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Prominent Afghan Figure Assassinated; "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Ends; President Speaks at U.N. about New Libyan Government; Some Liberals Call for Primary Challenge to President; Interview With Former U.S. President Bill Clinton; Rick Perry Slams President Obama's Mideast Policy; Solyndra Execs to Plead the Fifth

Aired September 20, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, the president of the United States is taking the world stage right here in New York City. He's pushing critical U.S. objectives across the Middle East, hailing the international mission in Libya as a model for the 21st century.

Plus, my special interview with the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. He's now on a global push of his own. His fears for the country's economic recovery, what he says is sad about Washington, and a sobering message for voters. All that is coming up.

And did top female staffers in the Obama White House suffer a hostile working environment? The fallout from an explosive new book.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're reporting today from the annual meeting in the Clinton Global Initiative here in New York City, covering this major forum for international leaders all week. I had a chance to sit down earlier in the day with the former president Bill Clinton for an extensive, far reaching interview. You will see part of that interview. Part of it will air this hour, part in the next hour. I want you to stand by.

Meanwhile, only a few blocks away at the United Nations, President Obama's on a major diplomatic mission of his own, and a number of critical issues are on the table.

Let's bring in our Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's with me here at the Clinton Global Initiative watching all of this unfold.

A huge day today, maybe even a more important day for the president tomorrow.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. But first today, it was a major day of diplomacy for the president. Today, he met with the new leaders of a post Gadhafi Libya. A moment of triumph for this administration, and the president's aides emphasized that the U.S. will be reopening its embassy in Libya this week.

The president also sat down with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the first time the two leaders have met face to face since the administration announced it would start drawing down troops by the end of this year. Also, the president has had a meeting with Turkey's prime minister Erdogan. Now, historically, the U.S. and Turkey have had a good relationship, but recently, the prime minister of Turkey has been extremely critical of Israel, and we will get more on that meeting, Wolf, later tonight.

BLITZER: But he's getting ready right now for his annual address before the U.N. general assembly, and this is a really delicate, sensitive moment in the Middle East.

YELLIN: "Delicate" is the perfect word, and tomorrow, the president will have to do a delicate dance when he addresses the U.N. Last year when he appeared before the U.N. the president said at this time, he would hope to be able to announce a Palestinian state. But since that time, peace talks with Israel have stalled. There have been no major advancements.

And now, the Palestinians made clear they will come to the U.N. and one way or another, make a play for a vote of state hood here at the United Nations. And the president in his speech will have to explain why he would block such a move. Now, that for the U.S. is a potentially awkward explanation give that the president has stood for statehood in other Arab nations. The Palestinians are expected to make that play for statehood, Wolf, sometime after the president leaves New York.

BLITZER: That speech by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, I think it's scheduled for Friday, right now. Thanks very much. Jessica's going to be staying with us today, tomorrow, throughout the week. Appreciate it.

President Obama may be front and center on the world stage right now, but his challenges on the campaign trail aren't far behind. Just steps from the U.N., the Republican president frontrunner Texas Governor Rick Perry was meeting with Jewish-American leaders. He slammed the president's land ling of the Middle East peace process.


RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more from what Rick Perry had to say.

Let's go to Afghanistan right now where a blast has claimed the life of the country's former president, a political figure considered vital to peace efforts in the region. Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is standing by with the latest. Barbara, what happened here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, another shocking attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul today. The man that was killed is not known to most Americans but vital to the peace process in Afghanistan, and that means vital to getting U.S. troops to getting U.S. troops out and coming home.

His name is Burhanuddin Rabbani, he was a former president of Afghanistan, fled the Taliban, was working now as the head of peace council. And he was assassinated today at his home in Kabul. He was welcoming two people into his home he believed were Taliban wanting to reconcile. That was his job. And instead of course they were suicide bombers. He was killed, another man badly wounded.

Rabbani, a very controversial figure. The Taliban were critical of him, he was critical of Karzai, but had undertaken this reconciliation work because many people felt that he was the one who could maybe at the end of the day who could pull it off. Wolf?

BLITZER: Barbara, what does this say about security right now in Afghanistan?

STARR: Well, you know, in Kabul now, they have seen several high profile attacks. Many of the U.S. military still sticking to the party line that they are making progress against the Taliban. But today Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said it is time for the U.S. to weigh in and try to do something to improve security. Have a listen.


LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have made progress in weakening them. We have made progress in going after their leadership. But having said that, they now are resorting to these kinds of attacks, to these kinds of high level assassinations, which, you know, as I said, are of concern. And we've got to take steps to try to make sure that we protect against that. And we're in the process of doing that. We're working with the afghans to try to discuss with them steps on how we can take -- provide better protection so that this does not occur.


STARR: The big concern, the so-called Haqqani Network that works with the Taliban. Panetta today said these continued attacks they believe the Haqqanis are behind, are simply no longer tolerable. Wolf?

BLITZER: Does this impact the short-term withdrawal strategy? The U.S. is planning on having troops in Afghanistan until 2014, but short term they're supposed to start reducing those numbers significantly. What are you hearing?

STARR: That short-term plan to bring the so-called surge home still is underway. But you know, at this point, the problem is these attacks, they're high profile, and Panetta said they becoming strategically significant. They're getting the attention of Afghans, calling into question whether the Karzai government can really provide for the security of that country.

And that is the litmus test in the long run for U.S. troops coming home. Karzai's government has to be able to take over before U.S. troops can take home, and the more attacks you see, the more that is called into question, Wolf.

BLITZER: Karzai was supposed to spend a few days here, but I think he's getting ready to bolt to get right back to Kabul because of this crisis underway there. Barbara, thank you.

Coming up, my special interview with the former president Bill Clinton. He tells me what worries him about some of the Republican contenders for the White House and the candidates he likes. You're going to find out who they are and what's going on. The interview coming up.

Plus, the end of a controversial era for the U.S. military.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No words can describe how it feels to stand up here and be able to say for the first time, my name is First Lieutenant Josh Freed (ph) and I am a gay lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. It's a huge burden lifted off of my shoulder.


BLITZER: We're going to get to my in depth interview with former president Bill Clinton in just a few minutes. We're going to find out what he thinks about the anti-Washington movement in politics. Stand by for that.

But let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And you're in New York with me. You're just across on the east side. Thanks, Wolf.

There are a lot of unhappy Democrats these days and some are setting their sights directly on President Obama. A group of liberal leaders says they want to field a slate of candidates against the president in the primaries. Just what the president wants to hear.

Ralph Nader tells "The Washington Times" that without an interparty challenge, the liberal agenda will be ignored. Ralph Nader has been repeatedly ignored by the voters in presidential elections past. He says Obama running on a post will kill voter enthusiasm and that voters won't get to see the real differences between Democrats and Republicans.

More than 45 liberal leaders support this idea. They point to President Obama's handling of the Wall Street bailout, the wars, Libya, the extension of Bush tax, cuts and the debt ceiling deal, just a short list of their grievances.

Meanwhile, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus says that unhappy members of his group would probably be marching on the White House if Mr. Obama weren't president. Black leaders have been begging the president to address unemployment among African-Americans, which stands at close to 17 percent, almost double the national average.

Finally, one of Mr. Obama's hometown newspapers, the "Chicago Tribune," is running a column called "Why Obama Should Withdraw." Columnist Steve Chapman suggests not running for reelection might be sensible for Mr. Obama to do. He says the president might do the party a favor by stepping aside, taking the blame, and letting someone else replace him at the top of the ticket, someone like, oh, say, Hillary Clinton.

Here's the question: How much of a problem does President Obama have with his own party?

Go to and post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM Facebook page.

I suppose at the end of the day if you don't want to vote for a Republican, you're going to vote for the president for a second term, but at the moment he's got some problems.

BLITZER: He certainly does, but as I keep saying, it's still a long time between now and November, 2012. We'll see what unfolds, jack. Appreciate it.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, a setback for a death row inmate. What's the latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Troy Davis is about 24 hours away from his execution now that the Georgia parole board has denied his request for clemency. His supporters though are vowing to keep fighting to stop his execution.

Davis was convicted 20 years ago in the shooting death of a police officer. And in next hour CNN's David Mattingly will speak exclusively with the prosecutor in the case.

And we are getting new video in of Friday's air show crash in Nevada. Now, a brief warning that you may find this video difficult to watch.





SYLVESTER: Authorities say another person has died as a result of the crash, bringing the death toll now to 11.

Linda McMahon is throwing her hat in the ring again. The Connecticut Republican announced her run for the senate today. She spent tens of millions of dollars on a fail bid for the senate last year. She is running for the seat currently held by Senator Joe Lieberman, who is not running for re-election.

And a scathing new book about Sarah Palin hits bookstores today and the author is already defending himself against criticism. Joe McGinniss, who lived next to the Palin's last year, says many of his sources are unnamed because the family will do anything to protect their image.


JOE MCGINNISS, AUTHOR, "THE ROGUE": The Palin's have intimidated so many people for so long in the Wasilla area that it's very hard to find people willing to talk about them even in inconsequential ways on the record. They scare people. They threaten people. Even since the book has come out, I've gotten contacted by two of my named sources in the book who said they're now being told they better watch their backs.


SYLVESTER: No surprise here. The Palin's here have blasted the book with Todd Palin saying it is quote, "full of disgusting lies" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, Thank you.

Coming up in my interview with the former President Bill Clinton, reveals something he says he's very concerned about and says why you should be worried as well. The interview coming up, next.


BLITZER: History was made today for the nation's armed forces. Today marked the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy so many people in the military learned to loathe. For the first time, gay servicemen and women can now admit their sexual orientation without any fear of persecution.

Our Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us now with more.

All right, so today's day one after "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." How's it going?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some are celebrating this development while others are realizing it's not the magic bullet they thought it might be.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is dead. And just like that, it's OK for some troops to stop hiding who they are.

SARAH PEZZAT, U.S. MARIN CORPS: I'm 31 years old. I'm a woman. I'm a United States marine and I'm a lesbian. And - pardon me. Prior to today, if I had said that, I could expect to be discharged from the military.

LAWRENCE: The Pentagon has now trained 97 percent of troops on the new policy and expects 100 percent compliance.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: With regards to you know the possibility of harassment, we have a zero tolerance.

LAWRENCE: Jeremy Johnson's reenlistment paper work was processed today, but he's one of the fortunate few discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

JEREMY JOHNSON, RE-ENLISTING IN U.S. NAVY: I'll be honest, I've talked to people who wanted to go back in and they started making the phone calls to recruiters and found there are a set of circumstances just won't allow it and there's letdown. And you can hear it in their voice.

LAWRENCE: Some are too old now are their specialties are no longer need. The Pentagon isn't giving them any waivers, so they're in the same boat as any other service member. And openings are hard to come by. Given the bad economy, more troops are staying in even as the military downsizes due to the budget crunch.

PANETTA: Defense is taking you know more than its share of cuts, in excess of $450 billion.

LAWRENCE: Like all troops, gays and lesbians will be able to designate anyone as a life insurance beneficiary or care giver. But the military does not recognize gay marriage because the defense of marriage act is federal law.

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We're going to follow that law as long as it exists. And certainly we are aware there are benefits which do accrue to this change very specifically and directly.


LAWRENCE: Yes. So same-sex partners are not eligible for the service member's pension or dependent health care benefits and unlike other federal agencies, the military makes marriage an incentive. Married troops get paid more and have access to better housing. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much Chris for that update. Having said all that, still obviously a very historic day for the United States military.

Bill Clinton certainly knows a lot about presidential politics. Just ahead, you're going to hear his thoughts on the Tea Party debate last week. What he heard that he says truly disturbed him. The interview coming up, right here on the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: President Obama on the offensive with growing economic fears across the country and fears backlash from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. All of it, a source of serious concern for the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.


BLITZER: Mr. President, good to see you at the Clinton Global Initiative. Another year, it's really moving very quickly. Its jobs, jobs, jobs right now. This is an enormous crisis and potentially, potentially, it could get a whole lot worse.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It could. And it could get better. And you know, what we're trying to do here is to just come up with concrete things that can be done, not just in the United States, but elsewhere, to put Americans back to work.

And when we met in Chicago in June, or July, we talked about how to put America back to work and today, we had a good manifestation of that with the announcement by the AFLCO and American Federation of Teachers if they were releasing a lot more money to try to put their members and other people, construction workers, back to work retro fitting buildings and they're going to create an enormous number of jobs doing this.

BLITZER: But you know there's political gridlock in Washington. The president comes up with these initiatives, these plans as he's done this week, but you know it's not going to go anywhere as far as the Republican members are concerned.

CLINTON: Well, I think it's sad, but the people, they were elected by the American people essentially on the promise of doing nothing. Except to try to you know, give us a lot less government. And then in the Senate, I think they'll block anything because they're afraid it will work.

BLITZER: You need 60 votes in this Senate.

CLINTON: Yes. Senator McConnell says his main goal in life so to defeat the president for re-election, so it is what it is, but I still think the president had to propose these things and ultimately, the American people are just going to have to decide what kind of country they want and vote for it.

They voted now for, in 2006 and 2008, they voted for one kind of country to take a move away from the policies of the previous several years. Then, in 2010, they voted to take a u-turn and I don't think they really think like that.

I think they think, well, we need a little more of this, little more of this and that, but they voted for quite a radical departure. And so, you know, it's interesting to me to see the voters sit around and condemn the politicians that they elected who are doing what they promised to do during the elections. BLITZER: My sense is and you I have different jobs, but '95, '96, when the government was shutdown, as you remember just before you were re-elected as bitter as the acrimony was in Washington then and I covered it, I was the White House correspondent covering your administration, I think it's worse now. But you tell me what you think.

CLINTON: Could be. I don't know. You would know better than me because I'm not there all the time. I think basically - but the American people, all I'm saying is they keep giving Congress low rating and the White House low ratings. They need to take a little ownership here. Every one of these people got into power because they were voted for.

BLITZER: They were democratically elected.

CLINTON: Yes. And none of them, there's now a determined effort to restrict the franchise and kind of toward the meeting of democratic elections, but all these people were. And you know you should pay attention to what people say when they run for office, they pretty much try to do what they say they're going to do and I will give it to the Tea Party Republicans. They -- if you paid attention, they're doing what they said they were going to do. And the voters now seem to be upset by it.

BLITZER: Did you see that debate that I moderated in Tampa?

CLINTON: I saw some of it, yes.

BLITZER: What did you think of those guys up there on the stage?

CLINTON: Well, there's a range of -- what I think, the more moderate ones, as you might imagine, are the ones that I think would be better presidents. I was like a lot of people, quite disturbed that there were those who were cheering when you asked if a man who needed life-saving care but didn't have health insurance should be allowed to die, and there seemed to be cheering. But, you know, it's all political theater now.

That is, look at the difference of what we're doing here and what happens in the campaign. And I sympathize with you, because you've got to run all these news programs.

Now, it looks to me like what's good politics in the modern world, at least when times are tough, is conflict, and it also makes for edgier news coverage. And yet, in the real world, where jobs are created, what works is cooperation. So, it's not the government versus the private sector, it's what they can do together to create prosperity.

And if you look at -- oh, I don't know, let's take San Diego, the center of biotechnology in America, more Nobel Prize-winning scientists than any other American city, no longer primarily a Navy city. It's a biotech city.

The Silicon Valley is back. Orlando has 100 computer simulation companies. Pittsburgh is trying to go from being the city of steel to the city of nanotechnology. Cleveland is using Cleveland Clinic to try to retrofit, if you will, not buildings, the workforce.

So, there are these centers of prosperity in America. Every one of them works because people cooperate, not because there's conflict. But conflict is good politics. That's how you get elected.

BLITZER: You said some of the Republican candidates are more moderate than the others. Let's talk about that for a second.

Who do you like and who are you concerned about? Not from the political standpoint, but from the standpoint of America's future?

CLINTON: Well, it appears that Governor Huntsman and Governor Romney at least have not come out and just flat-out denial of climate change. It appears that Governor Huntsman said he supported the compromise to raise the debt ceiling because America couldn't afford the economic consequences of debt default.

That used to be the position of every responsible American. That now passes for a moderate to liberal position in a Republican Party. He's the only candidate for president who supported not defaulting on our debt.

So I don't have anything against the others. I admire a lot of things about the other candidates. But I think that there is no evidence anywhere in the world of a successful country that has such bitter anti-government philosophy.

BLITZER: Like Rick Perry has?

CLINTON: Yes. It's the old get America, get Washington as far away as possible. Of course, it's interesting, because an enormous percentage of the jobs created in Texas since the financial meltdown, not before -- before, they really were doing great -- but he's done pretty well with government funding, closing his budget gaps, creating public jobs, but nonetheless, he's anti-government, this whole anti- government thing.

And it sounded so good, but there's not an example of a successful country. You look around the world, the countries that are growing faster than we are, have lower unemployment rates than we do, have less income and equality than we do, without exception they have a good government and good economy. They don't run against the government.

They use -- the government and the economy work together. So, what's good politics for them is there's just not any example in the world of the country working better doing what they advocate. Not a single one.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is you'd be happier if Romney or Huntsman got the nomination than Rick Perry.

CLINTON: Well, it's not up to me to pick -- they'll both lose if anybody thinks I've endorsed them. I'm just saying that I appreciate the fact that they're trying to navigate a landscape that bears almost no relationship to what's produced successful economies in the world.

And there are lots of countries that are now doing better than we are in some areas because of the very ideas that apparently you had to support to get the nomination. And it bothers me, because I think we need a Republican-Democratic debate and discussion about how best to change the way we produce and consume energy, and how best to revive the economy, and how best to incorporate the need for cultural norms like the value of work and family, as well as government programs to help get through this tough time.

And we can't get it, because you're either for our against the government. And if you're an anti-government guy, you've got to say every tax is bad, every regulation is bad, every program is bad. First, it's factually not true. And secondly, it's really distorting our policy.


BLITZER: All right. We're going to have much more of my interview with the former president, Bill Clinton, including serious concerns looming over the Middle East right now over a showdown under way at the United Nations.

More of the interview coming up. Should the U.S., for example, be worried about any retaliatory violence against U.S. interests overseas depending on what happens in New York this week?

Also, hot water for the White House over that solar energy company that went bankrupt after receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer money.


BLITZER: Much more of my interview with Bill Clinton coming up. But let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now.

Joining us, the CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile. Also joining us, the Republican strategist Tony Blankley. He's an executive vice president for global public affairs at Edelman public relations in Washington.

Tony, I'll start with you.

Bill Clinton made it clear. He said this -- he said, "There's no evidence anywhere in the world of a successful country that has such a bitter anti-government philosophy like the Republicans do right now," especially Rick Perry. And he says it's hypocritical of Perry, because Texas has benefited from all those government jobs and the government aid to Texas over the past few years.

Does Bill Clinton have a point?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it's great to see Bill Clinton out there campaigning again. He's conveniently forgotten that there was once a candidate called Ronald Reagan who ran -- I worked on the 1980 campaign -- who said government isn't the solution, it's the problem. He had a pretty successful eight years in the presidency.

Maggie Thatcher, in '79, ran against -- argued to privatize the welfare government of the socialists in Britain successfully. She had, what, a decade of very successful governance?

And, of course, former President Clinton was mischaracterizing, I think, the debate that we had in August. The Republicans were to a person, the leadership Boehner, McConnell, were saying that we were not going to let a default happen. It was in fact the secretary of the Treasury who was warning the world there might be a default.

So I think President Clinton, it's wonderful to see him, and all the horsepower that he has in politics, but I don't think it's much of a representation of the reality of the history of campaigning against big government.

BLITZER: I suspect, Donna, you disagree, but tell us why.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, Bill Clinton is a statesman. He's respected by other world leaders. And we're glad that he is still on the international stage trying to forge peace and bring about economic opportunity to all citizens all around the world.

The truth is, is the Republicans constantly run against Washington. They loathe government unless they're in power.

And the fact is, is that while Democrats believe in we, the people, the Republican believes in we, the big business, we, the corporate business. And so we have different philosophies, as President Clinton outlined.

The truth of the matter is, if you dislike government, you dislike Washington, D.C., well, stay the hell out of it. We can do very well without Republicans running things.

BLITZER: Tony, you did hear the former president say that he thinks Huntsman and Romney are more moderate, more reasonable than, let's say, Rick Perry, because at least they recognize there's a problem called global warming.

What did you make of that?

BLANKLEY: I thought it reminded me of what President Clinton said a couple of days ago about Cheney saying something nice about Mrs. Clinton. He said he understands that in politics, when you compliment across the aisle, that may not be your sincere objective.

So, yes, there's a lot of game-playing going on, on both sides of the aisle, making compliments. Presumably, Bill Clinton thinks that Huntsman is a weaker candidate than Perry, so he's building him up a little bit. And that's part of the process.

BRAZILE: Well, we've had six Republicans --

BLITZER: Donna, I want you to listen to what -- hold on a second. Just listen to -- Donna, just listen though. You can answer that, but listen also to what Rick Perry said here in New York today about President Obama and Israel, the Middle East.

Listen to this.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Obama policy of moral equivalency, which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, and including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a very dangerous insult. There is no middle ground between our allies and those who seek their destruction.


BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Donna. I know you've worked hard on this issue as well. Respond to Rick Perry.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, he sounds like a previous president with his "my way or the highway," "bring it on," "you're either for us or against us." Look, President Obama has a strong record in support of Israel's security, Israel's peace. He believes in a two-state solution and he wants both sides to come to the bargaining table. And he's urging the Palestinians to have direct talks with Israel.

He will be meeting with the prime minister in a couple of days when he comes to town. This is something that the president feels very strongly about, Israel's security.

Israel is our ally in the region. I was in the region just a few months ago, Wolf, and I understand how important it is for Israel to have the support of the United States.

And just recently, the prime minister complimented the president on his help in the standoff there in Egypt, as well as the continuing concerns that Israel has about Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and the entire Middle East. And Iran, of course. So, I don't know where Rick Perry is getting his information. Maybe he needs Condoleezza Rice to advise him, or somebody who knows a little bit more about world affairs.

BLANKLEY: Yes. You know --

BLITZER: Tony, you want to advise him a little bit?

BLANKLEY: I don't need to advise him. As you know, Wolf, anyone who walks into Middle East diplomacy and politics is in treacherous territory.

I thought Perry did pretty well today. Actually, his statements reminded me of something I read in the paper today, Marty Peretz, the publisher of "New Republic."

His article here, "Obama's Middle East is in Tatters." And he was very critical in a similar way -- not exactly the same, but in a similar way that Perry was of Obama's buying into a lot of the Palestinian narrative rather than staying between the two. Now, I think Perry went a little further than Peretz, but the critique of President Obama's Middle East misplay I think is both from the neocon right and from the traditional and internationalist liberals in Washington.

BRAZILE: Well, I've seen articles by --


BLITZER: And I think both of you and all of our viewers are also -- Donna, hold on.

BRAZILE: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: No, I was just going to say, when part two of my interview with the former president, Bill Clinton, comes up, we speak at length about what's going on in the Middle East, U.S.-Israeli relations. He's got some advice for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

I didn't want to cut you off, but we're out of time for this segment. Donna, go ahead, make your final thought, and then we'll move on.

BRAZILE: Wolf, this is a very important period of time for the negotiations that must continue. And as you know, the president has threatened to veto any attempt to circumvent the peace talks and go directly to the U.N.

The president believes in a two-state solution. That's the belief not just of this president, but the previous president. And it's time that the Palestinians and the Israelis sit down across from each other and go ahead and come up with a solution that can guarantee the peace and security of Israel and a Palestinian homeland.

BLITZER: Easier said than done, obviously.

BRAZILE: Of course.

BLITZER: All right.

Donna, Tony -- guys, thanks very much.

BLANKLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: The White House is trying to project a squeaky clean image, but two executives who received a massive loan guarantee threatened that image as they refused to tell Congress what it wants to know.

Stand by for that.

And supporters of Troy Davis say the convicted killer doesn't deserve to die. The man who sent him to death row has his own opinion. You're going to hear from him.

All that, a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: How much of a problem does President Obama have within his own party?

Dale writes, "His three years in office have been a lame, disastrous attempt at consensus-building with an ignorant, uncompromising Republican Party. He should have learned from the health care debate that they don't care about the American people and are only interested in his failure. By not standing up for the beliefs of those of us who helped elect him, he's in trouble."

Fala (ph) writes in Dallas, "None whatsoever. When liberals look and see who is lining up against him in 2012 (a la Rick Perry) they'll all get in line. They'll see the second coming of George W. Bush on steroids -- dumber and more arrogant."

"It's not even three years and we've already forgotten what these Republicans have done. We Americans were dumb enough to re-elect Bush and smart enough to elect Obama. I have my fingers crossed."

Harriet writes from Bayside, New York, "The Democratic Party doesn't really hate President Obama, but many in the party are disappointed in him because he gives in too easily."

Dave in Orlando, "Let's count the ways. Obama can give an electrifying speech, but they're empty. He hasn't fulfilled any of his campaign promises in any meaningful way, not one."

"He spent his first year and a half in office working only for himself on what he hopes will be his legacy: health care reform. He's given the farm away to the Republicans on every negotiating point. He has capitulated to big business, Wall Street, and all the other scoundrels, after promising to put an end to their shenanigans and their criminal activity."

"He's held no one accountable for anything. We're still waging several wars, not to mention the soaring national debt. Need I go on?"

Craig on Facebook writes, "Obama hasn't figured out that he's the head of the party and how to make it work for him yet. How can he lead the country when he can't even lead his own party?"

And Bob writes, "As long as I've paid attention to politics I have never seen a president endure such opposition to each and everything he does. I appreciate that our president has hung in there and hasn't lost his composure. Honestly, I don't know how he hasn't punched Boehner, Ryan and Cantor smack in the face."

If you want to read more on this stuff, go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

The White House, meanwhile, is dealing with a new embarrassment involving a decision by executives at the solar energy company Solyndra.

Lisa Sylvester has been following this story for us extensively.

What's the latest, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, the CEO and CFO of Solyndra, they are supposed to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation this Friday, but their attorneys now say they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and they will not provide testimony.

You'll recall this company received a $535 million Energy Department loan from the federal government as part of the stimulus program. Well, the company filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, and two days later the FBI searched their offices, although it's unclear exactly what they're investigating.

Well, now the CEO, Brian Harrison's attorney, cited ongoing investigations in a letter to committee. We just got a copy just moments ago of that letter in which he said, "This is not a decision arrived at lightly, but it is a decision dictated by current circumstances. On September 8, 2011, federal agents executed a search warrant at Solyndra's facilities. Moreover, the United States Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into Solyndra. In light of these circumstances, I had no choice but to advise Mr. Harrison to assert his Fifth Amendment rights."

Now, I asked the subcommittee chairman just last week during an interview on the likelihood that the CEO and the CFO would actually, and here's what Representative Cliff Stearns said.


REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: We invited them this week. They asked for a delay. We said we would be glad to do that. We asked then, "Are you going to take the Fifth?" They said, "No, we're going to try and come and testify."

So that's my assumption, they'll testify and not take the Fifth, which I think under the circumstances is the proper way to go.


SYLVESTER: Now, another thing that has just come out is a statement from Representative Stearns and from the committee chairman. They are essentially saying that Brian Harrison and the CFO have reneged on written assurances that they would not take the Fifth Amendment while testifying. Apparently, they had worked out an agreement. It was very clear that the plan at least was that they would testify.

That clearly is not going to happen at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Much more on my interview with former President Bill Clinton in just a few minutes. But first, a focus of the Clinton Global Initiative this year is certainly on jobs.

Our Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff reports.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not only are executives and government leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative talking jobs, they're also showing how they walk the talk.

THOMAS HICKS, DEP. ASSIST. SECRETARY OF THE NAVY: We can do this. The government has invested in technologies in a wide array of areas, and has seen successes and left behind industries that are sustainable.

CHERNOFF: Yes, the Navy is helping generate civilian jobs through green innovative technology. It has been a prime customer of Solazyme, which makes algae-based fuel. Danish company Novozymes is building a factory in Nebraska that will manufacture enzymes for industrial use. The company says it will create more 100 permanent jobs.

THOMAS NAGY, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NOVOZYMES: The purpose of these enzymes are to help our clients make more with less, increasing the sustainability, creating new green jobs in the industries that we actually serve.

CHERNOFF: Organized labor is involved, too. The AFL-CIO is committing to invest up to $10 billion in pension assets into energy- efficient infrastructure to help create jobs. Two of those public pension funds in California are already spending more than $1 billion to achieve a so-called triple-bottom line.

HARRY KEILEY, INVESTMENT CHAIRMAN, CALSTRS PENSION FUND: If we can put people back to work, and we can help rebuild this country of ours, I think we can all be very, very proud of that work.

CHERNOFF: To fill such jobs, proper training is essential. Microsoft estimates half of today's jobs require technology skills, and they say in 10 years, three-quarters of all jobs will need technology skills.

ANTHONY SALCITO, MICROSOFT: The United States ranks 18th around the world in terms of Internet access in the home, and we also recognize that students who have Internet access in the home graduate by six to eight points more likely than other students without Internet access.

CHERNOFF: So Microsoft is committed to a partnership that will provide computers and Internet access to one million low-income families.


CHERNOFF: It's a very fine commitment. Now, the Clinton Global Initiative has been doing this since 2005. If all the commitments were fully funded, it would amount to $63 billion. That can create a good number of jobs, but it would take quite a bit more money to significantly lower the U.S. unemployment rate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allen, thanks very much. Lots of money there.