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THE SITUATION ROOM
Moammar Gadhafi Defiant; President Obama Ignoring Economic Advisers?
Aired June 7, 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, to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Libya's capital rocked by dozens of explosions. But as NATO bombs hit his compound, Moammar Gadhafi vows not to surrender. We are going to Libya, both parts of it.
Also, one by one, key members of the president's economic team have headed for the exit. As the economy falters, what's behind the latest departure. Is the president ignoring his economic advisers? What's going on.
And he has lived the American dream, growing up poor, rising to become a corporate executive. But can he make the presidential election his first election victory? I will speak live this hour with Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with new information on Congressman Anthony Weiner's political future. It's up in the air right now one day after an Internet sex scandal blew wide open, with the married New York Democrat admitting to inappropriate online exchanges with multiple women.
But even as fellow Democrats press for an ethics investigation, Weiner says he's not going anywhere.
Listen to this exclusive exchange he had with CNN producer Adam Reiss just a little while ago as Weiner returned to his home in Queens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Nothing new today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
QUESTION: Congressman Cantor has called for your resignation, official call for your resignation. How do you feel about that?
WEINER: He is entitled to his viewpoint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Careful.
QUESTION: Would you consider it?
WEINER: I'm not resigning, no.
WEINER: Excuse me, guys.
QUESTION: How did you feel when you woke up this morning?
WEINER: Thanks, guys. Appreciate your patience.
QUESTION: How did you feel when you woke up this morning?
WEINER: Got to let that close. It's the rules of the apartment building.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how you felt when you woke up?
WEINER: Sure. Of course. That's not necessary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anthony, go in. Go in. Tell them to leave you alone. Go inside.
WEINER: OK. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Getting some advice from a neighbor in the process as well.
Let's go to work.
CNN's Mary Snow has been speaking with some of Weiner's constituents in Queens and Brooklyn.
Mary, what are they saying to you about this scandal?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, while Congressman Weiner doesn't have much to say today, as you just heard from that one neighbor and other constituents, there is plenty of to say among constituents in this home district, a district that not only covers Queens, where we are, but also parts of Brooklyn.
SNOW (voice-over): A handwritten note left outside Congressman Anthony Weiner's Brooklyn office is clear in its message: "Resign." It comes one day after Weiner admitted having inappropriate relationships online with about six women over a three-year period.
WEINER: I wasn't telling the truth. I had done something that was dishonorable. I had lied.
SNOW: At El Greco Diner, there was only one subject on the menu.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He should resign. I definitely won't vote for the man no more. I look at him as different -- like a different person now. He's not the same.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He made a mistake. He is a human being that made a mistake. That's the way I feel. I would definitely vote for him again.
SNOW: Litmus Kwie (ph), a Republican, says several politicians have set a low bar of expectations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Realistically, I think he will survive this. So why should he resign? But, like, morally, I think he should.
SNOW: Weiner has served in New York's Ninth District for 13 years and has long had his eye on City Hall, raising $5 million for a potential 2013 mayoral race. But former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch says that's now out of the question.
ED KOCH, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: While I believe he has no chance of becoming mayor, I do believe that his constituents could ultimately accept him if he shows sufficient contrition.
SNOW: But close to Weiner's home in Queens, constituents are still reeling from his stunning admissions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is just a sad thing. It's -- you know, the neighborhood loves him, I'm sure. And it is just a shocking thing that he did.
SNOW (on camera): Do you think he should resign?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is hard to say.
SNOW: So what was your opinion of him before yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought he was awesome.
SNOW: You thought he was awesome before yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.
SNOW: And now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Disgusted. Who does that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he should resign, but -- and take some time and deal with what's happened, and then after that, you know, come back.
SNOW: And, Wolf, some of the constituents say that they worry that yesterday's revelations may just be the tip of the iceberg. And they say they worry, while he is hunkered down here in Queens at home, they are concerned that there may be more damaging revelations coming forward.
BLITZER: The New York tabloids, "The New York Post," "The New York Daily News," Mary, as you know, they are having a field day with this story. And I suspect a lot more of those e-mails, those pictures, they are going to be released. That will put enormous pressure on him to step down.
What are the folks there saying about this?
SNOW: There are some people here who are just saying that they don't see how he can survive this. He has been popular in this district. The last time he ran for election in 2010, he won something like 61 percent of the vote here.
And people that you talk to are genuinely sad about it. There are some who say, yes, he can weather the storm, that there have been other politicians who have gotten through and survived scandal. But there are some -- an increasing number who say that they don't think that he can survive this.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.
And, by the way, his district may disappear. New York State is losing two congressional districts in 2012, one in the city, in New York City, one in Upstate. So, that district in Queens and Brooklyn might just go away and then he would be out of a job for sure if that were to happen.
We are also learning more about some of the women Weiner corresponded with.
Lisa Sylvester is checking this out for us.
Lisa, what are you finding out?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first off, Wolf, Representative Weiner, he is still insisting that he's not resigning. But the story isn't going away. And we are learning new details about the online relationships Weiner had with several women.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): By his own admission, Representative Anthony Weiner exchanged racy message with a number of women.
WEINER: In addition, over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and occasionally on the phone with women I have met online. I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.
SYLVESTER: Who the six women he was referring to remains somewhat a mystery. But we are learning more about several women in Weiner's world. The congressman confirmed Meagan Broussard was one of the six women who he had an online risque flirtation with. He sent this now infamous picture to her. She told ABC News she was surprised at how open and willing he was.
MEAGAN BROUSSARD, HAD ONLINE RELATIONSHIP WITH WEINER: I was -- I mean, I just didn't understand why he wanted to talk to me so much. And I -- even in our exchanges, I did say, like, why are you so open, things of that nature, so it was not like I was chasing him at all.
SYLVESTER: Weiner also had porn star Ginger Lee as a fan. She tweeted March 13, "You know it is a good day when you wake up to a D.M." -- direct message -- "from Representative Weiner. I'm a fangirl, y'all. He's my trifecta of win."
There's also 21-year-old Gennette Cordova, a college student, who insists she was not among the six women Weiner referred to. But it was Weiner's accidental tweet to her that set the story in motion. We tried repeatedly contacting Weiner's office, but calls were not returned.
SYLVESTER: The one question in all of this is, did Representative Weiner use congressional resources while he was tweeting and e-mailing? Now, he insists, he is saying that he used his personal BlackBerry. but there are still a lot of ethical and legal questions, Wolf, that have now been raised.
BLITZER: And there is going to be a full-scale House Ethics Committee investigation. We will see what comes up there, see if he even withstands that. Thanks very much. The pressure on him enormous.
Another New Yorker is speaking out about Congressman Anthony Weiner. We are talking about Donald Trump. As usual, Trump is not mincing any words. Look what Donald Trump posted on his YouTube channel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: Many people have been asking me about Anthony Weiner, the congressman from New York who had big ambitions and wanted to run for the mayor of New York City.
The fact is, I know him very well. He called me all the time looking for campaign contributions, and would never stop. He would give me all sorts of phone numbers. Fortunately, I don't think I ever called them.
The fact is, Anthony Weiner is a bad guy. He is a psycho. And when this came out, I was not surprised at all. I would watch him in interviews. I would watch him on television. I would hear what he had to say. And you could see he was like a boiler ready to explode.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Donald Trump not mincing any words.
Let's go to Jack. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you may think that's enough about Anthony Weiner, but you would be wrong.
It took the congressman, Anthony Weiner, more than a week to admit that he lied about sending these pictures of himself to this college kid out in Seattle and that he's carried on an inappropriate online exchange with a total of six women.
But it only took a few minutes during that news conference to tell us all that he is not going to resign. He should. House Minority Leader and fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi announced there will be an ethics investigation, not that those ever mean much. Ask Charlie Rangel.
An ethics investigation into whether Weiner used government resources to send the message or broke other ethics rules. If lying is considered unethical, I would hardly think an investigation is necessary.
That's the crux of this whole thing. It ain't the pictures and the e-mails. Not only did he send that sleazy stuff, which is fairly sick in and of itself, but he lied about it. He lied about it over and over and over again. He sat down over a period of days with countless reporters and members of the media and lied and lied and lied again.
And that would lead one to wonder, what else does he lie about? How can his constituents or anyone else, for that matter, trust anything he says from this point forward?
Weiner said in a statement he will welcome and fully cooperate with an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. Nancy Pelosi has not asked Weiner to step down, as she did when the Ethics Committee launched a similar probe into former Congressman Chris Lee, a married Republican who got caught trying to meet a woman over Craigslist last year.
But, then, Nancy Pelosi's also had a fairly convenient set of double standards. And the phrase Ethics Committee, well, when it comes to members of Congress, more often than not, that's just an oxymoron.
Here is the question. Should Congressman Anthony Weiner resign?
Here is the answer. You bet your fern.
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and agree or not -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm anxious to hear what our viewers think. I'm going to have my two cents on all of this later this hour as well, Jack.
CAFFERTY: That's enough of this now for now, though.
BLITZER: For now. We have got other important news we are following.
Jack, thank you.
President Obama says Moammar Gadhafi's forces are being pushed back and incapacitated. But is that really the case on the ground in Libya? We are going live to war-torn Misrata.
Plus, my interview, live interview coming up this hour with Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. What's the number-one thing he would do right now to fix the economy? He's a rising star among the GOP field. He is joining us this hour. Stand by.
BLITZER: These are pictures that just occurred only a few moments ago. You see Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, arriving on the North Portico at the White House for the state dinner the president and first lady are hosting in her honor. It's going to be in the Rose Garden outdoors. A little hot here in Washington, but it will celebrate the U.S./German relationship. We are watching it closely. And we will check in periodically to see what's going on.
But there's other serious news we are reporting on, including what they discussed during their meetings in the Oval Office today, the situation in Libya. Dozens of explosions rocked the Libyan capital today, as NATO aircraft pounded key targets in Tripoli, including the compound of Moammar Gadhafi.
In the middle of the bombardment, the Libyan leader called state television, vowing he would never surrender.
We have two reports from Libya.
CNN's Sara Sidner is standing by in the embattled city of Misrata.
But let's go to Tripoli first. CNN's Dan Rivers has the latest there.
What's the latest, Dan?
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has been a day of intense airstrikes here, Wolf, the most intense since this air campaign began by NATO. We have counted upwards of 50 explosions that have echoed out across the city.
There have been numerous responses from anti-aircraft guns here and people firing pretty much anything they have got. It sounds like small-arms fire as well that is continuing right now. Colonel Gadhafi, though, himself has gone on state television. We're not sure if it was a live broadcast or recorded. But he remains, as his spokesman did, defiant as ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We will not surrender. We will not give up. We have one option, our country. We will remain in it until the end. Dead, alive, victorious, it does not matter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today has been one of the most horrific days of attack on our nation. The forces of evil attacked with full power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: The regime here says that 31 people died as a result of today's strikes, including some civilians. They say 60 rockets hit the Libyan capital. It is very difficult for us to independently confirm that, because, frankly, the rockets have been coming in so regularly, we have been unable to get out safely today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Just be careful over there, Dan -- Dan Rivers reporting for us out from Tripoli.
While Gadhafi's capital takes a pounding, has NATO been doing enough to ease the pressure on the rebels and the Libyan population?
Listen to the president earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our goal there was to protect the Libyan people from a potential slaughter. We have done so. Benghazi is free from threat of the Libyan regime right now. They are hunkered down.
Misrata, which was under severe attack, is now in a situation where, although still threatened, Gadhafi's forces have been pushed back.
And that -- so what you're seeing across the country is an inexorable trend of the regime forces being pushed back, being incapacitated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Sara Sidner is in Misrata right now.
It is a pretty serious situation. What do we know about the latest in Misrata? Give us an update, Sara.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here is what we can tell you.
You will notice that the city behind me is almost in complete darkness. And that's partly because Gadhafi forces were able to hit the main electrical supply to the city less than 24 hours ago.
We headed to the front lines less than 24 hours ago. We headed to two front lines. There are three surrounding the city, on those two front lines, absolutely fierce fighting. The rebels were being hammered by Gadhafi forces who were trying to push forward.
But the rebels say they were able to get a handle on it, they were able actually to push them back about three kilometers. And now things have been pretty quiet today. And that's because the rebels say they are now preparing a new front line, trying to dig ditches to try to hunker down just three kilometers closer to the west, closer to a place called Glaten (ph), which is an important city, because it houses a naval base nearby that's obviously used by Moammar Gadhafi. And then obviously beyond that is Tripoli -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Sidner on the scene for us.
This is a fluid situation. We are watching it closely. We will check back with both Sara and Dan Rivers later.
There's new word on the condition of Yemen's president, who is in Saudi Arabia after being wounded at his compound last week. A U.S. official says President Ali Abdullah Saleh has burns over 40 percent of his body and a collapsed lung.
An Arab diplomatic source says shrapnel wounds nearly three inches deep as well. Saleh was under intense pressure on step down. It's not clear if he will ever be able to return to Yemen, the conflict there raging on. Tribal fighters today took control of a key city. Yemen is also the base for al Qaeda's Arabia affiliate. The U.S. official says the unrest complicates counterterrorism efforts, to put it mildly.
He's a former business executive, but Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has never been elected to office. So, what qualifies him to be commander in chief of the United States? I will ask him. He is standing by live.
Plus, President Obama loses another top economic adviser. Why? What does it say about the economic recovery?
Stand by for that as well.
BLITZER: We are just learning about a very disturbing story coming out of Texas.
Lisa Sylvester has that.
What are we learning about this?
SYLVESTER: Oh. Well, this information is coming to us from our affiliate KPRC Local 2.
They are reporting that 25 to 30 bodies have been found. And they are saying at this point, at least preliminarily, that the bodies appear to be the bodies of children. This is in Liberty County, Texas. The FBI has now been brought in and is now investigating this case.
BLITZER: I know we're going to stay on top of that story in Texas as well, get some more information. Let us know when you get it. Thanks very much.
He has gone from rags to riches. Can he now become president of the United States? I will speak live with Republican candidate Herman Cain. He is standing by right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: He certainly lived the American dream -- growing up poor, rising to become a corporate executive -- but he's never actually won an election. So can he somehow go from rags to riches to the presidency? Let's discuss with Republican candidate Herman Cain.
Mr. Cain, thanks very much for coming in.
HERMAN CAIN (R), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Wolf. My pleasure.
BLITZER: You've never been elected to any office, so what qualifies you to become president of the United States?
CAIN: Business skills. I happen to believe that the business skills that I have developed and been successful in business over 40 years need to go to the White House and to Washington, D.C.
And it starts, Wolf, with making sure you are working on the right problem, set the right priorities, surround yourself with good people, great people, and make sure you put together the right plans.
And then this is the most important part. Engage the American public in the -- in the solutions that you are trying to get passed. If we do that, I believe that we can address many of the crises that I think this country is facing.
BLITZER: What qualifies you to be president of the United States more than, shall we say, Sarah Palin, who spent two years as governor of Alaska?
CAIN: I have spent more time running businesses, fixing stuff, turning around businesses, saving a business from bankruptcy, and I ran the second largest employer in the country. It's called the National Restaurant Association, with a very diverse constituency of members.
So it's my problem-solving skills and my leadership skills that have been apparent throughout my career, and I've had a lot more experience than a lot of the other candidates.
BLITZER: Well, we met the other day on the Delta shuttle between Washington and New York.
BLITZER: You gave me your common sense solutions, "The People's Platform." Your little brochure outlining in specific detail a lot of what you want to do to help this economy, to help the country. I read it all. I didn't see any really strong positions either way on some of the social issues like abortion rights for women.
BLITZER: Is that deliberate? Or was that just an omission?
CAIN: It was an omission. It wasn't -- it wasn't deliberate. I am pro-life from conception. I believe in traditional marriage. And those things I can cover very quickly. It wasn't intended to be an entire agenda of all of my beliefs. I wanted to primarily identify what I consider to be the top critical issues that we face.
This economy is still stagnant. I have a two-phase plan that I have in the booklet. That and using a lot of common sense approaches. We have three cold critical top issues right after national security. One being boosting this economy. This is -- economy is not turned around.
We have also got to do something about restructuring entitlement programs. We can't just keep shuffling it around or trimming around the edges.
And then third cold critical is energy. We are in an energy crisis, Wolf. Because it's not only an economic issue. It's also a national security issue.
BLITZER: So let me just be precise. When it comes to abortion you oppose abortion rights for women? Is that correct?
CAIN: I am pro-life from conception.
BLITZER: All right. What about gay marriage. Should Americans who are gay be allowed to get married?
CAIN: I believe that that is -- that is a decision that should be made by individual states. I support traditional marriage.
BLITZER: Do you support civil unions for gays?
CAIN: I support traditional marriage.
BLITZER: So you oppose the civil unions?
CAIN: I support traditional marriage. Let's move on, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about gun control. Do you support any gun control?
CAIN: I support the Second Amendment. BLITZER: So you don't -- so what's the answer on gun control?
CAIN: The answer on gun control is I support strong -- strongly support the Second Amendment. I don't support, you know, onerous legislation that's going to restrict people's rights in order to be able to protect themselves as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
BLITZER: Should states or local governments be allowed to control the gun situation? Or should...
BLITZER: The answer is yes?
CAIN: The answer is yes. That should be a state's decision.
BLITZER: What's your No. 1 problem with President Obama right now?
CAIN: Lack of leadership. He has not surrounded himself with the right people. And as a result, we have seen failed economic policies because if the -- the fact that these policies failed and now four of his top five economic advisers, and most recently Austan Goolsbee has also resigned. He likes surrounding himself with the right [SIC] people and as a result has had some plans that did not work.
He has spent, along with the Congress nearly a trillion dollars, and this economy still has an anemic growth rate of 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter. Unemployment is still high. And we are not going to be able to just sit back and hope that it changes over the next two years unless he does something like lower taxes and remove regulations.
Lack of leadership on those critical issues, particularly the economy, is my No. 1 problem with what the president is doing.
BLITZER: Has the president done anything right since taking office?
CAIN: Wolf, relative to the critical issues that this country faces, I would have to honestly say no. On some little things, he probably has done some things right. But this is not what the American people are looking for.
He did do the right thing in giving the decision on bin Laden. That was the correct decision, in my opinion, but that whole plan started back during the Bush administration. So I commend him for making that decision.
BLITZER: Is it time for the president to ask Bashar al-Assad to step down?
CAIN: Yes, it is. But I don't think it's going to do any good. Because I believe that he has made up his mind that he is going to fight his own people until the bitter end. So I don't think that the president -- or President Obama asking him to do that was going to do any good at all.
BLITZER: If you were president of the United States right now, what would you do about the slaughter that's going on in Syria?
CAIN: Unfortunately, Wolf, we cannot appoint ourselves policemen for the world, No. 1.
And No. 2, I don't know what type of dialogue went on between the rebels in Syria and the United States intelligence sources. So the fact that it is unfortunate and it is inhumane, I don't have enough intelligence information to say exactly what I could do, because I haven't been given that information. It's unfortunate, but we cannot be the policemen for the world.
BLITZER: I remember an exchange you had when I was CNN's White House correspondent back in 1994. We've got the clip.
BLITZER: The president of the United States, Bill Clinton, and a younger Herman Cain talking about health-care reform which was priority -- a major priority for President Clinton. I'm going to play the clip right now, Mr. Cain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: We can't afford it. My bottom line net profit for the last two years was less than 1.5 percent of my top line sales. When we calculate the cost just for my company, under your plan, it equates to three times what my bottom line profitability is.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why wouldn't you all be able to raise the price of pizza 2 percent? I'm a satisfied customer. I'd keep buying from you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: This is when you were CEO of a major pizza company...
BLITZER: ... Godfather's out there. You remember that incident?
CAIN: I remember that incident. It was when he was trying to pass -- they called it Hillary care. And just like Obama care, the numbers simply do not work. And I basically called the president out on that.
I acted as the catalyst for people to start reading fine print in order to see how bad that was. And you heard the president say, "What, just raise the price of your pizza." It doesn't work that way in business. The consumer decides how much you can charge for your product. And the president or anybody else, they cannot dictate raising your prices just to cover a new bureaucratic program that he's interested in placing on the American people.
The same with Obama care. Except Obama care is worse. It not only is something that American businesses cannot afford to do the way that they are asking us to do it; it builds a huge new big bureaucracy that takes over 1/6 of our economy. And the American people, Wolf, they simply don't think that that is the right solution. There are better solutions out there. Patient-centered and market-driven ideas are being overlooked. And it was all overlooked with Obama care.
BLITZER: We're going to continue our conversation. We're looking forward to seeing you at our CNN debate in New Hampshire next Monday night. Herman Cain, thanks very much for coming in.
CAIN: I'll be there. Thanks a lot, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. Herman Cain wants to be president of the United States.
All right. Let's get some more on that breaking news. A horrific story coming out of Texas right now. A lot of bodies have been found in a grave, including a lot of children. Lisa Sylvester has got an update for us. What do we know, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is looking to be a very troubling and chilling story. CNN has now confirmed that at least -- at least -- 20 bodies have been found in a home in Hardin, Texas. And we are being told that it includes -- that there are children involved.
Officials obtained a search warrant to search that property, and the FBI has been called in. But at this point what we know, Wolf, at least 20 bodies have been found involving children at this home in Hardin, Texas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Full story. All right. We'll stay on top of it, Lisa. Thanks very much.
Other news we're following, including a new White House shake-up on President Obama's economic team, coming in a rather critical moment in the recovery. Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is standing by for that.
And it's not the raciest picture Congressman Weiner sent, but it may be the one that caught the most people by surprise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not concerned about a double dip recession. I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we're on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to -- to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: President of the United States speaking earlier today. Yet another member, though, of his economic team is heading for the exit. This time it's the chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, who will return to the University of Chicago.
The announcement comes amid signs of a slowing economic recovery. Goolsbee was part of the White House team that swept into office back in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis. But he leaves less than a year after his predecessor, Christina Romer. She served for just a year and a half. Budget director Peter Orszag also left last summer. Economic adviser Larry Summers left last December. Jared Bernstein, a top economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden left just a few weeks ago.
Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is joining us now with more on what's going on. It's pretty dramatic, all these economic advisers getting out of the White House so quickly relatively speaking. What's going on there?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I had a chance to speak to Austan Goolsbee this afternoon, Wolf. And I think one of the things that troubled him about some of the interpretations is that he's somehow jumping ship.
And as he recalled for me, he and I had a conversation many months ago in which he was asking how does one gracefully and graciously leave the White House? He had to leave before the end of next year. And I told him at the time, "Look, there are windows when you can leave, and that window shuts as you get into an election campaign. If you're planning to leave, you need to leave before the election campaign gets under way.
Seriously, he talked to a number of others and came to the conclusion he really needed to get back by this September. And he'd reached a deal with an agreement with the president of the University of Chicago. What had -- what was unexpected was that that deal he'd hoped to announce this in August.
I don't think it's fair to say that he's jumping ship. I do think this leaves another void in the team around the president.
BLITZER: Here is -- looks like so many people who came in with him obviously Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary, is still there. So many others have abandoned the White House at a critically important moment.
GERGEN: Well, I can -- it does leave that appearance, Wolf. I would point out that, on the national security team, they've had several people who have left. Jones as head of the NSC. Secretary Gates is now leaving. Admiral Mullen has left. Hillary Clinton has signaled that she is going to leave at the end of the term.
You know, so you do have turnover, as you well know, in these high-powered jobs. And with this particular team, of course, they inherited such a mess. It was -- it was 24/7. It was a burnout job for these folks along the way. I also think, Wolf, that in this -- in this case, there is a sense in the White House that they've got most of their economic policies in place. Now, you and I may think they may have to -- you know, if this economy really continues to slow down, they're going to need policies by this fall.
But I think right now they think that they've done most of what they're going to do for the economy, and there may be a little touch- up here and there. But they don't foresee major legislation going through, other than the debt limit and possibly some sort of -- you know, some sort of agreement on reducing deficits over the long term.
BLITZER: If you were president of the United States right now, if you were advising the president, David, would you advise the president to bring in a chief economic adviser from the academic world or from big business?
GERGEN: That's a really good question. I think the president needs one more person of real stature around him to get through the next months. And if it's going to be -- I think the stature question is the most important. Someone that is respected, not only in the academy as a good public intellectual, but is respected by the business community. Because they still haven't really healed those rifts.
And if we're -- if we have a -- a really bumpy ride here in the next few months, as we may well, then I think that -- I think it would increase the confidence if the president had another person of real stature. An unknown academic, frankly, does not fill that bill.
BLITZER: He does have a very, very smart guy in Gene Sperling, the head of...
GERGEN: He does.
BLITZER: ... his National Economic Council, who worked in the Clinton administration and knows how to deal with these kinds of issues. So he's lucky to have him. We'll see who he brings in to replace Austan Goolsbee.
GERGEN: I think that's right. He gets credit for actually bringing a very harmonious team, as well. Isn't it interesting, though, that Tim Geithner, everybody thought at the beginning. He's not going to last long. He's now the veteran of all of this and is lasting it out.
We'll see how long he lasts. All right. David, thanks very much.
Jack Cafferty is asking should Congressman Anthony Weiner simply resign? Your e-mails, that's coming up next.
And Jeanne Moos takes a closer look at one of the congressman's, shall we say, less controversial photos? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "Should Congressman Anthony Weiner resign?" Got a lot of mail.
Dave in Arizona: "Absolutely. Some people are saying the story's a waste of time, that it's just about pictures of a guy in his shirt and some underwear. That's not the story. The story is that our entire Congress is made up of these lying, scheming people who are supposed to represent us. He's now been exposed as dishonest and cannot be trusted for anything ever again."
Tom writes, "Let's take all the politics out of this and look at it for what it is. A member of Congress, political party being irrelevant, stood in front of America and repeatedly lied to us, not just once but day after day after day. In addition, the congressman chided and scolded those who dared to question his lie. He's a disgrace to his office, and he ought to have the decency to resign."
Gale in Texas writes, "Yes, Jack, he should. This is a really creepy story. It seems to get creepier by the moment. Sad, isn't it? To be so stupid that you risk everything for what is actually a perversion. I feel sorry for his wife."
Bill writes, "When someone says, 'I take full responsibility for my actions,' that means, 'I admit to the indiscretion, generally after being outed, and I apologize.' That is not full responsibility. If there are no consequences, then it's easy to accept full responsibility. Full responsibility means admission, apology, contrition, and facing the consequences. How about resigning because you let your constituents down and you are no longer effective. "
Tom in Louisiana, "Representative Weiner will never resign. The only way he'll leave is to be thrown out by the Congress, which will never happen, or not be re-elected, which is a possibility. Either way, he'll have to be dragged out, leaving fingernail marks only the floor."
And Bob in Cooperstown, New York: "Congressman Weiner is a dead man walking. He just doesn't realize it yet."
If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Good comments as usual, Jack. Thanks very much.
By the way, here's my take on all of this. We know politicians lie. Anthony Weiner is the latest example. He follows in the footsteps of so many others. But as a reporter who has covered Washington for more than 30 years, I must say this.
Most politicians, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are honest, hard-working public servants. Unfortunately, the highly publicized jerks get a lot of attention and, in the process, they smear the reputations of the others who are decent patriots.
These men and women work very hard for their constituents. They have to schlep back and forth to their districts in their states. They're gone from their families for long periods of time. Compared to the private sector, they don't make huge amounts of money. They always have to recognize that everything they do and say is closely scrutinized by an aggressive press corps, and now increasingly an exploding blogging and social networking world.
I admire these people who are willing to put up with that kind of life. Yes, they enjoy the power of being a senator, being a representative. Yes, they enjoy the perks that certainly come with the job. But I also know there are many downsides for them and their families.
So even while we report on the horrible blunders of an Anthony Weiner, let's not forget all the good men and women, most of his colleagues. They're doing the right thing. I admire these people who are willing to put up with reporters like me who are always prying and asking tough questions.
You can read my take, by the way, every day in our new blog, CNN -- CNN.com/SituationRoom. Anxious to hear what you think, as well.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right at the top of the hour. Stand by for that.
But up next, Jeanne Moos with what may be the most surprising Congressman Weiner picture of them all.
BLITZER: The latest picture to leak in the Congressman Anthony Weiner scandal may being the most surprising of them all. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fully clothed, we know Anthony Weiner as a nerdy, lanky congressman. But when his shirt dropped, so did jaws.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "COLBERT REPORT": The guy's may age, and he is totally cut.
JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": He's ripped.
CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, CBS'S "LATE, LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON": It was his chiseled torso. Do you see that? Look at that.
COLBERT: The man's in decent shape. It would be hard not to tweet a photo like that. That is why I have made the moral choice to let myself go.
MOOS: Even headless, folks were able to identify him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Weiner-gate man.
MOOS: But these days there are so many half-naked congressmen you'd be forgiven for getting them mixed up: from the Illinois representative with the six-pack abs on the cover of "Men's Health" to the Craigslist congressman who resigned after putting this picture online, to the Massachusetts senator who posed for "Cosmo" in his youth. And let's not forget Russia's Vladimir Putin, an aging Rambo who seems like he's always stripping.
But the naked truth can be disconcerting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This side looks weird. Why is it separated so much?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you think that that would be attractive with all these boobs hanging here and all that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm saying he's got a little bit of boobage.
KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST, ABC'S "LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY": When I first saw this photo, I was like, "Is that me?"
STEWART: That is some cleavage. That is -- can we zoom in on that by any chance? Is there any way to...
JAMES FRANCO, ACTOR: Please! I'm in the canyon! Help!
MOOS: It used to be we'd only seen naked congressmen in movies.
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: I'm a congressman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you kidding?
HANKS: No, I'm absolutely serious. I'm Charlie Wilson. I represent the Texas Second Congressional...
MOOS: But now they're staring up at us from newspapers in our laps or our laptops. Forget the politician's war chest; it's his chest hair being analyzed.
JEFF GARDERE, PSYCHOLOGIST: And it's a shaved chest ,which tells me that psychologically he was putting some real effort into trying to make this thing as sexual as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is he also, like, waxing himself all over? It seems oddly hairless.
MOOS: For some female anchors, Weiner's naked torso was too much for the naked eye.
KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, CO-HOST, NBC'S "THE TODAY SHOW": I think we all understand, you know...
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC'S "HE VIEW": I don't think we need to see all that.
ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": I do also think there is a -- there's a...
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": Take that off, please. I don't want to keep seeing that.
MOOS: Congressman Weiner got his guilt off his chest, leaving us with his chest and his drawers.
Jeanne Moos, CNN...
(on camera) Would you want this chest?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it could be a little tanner, maybe.
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. Here in the United States, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.