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Unflattering Portrait of Obama White House in New Book; Interview With Former President Bill Clinton; No Clemency for Death Row Inmate

Aired September 20, 2011 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: an unflattering portrait of the Obama White House, allegedly run like a boys club, with high-level women said to be cut off from the president, and controversial claims of a hostile work environment. Stand by.

Also, my special interview with the former President Bill Clinton. We talk about jobs, the Palestinian quest for statehood and why he thinks his former adviser James Carville is wrong about what President Obama should do next.

And clemency denied. Now a Georgia man is just hours away from execution for a crime thousands of people around the world are convinced he did not commit.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Explosive allegations in a controversial new book about the Obama White House. In "Confidence Men," award-winning author Ron Suskind not only alleges infighting and indecision among top presidential staff. He also claims top female staffers were simply shut out and raises the possibility that women in the White House were treated unlawfully.

CNN's Brian Todd has been digging into this book for us, digging the story in general.

Brian, what do we know about these latest allegations?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know there are quotes in this book about the White House being a hostile workplace for women, but there's all sorts of back and forth now about whether those quotes were accurate or not.


TODD (voice-over): New accusations of a boys club in the Obama White House. In his new book "Confidence Men," author Ron Suskind writes of tension during President Obama's first two years over complaints that women weren't treated as well as men. One of the most inflammatory quotes comes from former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn: "This place would be in court for the hostile workplace because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."

The White House wouldn't comment. We couldn't get an interview or statement from Dunn. She told "The Washington Post" she was misquoted and said she told the author, Suskind, that the White House was not a hostile work environment.

CNN contributor Hilary Rosen, a business partner of Dunn's, says this.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Anita was clearly misquoted in this book and then the stories since then have not really told the full story, which is this, that she was talking to a colleague and making joking comments about the impact of being a woman in the White House.

TODD: Suskind's publisher has stood completely by him. Suskind allowed a "The Washington Post" reporter to review an excerpt of his original interview with Anita Dunn. We asked for a copy of that tape. Suskind's team declined.

In that interview, Dunn says, "If it weren't for the president, this place would be in the court for a hostile workplace."

ROSEN: Anita very clearly said, but for the president's leadership, there would be a woman problem, as there is in many places in this country.

TODD: I spoke with attorney Debra Katz, who specializes in workplace issues.

(on camera): What is the definition of a hostile workplace environment for women?

DEBRA KATZ, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Hostile work environment is a legal term of art. And it is a term that the Supreme Court defined very carefully to be an environment that is infused with intimidation, ridicule and abuse based on the person's gender that so alters the environment that it creates a sexually hostile work environment. The behavior has to be severe or pervasive.

TODD (voice-over): No word from Anita Dunn on that. Rosen says to her knowledge there was nothing like that going on. The book also depicts a White House where accomplished women got in the door, but not necessarily in the president's door.

Christina Romer, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, is quoted as saying: "I felt like a piece of meat" after being shut out of a meeting by then top adviser Larry Summers.


TODD: We couldn't get Larry Summers to comment directly on that Romer quote. Summers has only said what's attributed to him in this book is hearsay, fiction and distortion. Christina Romer has since said that she can't imagine she ever made that piece of meat remark. Romer said -- quote -- "It is just too silly for words" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, the White House also countering point by point some of the other issues that Suskind has raised.

TODD: Yes. One White House official points to two of the president's deputy chiefs of staff who are women, one female White House counsel and, of course, the two women he's appointed to the Supreme Court. They're hitting back hard on the idea that women don't get close to the president at this point.

BLITZER: Yes, he's got a secretary of state who happens to be Hillary Clinton as well.

Let's talk a little bit more about this right now with our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's here with me in New York.

Jessica, you have spoken to a lot of these women who have worked in the White House. You have spoken to a lot of people as well. Give us your thoughts on what this uproar is all about.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the early days, when the White House had just convened, there was a lot of anguish among the women, especially in their feelings with the economic team, that their voices were not being heard.

And the women went to Valerie Jarrett, who is one of the president's oldest friends and one of his closest advisers in the White House, and she took this to the president, and went to the president. And he convened a dinner and met with these senior women and heard them out. And by all accounts, things got much better after the president heard them out, and he took steps to improve things.

I will say that I just spoke to a former White House staffer who has now left the building, a woman who says that to the extent that there were problems, it was, in her view, because the president wasn't aware of what his staff was doing, and once he was aware, they got better.

But I will also say that it's known among Democratic women around Washington that there is a concern about a boys club environment in this White House.

BLITZER: A boys club early, in the early year let's say of the Obama White House, when Rahm Emanuel was the White House chief of staff, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs was there? Was that a little boys -- because those were the reports that were coming out at the time that some of the women, like Valerie Jarrett, for example, Carol Browner, among others, they were not necessarily part of that inside team.

YELLIN: And it was much worse then. It was much worse and the president has taken steps to improve it, is the way I would say it. BLITZER: I'm sure -- well, if he had a dinner, he recognized there was a problem and he fixed it.

But I have to say in this administration, women have achieved tremendous opportunities. They have gotten positions that earlier administrations maybe they didn't necessarily achieve.

YELLIN: Absolutely. And I think Brian Todd pointed it out well, two female deputy chiefs of staff and appointed two women to the Supreme Court.

But it's also a great opportunity for us to also acknowledge that there is a difference between giving women a lofty title and actual influence, and not just in this White House, but in politics in general. And I cannot tell you how many dinners I have attended with women political operatives over the years from both parties who say it is so challenging for them because they are maybe one or two female voices on an entire team, and it is so hard for their voices to be heard because they are so outnumbered by the men.

And this is an ongoing issue in politics that I think is worth our talking about.

BLITZER: It's definitely worth talking about and it's definitely worth fixing since it's a problem that exists among Democrats, Republicans, across the board. And I'm glad you discussed it with us. Jessica, thank you.

We will continue discussing this controversy about the book tomorrow. The author of "Confidence Men," Ron Suskind, he will be my guest tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, lots to discuss with him.

Meanwhile, a convicted killer whose death sentence sparked an international outcry is scheduled to be executed in 25 hours. Troy Davis is running out of options after the Georgia Parole Board denied his appeal for clemency today.

David Mattingly is joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

David, you spoke with a prosecutor today. What did he tell you?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The former prosecutor in this case, Wolf, has been silent for so many years because he said he was ethically bound to do all of his arguing in court. And he points out that he won at every turn in court when it came to fighting for this case and now he says that justice is being done.


SPENCER LAWTON, FORMER CHATHAM COUNTRY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Instead of rushing into court, brandishing these affidavits to say, wait, wait, wait, we have this new important evidence, they didn't. They pocketed them.

They waited until eight days before the first execution was scheduled to disclose the fact that they had these affidavits of recantation, as they're pleased to call them.

What did we learn from that? We learned from that, in my opinion, that the affidavits of recantation were of more value to the attorneys as a device for delay than they were valuable to the attorneys as a device for substantive argument.

It has been a game of delay throughout. The longer the delay, the more time they have to create, not doubt, not honest doubt, not real doubt, but the appearance of doubt.


MATTINGLY: Former DA Spencer talking about how he believes that the seven of nine witnesses who have since recanted their statements, he believes he says they were under pressure from supporters of Davis to change their stories.

And he says that when the courts looked at their new stories, he says that they did not hold up any sort of credibility, and he says they have been very effective, however, as tools for public relations and he says now that everything is going forward as it should -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Does he have any more options available, Troy Davis, right now?

MATTINGLY: Troy Davis supporters say they're going to try a couple of other things. They're unconventional and very unlikely to work.

They were looking at the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board as their last, best hope to keep him off of death row. And, of course, today, that ruling came down early this morning, saying they would not commute his sentence, and that his execution will go on as scheduled -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Seven p.m. Eastern tomorrow night, a little bit less than 25 hours from now. All right, we will watch and see what happens.

David, thank you.

MATTINGLY: Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama's $3 trillion debt reduction plan is really a huge tax increase accompanied by very small and somewhat questionable spending cuts. The president wants $3 in tax increases for every $1 in spending cuts. That's according to analysis done by "The Washington Times."

His plan will go nowhere in Congress. Besides the $1.5 trillion in new taxes, here are the president's ideas of spending cuts. Find waste in Medicare. Where have we heard that before? Count savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That was going to happen anyway. Count lower interest costs on the national debt. Where are the cuts? No entitlement reform in this plan, no orders to cut the federal work force, to cut federal budgets by a significant amount or to close overseas military bases, no means test for Social Security, no raising of the retirement age, nothing.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the so-called super committee in Congress to come up with their plan, the deficit situation is a ticking time bomb. Here's the scary truth. Even if the super committee comes up with $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts over the next decade, it is a minuscule drop in the bucket. Our country is more than $14 trillion in debt right now. And we're adding to that debt at the staggering rate of a trillion dollars plus every year.

So even if the government cuts $3 trillion or $4 trillion over 10 years, we will still have a national debt of $21 trillion in 10 years, $7 trillion more than we have right now. The federal government knows all this full well and simply refuses to be realistic about how dangerous our predicament is.

So here is the question. Is anyone besides Ron Paul serious about our deepening national financial crisis? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

James Carville says it's time for President Obama and the White House to panic. His former boss Bill Clinton says Carville is wrong. What should the president be doing right now?

And Mr. Clinton also weighs in on so-called Warren Buffett tax, raising rates on America's wealthiest citizens -- that and much more coming up, my one-on-one interview with the former President of the United States Bill Clinton.


BLITZER: It's a very busy week here in New York City. President Obama is here for the United Nations General Assembly.

At the same time, former President Clinton is presiding over his Clinton Global Initiative. This afternoon, I sat down with the former president for a wide-ranging interview. I asked about a controversial remark by one of his former top campaign advisers.


BLITZER: You know, James Carville, a man you know well, our CNN contributor, Democratic strategist, worked with you for a long time...


BLITZER: ... he says it's time for the president and the White House to panic, to fire people, to indict people. He's -- just sees what's happening, that special election here in New York City.

You think Carville is right?


I think that, first, it's never a good thing for the president to panic. I think they need to focus as much as they can on -- like what we did now when we just announced that the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers and their pension funds and their allies are doing what the banking system should be doing.

They're out there. They are funding major building retrofits, and they're going to put thousands and thousands and thousands of people to work. That's what I think we should do.

BLITZER: Here's the problem.


BLITZER: What you're talking about in Pittsburgh and San Diego and Orlando and what you're doing here, it seems to be the exception. These are isolated incidents that are positive, but the rest is...

CLINTON: Exactly. So what should we be doing? That's what I was starting to say.

So, what I'm trying to do is to figure out how you can get more of these centers of prosperity. How can you take things that are working, like this onshoring, not offshoring, jobs in Joplin, Missouri, how can we do this in other places?

I spend an enormous amount of time trying to figure out how to get this to work. One thing I'm certain of, a Washington food fight won't create a job. And I think -- I personally believe the president did the right thing by offering the Republicans a plan that included things they had already supported.

BLITZER: But they're not going to support tax increases, even on...


CLINTON: Tax decreases. They don't even support tax decreases.

Look, let me -- the so-called Buffett tax, it's really just -- it is what you might call an alternative minimum tax on millionaires. And it takes account...

BLITZER: You think that's a good idea?

CLINTON: Well, I would support it and I would pay it probably, although I probably meet the alternative minimum already.

But the point I want to make is, it's a manner of distraction. And none of it will be done until the big long-term debt reduction plan starts coming in. I'm talking about right now. Right now, he's trying to lower payroll taxes in I think a very intelligently designed plan that even Mark Zandi, who was one of Senator McCain's advisers in 2008, but is now a professional economic analyst -- said, if the Obama plan passed, it would reduce unemployment by producing a 1.3 percent to 2 percent growth in GDP, by producing another one million to two million jobs.

This is a well-conceived deal. I think putting out $50 billion in already existing infrastructure channels, that's not a bad thing to do. We got plenty of work to do. This is -- it's OK. So -- and they can do this without any tax increase. This is for right now.

BLITZER: Did the president miss an opportunity on entitlement reform this week? Because he really didn't touch Social Security at all. And the changes, the cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, while significant, still, in the big picture, relatively modest, not raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67, for example, for Medicare.

Was there an opportunity he should have gone and really come up with a grandiose plan?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, my view of what a grandiose plan and yours are might be different.

I think what he wanted to do this week was to fill in the blanks on the $3 trillion he was talking about with the Congress, because if you remember, the Republicans in Congress were saying, well, he says he's for $3 trillion in cuts, but what are they filled at?

OK, so I think he did that. Now, here is what I think about your specific question. I kind of like what the Simpson-Bowles commission did on Social Security, because they actually saved a couple hundred billion dollars over a decade. But they did it in a way that actually gave more money to low-income Social Security recipients, to surviving spouses and the disabled.

BLITZER: But the president never accepted that Simpson-Bowles commission.

CLINTON: I understand that. And...

BLITZER: And the Republicans -- there were Republicans like Paul Ryan who rejected it, Democrats who rejected it.

CLINTON: Well, Ryan rejected it because it was against their theology, because it had both new revenues and spending cuts.

BLITZER: Tax increases.

CLINTON: But all I can ask the American people to do is to inject some reality into this.

The theology of the modern Republican Party...

BLITZER: No new taxes.

CLINTON: It's an ideology -- is that every tax is bad, especially if an upper-income person has to pay it. And everybody, even the moderates -- David Brooks has a column today, acting like the president is like Attila the Hun because he wants to restore the tax rates that existed when I was president. We had a record number of millionaires and billionaires. Everybody was doing fine.

And then we got five tax cuts and were the only beneficiaries in the economy over the last decade. Now, this is not class warfare to say we're all going to have to pitch in here, everybody is going to have to give a little. But those of us who gained the most and paid the least in the previous decade should do our part.

But that is -- let's talk about the other thing, the Medicare. Here's the problem, for example, with raising the retirement age on Medicare. The difference is Social Security. I don't have a problem with that.

BLITZER: Social Security has already been raised.

CLINTON: Yes, and it can be raised over time, like the Simpson- Bowles commission recommends.

But if you raise the retirement age on Medicare, the eligibility age for Medicare, you will save money for the budget, but you won't save any money for the health care system. You will cost the health care system more.

Since 1970, annual costs of Medicare after inflation have gone up 400 percent. But, since 1970, annual costs of private for-profit health insurance after inflation have gone up 700 percent. So what the president has to do here is to make sure that -- that whatever he does to save money on Medicare also helps the private insurance system, because we're spending about $850 billion a year more than we would if we had any other country's health insurance system.

That hurts our economy. It keeps wages down. It keeps investment for new business down, though I think he may get better results out of this Medicare than you think.

BLITZER: Here's what I'm concerned about. I may be more concerned about the economy than you are. And it could affect the Clinton Global Initiative, all the important, good work you're trying to do.


BLITZER: Europe, it's a disaster what's happening, not just Greece, but other countries. It's spilling over. And it could cross the pond, and come over here as well, and affect whatever you're trying to do through the CGI.


Well, let's look at that. And it could affect America's economic recovery.

BLITZER: You're not as worried about that as I am?

CLINTON: Oh, yes, very.

I think it's important that your viewers understand why it could affect America's economic recovery. So let's give them a minute on it, OK? So, the euro is formed, the European currency unit. And if you join, you have to agree to follow certain rules of financial responsibility.

Greece joins. And they're among the -- you know, their incomes are lower and their budget deficits are higher than let's say the wealthier countries, Germany, the Netherlands, all that.

So, when the economy is rising, it's fine. Everybody does well. But when the economy is falling, as happened after the financial crisis, it puts countries on the low end of this common currency in a terrible bind.

Why could that affect us? Because a lot of American banks have invested in European banks, which in turn have bought Greek securities.

BLITZER: I'm concerned about that.

CLINTON: Yes, you should be.


BLITZER: All right, we will have more of my interview with the former President of the United States Bill Clinton, why he says right now the United States will veto a resolution on a Palestinian state at the United Nations Security Council, even if it should trigger anger on the streets in the Middle East -- more of the interview coming up.

And two Americans continue to sit in an Iranian jail as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes here to New York. Their $1 million bail has been paid, so what is holding up the release?


BLITZER: More now of my interview with former President Bill Clinton.

His Clinton Global Initiative is taking place here in New York City this week, right at the same time as the United Nations General Assembly.

And I was eager to ask the former president about the unfolding drama as the Palestinians seek statehood recognition from the U.N.


BLITZER: I know you got to get going, but the Middle East.

Here's my concern. The U.S., the Obama administration, says it will veto a U.N. Security Council resolution to establish a Palestinian state. That could trigger a lot of anti-American reaction in the Muslim world, in the Arab world, elsewhere. How concerned are you that that could trigger that kind of development?

CLINTON: Oh, a little bit, but I think the...

BLITZER: Just a little bit?

CLINTON: Yes. And I will tell you why.

In the street, it's more of a concern than in the -- among the leaders, for this reason. There is a widespread feeling in the world that the current Israeli government may have abandoned the intention of working with the Palestinians to create a state on the West Bank in Gaza and just doesn't want to say it.

BLITZER: Do you believe that?

CLINTON: I'm not in government. I don't know enough to know. I'm just telling you what I hear around here, that this Palestinian government on the West Bank, under President Abbas and Mr. Fayed is the best government the Israelis ever worked with, which the current -- which the Netanyahu government will say. They're good on security. They're good on economic growth. They're good on self-reliance. They're just good.

But they still don't want to negotiate borders and security for a Palestinian state, and they're spending a fortune to expand settlements in the West Bank and apparently now want to train militia.

On the other hand, they claim that they want to continue to negotiate for a state. As long as that's possible, the United States, being the only country that Israel really does trust to be there for it under all conditions, will veto this resolution to keep the debate going, to keep open the possibility of peace.

But it is a very difficult thing. The other countries understand this. But you know, everything Israel always said they wanted: they wanted their Arab neighbors to accept them. Now you've got the king of Saudi Arabia mobilizing every Arab country except Syria and Muslim countries as far away from Indonesia, saying give the Palestinians their state, and we'll have a political, economic and security partnership. No progress. Nothing happened. So it's an extremely difficult time.

And what I'm more worried about in not somebody taking action against us. I think what we need to do is, as soon as this is over, as soon as the Palestinians have had their say and said we did everything we're asking, this is not happening. And so they ask for this and we'll veto it, what we have to do is to move immediately to contain the fallout, not so much for the United States but for the people in the Middle East.

BLITZER: Because on the street the reaction will be angry.

CLINTON: They'll be mad, but we -- the Israelis can -- can justify our vote by returning to good-faith negotiations. And you know, given these people who have produced prosperity and security and cooperation with Israel, some reason to believe that they could negotiate their way to a state.

I mean, you know, this has been years this has been going on. The Palestinians didn't just show up and do this because they were dying to cause problems. They believe that the current government in Israel will never negotiate a state with reasonable borders that is even remotely like what the government under Prime Minister Barak -- Prime Minister Barak accepted in 2000...

BLITZER: You were close with Arafat. A year ago you blamed Arafat for missing that opportunity.

CLINTON: He did. Well, look what he -- look what he caused his people. Now, the Israelis, to be fair, to the Netanyahu government and everybody else, you've got a very different Israel now. You've got all these new immigrants there. They weren't part of the past. They don't want to give up the land. But sooner or later, everybody's going to have to come clean here.

If the current government has decided that there will be no Palestinian state and that they have no intention of having a reasonable settlement on the West Bank, they should say that, so the Palestinians can get on with their lives. And they should live with the consequences.

But meanwhile, the United States will veto this, because we have to keep open the possibility of a negotiated peace, And the people in the Arab world understand that and will be fine with it. We need to contain the fallout and make something good happen.

BLITZER: Easier said than done, in my opinion. We're going to leave it right there. How do you feel, OK?


BLITZER: You look good.

CLINTON: I feel fine.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck with the Clinton Global Initiative.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's do it again next year.



BLITZER: So here's a question: what can President Obama learn from Bill Clinton in a sometimes tumultuous presidency? Our own political analysts, Gloria Borger and Ron Brownstein, they're both standing by live. We'll dissect what we just heard.

Plus, a soldier's story coming out story, from anonymous Internet videos to the ultimate nerve-wracking phone call.


BLITZER: All right. Let's dig deeper now about my interview with the former president, Bill Clinton. Joining us, our CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. He's a columnist for the "National Journal."

Gloria, does it sound like Bill Clinton -- I think it does -- would have embraced the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission plan. The Obama White House failed to endorse it, as you know.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it does. If you read between the lines in your interview, Wolf, it sure sounds to me like Bill Clinton liked a lot about the Simpson-Bowles plan, not the least of which was its plan to fix Social Security over an extended period of time.

And I think, knowing Bill Clinton's politics as we all do, that this would have appealed to him, because it would have allowed him to tackle an entitlement problem without having to do it very quickly or all at once.

And so you know, I've said previously lots of other people have said that, perhaps looking back on it, Barack Obama made a mistake by not embracing the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan in his State of the Union last January. I wonder whether Bill Clinton would have endorsed it.

BLITZER: Well, that raises a question, Ron, what can, what should President Obama learn from Bill Clinton, the way he negotiated? He had Newt Gingrich, the speaker of the House. Those -- you remember those days.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. First of all in terms of Simpson-Bowles, Obama may have made a tactical choice not to embrace it, which we'll kind of look bad on whether that was a mistake or not.

In the end, I think there's no question if John Boehner were to have given him Simpson-Bowles in July and August when they were negotiating, I think he would have taken it in a heartbeat at that point.

But the lesson from Bill Clinton is really that there is both compromise and confrontation as part of this process. If you remember, Bill Clinton ultimately reached a very productive balanced budget deal with the Republicans in 1997 that produced three years of surplus and also created the Children's Health Insurance Program, did a lot of good things.

BLITZER: Welfare reform. BROWNSTEIN: But that only came after a very sustained conflict in '95 and '96 that led to two government shutdowns. And, of course, his re-election in 1996.

So you could argue in some extent, even though Obama has moved toward a more confrontational position, that does not preclude, if he does win re-election and Republicans win control of Congress, then you could see 2013 as an analog to 1997, where both sides realize the voters have spoken, the voters have divided control, and they feel they have to find an agreement at that point.

BLITZER: Gloria, what about that? Are there other lessons that this president should be learning from Clinton?

BORGER: Well, there are. I mean , I really agree with Ron, though. Because I think what the president is saying is, look, I may have to be more confrontational in order to get reelected. Once I'm reelected, then I can do all of these other things.

But the voters, there are a couple of other lessons. One is the voters like to see some kind of accomplishment, some kind of achievement. Two, the base of your party, when it decides it has nowhere else to go, will probably return to you, which is what happened to Bill Clinton.

And I also think that he can take a look at Clinton's success in portraying the opposition as too radical. That worked for him. And I think we see Barack Obama getting there. And as we get closer to the election, I believe we will hear the word "extremist" used again and again and again.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. One very -- one very big difference. Clinton was in a stronger political position as '96 went on...

BORGER: Absolutely. Right.

BROWNSTEIN: ... than Obama is, largely because the economy was recovering. And because Clinton was so strong, that was why the Senate Republicans, Trent Lott in particular, made a decision to make a series of deals with Clinton, first on welfare reform, minimum wage and health care before the election, and of course, in '97 on the budget after the election.

They did it because they felt they needed to show accomplishments to maintain their Senate majority. Republicans now, I think, feel that Obama is in a weakened position. I think there will be enormous pressure on the congressional leadership not to throw him any life lines by providing him any accomplishments of significance between now and November 2012. And that's a very, very different...

BLITZER: And Gloria, you remember, because all of us covered Bill Clinton, there was something called triangulation. I'm not seeing a whole lot of Obama triangulation. Remind our viewers how Clinton used that very successfully to get himself reelected in 1997, the first year of his second term. BORGER: Well, he made deals with -- deals with Republicans in Congress and at the expense, lots of Democrats thought at their own expense. So this was -- Bill Clinton was somebody who was -- who was cutting deals.

But let me -- let me add one other thing, which is the that Bill Clinton had an easier case to make. I think this follows up on Ron's point when he was running for re-election. Because he could say look the jobs are heading in the right direction. The unemployment rate is heading in the right direction.

Barack Obama right now has only the case to make that "things would have been worse if I hadn't done what I've done." He tried that argument in the midterm elections. The Democrats tried it in 2010. It didn't work so well for them, because you know, saying that things would have been worse is not a very convincing argument to make to the American public.

And that's where Barack Obama could use a little bit of Bill Clinton in him, because if anybody could make that argument, it would be Bill Clinton because he's such a great salesman. And I think Barack Obama has a lot to learn from that, because his argument is going to be pretty tough if unemployment remains over 9 percent.

BLITZER: I'm going to find out if President Obama is calling former Bill Clinton for some advice. I suspect not. But maybe that will happen.

Ron, thanks very much.

Gloria, thanks to you, as well.

More news coming up including a major typhoon. It's now barreling down on Japan. We have details of what authorities are urging more than 1 million people to do. They simply need to get out of the storm's way.

And what's the most you would pay for a bottle of scotch? The most expensive bottle ever -- ever has just been sold. We're going to tell you how much it costs. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, you have new details on why those two American hikers are still sitting in prison in Iran. What's the latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Well, those two American hikers who have been held in Iran for more than two years, they faced yet another delay to their release today. An attorney for Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer says their bail has been paid, but he needs one more judge's signature to prove it, but that judge didn't come to court today, and the courts won't say when he is supposed to return. A man considered vital to peace efforts in Afghanistan was assassinated earlier today. Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani had been leading the Afghan peace council. An Afghan intelligence source tells CNN the suicide attack on his home occurred at the same time a meeting was to take place between Rabbani and a Taliban representative.

Strong waves and flooding are just the beginning of what Japan is dealing with as a typhoon approaches. We are just hours away from the landfall of Typhoon Roke packing winds of 100 miles per hour and flooding and landslides. More than 1 million people have been urged to evacuate from their homes.

And the U.S. Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution for a Texas man scheduled to die tonight. Cleve Foster received his third last-minute stay of execution since his conviction for a 2002 murder. The court's decision gives his lawyers additional time to file more appeals.

And you might want to be careful before putting this one on your tab. A Chinese businessman has put down a deposit on -- get this -- a $200,000 bottle of scotch. The 62-year-old bottle is one of only 12 produced. His price breaks a record set by another bottle of the same brand sold three months ago. The price tag, if you work it out, it amounts to about $12,000 per serving.

I don't know about you, Wolf, but who's got the money for that? I mean, for all of us working folks, can you imagine a $20,000 [SIC] bottle of scotch?

BLITZER: No, I can't imagine. I don't know. Do they ever open that or do they just hold onto it? I don't know what he's going to do with it.

SYLVESTER: Well, at $12,000 a sip or a serving, you know.

BLITZER: Better not. That's too much. All right. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."

Later the former vice president Dick Cheney, he weighs in on the Republican presidential contenders. His interview with John King coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA" for our North American viewers."

We'll be right back.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour: "Is anyone besides Ron Paul serious about this nation's deepening financial crisis?" Rich writes from Florida, "No, no one. It's not popular to deliver the truth, particularly when it's bad news. As a result, none of the others are going to do it, and Dr. Paul won't be elected by trying to. Too many people are willfully ignorant or else benefiting from the status quo. Hate to be so downbeat, but it is what it is."

Steve writes, "You've got to be kidding. Ron Paul wants to dissolve the Federal Reserve. Probably would like to go back to the gold standard and the late 1890s, for that matter. His ideas are worse than those of the Bush/Cheney administration that caused this mess."

John on Facebook: "Not only are the other candidates not serious about our financial problems, they are oblivious. Ron Paul is the only candidate who understands the business cycle and our monetary system and why we have the problems that we do. Dr. Paul has been right for 30 years on this. We no longer have time not to listen to him."

Carla writes, "I don't think he's serious about anything but his own self-interest. I can't take anyone in the race seriously who doesn't support heavy tax owes the wealthy and big corporations and closing tax loopholes. If they don't want to tax the wealthy and they don't want to tax big business, then they have to have an ulterior motive."

H.J. writes from St. Paul, "I want Social Security. I want health care when I'm old and no longer have a job. I want them to raise taxes on me now so I have a huge fund saved up by the time I retire. Stop talking about cutting. I want those things. Taxes have to be higher. Those Republicans want to eliminate the entire social safety net. You don't like taxes, fine. Go live in Nigeria and make $2 a day."

If you want to read more on this -- obviously people have strong feelings -- you go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

Marking an historic day with a life-changing decision. CNN's Jeanne Moos is next.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos has an incredible story that's coming up right now. Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For months, he was the headless soldier, identity withheld. Then, in one nerve-wracking phone call -- a kind of call that makes you exhale. This gay soldier stationed in Germany...

RANDY PHILLIPS, U.S. AIRMAN: Hey, Daddy. MOOS: ... came out to his father in Alabama.

PHILLIPS: Can I tell you something?


PHILLIPS: Will you love me, period?


MOOS: He had waited until the moment that the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" officially went into effect.

PHILLIPS: Dad, I'm gay.


PHILLIPS: I always have been. I've known since forever. I didn't want you to find out any other way.


MOOS (on camera): After two low-key "OKs," we still didn't know how his father really felt.

PHILLIPS: Do you still love me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still love you, son.

PHILLIPS: Are you OK, Dad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't change our relationship.

MOOS (voice-over): What had changed was the 21-year-old soldier's relationship with himself. He started using YouTube as a way to gradually come out.

(on camera) For months, this is how he showed himself in videos, mostly from the neck down, never revealing his face. In video after video, he documented his coming out process.

PHILLIPS: I told my girlfriend, and hardest -- hardest thing I've ever done.

MOOS: Even on Facebook, he hid his face, even hid behind his beer. When he came out to a soldier friend, he put that on YouTube.

PHILLIPS: I'm gay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all good. I couldn't give a rat's ass. Hey, love is love.

MOOS: Love is love, but tell that to your dad.

PHILLIPS: I thought he was going to be hurt. My dad only has one son. And it's me. MOOS: Air Force Airman Randy Phillips told us it went better than he'd expected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're my son, and I'm very proud of you. OK?

PHILLIPS: Yes, sir. Oh, my lord.

MOOS: Wait a minute, Randy. Not so fast. There is one other matter.

PHILLIPS: Do you want to tell mom for me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe so.

MOOS: When Randy called his mother...

PHILLIPS: There was just a lot of silence.

MOOS: But Randy says at least she wasn't angry. His parents didn't ask, but he did tell. It's great to see your head finally. Finally the headless soldier has a head, and his dad didn't bite it off.

PHILLIPS: Dad, I'm gay.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

PHILLIPS: Do you still love me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still love you, son.

PHILLIPS: ... New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. The news continues next on CNN.