody of the legendary L.A. Dodgers while the marriage of the team's co-owner falls apart.


CROWLEY: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, what's up today?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Candy, despite last year's midterm shellacking of the Democrats and record low approval ratings for President Obama, there is a big potential problem be for Republicans going into the 2012 presidential election. That problem is other Republicans. More specifically, we are talking about the Tea Party, that grassroots movement that helped the GOP win the House last fall and weaken the Democrats' hold on the Senate.

These days, they are all but driving the Republican agenda. They want big spending cuts. They want a much smaller government.

Thing is, a lot of Americans agree with them on those points. And many of the newly elected lawmakers who ran on those platforms have proven that they are willing to stick to the budget-cutting principle s even if it effectively paralyzes Congress. Fifty-four Republicans in the House voted last week's budget bill down and for a government shutdown, a sign that upcoming battles like raising the debt ceiling and reforming Medicare will indeed become very ugly.

The old line establishment Republicans aren't nearly so extreme, and that could become a problem when it comes time for the GOP to run against the Democrats in next year's elections. Potential Republican candidates -- like Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Donald Trump -- they have all made appear perhaps at Tea Party events this month. Others, though, like Mitt Romney, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, they have chosen to steer clear of Tea Party events while still speaking favorably about the group. That's called being on the fence.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research poll, only 32 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Tea Party, 46 percent a favorable view of the Democrats, 44 percent, a favorable view of the Republicans.

So, here's the question: what will cause the Republicans more problems next year, the Democrats or the Tea Party? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

It's going to get pretty interesting, especially when the primaries and stuff start happening, because the Tea Party will be active in those elections all around the country. Before we ever get to the conventions, they will have made their statement. CROWLEY: And I think you're absolutely right. What's going to happen is, if I had to answer that he question, now that you've asked, I say Tea Parties during the primaries and the Democrats during the general.

CAFFERTY: Yes, they're having their hands full.


CROWLEY: Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: We want to get more now on the potential political toll of this escalating spending battle come 2012.

CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is profiling one Republican trying to hold onto voter support in the midst of some pretty controversial proposals from Republicans.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is. This is Patrick Meehan, he's one of dozens of Republican Congressional newbies, and he is representing a swing district outside of Philadelphia. This is a place where you hear people say cut spending, but it's also a district with a lot of seniors, and that's why Meehan is trying to very hard to explain his support to fundamentally change Medicare.


KEILAR (voice-over): Congress is in recess, but freshman Republican Patrick Meehan isn't taking a break.

REP. PATRICK MEEHAN (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We are heading now down into Radnor Township, which is the heart of Philadelphia's old mainline.

KEILAR: This day, Meehan is holding five town hall meetings as he tries hang onto his seat in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District. Voters here went for President Obama in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004, and Meehan succeed a Democrat.

MEEHAN: It is a swing constituency, which means that they do look back and forth and see what's going on. And there's going to be some political risk. I mean, they're already attacking.

KEILAR: "They" are Democrats, and this is what they are attack Meehan for, his vote for the Republican's 2012 budget, it includes an overhaul of Medicare that would eventually turn the program into a voucher system.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was forced to go into the Medicare system.

KEILAR: Meehan is explaining his vote to constituents, many of whom are seniors. MEEHAN: What Ryan is talking about doing is saying we are going to keep our commitment to the senior citizens, but we are also going to have to look down at this program to strengthen it and preserve it for this next generation.

KEILAR: Overhauling Medicare, Republicans say, is the only way to keep America from going bankrupt, but say the words "Medicare reform" to some of Meehan's constituents and you'll hear this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reform usually means cutting benefits. If it's cutting benefits, no I do not want that.

KEILAR: Democrats see political opportunity and they are putting out ads. This had one's running on the Internet.


KEILAR: Last election cycle, Democrats were on the other side of this, slammed by Republicans.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), CURRENT HOUSE SPEAKER (September 17, 2009): I think it inflicts deep cuts in Medicare for seniors.

KEILAR: For cuts to Medicare advantage plans under their overhaul of health care. Now, Republicans like Meehan, have to convince voters they are cutting spending, not benefits.

MEEHAN: Demagoguery and fear and the hope that what they can do is scare enough senior citizens into believing that they are going to be impacted in such a way that they will somehow, you know, get into some political victory in where they can go right back to the Pelosi plan and jam it right down the throats of the American people.


KEILAR: Now, what we found in Pennsylvania 7th District, a lot of people don't really understand how the budget that Republicans passed Friday would affect Medicare. So there really is a void there that Republicans and Democrats are fighting to fill.

And important to add, Candy, this budget, of course, is nonbinding. It is not going to make it past the Senate, but it really lays out the battle stations going into the next election.

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) 2012 document?

KEILAR: Exactly, and Democrats will make it that way, they have said that.

CROWLEY: But the Republicans wouldn't put it out unless they were willing to, you know, do battle over it. So they knew what they were getting into, these aren't --

KEILAR: Yes, and the challenge is for them to explain it, I think. To explain and make that leap to this is how we're going -- we're really trying to address spending, and that's what you see members like Meehan doing.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Brianna Keilar. Appreciate it.

President Obama says he feels our pain at the pump. Ahead, the new government action he has just announced against soaring gas prices.

Plus, comedian Jerry Seinfeld now telling Donald Trump, you're fired. We will tell you why.

And a new warning, your iPhone or iPad could be secretly tracking you. We will show you how it's done.


CROWLEY: A second firefighter killed in those massive wildfires consuming much of Texas now.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM now.

What have you got, Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the firefighter suffered burns after getting trapped in a blaze 11 days ago. Thousands of firefighters from 36 states are currently battling the fires amidst poor weather conditions. Governor Rick Perry is declaring the next three days a period of prayer for rain in that state. Storms are forecast for the weekend, but lightning could pose additional fire risks.

And at least 15 people are dead, another 40 injured after an explosion in Karachi, Pakistan. It happened in a gambling club in the port city. A senior police official says a bomb was placed under a table at the club and the blast left a crater at the site.

And potential presidential candidate Donald Trump is getting new heat for questioning President Obama's birthplace, this time from Jerry Seinfeld. The comedian has canceled his appearance at Trump event benefiting St. Jude's Children Research Hospital due to the controversial birther remarks. The real estate giant responded with a scathing letter blaming the comedian for blacking out.

So, Candy, maybe Donald Trump won't be as rich as he thinks if a crowd fails to show for that performance by Jerry Seinfeld. We will see.

CROWLEY: Well, if they're doing it for a benefit, I hope the crowd still shows up it is a good cause anyway.


CROWLEY: Absolutely, of course.

FEYERICK: Thanks, Deb. CROWLEY: Many Americans are paying around $4.00 a gallon for gasoline right now and President Obama's trying to show them he feels their pain. We will tell you what he is saying and doing about it.

And who would dare to enter the contaminated area around Japan's nuclear power plant? CNN did, to see exactly what's going on.


CROWLEY: President Obama knows all too well that Americans are experiencing sticker shock every time they fill up their gas tank. And the problem is especially bad out west, where Mr. Obama is mixing presidential business with campaign fundraising.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody, right now, is dealing with $4.00 a gallon he at the pump.

Now, I admit, Secret Service doesn't let me fill up my own tank now, but I remember before I was president, the last time gas prices went up this high, it's tough.

Like clockwork, suddenly, politicians look around and they discover high gas prices and they're shocked. And they get in front of TV and they say, we have got a three-point plan to bring gas down to 2 bucks a gallon.


CROWLEY: CNN's Dan Simon is covering the president's western swing for us.

Dan, OK, no is silver bullet. But the president's clearly trying to show Americans that not only does he feel their pain, but he's trying to do something.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right, Candy.

And remember, the purpose of these town halls is to talk about deficit reduction, but here he is at a new energy company, it was a perfect opportunity to talk all things energy and to talk about the price of oil. Obviously, he got a lot of applause when he talked about the fact that he wants to see oil prices go down.

Today, he took it a step further by announcing that his attorney general, Eric Holder, is going to have a task force to look in to see whether or not oil companies are somehow manipulating the price.

Let's listen to the president.


OBAMA: The attorney general's putting together a team whose job it is to root out any cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas price, and that includes the role of traders and speculators. We are going to make sure that nobody is taking advantage of American consumers.


SIMON: This is something, Candy, that -- this is something, candy that will probably be widely praised but some may say overdue.

A lot of people, a lot of oil critics, oil company critics have openly speculated about whether or not the companies are gaming the system. You heard Donald Trump suggest the other day, actually, Candy, on your show, about whether OPEC was somehow manipulating oil prices in their favor. So, this is something that people will be paying close attention to.

The president, we should tell you, has left Reno. He is on his way to Los Angeles, where this fundraising trip will continue. This was his last town hall. From L.A., he will head become to Washington -- Candy.

CROWLEY: CNN's Dan Simon, thanks so much.

We want to bring in our senior political analysts David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

David, it seems to me that when Americans judge the economy, three things stick out: the jobless rate, the price of gasoline and the value of their homes.

If you now superimpose what a lot of people think might be $5.00- a-gallon gasoline next year, does this present a real problem for the president's reelection?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does. If we have a sharp spike in gas prices, we have already gone up $1.00, as you know, Candy, at the pump over the last year, goes up another $1.00 or more, a sharp spike could throw the economy into another recession, towards a double-dip.

But it also then has very, very profound political consequences, because American, for better or worse do hold their president responsible for high gas price. And we have seen at least one other case, Jimmy Carter, a president who went down over unrest in the Middle East and very high gas prices.

CROWLEY: So, Gloria, does the opposite hold true? What is not so great for the president is good for Republicans?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, it would be good for Republicans, if they agree on a candidate and a spokesman for them to talk about the economy.

Look, the Republicans have gotten some traction on economic issues in the Congress in terms of cutting spending. Right now, their primary seems to be largely unformed and diverted by someone like Donald Trump who is talking about the birther issue.

But I think where Republicans will be able to grab onto this is is that this affect the question of how the public feels about whether we are on the right track and the wrong track going. And right now, 64 percent of the people in the public think we are on the wrong track. And that's difficult for anyone to turn around. Obama's popularity is at 47 percent, which is just OK, not an all-time low.

But, you know, if Republicans had a good candidate out there, they could take advantage of this.

CROWLEY: So let me ask the obvious question. First to you, David, and then to Gloria.

Who out there looks strong enough to be a good candidate against President Obama if he is indeed vulnerable?

GERGEN: I think the Republicans right now are suffering from the sort of none of the above kind of -- there is a -- it's regarded -- it's widely regarded as a weak field, and there's not a lot of excitement about any of these. You have to say Mitt Romney is a front-runner, and he's obviously got a strong capacity to raise money. But the striking thing, Candy, is we have a race that's shaping up in which the president is vulnerable.

He is -- you know, he is hovering in a place where he could be routed. There are 43, 44, 45 percent of the people who say they don't want to vote for him in various polls. So, he's vulnerable, but the Republicans have this weak field.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: So I think there is a general sense in the country that they are not sure there is anybody out there on either side that people really, really want to see as -- a majority want to see as president. And you could find somebody who could catch fire, somebody who could get into the field we haven't seen yet.

BORGER: Right. And, you know, the interesting thing is, you talk to Republicans, and they will say to you this is the most important election we have seen in our lifetime, et cetera, et cetera. We have got to get rid of Barack Obama. And it's historic.

Well, if it's so historic, why can't they come up with a really good candidate to run against Barack Obama? I think that's the frustration I'm hearing among lots of sort of Republicans out there who say, "There just isn't anybody I'm excited about." You know, maybe you will have somebody like Jon Huntsman get into the field and he will excite people, but I kind of -- I kind of doubt it at this point.

CROWLEY: Gloria Borger, David Gergen, we have to end it there, but we've got a lot of time until 2012. So we'll talk again.

GERGEN: We sure do.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much.

BORGER: Plenty. Plenty. CROWLEY: It is called the hot zone. The area around Japan's crippled nuclear power plant is barren and dangerous. We'll take you to the place where most people are afraid to go, and for good reason.


CROWLEY: Japan is enforcing a 12-mile exclusion zone around the quake-battered Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

CNN's Stan Grant had an exclusive look inside.


STAN GRANT, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The flashing red lights, the warning signs, faces covered with masks. We are entering a no-go zone.

One by one, cars are checked. Only a select few residents, official vehicles allowed entry.

Beyond this point, the Japanese government says it is not safe for people to live. Radiation levels from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have spiked dangerously high.

(on camera): Is he worried about the levels? Has he been concerned about being exposed?

(voice-over): Even this policeman guarding the checkpoint admits he is worried he may be putting his life at risk by doing his job.

But today, radiation is reading relatively low. We're even waved through, given rare access to what is being called a hot zone.

(on camera): Now, I am inside the 20-kilometer zone, so I need to take precautions. As you can see, I'm wearing some face covering here. And down at my feet, my shoes are also protected. This is to stop me coming in contact with any potentially contaminated material on the ground or breathing in any contamination.

(voice-over): All around me is desolation. What the tsunami spared, radiation has left contaminated. Houses have been abandoned, possessions scattered.

There are pools of water where the flooding has not yet receded. Everywhere, there is debris. Many buildings, beyond repair. Farm animals are left to fend for themselves, growing gaunt.

To call it a ghost town is a cliche. But here, no exaggeration.

Amidst this silence, a lone resident returning briefly to check on his home. He doesn't want to be identified, but tells me he is scared and doesn't trust the government when it tells him he is at low health risk.

"So much information has been flying around," he says. "Even if it is correct information, how can I know what to pick and trust?" His family has lived and farmed this land for 150 years, but the tradition may end here. This man is in his 30s. He wants to one day have children of his own, and he questions right now ever coming back.

"I might have to face a moment when I must choose my age, such as my father staying here while I live far away to be able to have a family."

Just on the edge of the exclusion zone, Buddhist monk Shinkoh Ishikawa is giving comfort to those whose lives have been turned upside-down. Inside his temple, he chants near the cremated remains of those killed in the earthquake and tsunami.

"People here have been devastated," he says. "Now they live in fear of radiation." But he can offer them faith.

"Religion is not something distant. It stays next to you," he says. "It would be good if they understood that death is not the vanishing of one's life, but a he revolving step where lives meet again."

But the spirit of these people is being tested. These are lives of uncertainty and fear, of wondering when or if they will go home again.

Stan Grant, CNN, inside the Fukushima exclusion zone.


CROWLEY: Has President Obama made any mistakes during his first term in office? He was asked. You might be surprised by his answer.


CROWLEY: President Obama may be caught a little bit off guard when asked at yesterday's Facebook town hall meeting to assess his performance as commander in chief.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you had to do anything differently during your first four years, what would it be?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's only been two and a half, so I'm sure I'll make more mistakes in the next year and a half. But the journey will still be --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm only reading the questions.

OBAMA: The -- you know, there are all sorts of day-to-day issues where I say to myself, oh, you know, I didn't say that right or I didn't explain this clearly enough.


CROWLEY: A response somewhat reminiscent of then-President George W. Bush in 2004.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish you had given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.


CROWLEY: Now joining us at this moment to talk more about this in today's "Strategy Session," CNN political contributor and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. Also, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. He is a principal at The Raben Group.

OK. If I were a politician, I would have answers to two questions -- what do you read, what book are you reading now, and what mistake have you made? I don't get it. Why is he -- why was the president not prepared for this sort of question?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, at least he didn't say, "The mistake I make is I just care far too much about people."


CROWLEY: Exactly.

SIMMONS: You know, these guys don't --

CROWLEY: But they always say, "Oh, I said it wrong."

SIMMONS: Yes. They don't get to be president with small egos. I mean, we've seen this time and time again.

I can think of a couple things the president did wrong. He should have passed -- when the bank bailouts happened and they gave those bonuses out, he should have gone immediately to Wall Street reform. I think that would have helped him out a lot politically.

So, there's a lot of things that he could have done wrong, but you don't get the impression that the White House is really -- or at least the president is really thinking about that stuff right now.

CROWLEY: This is not -- there's -- maybe there's not enough time for introspection at the White House. How's that?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I think there's plenty of time for introspection. It's just hell being perfect.

I think the problem here is it is -- it never helps any politician to become disconnected from the people who chose him. And there's a certain arrogance and elitism that's beginning to come out of the Obama administration.

Last week, he said if you have -- if you're paying too much for gas, just drive less. You start connecting the dots, you get a president who is a list little disconnected from people who keep telling them you just don't appreciate --

CROWLEY: Did you think that of George Bush when George Bush should have said, oh, gee, I don't know?

CASTELLANOS: I think the difference is George Bush, certainly a hard-headed president. People respected his strength. They thought he add north star. He was guided by his principles.

I think Americans think Barack Obama is guided by Barack Obama in his faith in his own abilities.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, looking ahead to the election, because I want to move on to Libya, because, you know, we went in there and it was a mission that just felt like it wasn't going to take very long. And the U.S. went in, did a good first couple of days leading NATO, then they pulled back. Now we are back in with these unmanned drones.

Do you think if we are still flying a no-fly zone over Libya a year from now, that this is any kind of a political problem for President Obama?

SIMMONS: You know, I don't really think so. We have been flying drones into Pakistan for the last few years. Americans haven't seemed to pay that much attention about it.

If there aren't American troops on the ground, Americans dying in this conflict, I don't really see Americans having that big of an issue with the United States being in an ongoing conflict. That is the American side of the ledger.

On the foreign policy side of the ledger, I think there is a broader issue about American prestige. And the president did call for Mubarak (sic) to come out of -- to be out of office. So, you can't call for Mubarak (sic) to be out of office, then not do anything to get Mubarak (sic) out of office. So we've got to get that part of the equation.

CROWLEY: Are you talking about Gadhafi?

SIMMONS: I'm sorry, Gadhafi. Yes, I'm sorry.


CROWLEY: OK. I thought from one crisis to the other.

SIMMONS: Exactly.

CROWLEY: And would you agree with that?

CASTELLANOS: On this I will agree with Jamal that, you know, with so many domestic problems, economic problems, they're going to take priority for the next year, not foreign policy. So the president is going to look like he gets a pass on this. But it's a question of strength, and it could come home to roost for the president on gas prices. If the president is perceived as weak, if Donald Trump's argument is that, hey, he is not a strong presence advocating for lower gas prices for the U.S., then the weakness you see reflected abroad that, hey, we're going into Libya while we're coming out. We're going to get Gadhafi out, but that is really not our priority.

That kind of weakness could come home to roost.

SIMMONS: Other things said, the president is in an incredibly tough position. I mean, he is dealing with Japan, with earthquakes, a nuclear crisis. He is dealing with what happened in Egypt, he's dealing with Libya. And I think he has found a way in Libya to thread this needle that has the American forces in there to do what they can to help, but also keeps American troops off the ground, which I think the American public would really not want to see. So we have got to give him a little bit of credit for trying to handle a lot of these things at once.

CASTELLANOS: Well, maybe very little. I think he is like Captain Spaulding, Groucho Marx, in "Animal Crackers," who sang that great song, "Hello, I must be going. I came to say I cannot stay. I must be going."

I think we're seeing a very uncertain president. And you really don't know if he's committing more troops while he is committing less. What happened, all we do know is he made a commitment and then backed off of it, and now it seems to be going downhill.

CROWLEY: And he did say, Jamal, sort of opening this up, Gadhafi has to go. And so if he's still there -- and you already see Republicans kind of looking and saying this is not a strong president. I mean, even if it's not Donald Trump, which no one thinks it's is going to be, you know he is going to get hit for leadership because that's what being president is about.

Do you see him vulnerable?

SIMMONS: Of course it's always something a president has to be concerned about. But if you take a look at what this president has don't over the last two-and-a-half years, while he has been president, nobody has gone in stronger into places like Pakistan. He doubled down in Afghanistan.

I think the American public should rest assured that this is a president who is very comfortable being commander in chief. I think he understands what he needs do, and not only the impact that it has on the American public, but he has changed the perspective on America from all those around the world.

CROWLEY: Ten seconds.

CASTELLANOS: He says we have to stimulate the economy with more spending while we reduce the deficit. He is not going to take over car companies, but he does -- he spends a trillion more on health care to save us money. An uncertain president. He could be perceived as weak.

SIMMONS: And Republicans want to add $600,000 to Medicare and not tax the rich.

CROWLEY: OK. Next time.


CROWLEY: Alex Castellanos, Jamal Simmons, thank you both.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

CROWLEY: We are learning more about the U.S. military's use of armed drones in Libya, along with possible new plans for NATO in the near future.

Plus, the owners of the L.A. Dodgers lose custody of the team as they duke it now in a bitter divorce.

And your iPhone is tracking your every move. Find out how to get the information and who could use it against you.


CROWLEY: Jack joins us again now with the answer part of "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question, Candy, this hour is: Which will cause the Republicans more trouble next year, the Democrats or the Tea Party?

Joe writes, "The Tea Party. They will drive the nomination to some extreme reactionary who will prove unelectable in the general election. The Democrats will continue to try to throw away the presidency but they won't succeed."

Steve in Virginia, "The GOP, like the Democrats, are their own worst enemy. Both parties try to cater to all the elements within their parties and they end up divided, confused, indecisive, undecided, and not necessarily standing for anything that the country can collectively rally around."

Amber in Texas, "The biggest problem for the GOP? Pick one: Sarah, Donald, Newt, Mitt, Michele, Mike, Haley. Not an ounce of presidential material in any of them."

Iris in California, "The Tea Party will give the Republicans nothing but trouble. The same thing will happen with the presidential election that happened to Meg Whitman, who ran for governor here in California. She had to go farther and farther to the right in order to get the nomination, then had to backtrack on most of what she said in the primary to get the moderate Independents to vote for her in the general election. It didn't work."

Jeff in Georgia writes, "Yes, that evil Tea Party wants the government to operate within a budget, wants to lower taxes, limit the overreaching power of the feds. As the Democratic New York Senator Chuck Schumer said, 'That's just too extreme.'"

Steve in Florida, "Tea Party for sure. They force any Republican into such a far-right corner, that it will be impossible for them to move anywhere near the center to win the general election. By the way, this couldn't make me happier."

And Rich in Texas writes, "If people listened to what the Tea Party is saying and not just the Democrats' talking points, I think they would be amazed at how much they agree with them. I know you agree with the Tea Party, Jack. You just don't have the guts to admit it because of CNN's liberal bias."

If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog, -- Candy.

CROWLEY: So, Jack, do you ever write any of these people back?

CAFFERTY: Absolutely not. You don't communicate with folks like this. They are dangerous. No, I don't.


CROWLEY: Thank you. Thanks, Jack. Talk to you next hour.

The U.S. and its allies are getting more aggressive in their fight to stop Moammar Gadhafi's forces. Why NATO is now warning people in Libya.

And it's being called a black eye on baseball, the bitter divorce that's forced the league to take control of the L.A. Dodgers.


CROWLEY: A marriage crumbles, leaving a Major League Baseball team in limbo. A lot of strong reaction today to the league's takeover of the Los Angeles Dodgers while the team's owners battle in a bitter divorce.

Here's CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An emotional day for longtime Dodger fans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a hot story tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boy, was this a shocker.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was unprecedented news in the world of Major League Baseball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Major League Baseball taking over the Dodgers.

GUTIERREZ: Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced late Wednesday the league was taking control of the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers, turning the team's current owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, into silent partners.

TYE GONSER, SPORTS ATTORNEY: My first reaction was "Wow," not because that action was taken, but because of how far it had to come to get to that point. Baseball is an institution that likes to be private and confidential and handle these types of matters behind closed doors.

GUTIERREZ: But sports attorney Tye Gonser says there was little discretion when it came to the McCourts' messy and scandalous divorce battles, where allegations of infidelity and financial mismanagement became public fodder.

GONSER: Dodger revenue was used for the McCourts' personal expenses. And that does not make baseball or Commissioner Selig happy. It is a black eye for baseball. The McCourts, the way they have run this organization, they have basically taken one of the most storied franchises in sports history and they have almost reduced it to, like, a Hollywood reality show atmosphere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of Los Angeles can come together.

GUTIERREZ: The past few weeks have been rough for the McCourts. On opening day, a Giants fan was severely beaten in the parking lot. And to make his team's payroll, McCourt had to borrow $30 million from Fox Network.

Jamie McCourt, who was the team's president until her husband fired her in 2009, issued a statement saying, "As the 50-percent owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I welcome and support the commissioner's actions."

Not surprisingly, her soon-to-be ex-husband, Frank McCourt, disagreed and issued his statement saying, "Major League Baseball sets strict financial guidelines which all 30 teams must follow. The Dodgers are in compliance with these guidelines. On this basis, it's hard to understand the commissioner's actions."

Perhaps. But according to Gonser, when McCourt bought the Dodgers, he was bound to the league's constitution which allows the commissioner to police ownership, giving Selig the authority to appoint a representative from his office to oversee the finances and day-to-day operations of the franchise.


CROWLEY: Thelma Gutierrez joins us now live from Dodgers Stadium.

Thelma, what's next for the Dodgers? Is there any idea of who's going to take over in the interim?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, a good question, Candy. Right now lots of names are being floated around.

And here is a blast from the past -- Peter O'Malley, former owner of the Dodgers. Now, he told reporters that he was interested in stepping into the job during the transitional phase until a new owner can come up to the plate. But he says he's not interested in becoming an owner again.

And Candy, you really can't write off Frank McCourt. The people that know him say it's way too soon. He hasn't tipped his hand as to what he's going to do next. So there may be another legal challenge -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thelma, has any of this had an effect on the box office? I mean, it seems to me this is -- you had the beating of the fan, obviously, which was horrific. And now all of this.

Is it is showing up in the attendance?

GUTIERREZ: Yes. As a matter of fact, Candy, attendance is down. It went from the mid-20,000 range, down to, like, 17,000 season tickets that were sold this year. So they are definitely having a challenging time.

And, you know, you talk to people who are out here, there's no question that fans say the drama that has surrounded the Dodger team, the divorce, this horrible beating that happened, I mean, this is not good news for the Dodgers. And so they are saying that this is exactly perhaps what the Dodgers need to bring some integrity, they say, back to the organization and to the franchise.

CROWLEY: Thelma Gutierrez in L.A. for us.

Thank you.