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Fund-Raiser in Chief; 'Pentagon Papers' Made Public; Dramatic First Pictures of Gabrielle Giffords; Syria Isn't the New Libya; Fleeing the Syrian Crackdown; Witness to Murder; Making Sure Everybody Can Get a Job; GOP Presidential Debate Preview; Weiner Scandal a Distraction?

Aired June 13, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, the top race for the White House takes center stage. The candidates gearing up to go head to head just three hours from now in CNN's first Republican presidential debate.

We're live here in New Hampshire with complete coverage and analysis.

Plus, President Obama joins a growing number of Democrats slamming the sex scandal surrounding New York congressman, Anthony Weiner, as a distraction. Should the embattled congressman be forced to resign?

And billions and billions of dollars airlifted by U.S. officials to Iraq go missing. Just ahead, the disturbing details of what authorities now believe happened to all that money.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We're live here at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire where last minute preparations are now underway for CNN's first Republican presidential debate. Less than three hours from now, six Republican candidates and one potential White House hopeful will formally square off.

Here are the contenders. The former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney -- he's considered the early frontrunner in this race.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who's expected to hit Romney hard on his controversial Massachusetts health care plan.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose stunning campaign implosion threw his entire candidacy into question.

Texas congressman, Ron Paul, making his third presidential bid.

Minnesota Congressman Michelle Bachmann, the Tea Party favorite, makes her debut tonight. She has yet to formally announce, but all signs are pointing to a presidential run.

Former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, among the least known of the seven. He's popular among social conservatives, opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

And Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, still a bit of a mystery to voters, but he is certainly beginning to gain some traction in the polls.

Joining me now with more on what's going on, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

Guys, thanks very much.

I want you to listen to what Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, said about Mitt Romney yesterday on TV.

Listen to this.


TIM PAWLENTY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you don't have to take my word for it. You can take President Obama's word for it. President Obama said that he designed ObamaCare after RomneyCare and basically made it ObamaCare. And so we now have the same features -- essentially the same features. The president's own words is that he patterned, in large measure, ObamaCare after what happened in Massachusetts. What I don't us is they both continue to defend it.


BLITZER: All right. It wasn't exactly a slam, but for Tim Pawlenty, who's a very...


BLITZER: -- sort of mild-mannered politician, it -- it was a -- a biting comment.

BORGER: Yes. Yes. I think it -- I think it was a slam at Mitt Romney. It's clear that Pawlenty has made a decision that he is going to take on Romney and try and make this a two man race. I'm not so sure that's a great idea. Actually, I think it's a little early on to try to and do that. Right now, Pawlenty is everybody's second choice. And maybe he ought to remain that for a while. He has to do it without being disliked. So we'll see how he does tonight.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But the knock on Pawlenty has been that he is very -- the word used is vanilla or doesn't stand out in a crowd. So if he -- he is in a position now where he's thrown out this catchy word. He doesn't have to be on the attack. He will be asked about it, no doubt, by somebody at some point. And he simply needs to respond now.

They -- many Republicans believe the key problem for a Romney candidacy, if he should be the nominee, is health care. So their argument is bring it out now, let the voters know what the issue is right at the beginning. BLITZER: Because unlike some other issues, Romney refuses to back away from his health care reform legislation that he got into law in Massachusetts.

BORGER: You know, Romney has some sense of...

BLITZER: Even though it includes a mandate, just like the federal program.

BORGER: Unlike a lot of these other candidates, Romney comes into this with a history. And his history, from the last campaign, is as a flip-flopper. So there was only so much backtracking he could do before that history would start repeating itself, right?

So in terms of health care reform, he had a decision to make. And he said, OK, I stood by my plan, but he said only for the state of Massachusetts. I would not have done it on a federal level.

That won't stop Tim Pawlenty n the others...

YELLIN: And his team knows this is coming up.


YELLIN: They're prepared to answer it tonight.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm always curious to see if these Republicans adhere to the old Ronald Reagan adage, the eleventh commandment, thou shall not speak ill...

BORGER: What's that?

BLITZER: -- of a fellow Republican. I guess maybe not tonight.

They will all speak ill of the president of the United States -- Gloria.


BLITZER: They're going to obviously...

BORGER: That's a given.

BLITZER: -- slam President Obama.

BORGER: That's the easy target. And, actually, they'll probably be a little softer on each other than they will months from now. You know, this -- this is the first time out of the box. But they will not -- they will not be soft on Barack Obama. They will be united in feeling that he has failed, as Mitt Romney says. I think that's a refrain we're going to hear over and over.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich has an enormous amount riding tonight, because his -- as we say, his campaign imploded over the past few weeks, especially last week, when, what, 20 of his top officials just simply quit in frustration of what he was doing. So he has to really shine tonight.

YELLIN: And it's an unusual challenge for Gingrich, because this is his natural forum. He's great in a debate because he's a good talker. He has passion and energy. He's good on ideas.

But what he has to convey is it's not just all show. I can run a machine. I can run a campaign. I can get people to work for me and stick with it. And that's a hard thing to do in a debate format. This is a bit of a debutante ball for these guys. They want to show everybody in the audience how great they can be and -- and how do you convey, I can lead an organization, when you're on the stage doing a show?

BORGER: The challenge for Newt Gingrich is to have people understand him and understand what he's saying. He's used to being the philosopher king. And he has to actually have a clear and concise message, with clear and concise ideas. And that really isn't his strong suit. So I think It will be interesting to see if he can speak directly to the American people and say these are the three things we need to do.

BLITZER: Yes. He's got a huge challenge.

All right, guys.

We're only beginning. We're going to have a lot more on what's at stake tonight in this debate.

Later tonight, Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary -- he's now a key official in the Obama reelection campaign -- he'll be here, as well. He's come to New Hampshire to make the Democratic position well-known against these Republicans.

There are a lot of Republicans here. There will be some Democrats, as well.


BLITZER: Don't go too far away.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where calls are getting louder and louder for New York congressman, Anthony Weiner, to resign amid that sex scandal. This, as the Web site, TMZ, published new, scantily clothed photos of the congressman believed to be in the House members' gym. The pictures were reportedly sent to one woman.

Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has been going through all of this.

She's got new information.

What's the latest -- Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest today is that the White House has weighed in for the first time. The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said that this was a distraction and that the president feels that Weiner's behavior was inappropriate and also his dishonesty was inappropriate. But he did not note and he did not -- he did not say and did not actually answer the question of whether or not Anthony Weiner should resign. He stopped short of that.

But, Wolf, certainly leaders here in Congress, Anthony Weiner's fellow Democratic leaders are not doing that. They dropped a hammer on him over the weekend. Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, the DNC chairwoman, who's also a member of Congress, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and others, in a coordinated message, stating publicly, saying, you've got to step down.

But still, a Democratic source who I spoke to after that said that even then, Weiner was saying that he's on the fence about whether or not he really is going to resign.

And, you know, Wolf, we've been reporting since last week that he was waiting to talk to his wife about whether or not that's the right thing to do. And the source I talked to said that he was even more specific. He said that he wants to look his wife in the eye before he decides whether or not to resign, because he has hurt her so much already.

Now, his wife, of course, is Huma Abedin, who works for and is traveling with Hillary Clinton. They've been traveling abroad. We understand that they could be back now as soon as tomorrow.

And, Wolf, we should also note that, of course, Anthony Weiner, over the weekend, got on a plane and checked himself into a treatment center. We don't know where that is or what specifically he is being treated for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At least according to the polls in his district, Dana, as you know, a lot of his constituents don't want him to resign.

So here's the question -- what can the House Democratic leadership do if he decides he's staying in the House of Representatives?

BASH: There's not a lot that they can really do. The -- you know, they were certainly hoping that when the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi -- who, by the way, has never, according to her aides, never called for one of her fellow Democrats to resign before -- they that that -- they hoped that that would do the trick.

What they can do is make life hard for him here and take some of his power away. They could potentially strip him of his committees. He sits on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. They could potentially have a vote inside the Democratic Caucus to kick -- kick him out of the Caucus. Those are just options. In fact, the Democratic leaders in the House are going to meet here in about 20 minutes for the first time in over a week. And they're, no doubt, going to be discussing this. And there will also be the first meeting in over a week of all House Democrats tomorrow morning, where this will absolutely come up, what they could potential do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Dana, about any signs that all of this is taking a physical, if not an emotional, toll on the congressman? Dana Bash you know, Wolf, I've spoken to several people who spoke to him directly over the past week and even more recently, at the end of last week and over the weekend. And I have been told that he was in a -- a sense of, quote, "despair." Another source I talked to said that he was turbulent, very, very emotional. I'm told that he really can't keep it together when he has conversations with his colleagues and with his friends.

As you can imagine, he is in a -- it is a very tough spot and that, you know, in the words of another source, he's kind of an emotional wreck right now.

BLITZER: All right, Dana.

Thanks very much.

I know you'll be all over this story for us.

Appreciate it very much.

President Obama is certainly feeling the heat when it comes to battling the ailing economy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not be satisfied until everyone who wants a good job that offers some security has a good job that offers security.


BLITZER: So just how vulnerable is the president with voters when it comes to issue number one?

Plus, escalating bloodshed and brutality in Syria. Just ahead, one man's desperate struggle to help countless civilians flee the violence.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here.

He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Wolf, President Obama was in Durham, North Carolina today meeting with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council, hoping to get some ideas from corporate leaders on how to boost the economy and create some jobs. now, there's an idea. He's going to need all the help he can get -- 9.1 percent unemployment right now. Things aren't looking so hot, particularly with the job situation so bleak for college-aged and college-educated young Americans. That's a demographic that widely supported President Obama in the 2008 election.

According to one study, the median starting salary for students graduating from four year colleges in 2009-2010, $27,000 a year. That is 10 percent lower than what those who entered the workforce between 2006 and 2008 earned.

A separate study found only about 45 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 are currently working a job that requires a college degree -- fewer than half. That number varies from major to major. Those who majored in education, teaching, engineering are much more likely to find a job with a college degree. And while engineering jobs are highly paid, education and teaching jobs have much lower earning potential.

Here's a sobering thought, half of the 54,000 jobs created in May in the latest jobs report -- McDonald's. All of this reigniting the debate over whether a college degree is really worth it in this economy. Over the past 20 years, tuition and fees of public universities have jumped 130 percent.

All the time, reel income for the middle class has actually declined. The latest figures showing median income for U.S. is $400 lower, middle income than it was in 1988. We hear a lot about dealing with a new normal in the wake of a great recession.

Choosing against a four-year college degree may be part of that new normal for some Americans. Here's the question -- has the value of a college degree changed in recent years? Go to and post a comment on my blog. Wolf --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Fair question, Jack. Thank you. Other news we're following, the call for the United States and other nations to intervene in Syria, they're growing louder right now.

The Syrian military's ruthless crackdown has crushed dissent in towns and villages near the Turkish border. Washington insists military action isn't on the table, at least not now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the U.S. pushing its allies to take some type of physical military action to stop what you're talking about and drum deed of abuses over the weeks?

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: What we've been clear about is that our effort remains diplomatic and economic. We have brought pressure to bear on Assad through these sanctions both the E.U. and here in the United States.

And the other aspect of this is that we are working through the U.N. Human Rights Commission so that he and his government will be held accountable for their actions. But, you know, speculating about military action, we're just not there yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Syria's military is showing no reluctance in its campaign against civilians. Amnesty International says Syrian soldiers are following what they describe as a scorched earth policy, emptying villages, driving civilians toward the borders.

Almost 7,000 refugees are now in camps. Many, many more are expected. CNN's Arwa Damon is joining us now from the Turkish side of the Syrian border with more. What are you seeing? What are you watching over there, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for the last few days, we've actually been watching the Turkish authorities putting up even more refugee camps. The flow coming across from Syria shows absolutely no sign of relenting.

And speaking to a lot of these refugees about their experiences, they quite simply say that they cannot put the horrors that they saw into words. But here's an example of what just one man witnessed.


DAMON (voice-over): A ride on his bike turned out to be this man's final journey. He was shot in the stomach in the coastal city of Latachia (ph) on his way to buy groceries for family. The circumstances of his death unknown and CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video.

But it is one of several clips that we were shown by a man who gave us only his first name, Mohammed. I witnessed this, he recalls. It was after the president's first speech to parliament, about 2-1/2 months ago.

A month later, Mohammed took his family and fled from his hometown, starting a long and risky journey that ended here, at this refugee camp just over the border in Turkey. Now Mohammed sneaks between Turkey and Syria.

I wanted to help the families that are crossing, he says, and the wounded and just to help the people on the border, to make a small difference. The Syrian side of the boarder is a small makeshift camp, close to an unofficial crossing.

Mohammed films people as they take their final step to safety. Capturing moments like this, a woman whaling, my children, my children. All the people are my children. Imploring God to save them. He shows us the dismal life inside the camp, people living in crude tents, washing in the small river.

Most of these people choose not to cross into Turkey because they were separated from family members in the chaos as they fled. They feel forced to stay there, Mohammed explained so they can keep getting news about Syria.

They're afraid that if they cross into Turkey, they'll be cut off, not knowing if their loved ones were killed or detained. There are wounded here, too, after clashes in a nearby town. This man came last Saturday, Mohammed tells us. He was wounded in the demonstrations. The bullet hit his leg.

He survived, but many others did not, as the military assault on the area intensified. The hardest times for me were at the border, Mohammed admits, when the wounded arrive and they are bleeding out and we see them die before the ambulance arrives. They die in our arms.

On both sides of the border, Syria's tragedy continues to play out.


DAMON: Wolf, there are growing concerns amongst a number of refugees we've been talking to that the bloodshed is only going to carry on.

And a number of residents have been telling us that they have been receiving reports that the Syrian military is inching even closer to the Turkish border.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon reporting for us. Arwa, thanks very much. We'll certainly check back with you.

Meanwhile, President Obama takes his push for jobs to a state with troubling high unemployment. But does he have what it takes to turn the economy around? Stand by.

Thousands of pages of once top secret reports on the Vietnam War released today for the first time inside the Pentagon papers. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Members of the GOP presidential field are getting ready to square off on the issues at CNN's first debate. Just about 2-1/2 hours from now and there's no doubt they're going to hold President Obama's feet to the fire on issue number one -- the economy.

Meanwhile, the president was in North Carolina today hoping to counter the blow. Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president and members of his jobs council are fighting to create more opportunities for unemployed Americans. But here in North Carolina, with the 2012 elections in mind, it's also about hanging on to a state that he barely won in 2008.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Korean Incorporated makes energy efficient LED lighting and is touted as a model of President Obama's green initiative aimed at boosting U.S. jobs.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You're putting people back to work in a field that has the potential to create an untold number of new jobs and new businesses right here in America and that's clean energy. LOTHIAN: But it's an uphill battle, despite promising to turn the economy around, the Obama administration is still dealing with high unemployment. And here in North Carolina, the rate is above the national average at 9.7 percent.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I wake up every single morning thinking about how can I make sure that anybody who wants to have a job is able to get a job.

LOTHIAN: In a "Wall Street Journal" opinion piece, two members of the president's jobs council, GE's Jeff Immelt and Ken Chenault of American Express wrote, the inescapable truth is that we have a persistent job challenge that demands an aggressive response.

Immelt travelled to North Carolina with the president with a group of private sector leaders proposing a basket of ideas such as career training and a focus on travel and tourism that they say can help create more than 1 million jobs.

JEFF IMMELT, CEO, GE: Our sense is that the private sector has to drive it, but we need to work with government to facilitate it.

LOTHIAN: Jobs are critical to the president's re-election hopes in 2012, especially in states like North Carolina where he won by less than 14,000 votes.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You look at just the direction of the economy. You look at the right track/wrong track, whether or not Americans feel the country is going in the right direction and the president has really bad record right now.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There are always going to be bumps on the road.

LOTHIAN: Referring to recent disappointing jobs numbers as a bump in the road fuelled more criticism and armed Republican opponents like Mitt Romney who just released this video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an American, not a bump in the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an American, not a bump in the road.


LOTHIAN: When President Obama won this state, it was the first such victory for a Democrat since 1976. Republicans will be battling to get it back by focussing on the economy in key battleground state, not only here but in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida where the president will be attending three fundraisers tonight. Wolf --

BLITZER: All right, Dan. Thank you. Dan is traveling with the president.

Let's get more now on issue number one, the economy. Joining us our senior political analyst, David Gergen. How does the president deal with this? I think it's fair to say his big problem is not necessarily these candidates at least not now who are debating. His big problem is the economy.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Wolf. And what's been dramatic is how much we've shifted our attention the last three or four weeks. We're talking in Washington only about deficits for a long time.

Now we've had the softening of the economy, these bad job numbers and suddenly jobs are back as the number one issue. I think it's going to be very tough for the president. You know, he calls it a bump in the road.

But Larry Summers, who is the most important economic adviser there in the White House for the first couple of years just came out with a major piece today saying there's got to be more action. There's got to be action now on creating more jobs or we could stumble into what Larry is calling a lost decade, what the Japanese experienced for 10 years, really low growth.

BLITZER: That would be depressing and politically speaking, the killing of Bin Laden seems almost like ancient history right now. But you know, look at these polls.

A recent CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, he referred to it, how are things going in the country today? Thirty nine percent think they're going well. Sixty percent think they're going badly.

That's an indicator for a president when so many people think things are going badly not necessarily voting well.

GERGEN: If you get under 40 percent on things going well, now it's down to 39 percent, that's pretty serious trouble. Sometimes you walk around and you wonder who are those 39 percent who think things are going so well?

There are an awful lot of Americans hurting here and I do think that the administration politically made a mistake by calling it a bump in the road. Now we talked about it a couple of weeks, it suggested a complacency about it. Well, everything will be fine, just hold on.

When, in fact, I think people hear more in New Hampshire tonight with this debate because the Republicans are going to roast him on that. I think people are starting to think about, can't you do something more here? Isn't there somebody more we can do?

BLITZER: Well, you know, they've tried that, a huge stimulus package. They've tried to do a lot. They cut some taxes, but it's still 9.1 percent unemployment.

GERGEN: It went up. So what Jeff Immelt was proposing and Ken Chenault in that article today was they were proposing smaller things, but especially in construction, especially around the environment, to go retrofit buildings, using construction crews to do that. You could give tax incentives and you could create jobs. Bill Clinton has been arguing that for a long time, as you know.

There are some things that one could do -- payroll tax relief might be another. But I think the pressure is really growing on the president.

He's got this debt ceiling coming at him really fast. He's got to get a deal with the Democrats on deficits --

BLITZER: With Republicans.

GERGEN: With Republicans on deficits, and with Democrats, too, actually.


GERGEN: But he's also got to do something about jobs. He can't just make this about deficits anymore.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Don't go too far away. I want to talk to you about something else as well.

The president spent the first part of the day today focussing in on jobs. But now he's in Florida, playing the role of fundraiser-in- chief. One event expected to get under way just minutes from now.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She has this part of the story for us.

He's trying to raise a ton of money out there, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He sure is here in the next little while, Wolf, because June 30th is the fund-raising deadline for this quarter. So what you're seeing is this really bring push to rake in the bucks, especially since the president is hoping to raise even more money than he did for his last presidential campaign.

Remember, he raised about $750 million. He's trying for more.

So we'll see three events tonight in Miami, two at private residences. One is going to be at a big performing arts center downtown. And the goal for a day like today is trying to bring in really hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Also, first lady Michelle Obama, Wolf, she's in Pasadena at a $1,000- a-plate luncheon that was just wrapping up a short time ago. So she's also in the mix, as is Joe Biden. You're going to continue to see this push in the next couple weeks.

BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, Brianna, at a time when we see some of the big donors from the last election not necessarily coming through, at least not yet, they are coming up, the Obama campaign, with some creative fund-raising.

Tell us about an event in New York next week.

KEILAR: Yes, this is kind of strange. You know, normally, a lot of donors, if they're going to a fund-raiser, they're kind of expecting the normal ballroom dinner, a catered meal in, a chance to listen to the president speak.

Well, President Obama is taking his fund-raising to Broadway. There's going to be this event. It's going to be on the 23rd, and Whoopi Goldberg will host it.

So instead of buying a meal, what donors will do is they will be purchasing tickets to "Sister Act," the musical. You'll remember that Whoopi Goldberg starred in the movie version. She's a producer for this. She supports the president.

So people will buy tickets to this event. Two hundred fifty dollars are the cheap seats, Wolf, which is significantly more than if you were going to see -- to see this musical. And for those, a Democratic source tells me, who are some willing to cough up $10,000, they'll get a chance to take a photo with the president.

So, yes, amid some of those concerns that maybe the donors that were there in 2008, some of them may not be there this cycle, getting a little creative for sure.

BLITZER: Yes. And if they're willing to cough up $35,000, they can have dinner with the president of the United States as well.

We'll be watching all of the fund-raising on the Democratic side, the Republican side as well.

But I want to bring back David Gergen to discuss this a little bit.

The last time around when he ran for president, he had Hillary Clinton and a whole bunch of Democrats challenging him for the party's nomination. In the end, he wound up raising, what, about $700 million for the primaries, the caucuses, and the general election against John McCain? Yet, this time, he has no Democrats challenging him, a general election, obviously, against one of these Republicans. But he's trying to raise $1 billion.

To some people, that sounds almost obscene. Why does he need $1 billion?

GERGEN: Well, Wolf, three, four, five weeks ago, I think all of us thought that it was obscene, and it seemed -- you know, you're not going to spend anywhere close to this kind of money, because it looked like he was frankly going to win with ease. But now, you know, his presidency is in more trouble today than it was six weeks ago. And he's more vulnerable.

That's why this debate becomes so important tonight. So maybe he does need $1 billion.

I can tell you, it's going to be a race, isn't it, for June 30th, to see which one? Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney, how their fund- raising comes out, because Romney, clearly by June 30th, when the first report comes out, wants to establish total dominance over the Republican field. But I would assume he's going to be behind the president. BLITZER: Yes. Well, you know, the president has no caucuses to worry about, no primaries to worry about. But he's still trying to raise a lot of money. I don't know which one of his campaign advisers put out that $1 billion figure, but I suspect --

GERGEN: I thought it was a mistake.

BLITZER: Yes, I think that was a mistake, too. I think a lot of the aides working for the president think it was a mistake as well, especially at a time of economic distress across the country.

GERGEN: Yes, exactly. Set it lower, and if it goes over, it goes over.

BLITZER: Well, $1 billion, they may want to do it, but you don't necessarily have to talk about it.

All right, David. Thanks very much.

David is going to be with us throughout the night here.

Meanwhile, world leaders keep saying Moammar Gadhafi's days are numbered, but he seems to be keeping his cool despite the strongly- worded threats.

And LeBron James made quite a few enemies when he took his talents to South Beach. One state in particular was overjoyed by his loss in the NBA finals.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including more pressure on the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

What's going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

Well, Hillary Clinton is urging African countries to reject the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. At a meeting of the African Union, the secretary of state said nations should work closer with the opposition.

If Gadhafi is cracking under the international pressure, he certainly is hiding it well. He was shown on state television playing the president of the World Chess Federation. The Russian said Gadhafi is an amateur and he beat him easily.

Dozens of doctors and nurses went on trial today in Bahrain. They're accused of seizing a hospital during anti-government protests, storing weapons there and holding people prisoner. Human rights activists say the 47 defendants did nothing wrong and were only treating protesters for their injuries. Former NFL player Plaxico Burress hopes to help young people avoid his mistakes. The former New York Giant wide receiver says he plans to volunteer to educate youth about gun violence. Burress was released last week from prison after serving 20 months for possession of an unlicensed firearm. The charge came after he accidentally shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub.

And Ohio isn't over LeBron James' defection to south Florida. After his Miami Heat lost the NBA championship to Dallas Sunday, Ohio's governor declared the Mavericks to be honorary Ohioans. Governor John Kasich especially praised finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki for sticking with his first scene in Dallas rather than leaving as a free agent.


Well, James' decision to do just that permanently burned his bridges of his native state of Ohio. So they are still smarting over his decision to leave -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I was just hoping for a game seven, which obviously is now not going to happen. Got to wait throughout the whole off-season now for more basketball.

Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks.

One number could stand between President Obama and a second term in the White House. That number, 9.1. I'll talk about that with his former White House press secretary and what it means for his reelection campaign.

And how do you help end a war? One way is to leak a damaging classified study, I suppose. Now that report that caused a sensation 40 years ago is being made public.


BLITZER: Before WikiLeaks there were the "Pentagon Papers," the secret study of the Vietnam War that caused an uproar when "The New York Times" published excerpts back in 1971. Now the entire study has been declassified and is available to anyone with the time to read thousands and thousands of pages.

Let's bring back Lisa. She's been going through all of this stuff for us.

What do we have here, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Oh, Wolf, we are actually talking about 7,000 pages. And it was 40 years ago today when "The New York Times" first published what is commonly known as the "Pentagon Papers." And there's even more drama and intrigue leading up to the release today.

The National Archives first said that it would release the full report except for 11 words. Well, that had everyone speculating, what were the 11 words, and why did the government not want people to read them? But in the end, they ended up releasing the entire report without any redactions.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Seven thousand pages, 47 volumes. The "Pentagon Papers" were a top-secret report commissioned by the secretary of defense in 1967 on the history of the Vietnam War.

Daniel Ellsberg, a Defense Department analyst, leaked thousands of pages to "The New York Times" and other news organizations. About two-thirds of the full report had been leaked previously, but now the public can read the whole report, without redactions, including new sections on the peace negotiations.

No big surprises are expected, but it's a treasure trove for history buffs.

KEN HUGHES, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA MILLER CENTER: It's quite vast and it's also quite illuminating about the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. You see this pattern of great secrecy, a certain amount of deception of the American people about the chances of success in Vietnam and about what the American people's own government was doing in Vietnam.

SYLVESTER: Ellsberg, looking back, said he had grown disillusioned with the war under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

DANIEL ELLSBERG, DEFENSE DEPT. ANALYST: They were prepared to prolong a war and expand a war at each step rather than to lose it. And Nixon was the same.

SYLVESTER: The "Pentagon Papers" left Nixon fearful and insecure, afraid of more leaks about his own policy decisions.

HUGHES: He actually committed the impeachable offense of setting up a secret police organization in the White House, the Special Investigations Unit, which was later known as the Plumbers. And he set it up to commit illegal acts.

SYLVESTER: Nixon went to court to stop the media outlets from publishing the papers, but the Supreme Court, in a landmark 6-3 decision, sided with the press.

At the Newseum in Washington, D.C., where the documents leaked to the newspapers are on display, visitors wonder why it took 40 years to declassify the full report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that they haven't disclosed everything until just today, I mean, that's really long enough. Long enough. It's about time. The "Pentagon Papers" from my generation was a really big news story. And as I say, it's just about time that things have come out completely.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: And back to those 11 words that the government wanted to keep secret, well, one reason they decided against blacking them out is they realized that people would be able to compare previously leaked versions with the new government documents, and to be able to figure out those 11 words.

So, in the end, what they did is they released the full document, including the 11 words. But now, Wolf, it's kind of lost in the 7,000 pages. So we still don't know what they say, but it's going to keep this mystery going on at least a little longer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure someone will figure it out at one point, probably sooner rather than later.

Lisa, thank you. Fascinating stuff for those of us who lived through that era as well.

You might think it's hard to lose a plane full of cold, hard cash. But the government says it might have done just that, misplacing -- get this -- more than $6 billion in cash. We're going to tell you where the money may have vanished.

And in just over two hours, Republicans go toe to toe here in New Hampshire. Some of the candidates will shine in the debate. Others may slink away with their campaigns in tatters. It's all possible tonight. You'll see it only here on CNN.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is: Has the value of a college degree changed in recent years? The price has changed, but are they worth what they used to be worth?

Sylvia in California writes, "When our young people are coming out of college with a bachelors degree and debt to the tune of $100,000-plus, yes, the value of a college education has changed. That said though, I would advise today's high school graduate who doesn't know what they want to study to go to a community college to find themselves. It will be less expensive and less stressful."

Jane writes, "It depends on where a person is headed. If college is just a place to hang out for four years to think about what you might want to do, few people can afford it. Personally, I'd opt for a good culinary school or consider the fact that the local plumber, a high school graduate, makes about $75 an hour."

Alex in Washington, "Not really, Jack, but the cost to get a degree has risen to the point that you question the value of something that will leave you in debt for so long. Back in the day, I went to a state school and was able to complete my degree debt-free thanks to the GI bill."

Leslie writes, "My college degree changed my life. I went from being a security guard making $20,000 a year, barely able to pay my bills, and with no health insurance, to getting a government job making $34,000 a year. Now I can manage my bills, I have health insurance, and I have a future."

Karen writes, "I'm a 24-year-old teacher, one of the few recent graduates I know to get a job right out of college. I have a couple of friends who were also lucky enough to find jobs. They are engineers."

"College education is as important as ever, but the role of certain degrees has changed. There's plenty of demand in fields like education, science and technology. College students today need to be smart when picking a major."

R. in Minnesota writes, "You bet it's changed. We push people through high school who can't read or write, then send them to college, where a litany of overbearing college professors only give you passing grades if you totally subscribe to their left-wing ideology. What you get on the back side are ignorant young adults who lack job skills necessary to compete in the world, but who sure can chant out 'hope and change' mantras."


If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good stuff, Jack. Thank you.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is now smiling just months after being shot through the head in a deadly massacre. The surprising pictures and an update on her condition coming up. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has the information.

And we're counting down to CNN's first Republican presidential debate, only about two hours away.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Japan, women pray for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that rocked the eastern coast of the country three months ago.

In Italy, a man helps clean up a destroyed freight train after a fire in a tunnel.

In England, Prince William arrives at Windsor Castle to attend a ceremony.

And in India -- look at this -- children at a government primary school practice writing the English alphabet.

"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

Just months after being shot in the head during that deadly Tucson massacre, we're getting a first and surprising look at a smiling Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords up close.

Here's CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, really important to see these pictures. People have been waiting for some time -- you know, six months -- and she looks great, as can you see here, smiling, making eye contact with the camera. Really important.

A couple things to point out quickly from a medical perspective, from a neurosurgical perspective.

Look in here, and you can see the area where the bone was removed. A lot of people have talked about this. This was to take some pressure off the brain initially.

You can also see the scars from the initial injury likely here on the left side of her head. And then down here on her throat, a pretty classic looking trach scar.

Wolf, these are all important things that you see from a neurosurgical perspective. We also know that since this was done, she has had this bone placed back in, so she has got a more normal contour to the side of her head.

Wolf, one of the things about outpatient rehab, which is where she is headed at the end of this month, it gives a patient an opportunity to sort of do more of their own activities of independent living, so, you know, fully functional kitchen, bathroom. Still get the rehab that she was getting at this hospital in Houston, but start doing it in an outpatient setting.

She's nowhere near where she once was, according to her office. She's still speaking only in one-or-two-word sentences. She's been able to understand speech, Wolf, we know, almost since the beginning, but it's the expressive part of things that have been more of a challenge.

Also, the strength on the right side of her body. The left side of the brain injury controls the right side of the body. That's going to require time as well.

But again, Wolf, just looking at those pictures, important to see her recovery under way.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And we wish her a speedy recovery, of course.