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GOP: 'Zero' Faith in President on Jobs; Boehner Responds to New Jobs Report; President Obama Backs Down on Ozone Rules; U.S. Contractor Imprisoned in Cuba; American Imprisoned in Cuba; Republicans Auction Off Gun in Arizona as Part of Fundraiser; Interview With Congressman Joe Walsh About Boycotting President Obama's Upcoming Jobs Speech; Navy on Disaster Standby; Jobs Growth Grinds to a Halt

Aired September 2, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Brooke.

Happening now, Republicans pouncing on President Obama and a horrible new unemployment report. This hour, the numbers and the politics and what it all means for millions of Americans who need a job now.

Plus, I'll talk to a Republican Congressman who plans to boycott the president's big jobs speech before a joint session of Congress next week.

Also, a new worldwide travel alert as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11. National security insiders tell us what they know about the risk of a terror attack -- revenge, as far as Al Qaeda is concerned, on that momentous day.

And a statue honoring one of the most important figures in modern American history made in China -- new controversy surrounding the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a big fat zero and it's a bright red circle around the unemployment mess in this country right now. The government reports today that no new jobs were created in the United States in August. It's the first time in nearly a year there hasn't been a monthly net jobs gain. The unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent.

But stock traders were spooked. Prices plunged at the opening bell in response to the jobs report. All three indices were way down at the end of trading, with the Dow plunging more than 253 points. The Republican presidential candidates are being tough on President Obama over the new jobs report.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is an extraordinary land. And I watch Washington right now and it breaks my heart, because the people there don't understand how America works. Obama is not working. And he has disappointed the American people. And this morning, very bad news.

Did you see the numbers that come out -- that came out on -- on job growth?

Look, there is zero faith in Barack Obama because he's created zero jobs last month.



JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The jobs report comes out today. You know, zero, goose egg. That's where this country is. We're totally stalled out. We're totally in neutral. We've got people suffering out there -- moms and dads trying to, you know, living on the edge, trying to -- trying to cover for their families. We can do better than that. We're the greatest nation that ever was.


BLITZER: Texas Governor Rick Perry issued a statement saying -- and I'm reading part of it now -- "The poor national jobs picture stands in stark contrast to Texas' pro-jobs limited government policies."

This from Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann: "Mr. President, we gave you $2.4 trillion in new spending and the American people got nothing in return."

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger -- Gloria, it's not surprising what these presidential candidates are saying.


BLITZER: They're calling President Obama President Zero, for that matter, as well.

BORGER: Right. It's predictable. It's an easy political shot. But I'll also tell you, Wolf, they're preaching to the choir out there with the American public.

Take a look at some of our new polls. We asked the question, is the economy in a recession?

Eight out of 10 people, fully 82 percent say, of course, yes, we are in a recession.

And we also asked the question, how are things going in this country today?

Seven out of 10 said badly. So if you're a presidential candidate and you're campaigning against an incumbent, unemployment 9.1 percent, what would you be saying out there on the campaign trail?

It's the kind of things, by the way, that Barack Obama used to say about George W. Bush.

BLITZER: So how much pressure does this put --


BLITZER: -- on the president as he gets ready for his big speech?

BORGER: A tremendous amount of pressure, because the president has to go to the American people and say, look, we are trying to do something. As you know, Wolf, there are a bunch of economists out there who say there isn't actually that much the government can do. But a president can't take to the bully pulpit and say, by the way, there's nothing I can do. I think he's actually ratcheted up the stakes tremendously by asking to address a joint session of Congress.

The question is, what kind of a stimulus package -- and it will be stimulus -- what kind of stimulus package is he going to propose?

Is it going to be larger than he knows he can get through the Republican-led Congress or is it going to be more bipartisan in nature, with things that he knows Republicans will agree to?

BLITZER: But even --

BORGER: We'll have to see.

BLITZER: -- even while the Republicans, the candidates, are really hammering the president over --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- this whole jobs issue, they are beginning, one by one, to start laying out --


BLITZER: Their own plans.

BORGER: They are. And I think that it's -- since they've said to the president of the United States, you need to lay out a plan, they have to lay out a plan. So what we heard from Jon Huntsman, who released a plan earlier this week, it was a plan that called for serious tax reform, which "The Wall Street Journal" wrote an editorial about, really saying that it was quite a good start and a very good plan.

We're going to hear from Mitt Romney on Tuesday.

And then, Wolf, we hear from the president on Thursday.

What's been interesting about this debate so far, on the debt ceiling, is that it's been mostly a Congressional Washington debate. Now it's time for the Republican presidential candidates to weigh in and try to lead on where we go from here. And that's exactly what we're seeing.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.


BLITZER: President Obama left the White House for Camp David earlier today without saying anything about the new jobs report.

Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan -- Kate, the Republicans, including the House speaker, John Boehner, they are responding.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are, Wolf. House Speaker John Boehner is actually in his district just now, speaking at the opening of a -- in his home state, I should say, speaking right now about the opening of a small business there. And you can be sure a small business that Republicans say that they are out trying to protect, talking about jobs.

Earlier today, House Speaker John Boehner responded -- reacted with some very strong words to these terrible August jobs numbers. I'll read you a statement, in part. He says, quote: "Private sector job growth continues to be undermined by the triple threat of higher taxes, more failed stimulus spending and excessive federal regulations. Together, these Washington policies have created a fog of uncertainty that's left small businesses unable to hire and American families worried about their future."

Now, as you know, all eyes will be on President Obama and his jobs plan, that's set to unveil before a joint session of Congress Thursday.

But Boehner and House Republicans, they're pushing their own jobs plan at the very same time, especially in light of these new jobs numbers. The focus of this jobs plan is, in large part, proposals Republicans have supported before, offering tax breaks for employers, which they say will help businesses hire new workers; also, eliminating some labor regulations, as well as eliminating some environmental requirements set by the EPA. Republicans call them job destroying rules.

Democrats disagree, not surprisingly, and say the rules and standards will save lives.

Well, preemptively, the president today, Wolf, announced he's putting one of those new regulations by the EPA on hold, a plan to tighten clean air standards. It was on the Republican chopping block in their jobs agenda. And Speaker Blane -- Boehner in -- in another statement, applauded the move, but says more needs to be done.

I think bottom line, it still remains a big question. And it will be no surprise to you, Wolf, how Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are going to be able to reach agreement on any of these issues that we're talking about, jobs and the economy, the deficit, when they still are so far apart on how best to fix the problem -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, thanks very much. By the way, I was a little surprised that before the president boarded Marine One on the South Lawn to fly up to Camp David for the weekend, he didn't stop and make a statement on this latest jobs report. He usually does make a statement.


BLITZER: But this time, he decided -- I guess he's going to wait until Thursday night to make his big statement about the jobs.

Kate, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, new word today that President Obama is backing down, as Kate said, from that controversial new set of rules to cut smog levels. It's a sign of pressure he's feeling to save jobs -- enormous pressure. But with this new move, he's managed to tick off at least part of his political base.

Brian Todd is joining us now to pick up this part of the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is angering his political base. The group MoveOn has issued a statement saying it's wondering now if it can work now for President Obama's reelection.

This is a very incendiary issue. No one is saying a whole lot about the timing of this, but it's fairly obvious. It came just hours after that dismal jobs announcement from the Labor Department.

Now, the Obama administration has long been trying to tighten the standards for how much ozone can be in the air. That's ground level ozone similar to smog. But as -- as we have just been reporting, the president, just hours after the jobs announcement, said that they were going to at least temporarily halt the implementation of these -- of these tighter standards for clean air, specifically the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

You know, the -- members of the industry and some Republicans in Congress are hailing this, saying that this is going to save some jobs and this -- this might, at least, stop the -- the bleeding as far as the loss of jobs. Big business and industry had been complaining that the cost of implementing those standards would be so high that it would cost them tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs.

But environmental advocates and health care advocates are furious with this. Here's a statement from Charles Connor. He is the head of the American Lung Association. He says in a statement: "The administration's final decision not to enact a more protective ozone health standard is jeopardizing the health of millions of Americans, which is inexcusable."

Now, some environmental activists say that increasing those standards, those clean air standards, would save about 4,300 lives per year, prevent 7,000 hospital visits per year. So, again, the president in a real vice grip with this issue. But for now, they're halting the implementation of these clean air standards.

BLITZER: Yes. The president -- it's not an easy decision, rejecting, overruling. Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, saying you know what, we're not going to implement these regulations, these rules, right now. They'll have to wait, perhaps, for better economic times.

Brian, thanks very much.

As President Obama prepares for his big jobs speech next week, one Republican member of Congress is actually planning a boycott.

I'll ask Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois about that and whether he really meant to call the president "idiotic."

And the United States military is on alert along the Gulf Coast for a storm that could drench, once again, New Orleans.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: An important story we're following right now that you will see only here on CNN. A U.S. contractor tor for an American agency that steers civilian humanitarian aid around the world is now imprisoned in Cuba, has been for some time. His wife is very worried for his own welfare, his health.

She spoke to CNN's foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, in an exclusive interview.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judy Gross last saw her husband Alan in a Cuban court nearly six months ago. She says that husband of 41 years has gone from a vigorous 62-year-old to a gaunt, pale old man.

(on camera): How concerned are you about his health?

JUDY GROSS, WIFE OF ALAN GROSS: Very, very concerned. He's so frail. And now he's lost over 100 pounds. And when I saw him. And when I saw him, you know, I could see his bones sticking out.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Alan Gross is an international development worker. The state department says in Cuba, he was providing internet equipment to the island's Jewish community. A Cuban court found him guilty of trying to subvert the Cuban government and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

GROSS: I respect the sovereignty of Cuba. I have learned from my parents and through experience that respect is something someone must have in order to receive.

DOUGHERTY: Judy Gross reads from a statement that her husband wrote by hand and delivered to a Havana court in March.

DOUGHERTY: Is that what he sounds like?

GROSS: Oh, yes. Yes. It's very outgoing, very confident. Very moral, very ethical.

DOUGHERTY: Alan Gross loves music.

GROSS: So these are instruments that he collected?

DOUGHERTY: Some of them, not all of them.

GROSS: And there were times early on that Judy Gross had hope music would help him through his ordeal.

DOUGHERTY: When he was in prison, he actually played instruments with his guards?

GROSS: Once or twice, I think it was the warden of the prison who I think was a musician, gave him an instrument.

DOUGHERTY: In early August, the Cuban court turned down her husband's last appeal. She's ask president Raul Castro and the Cuban government to release him on humanitarian grounds.

GROSS: One of my biggest fears is that I'm going to get a call from my attorney saying Alan had a heart attack or something happened to him. I don't know if I'll ever see him again. I don't know if he'll set foot on U.S. soil.


BLITZER: Jill Dougherty reporting for us.

By the way, Alan Gross' imprisonment is clearly affecting relations between the Obama administration and the Cuban government. That relationship potentially could have been improving, not so fast anymore. The State Department saying there will be no progress, repeat, no progress in improving U.S.-Cuban relations until Alan Gross is released.

Right now one state is threatening chaos in the presidential primary calendar. And the Italian prime minister caught on tape using profanity to describe, guess what, his own country.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including, Lisa, a potential monkey wrench in the Republican presidential contest? What's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Arizona's governor could single-handedly disrupt the GOP's carefully plotted primary schedule for the 2012 elections. Jan Brewer must decide if she'll move Arizona's primary up a month to January 31 to give Arizona more influence in the Republican presidential race. Such a move would violate party rules and shake up primary calendars for other states. The deadline for that decision is tomorrow.

The co-chairs of Congress' super committee on the debt crisis have announced dates for their first meeting and first hearing. The first full meeting is set for Thursday morning, September 8. The initial hearing will follow five days later, September 13. The committee was formed last month to find $1.5 trillion in savings over the next decade as a condition to raising the debt ceiling.

The Pima County, Arizona Republican Party is catching heat for raffling a handgun to raise money. The local GOP fundraiser is being held in the district of Democrat Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The gun is similar to one used in the January mass shooting that left six people dead and Giffords gravely wounded. A local Democrat Party spokesman calls the move "insensitive."

And new controversy surrounds Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over salty language he used to describe his country. Investigators quoted Berlusconi as saying he's frustrated with investigations of him and he's eager to leave the country. He used expletives to describe his country and the ongoing criminal inquiries. In separate cases Berlusconi is fighting accusations of abuse of power and sex charges. That's pretty rare where you have somebody actually criticizing their own country. Not something you see every day.

BLITZER: He was speaking in Italian. So I wonder if the Italian expletive deleted is the same as the English expletive deleted.

SYLVESTER: I don't know the answer to that, but I'm sure our viewers will probably start tweeting you.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

One Republican lawmaker is refusing to hear what the president of the United States has to say about jobs. I'll talk to Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois and ask him about his decision to boycott the president's speech before a joint session of Congress Thursday night. And I'll ask him why he is calling the president, in his word, "idiotic."

And Sarah Palin is the newest target of Dick Cheney. The former vice president has been letting the barbs fly as of late. Is anyone safe?


BLITZER: When President Obama talks about America's job crisis before a joint session of Congress next Thursday, at least one seat in the chamber will be empty.

And joining us now, Republican Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. JOE WALSH, (R) ILLINOIS: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: You caused somewhat of a stir, which is not necessarily always what you want to do, but you've been doing it lately. You've decided you don't want to be here in Washington Thursday night when the president addresses a joint session of Congress. Some are suggesting this is disrespectful to the president of the United States. Why did you make this decision?

WALSH: Wolf, I made the decision a day or so ago when I found out that the president was going to speak before a joint session. To me, this is nothing but a political move by this president, and I simply didn't want to be a pawn in this political theatre.

I'm not even talking about the substance of what he's going to say. I'll read his speech. If he's going to propose anything new on job creation, I'll certainly respond to it. But to call a joint session of Congress to me sort of demeans the whole notion of that, and he's doing it for purely political reasons.

BLITZER: But there's no issue more important right now than job creation and healing the American economy. If there were ever a time, Congressman, to call for a joint session of Congress, it would be during an economic crisis like this one.

WALSH: Oh, Wolf, we've been in this economic crisis for three years. This president has gone a long way to destroying the economy in this country. We're beyond speeches.

Again, respectfully, it seems like all this president does is try to give a good speech. I don't want to be a pawn in that. I would rather he sit down with Congress, roll up his sleeves, propose something serious, negotiate and try to really come up with something. But instead he wants to give a speech, and he's only doing it for political reasons. We all know that.

BLITZER: Have you asked other members of Congress to follow your lead and boycott this session?

WALSH: No. No, not at all.

BLITZER: Have you informed the speaker, John Boehner?

WALSH: I have not yet. Each and every member has got to do what they think is right. Look, again, I'm beyond speeches. There's no reason. I mean, we typically -- Wolf, you know, we reserve joint sessions of Congress for dignitaries from around the world, for presidents during times of war, or big monumental moments.

This country has been in economic crisis for three years, and all of a sudden now this president is going to retool some jobs plan? It just doesn't make sense to me, Wolf. And I would rather go home and I'm going to go home and talk to small businessmen and women and find out from them what we need to do when it comes to this economy. and I'll bring those ideas back to the president.

BLITZER: Is it responsible, Congressman, to call the president of the United States "idiotic"?

WALSH: Wolf, absolutely not. And I held a town hall last night, a couple hundred people, and I apologized for that.

What I meant to say, and I didn't say it very artfully, is the notion of him using his office to call a joint session of Congress to just repackage a few old jobs ideas, that to me is idiotic. He's not the idiot, he's the president of the free world. But I don't want Congress to be a pawn again, to just be a prop in this political theater of his.

All he does is give speeches, Wolf. And we've got to move beyond that.

BLITZER: But you don't know until you hear what he has to say Thursday night if this is just a speech, or if there's a concrete set of ideas to get this economy going again. You don't know, but you're already prejudging.

WALSH: Well, again, I could probably guess pretty easily that it's going to be more of the same. But that aside, Wolf, that's not my objection.

My objection is to the notion of him calling this joint session. I think that's an overreach, I think he's doing it for political reasons. He wants to show the American people that he's leading when he hasn't led, and he wants Congress, each and every member of Congress, to be a prop in that 30-minute theater.

And I just don't want to be used like that. This is much more important than a simple speech.

BLITZER: You know, we'll do some checking but, you know, every president asks for joint sessions of Congress to make important proposals. Ronald Reagan did it, both President Bushes did it. They always do it. I've been in Washington for a long time. But what you're saying is, you don't even want to hear what this president has to say and give him the courtesy of sitting there?

WALSH: Wolf, go back and check. If you go back and look at the last 20 joint sessions, again, typically, dignitaries from around the world, presidents during time of war, or introducing hugely monumental legislation.

This is not going to be that. I don't -- again, I'm not pointing my finger at you, but your profession continues to give this president a pass. He's abusing the very notion of a joint session. And look, I'm going to read and listen to what he proposes, I'm going to respond to it, but I'm not going to sit in that chamber and be a prop for a political exercise from this president.

BLITZER: Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois speaking his mind.

You'll be back on Friday, right, though, the day after the speech?

WALSH: I'm going to go home, I'm going to talk to job creators. I'm coming back to D.C. Friday morning.

BLITZER: We'll see you then. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

WALSH: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.


BLITZER: There's another grim figure inside the August jobs report. We're taking a closer look at the huge jump in unemployment rate for African-Americans. Stand by.

And controversy swirling around the new Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial here in Washington. There are new developments today. At issue, questions about patriotism and arrogance.


BLITZER: The Gulf Coast is under threat from a powerful tropical weather system under way right now. We're talking about Tropical Storm Lee. It's lumbering toward the region.

Forecasters say lee could bring up to 20 inches of flooding rain and winds of up to 65 miles an hour. Emergency declarations are in place for portions of Mississippi and Louisiana. New Orleans right now, on alert.


MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU (D), NEW ORLEANS: The city of New Orleans has taken all necessary precautions. As I said earlier today, issued a declaration of emergency so that we could have as much flexibility and authority to act as quickly as possible as the need arises. We will be on duty 24/7 from this moment until we are not needed to do that anymore.


BLITZER: Also on the radar, the storm system named Katia churning into the Atlantic right now. The National Hurricane Center says Katia has strengthened once again to a Category 1 hurricane.

It may be a few days before we know if it will reach the United States. Much more on Katia and Lee coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour.

The damage from Hurricane Irene is pretty extensive, but some storm watchers say Irene could have been so much worse. What if it had been much worse?

Our Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us now with an exclusive report.

Chris, how ready is the U.S. military right now for a major disaster?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as we saw from one of our own CNN producers who was on board one of the ships out at sea when the hurricane was hitting, it's better than it used to be. Back in the days when the military would just move its own assets out of the way, now they're at least thinking ahead to, how can we help?


LAWRENCE (voice-over): The USS Wasp may have been sent to sea to steer clear of the storm, but it had a more important mission. The ship, a helicopter carrier with a special dock below, left port with extra sailors and equipment specifically suited to help with quick hurricane response.

CAPT. BRENDA HOLDENER, COMMANDER, USS WASP: I think the challenge is, is that you're facing an unknown. You really don't know what you're going to be asked to do. I mean, I kind of have an idea what I can provide. Search and rescue is one of them.

LAWRENCE: Like the dome mounted on the front of this helicopter, it's called forward-looking infrared, or FLIR. The pilot could have use this to look for people trapped in flood waters or storm debris. Then the crew would have hauled them on board for treatment.

During this week's sortie, the ship's medical crew staged a mass casualty drill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God! My leg!

LAWRENCE: If these had been real screams and injuries, the Wasp medical facilities were prepared to deal with them.

LT. COMMANDER JUAN DAPENA, M.D., USS WASP: We have three operating rooms. We can expand to four. We have 15 ICU beds, as you can see here, each one with its own equipment, which is exactly what you would find in a normal ICU.

LAWRENCE: Admiral Kevin Scott says the Navy is changing its tactics.

REAR ADM. KEVIN SCOTT, COMMANDER, TASK FORCE 29: Years and years ago, it was, you know, take whatever you have, bring it down here, and we'll sort it out. That takes time when people are standing on roofs and needing food and water needing life-saving support.

LAWRENCE: So, instead of just hightailing it out of port, the Navy thinks ahead, bringing what it needs to provide help after the storm.

SCOTT: The response that's required for a major catastrophe, you know, like Hurricane Katrina and Rita, requires all the resources that the nation has to bear.


LAWRENCE: Yes, the Wasp arrived back in Norfolk today. And immediately, the crew started looking at what they could do better next time, especially, Wolf, if next time means actually going ashore and trying to help where the storm hit the worst.

BLITZER: And you've got to know, there will certainly be a next time, unfortunately.


BLITZER: She'll be spending Labor Day weekend in Iowa and New Hampshire, but guess what? Sarah Palin has yet to declare any presidential intentions. Some say though time is running out.

We'll hash it all out in our "Strategy Session."


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. Zero jobs growth in the United States in August. What exactly does that mean for the future?

Lisa Sylvester is back. She's digging deeper over at the Data Wall.

Lisa, what are you finding?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, last month there are 14 million unemployed workers. And you can take a look at seen what the trend has been.

There were significant job losses in 2009, then it appeared that the jobs were starting to come back. Then, you get to 2011, which is where we are right now, August , 2011. Exactly zero jobs were created.

And this is pretty significant, because to put this in perspective, where we really ideally need to be is we really need to be somewhere in the vicinity of 150,000 to 200,000 jobs created every month just to maintain the status quo. That's just to maintain about a nine percent unemployment rate.

Really, what you want to do to get back to a pre-recession unemployment rate of five percent, you really need to be adding about 400,000 jobs every single month, somewhere around here, but you would have to do that every single month for the next three years to have about 400,000 jobs created. So we are well off that mark.

There's another perspective, another way that we could take a look at this. We're going to close this out here and take a look at GDP numbers.

This is the benchmark of about five percent GDP growth. You can see that GDP growth was looking very good in 2000. Then it fell off here.

Here we are in 2011. If we had six percent GDP growth, then relatively quickly, we would get unemployment down to five percent by next year, 2012. We're nowhere near that number.

If we had three percent GDP growth -- I'm going to click on this here -- you can see by 2020, we would get to five percent unemployment. The problem though, Wolf, is that the latest forecast has been revised from 2.7 percent GDP growth to only 1.7 percent GDP growth. And that's a big problem, because even at two percent GDP growth, you're still going to see unemployment going up to nearly 12 percent, and that's in 2020.

So that's a real big problem for this economy. We need to get GDP growth up. At the same time, it's going to be a real problem for President Obama, because all of this happens as we are heading into an election year.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

The economy and jobs are sure to be in Sarah Palin's speeches when she heads to Iowa and New Hampshire this weekend, but everyone is waiting to hear her say something else. Will she or won't she run for president of the United States?

Joining us now to talk about that in our "Strategy Session," the Democratic strategist, the CNN contributor, James Carville, and the Republican strategist, Rich Galen of

Guys, thanks very much.

Rich, when does she have to make her decision? Does it have to be made this weekend?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It doesn't have to be made this weekend, but it's got to be made pretty quickly. James knows this better than I. It takes a long time to get set up.

You're not just running in Iowa. You're running in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada. I mean, you've got to have the ability to not just raise the money, but to build a team, to build an infrastructure, to keep on going.

Look, I said when we were in Iowa two weeks ago, whenever it was, when Sarah Palin showed up at the Iowa State Fair, I said it was like Pippa Middleton had shown up to sample butter on a stick. I mean, it was remarkable.

But she's almost an entertainer, in my mind. She's a personality. She has shown nothing to me that would indicate that she is the least bit ready to become a candidate.

BLITZER: Has she shown anything to you, James, that she's ready to run for the Republican presidential nomination?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, look, some people run for president other than the fact that they want to be president. That might be the case if she does.

Obviously, she can't stand the fact that all of the reporters -- and everybody is out there in Iowa and New Hampshire. And so she's there. I mean, look at her bus tour. She's not going to run a campaign like a Rich Galen or a James Carville would. She's just going to show up, and when she shows up, people crowd around like flies, which she apparently enjoys.

She may just get in the race and run in Iowa and New Hampshire and have no intention of going anywhere from there. My sense is that she's not running for president, she's running for the attention, and she's going to get a lot of it.

BLITZER: When you say the attention, is she running, James, to get higher speaking fees, a new book deal? Does she just want to get that exposure to make money? Is that what you're suggesting?

CARVILLE: No. What I'm suggesting is that she's watching everybody get a lot of attention, and she can't stand it, and she wants to get into the middle of it. I think it's basically that simple. And she likes being out there in the public thing.

I mean, I give a lot of speeches. Then you give a speech and you give a speech, and you talk to 600 people. She shows up at the Iowa State Fair, and every reporter and everybody is crowding around her, and she obviously enjoys it.

I don't know if it makes her a bad person or anything, but that's what her kind of deal is. She enjoys the sort of celebrity aspect of it.

There's no chance that she will be the Republican nominee. She's many things, but she's not that dumb, and she understands that. But she sure will cause a big stir, and she kind of likes that.

BLITZER: Rich, go ahead. I know you want to weigh in.

GALEN: No, I was just going to say think that's right. And if you look at the -- it's sort of like a sign wave. She does one of these things. She disappears for a week and a half, two weeks, three weeks, then kind of pops up again. So she keeps the media sort of waiting for her next step and then makes them change her down.

I mean, she's got this thing down to a science. But once you run for president, all of the laws and all of the rules and regulations kick in. And for everybody who's ever done it or been around it, it's a very serious thing to take on because of all the things you've got to give up to do it.

CARVILLE: But Rich, she's not going to run as a candidate. She's going to run as a celebrity.


CARVILLE: And she won't do anything that you and I would think of during a campaign. She's just going to get into a bus or she's going to show up wherever she wants to, and everybody is going to follow her. She's not going to have, like, a Polk County coordinator, or she's not going to have a phone bank or anything like that. She's just going to go around and get attention, and that's really what she wants.

GALEN: And it's working.

CARVILLE: She's more interested in that than votes. Why not? I'm fascinated by it.

BLITZER: Look, she got slapped today by the former vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.

Rich, listen to what Cheney told Laura Ingraham on her radio show.


RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I've never got around the question of her having left the governorship of Alaska in midterm. I've never heard that adequately explained so that I could understand.


CHENEY: I don't know how in her first term she decided to step down and still be -- I would like to know more about that.


BLITZER: Now, she was elected, Rich, four years. After two years, she said she had had enough. So she was basically governor of Alaska for two years. A lot of people thought that was ridiculous. And now Dick Cheney says he doesn't understand why she quit at midpoint.

GALEN: I don't think it matters. I mean, it just -- it has no impact on anything else that's going on today, or this week, or this year, or maybe even this century.

The fact is, as we I think have discussed, she is a personality, not a political figure. And the fact that we keep treating her like she's somehow a political figure that can hold sway and help move the public discourse is silly to me.

BLITZER: Well, let me explain to James and see if he agrees why she quit as governor of Alaska after two years, where she was making about $150,000 a year.

Do you know how much money she's made, arguably, over the past two years or three years since she quit that job, James?

CARVILLE: About $15 million to $20 million, I wouldn't be surprised.

BLITZER: Yes, millions and millions of dollars. So, obviously, she quit the governorship -- even though she was elected, she had a responsibility to the people of Alaska who elected her, she decided that she had enough and she was going to cash in. CARVILLE: Yes. My wife would say that you have to buy Dick Cheney's book to get his explanation, but I can give it to you right now. She cashed in to make some money. But it's the most -- if a Republicans can't understand that, how does a Democrat explain that to a Republican?

BLITZER: Well, is that going to be appealing to Republican voters if she decides to run, Rich?

GALEN: No. James and I, I think, agree. She's not going to run. She doesn't want to put up with the rules, the regulations, or anything else. She gets to have everything she wants by pretending to be a potential candidate, and sooner or later, that string will run out.

CARVILLE: But she may run. But again, I predict that she will run, but she won't run as a traditional candidate. Because once she says she is not running, she doesn't draw the same thing.

She is doing this tease. I mean, this is unbelievable.

Look, I live in New Orleans. You go down Bourbon Street, you see a tease. She's doing a different kind of tease out there in New Hampshire.

She's enjoying this. And she's enjoying -- and she likes causing a little pain. She likes watching people and causing a little pain. There are reasons people run for president other than to be president.

GALEN: I can see the Twitter starting now, "James Carville says Sarah Palin belongs on Bourbon Street."

BLITZER: All right.

CARVILLE: That's not exactly what I was saying, but she's doing a different kind of tease.

BLITZER: And James, I want everybody in New Orleans to be careful this weekend. I know you're getting a lot of rain.

CARVILLE: Yes, we do.

BLITZER: We are worried about it what's likely to become Tropical Storm Lee. We'll stay in very close touch with you and Mary and everyone else.

GALEN: Stay safe, James.

BLITZER: Good luck in New Orleans, good luck in Mississippi, all along the Gulf Coast.

CARVILLE: You bet. Thanks.

BLITZER: James Carville, Rich Galen.

Guys, thanks for coming in. The State Department issues a worldwide travel alert for this September 11th. We're asking tough questions about the threat of terrorism, al Qaeda revenge, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

And critics of the new Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial are complaining that it might as well be stamped "Made in China."


BLITZER: First a hurricane delayed the dedication of the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial here in Washington, and now it's awash in controversy.

Let's bring back Lisa Sylvester. She's been looking into this story for us.

You were reporting on the story yesterday. Now you're following up. There's been more reaction.

Lisa, what's going on?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, Maya Angelou spoke to CNN today. She said that she doesn't want to make this a tempest in a teapot, and she is happy that there is a memorial to honor Dr. King, but she does take issue with one inscription that she says misses the mark.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): A memorial that was 15 years in the making. The focal point is a 30-foot statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Featured prominently is an inscription: "I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness."

It comes from a sermon Dr. King delivered two months before his death. He explained there is a natural human instinct to want to be a drum major, to be out front, the one being praised. But King said, "If you have to be recognized, be so not for material things, but for service to others."

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice! Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness!

SYLVESTER: But the quote was abbreviated, and it's now the source of controversy. "The Washington Post" blasted monument planners in an editorial.

Famed poet and author Maya Angelou now tells CNN the altered quote makes him look arrogant, the exact opposite of his message of humility.

MAYA ANGELOU, POET: When taken out of context, it loses the intrinsic nature of the man. You see, a man's speech is a mirror of his soul. And what Dr. King said was, "If you want to say" this. He would never put himself up by saying, "I was a drum major for justice."

SYLVESTER: Angelou recognizes it may be too late to change the wording, but she still feels compelled to speak out. Monument planners said they cut down the quote because they wanted a succinct inscription for each side of what's called the "Stone of Hope."

ED JACKSON, MEMORIAL ARCHITECT: When we're dealing with architecture, the pallet that we were actually placing the words on, in comparison to the inscription wall, there were certain physical limitations.

SYLVESTER: Other questions have also been raised, like why an iconic memorial honoring a U.S. civil rights leader was made not in the United States, but in China, using granite from China and carved by a Chinese sculptor?

(on camera): People are making a lot of -- they're mentioning it a lot, that this was actually made in China, designed by a Chinese sculptor.

JACKSON: From the outset this project was viewed as an international project because not only was he a national hero, he was an international hero.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): The architect makes no apologies, pleased with the end result. And the abbreviate quote carved in stone he says will remain that way.


SYLVESTER: Now, we contacted the King family to see if they had anything to say on this. We didn't hear back from them, but Martin Luther King III previously told CNN that he was impressed with the final result of the monument, impressed with the statue, saying that it captured the essence of his father -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people though, as you point out, are angry the statue was made in China.

Lisa, thanks very much.