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Imprisoned American Hikers Released from Iran; Palestinian Authority Seeks Statehood for Palestine from U.N.; Interview With Senior Palestinian Negotiator Nabil Shaath; Supreme Court of Georgia Unanimously Denies a Stay of Execution for Troy Davis; Greece Announces Budget Cuts

Aired September 21, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, President Obama attempts to walk a tense diplomatic tight rope. Less than one hour from now, he sits down here in New York with the Palestinian authority, President Mahmoud Abbas. Can he steer the United States out of a major showdown in the Middle East?

Plus, two American hikers tasting freedom after more than two years behind bars in Iran. Ahead, the amazing emotional family reunion that happened just moments ago.

And a convicted death row inmate set to be executed in Georgia in just two hours despite serious questions about his case and a widening circle of international support .

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the United Nations. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

High stakes for the United States here at the United Nations right now where President Obama is desperately trying to avoid a potential crisis in the Middle East peace process. At issue, the controversial Palestinian quest For statehood.

This hour, the president is expected to meet with Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He held a separate meeting just a little while ago with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's covering all of this in New York.

Jessica, the president on top of everything else, also delivered a major address before the U.N. General Assembly.


As you know the Palestinians continue pressing their case here for statehood here at the United Nations. And it was the most dramatic issue the president addressed in his speech today which repeated the theme, peace is hard.


YELLIN (voice-over): The president trumpeted Progress.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the end of this year, America's military operation in Iraq will be over. The Gaddafi regime is over. Osama Bin Laden is gone.

YELLIN: And warned of challenges ahead.

OBAMA: Will we stand with the Syrian people or their oppressors?

YELLIN: But what so many were listening for was this.

OBAMA: We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own

YELLIN: How would he explain his opposition to the Palestinian push for statehood at the United Nations?

OBAMA: Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.

YELLIN: The most striking language? The president's sympathetic description of Israel's security concerns.

OBAMA: Let us be honest with ourselves. Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against them. A small country of less than eight million people look out at a \world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off the map.

YELLIN: Words welcomed by those who stand with Israel.

MARK REVGEV, ISRAELI, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: And ultimately, the president said what is most important. That is, the only way to achieve peace, the only way to achieve Palestinian state hood, is through negotiation.

YELLIN: But disappointing to supporters of Palestinians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the president's speech really did give short shrift to Palestinian concerns and issues. He didn't mention the occupation. He didn't mention settlements. This doesn't contribute I think, to helping find a compromise.


YELLIN: Well, right after the speech, as you mentioned President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Now, the prime minister did not attend the president's speech, but he did read the text and multiple sources tell CNN that when the two leaders met, Benjamin Netanyahu singled out that section of the speech about Israel's security and the historic persecution of the Jews and he conveyed to the president he was deeply moved by that language -- Wolf. BLITZER: Interesting, you know, so much of this Israeli Palestinian conflict in the U.S. involvement is symbolic, as you know. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had a full-scale photo opportunity with the president, there were TV cameras in there. They both spoke, but when he scheduled to meet within the hour with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas there's not going to be TV cameras apparently in there. it's going to strictly be still photos. Photographers only, no real opportunity for the two of them to speak together.

What's the White House rationale for that avoiding a full scale photo opportunity with TV cameras inside at least the top of that meeting?

YELLIN: Well their meeting is much more about what is ahead. As you know that relationship is a very tricky one at this point and they don't want anything to derail the state of negotiations.

Right now, Wolf, the Palestinians have a potential statehood request that's pending before the Security Council that could go in as a letter on Friday and nothing should get in the way of the delicate state of those discussions.

And, again, that meeting is about not so much what happens here at the General Assembly, or at the United Nations but about negotiations in the weeks and months to come. So they want a very private engagement between the two leaders.

BLITZER: Yes, I know these decisions are not made casually by top White House officials. There's obviously some rationale for this and we'll discuss that a little bit more later.

Jessica, stand by. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, some of the toughest backlash against President Obama's policy in the Middle East is coming from a potential rival out there on the campaign trail, the Republican presidential frontrunner, the Texas Governor Rick Perry. But some critics are arguing that Governor Perry may not be doing himself many favors.

Let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta, he's working the story for us, he's got the latest details -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as Rick Perry attacked the president's handling of Israel this week, he walked into the mine field that is the struggle for peace in the Middle East.


ACOSTA (voice-over): After Rick Perry accused President Obama of pursuing a policy of appeasement in the Middle East at a news Conference, he turned the podium over to a conservative Israeli Politician, who's as blunt spoken as the Texas governor.

DANNY DANON, DEPUTY SPEAKER, ISRAELI KNESSET: I want to thank Governor Perry for taking a bold stand on the issues of Israel, writing down and saying what you believe. That's what we need today. We need people who support justice, people who support commitment. And we need leadership.

ACOSTA: As deputy speaker of Israel's Knesset, Danny Danon, is not only against this week's Palestinian attempt for statehood at the United Nations. He's against a Palestinian state altogether.

DANON: To my perspective, the Palestinian state is unacceptable, and is a place only for one state, in the land of Israel. I do not believe in a two state solution.

ACOSTA: Naturally, reporters asked Perry if he shares the same view.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do support a two-state solution only if the nation of Israel and the Palestinian authorities do sit down and have direct negotiations.

ACOSTA: To one of Perry's rivals, Rick Santorum, the governor' comments on Israel seemed amateurish.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Perry's now making his first statements about a lot of these issues. We're finding out what he believes on these things, or at least what he's being advised to say.

ACOSTA (on-camera) And what do you say to Republicans who accuse the president of throwing Israel under the bus, has he?


ACOSTA (voice over) But Jeremy Ben-Ami with the progressive pro- Israel group, J -Street argues, siding with Israeli politicians who oppose a two state solution in the Middle East, is a dangerous ploy for Jewish votes

BEN-AMI: To pretend that the president's done something extraordinarily out of line is simply playing politics with people's lives and it's throwing Israel under the bus.

PERRY: I hope most Americans realize that there's a part of the world where our children are still being victimized.

ACOSTA: Perry, who is seen here on a visit to Israel as governor, may also have been reminding the Republican party's crucial block of evangelical voters, he's one of them.

PERRY: I also as a Christian, have a clear directive to support Israel.

ACOSTA: Christian conservatives like those at Perry's prayer event earlier this year can tell you it's right in the book of Genesis. Those who blessed the Jews will be blessed, those who don't are cursed.

RICHARD LAND, ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION: He's not a fellow who sticks his finger in the wind to find out which direction the wind is blowing. He is a conviction politician. These are his convictions. I do think that these convictions will play well with evangelicals.


ACOSTA: Expect Israel to come up at the Republican debate tomorrow night not only because of what's happening this week at the U.N., but also because the debate is taking place in Florida where the Jewish vote could well determine who wins the White House next year, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Jim, thanks very, very much.

And we're going to be speaking with Israeli and Palestinian officials here at the United Nations later. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. But let's get to another huge story we're following right now.

The state of Georgia, let's go there. Time is clearly running out for a convicted death row inmate who's being embraced by some people around the world. We're talking about Troy Davis. He's scheduled to die by lethal injection less than two hours from now for a crime a lot of people say he did not commit.

Let's go straight to CNN's David Mattingly, he's standing by ion Jackson, Georgia outside the prison.

What's the latest David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, his last minute legal appeals continue to work their way through the court. His attorneys filed an appeal in a superior court here in Georgia. The judge just a short time ago, denied that. His attorneys are now going to the Supreme Court of Georgia. They say if they're not successful there, they will rush this up again to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But at this hour, Troy Davis has never been closer to execution. He's been scheduled three times before. His execution had been delayed, called off at one time was two and a half hours before it was supposed to happen.

So now, he is closer than ever to his date with lethal injection here on Georgia's death row and going according to schedule if everything is going as planned, that he is already said good-bye to his friends and family.

He had about 25 visitors today according to prison officials and now, he would be being served his final meal. He didn't ask for anything special. It's not even known he will be eating at this time with just less than two hours left before the time of his execution.

As you can see behind me, several hundred people already on the grounds Their numbers have been growing throughout the afternoon, supporters of troy Davis. These are some of the same people that we've seen marching through the streets of Atlanta and demonstrating at the state capital and so far, their voices have not been enough to stop this execution.

But, Wolf, right now, everyone just watching the clock and hoping that last minute legal appeal such as it is, finds some fresh ears and stops this execution.

WOLF: David, I want to stay in close touch with you. If there's something-development over the next nearly two hours, he's scheduled to be executed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Let us know.

We're also going to be speaking to Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst. Because there may be some legal maneuverings going on as you just mentioned. Stand by much more on that story coming up.

Meanwhile, an emotional reunion more than two years in the making ahead. The dramatic release of two American hikers jailed in Iran.

Plus, that critical meeting between President Obama and the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas only moments away from now. We'll have a preview, stay with us.



BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We've got some news that ought to keep the Democrats up at night.

I can't even believe this Sarah Palin isn't even a candidate for president yet, but she is gaining major ground on President Obama.

There's a new McClatchy Marist poll out that finds the half-term dropout Governor of Alaska trails President Obama by a scant five points -- 49 to 44 -- on a hypothetical matchup. Three months ago, the margin was 26 points in Obama's favor. Even more troubling for the president, Palin now leads him among the all-important independent voters.

Let me remind you, Palin hasn't even announced she's running. She told a network she's one of those still considering a run. She acknowledges she'll have to decide soon since some of the early voting states have a November deadline to get on the ballot.

It's not all good for Sarah Palin, though. The bad news is 72 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican don't want her to run.

As for the president, there are other troubling findings in this same poll. A majority say the president will lose to the Republican nominee, whoever it is. Also, 49 percent say they definitely plan to vote against Mr. Obama. For independents, the numbers is even higher, 53 percent.

Pollsters say that this shows that the middle is not president Obama's right now. And in order to win reelection, he's either going to have to win back independent voters are energize the Democratic base in ways that he has been unable to so far.

Other hypothetical matchups in this poll show the president leading Mitt Romney by just two points. Rick Perry, the margin is a little wider, nine points. These two men are actually candidates for president. Sarah Palin, though, five points behind the president.

Here's the question: What does it say about President Obama's chances in 2012 if Sarah Palin's within five points within him in one poll and she's not even in the race?

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

Stunning news, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yep. All right, Jack, thanks very much. Jack will be back shortly.

But let's get back to the critical meeting about the get underway between President Obama and the Palestinian Authority president Mohamed Abbas. Joining us now is a senior adviser to President Abbas, Nabil Shaath.

You're getting ready for that meeting as well. Thanks very much for coming in.

Walk us through what you want right now. Do you want a formal vote in the United Nations Security Council that would accomplish full membership at a state for the Palestinians?

NABIL SHAATH, SENIOR PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: That's precisely what we want and precisely what we are preparing to do. President Abbas met with Mr. Ban Ki-moon not two days ago and he walked through with him what is required and on Friday will submit a letter asking for membership. That letter will go to the Security Council president who will form a committee to study it and then put it to vote in the Security Council.

That could take weeks, if not month. So, you're not asking for a vote right away.

SHAATH: We are if it can, but Mr. Ban Ki-moon said procedure delays. But he will not allow political delays. We will not allow shelving this matter. If we feel that there is any undo, unexplained delay, we'll get to the General Assembly.

BLITZER: So, you're not going to go to the General Assembly while this is been considered by the Security Council, because you have plenty of votes at the General Assembly to get this passed, but that would not be as meaningful as a Security Council resolution.

SHAATH: Absolutely. We have to deliver what we promised them, full membership. If we can't get full membership because of a veto or because of undue delay, we will head back. BLITZER: I'm sure the president, president Obama, will tell president Abbas in this meeting that's about to take place that the U.S. will veto such a resolution. So what's the point?

SHAATH: The point is to establish that we are in procedure to get membership. If we can't get this time, we'll come back again. It took Jordan five years. It took Israel two years. It took Macedonia nine months. The question is not all countries like south of Sudan can get the membership in two days. We understand that, but we want to establish that we have a right to this membership and we will keep after it.

BLITZER: You heard the president say before the General Assembly, President Obama today, the best way, he supports a Palestinian state living alongside Israel, as you do. He said the best way to do it is through direct negotiations with the Israelis. The Israelis say they say they're ready for those direct negotiations without any preconditions. So, what's the problem?

SHAATH: The problem is that these negotiations took 20 years since the time we went to Madrid and 19 years since the time we signed the Oslo agreement in the White House. This must be something wrong. Direct negotiations along have not been able to solve the problem.

In the meanwhile, the Israeli occupation continues and deepens and widens by creating colonies and settlements. Therefore something is wrong. Not with the vision. The vision is correct. But the method has not succeeded. Therefore, we cannot just be left to the Israelis.

BLITZER: So it sounds like you've given up on the peace process in terms of negotiating a deal with the Israeli government.

SHAATH: This Israeli government has not shown any real readiness. It could have simply, Mr. Netanyahu is here. He could have announced that without any pressure, unilaterally, I will not build any new settlements. I will freeze all occupational-related matters.

BLITZER: If he were to announce a total freeze on settlement activity in the West Bank, would that be enough to jump-start the negotiations?

SHAATH: We'd go tomorrow to negotiations.

BLITZER: So a freeze on settlements is the one condition you're asking for?

SHAATH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Because they did have a freeze on settlements for about 10 months, right?

SHAATH: Yes, but that was a very porous moratorium. Mr. Barak told us, and I'm saying this in public, that there was at least 200 major violations, and it did not cover Jerusalem to start with. And even that, we went to proximity talks. I finally went to 19 hours of direct negotiations between President Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu.

BLITZER: What did you think of President Obama's speech today on the Palestinian issue? And tell me the truth.

SHAATH: It was a disappointment. The president eloquently talked about the United Nations as the place to get peace and war, but not for the Palestinians. That's where we're heading. We're heading to the United Nations. Then he talked really about Israel being surrounded by neighbors who want to wipe it off the map. That is not true. Not one Arab country wants to do that. There is an Arab peace process that promises to recognize and normalize --

BLITZER: Iran has said Israel should be wiped off, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

SHAATH: He's not an Arab state.

BLITZER: He's a Muslim.

SHAATH: Yes, I know. I'm not responsible for all the world. I talk about the Arabs and the Palestinians. And he ignored the fact Israel is occupying Palestinian land. He never used the word "occupation" once, he never used the word "settlement" once. He never talked about the agony of the Palestinians.

The Jewish agony of a holocaust is something we all recognize. It is the worst genocide in history. That is something we will never forget. But now, who is the antagonizer (ph)? Who's the agonized? Who's the victim and victimized? We are subject to occupation, and we want it to end in order to be at peace with Israel as neighbors, two states side by side. I think that is really what was missing in President Obama's speech.

BLITZER: I asked you to tell me the truth and you didn't shy away. You told me exactly how you feel. Nabil Shaath, we are we going to leave it there, but I want to stay in close touch with you. Tomorrow and Friday is a big day that Mahmoud Abbas addresses the General Assembly, the same day that Prime Minister Netanyahu does as well. We'll stay in close touch. Thank you.

SHAATH: Thanks very much.

BLITZER: We'll have the Israeli perspective in our next hour. The deputy foreign minister of Israel will be joining us live here at the United Nations as well.

Meanwhile, two America hikers jailed in Iran are now free men. They're in Oman reuniting with their families as we speak. We're getting new video, new information on this very dramatic story. We're going live to Oman after the break.

And pieces of a satellite are about to hit earth. It's unclear where they'll land, but now we know when. Stay with us.


BLITZER: The nightmare is finally over for the two American hikers jailed in Iran for more than two years. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, they are now safely on the ground in Oman after being released from Tehran's notorious Evin prison. Here's what they said just moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are so happy we are free and so relieved we are free. Our deepest gratitude goes towards his majesty Sultan Qaboos of Oman for obtaining our release. We're sincerely grateful to the government of Oman are hosting us and our families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two years in prison is too long, and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and others imprisoned in America and Oman. Thank you very much.


BLITZER: A very dramatic moment indeed. Let's go to Oman. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is on the scene for us. He is joining us on the phone. Set the scene for us because a lot of people were waiting more than two years for this moment.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, (via telephone): That's right, Wolf. It was a 26-month ordeal, a nightmare for the families and loved ones of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer that finally came to an end today. There was a lot of speculation last week it could come any day. There was a bit of a delay, but it finally happened today when Iranian officials released the two hikers into the custody of Omani officials and they came here to Muscat.

It's not a huge surprise they came to Muscat because last year Sarah Shourd's first stop on her way out of Iran was in Oman because the Omanis had arranged to pay her bail.

But it was a very, very emotional scene. When Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer I merged from that plane, they ran down the steps of that plan to get on the tarmac and greet the families. We were right there behind if families. There were so much emotion, tears of joy.

And what made it even more poignant was the fact it was a reunion of Sarah Shourd and Shane Bauer. They are engaged. They got engaged while in prison in Iran's notorious Evin prison. That's when Shane Bauer proposed to her. So it was a reunion for them.

And everybody was so happy. The families were cheering when the doors of that plane opened. They just couldn't wait to see Josh and Shane, and it played out in the most dramatic fashion. Josh and Sean have left the royal airport here in Muscat and are now in the custody of U.S. officials. We don't know where they're going next, but Omani officials tell us they think they'll be in Oman at least one day, then will probably head back to the U.S. straight after that. Wolf?

BLITZER: Do we know, Mohammed, if doctors are taking a look at both of these young men to make sure that they're OK? Is that just standard operating procedure when they get out of a prison like they were in in Iran for more than two years?

JAMJOOM: Wolf, we believe they will be looked at by doctors here, that U.S. officials will arrange that. But U.S. officials just aren't commenting on what exactly is going to happen. But we do believe that tomorrow, they will be looked at by doctors.

Also, some are wondering if they might go and visit the grand mosque here. She said that when Josh and Shane are released, she'd love to take them to the Grand Mosque here in Oman, which is one of the tourist destinations here, one of the places a lot of people want to go see. She wanted to take them.

So a lot of speculation maybe they would go there with Sarah Shourd, maybe she would show them around. But again, we just don't know at this hour. U.S. Embassy officials not commenting. We're not even sure how long they'll be on the ground in Oman, although Omani officials have told us they believe they'll be here at least one day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Well, we're very happy for these young men and their families, for Sarah as well.

Mohammed, we'll stay in close touch with you.

The family and the friends of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer are reacting, obviously. They're overjoyed by the news of the release. So is the president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Let's bring in our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. She's getting a lot of the reaction.

What's the latest, Susan?


Certainly running down the steps of that aircraft and into the arms of their family is an image that's hard to forget. The first person that Shane Bauer made contact with, his fiancee, Sarah Shourd. And, then, of course, Josh Fattal running into the arms of his parents, who were also there to greet him.

And of course now that we've heard a little bit from Shane and their families and their loved ones, we hope to hear more from them after they spend a little bit of time in Oman. They did issue a statement earlier calling this the best day of their lives.

Who can blame them? And they added this, "The joy and relief we feel at Shane and Josh's long-awaited freedom knows no bounds. We all want nothing more than to wrap Shane and Josh in our arms" -- obviously, they have -- "catch up on two lost years, and to make a new beginning for them and for all of us."

And the families thanked everyone who helped them from governments, to volunteers around the world, even celebrities, including Muhammad Ali. They added this: "Our appreciation for the warmth and love of our fellow human beings is unending, and we know that Shane and Josh will always be grateful."

President Obama, as you indicated, at the U.N. today in New York, spoke of the hikers' freedom and how much he admires their families and all they've done to get the public involved.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's wonderful news about the hikers. We are thrilled. And could not feel better for the families and those moms who we've been in close contact with. It's a wonderful day for them and for us.


CANDIOTTI: And I also spoke with Shane Bauer's brother-in-law in Minnesota. His wife is there with Shane's parents and Sarah Shourd for the reunion. He talked about what that moment was like for his wife.


NATE LINDSTROM, SHANE BAUER'S BROTHER-IN-LAW: I'm sure they're just overjoyed to finally have them back and to be able to see them and hold them and hug them. He was where he was to try and build bridges between people that don't currently have them, I guess, so I feel like he's probably going to get back out there and keep doing what he was doing.


CANDIOTTI: Now, we can only hope and possibly expect that when they come back to the United States, perhaps Shane and Josh will hold a press conference, as Sarah did when she returned to New York. That was just over a year ago. And perhaps begin to talk more about what their ordeal was like, spending more than two years behind bars.

And, of course, we may also hear more about that lost engagement ring. It's kind of an amusing note to end on the story on, and that's because Sarah lost that makeshift engagement ring that was made for her by Shane Bauer. He proposed to her, remember, in prison back in January of 2010, got down on a bended knee and fashioned a ring out of some thread from one of his shirts. When she got back to the United States -- of course she was traveling around the country -- she accidentally lost it. I'm sure she'll get a new one.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure she will. She deserves one. We're all very happy for all three of them and their families. A great moment indeed.

Thanks very much, Susan Candiotti.

Meanwhile, the Internet search engine Google up on Capitol Hill. Ahead, why its chairman says the company is now fighting for its survival.

And the Federal Reserve attempts to jump-start the ailing economy. Up next, we have details on what's being called "Operation Twist."


BLITZER: The Federal Reserve is taking action in Washington to boost the struggling economy. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's the latest, Lisa?


Well, the Fed has announced plans to lower long-term interest rates by selling $400 billion in short-term treasuries in exchange for the same amount on longer-term bonds. The move dubbed "Operation Twist" is intended to push down interest rates on everything from mortgages, to business loans, giving consumers more incentive to borrow and spend money.

The chairman of Google was on Capitol Hill today telling a Senate Judiciary subcommittee his company is not violating antitrust laws. Eric Schmidt says Google plays by the rules and doesn't unfairly stifle competition on its search engine site. Panel members and the FTC are trying to determine if Google prioritizes its own business lines like YouTube and Google Books in Internet searches to the disadvantage of its competitors.

And NASA now predicts a satellite falling apart in space will crash to Earth on Friday. Twenty-six pieces of the research satellite, some weighing hundreds of pounds, are expected to survive the heat of reentry, but NASA doesn't know where they will fall. The agency though says the odds are most of the pieces will land over water, and it says even if they do hit dry land, it's very unlikely anyone will be hit.

So it's something to watch out for on Friday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch, as we always do. Lisa, thank you.

Meanwhile, another story we're watching right now, a death row inmate. Many say he's innocent. He's scheduled to die in less than 90 minutes. Are there any legal options left? Jeffrey Toobin is standing by.

And the author of an explosive new book on the Obama White House standing by to join us live as well. We're talking about Ron Suskind. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All right. There's been another development, an important development. Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in Georgia in 75 minutes, but now the Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously denied a stay of his execution.

Jeffrey Toobin is watching this, our senior legal analyst.

So, is it all but over right now, Jeffrey, with the Supreme Court of Georgia saying he must be executed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: It's pretty much over. He has one chance left.

His lawyers just told me -- I was just e-mailing with them -- they are going to the United States Supreme Court. That is the only option remaining.

The United States Supreme Court has a procedure in place. They know when executions are coming. They are expecting an application, so I expect this will be acted on fairly quickly.

Certainly after all these years, after all these hearings, it's unlikely that a stay will be granted, but that possibility exists, and that's Troy Davis' only hope.

BLITZER: All right. I want you to stand by. We're going to have much more on this right at the top of the hour, Jeffrey, so stand by. We're going to watch this story very closely.

Troy Davis scheduled to be executed in about 75 minutes unless the United States Supreme Court does something about that. We'll watch this story.

Meanwhile, Greece is slashing its budget to help secure more aid from its European partners. The cash-strapped country, struggling to get out of a major debt crisis which could end up affecting your wallet right here in the United States.

Lisa Sylvester is here to explain what's going on -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Wolf, you know, the stakes are incredibly high. The International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank, they are all working on a deal that would give Greece enough cash to cover its bills. Greece right now is on track to run out of money to pay its bills next month, and if Greece defaults, that would have huge implications in Europe and the United States.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're doing the best we can.


SYLVESTER: In the movie "Contagion," a deadly virus moves rapidly across the world as scientists race to find a cure. That's the stuff of Hollywood, but a different kind of epidemic, a debt crisis, could potentially spread throughout Europe and across the Atlantic to the United States.

It starts with Greece, teetering on the edge of default. If that happens, it could spill over to bigger countries in the Eurozone like Italy, whose credit rating was downgraded this week by Standard & Poor's. Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece have all had similar downgrades this year.

So, you may wonder how this affects you and why you should care.

JOE GAGNON, PETERSON INST. FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: A recession in Europe will surely slow the growth rate of America down. It may not cause a recession, but it may feel like it, and it will surely contribute to unemployment.

SYLVESTER: Here's how it could unravel. All signs point to Greece not being able to pay back its 355 billion euros in debt. If Greece defaults, European banks would take a hit. As credit tightens, that could tip Europe into a recession.

The European Union is the United States' largest trading partner. If Europeans are buying fewer U.S. goods, that could push the U.S. into recession. Push down the U.S. stock market, American companies would scale back production and you could be left out of a job.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says what is happening in Europe is already undermining confidence in the United States.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: And we have a huge stake as a country in helping them deal with those challenges. We have a huge economic stake, financial stake, and it is not in the interest of the United States for Europe to be weakened by a protracted economic and financial crisis.

SYLVESTER: The European Union is working on a new aid package for Greece, coupled with new austerity measures, but Greece is quickly running out of two things: cash and time.


SYLVESTER: And today, Greece's government, as part of a new European bailout deal, has agreed to a new round of budget cuts, including cutting pensions for some of its workers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.

President Obama, as all of our viewers by now know, making the case for diplomacy right here at the United Nations. Did he sound though more like a campaigner?

Stay was. Our "Strategy Session" is next.



OBAMA: Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. So, together, let us be resolved to see that is it defined by our hopes and not by our fears. Together, let us make peace, but a peace most importantly that will last.

Thank you very much. Thank you.



BLITZER: The president earlier in the day wrapping up his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Let's assess a little bit what the president had to say.

Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala. He's a senior strategist for the Democratic fund-raising groups Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action.

Also joining us -- we want to welcome him formally -- our newest CNN political contributor, the former Bush secretary, Ari Fleischer. Ari's also a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Guys, thanks very much.

So, Ari, what did you think of the president's handling of this Israeli/Palestinian issue at the General Assembly today?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, it might surprise you, I actually liked it today. The president did something this year that he did not do last year, and he added a rather robust pro-Israel paragraph in his speech this year.

He talked about the Holocaust and the six million lives that were lost. He talked about how Israel is in such a hostile neighborhood where rockets are being fired at children.

He did not say that last year. What he did say last year, which he omitted this year, was a call for Israel to end the settlements and extend the settlement moratorium.

A clear difference this year from last year. I suspect election politics has a little to do with it, but I liked it. It was welcome to hear.

BLITZER: And we also didn't hear today, Paul, what the president said back on May 19th, and it caused a huge uproar -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that Israel should withdraw to the pre-1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps. Today he just spoke in more general terms about borders, security, issues like that.

Was this more of a political speech, as opposed to a substantive diplomatic speech, Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I suppose all politics is global, if I can turn Tip O'Neill's phrase on its head, but no. Everybody's proud to see our president being the leader of the free world, speaking at the United Nations.

I think Ari makes a good point. He stood very robustly by America's only Democratic ally in the region -- that is Israel -- at a time when Israel is under attack in that very chamber. I thought that was wonderful as an American, not just as a Democrat.

I think the political peril, frankly, is more on the side of Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who during a time and at a place here in New York, while the president's meeting with these foreign leaders and defending America and defending Israel, Governor Perry came here and actually accused our president, in his words of appeasement, and in the same speech he actually called Palestine -- he called it "Palestine," which those of you who are not from Texas might be interested to know it's a small town in east Texas called "Palestine," but it's like confusing Vienna, Georgia, with the city in Austria.

So Governor Perry, I think, looked very political and small. If any Democrat had done that when President Bush was defending America at the U.N., I think that would have been just as small, but I don't remember any Democrat doing that to Bush.

BLITZER: Is that a fair point, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Well, Wolf, to answer your question, I think that President Obama did not stand robustly by Israel. I said he added a paragraph this year defending Israel that he did not have in last year.

And I think the reason he's doing that is because he's feeling that a poll (ph) to say, or at least act as if he's robustly behind Israel, which has been a questionable matter. I think that's one of the reasons that he has lost support among the Jewish community. Certainly, that manifests itself in the results of New York 9, one of the most Democratic districts in America, and a heavily Jewish district, of course, went from Democrat to Republican since the first time since the 1920s.

So I think it's unclear --


BLITZER: But Ari, was it appropriate for Governor Perry to show up in New York on the eve of the president's major address before the General Assembly and just, you know, hit him very hard on Israel?

FLEISCHER: Well, of course it was. He's running for the man's job. That's what you do when you're running for president. I think that was far more appropriate than when Barack Obama, on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu's arrival into Washington, D.C., spoke about Israel needing to return to the '67 borders with land swaps, which of course is what led to the diplomatic blowup of last spring.

So, on the political front, of course it's appropriate. That's exactly what candidates do. And I think it's healthy to have a debate about how far the United States should go in supporting our ally, Israel. I think Barack Obama's been lacking in it. The more pressure, the more he seems to be tacking in Israel's direction. I like that.

BLITZER: All right.

Paul, don't answer, because we've got to go. I'm trying to be nice to Ari. Today's his first day as our new CNN contributor.

FLEISCHER: You're always nice, Wolf.

BLITZER: I wanted to let him have the last word.

BEGALA: And let me welcome Ari. I really am thrilled to have him on this team.

So, Ari, it's going to be great to work with you. Thanks for joining us.

BLITZER: All of us are. He'll be a terrific addition to our political lineup.

Guys, thanks very much.

The other breaking news we're following, Troy Davis and Georgia. Supporters are watching the clock right now. He's scheduled to die in a little bit more than one hour. We're going back to Georgia for a live report. Is there anything that can be done to prevent that?


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is joining us once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question is: What does it say about President Obama's reelection chances next year if Sarah Palin is within five points of him in one national poll and she's not even in the race?

Ron in Minnesota writes, "It tells me America is wising up to the fact that candidates of both major political parties are equally worthless, our elections have become a series of choices about which pile of political slop smells the least offensive. And most Americans are saying they can't tell any difference on the one issue that matters this election cycle -- the economy."

Ken in Atlantic City writes, "Palin's irrelevant because she's not running. The gays got rid of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the Hispanics are not facing deportation thanks to Obama, the hedge fund managers continue to make billions in the swaps market, and the blacks will vote for Obama even if black unemployment is 50 percent. Palin means nothing."

Larry in Texas writes, "It says several things if Palin's that close. Obama better panic like James Carville suggested. He better consider calling Hillary and asking her to run. But mainly it says that the American people are pretty dumb when it comes to future if they think that Sarah Palin's the answer to our problems." Brad in Oregon says, "It won't mean anything if Palin doesn't run or if Perry becomes the nominee. The worst enemy of the Republicans' chances to win the presidency is the Republican base itself. If they pick someone too right wing or too crazy to be the Republican nominee, the Independents will hold their noses and vote for Obama."

Brenda writes on Facebook, "It just goes to show Americans are fed up and that any choice is better than what we currently have."

And Doug says this: "Palin is the only potential candidate in the field with enough name recognition and star power to beat Obama, enough that satisfied Independents will hold their noses and vote for Palin despite her hard-core religious leanings, to make it an even race. Once the queen takes the bishop, (Romney), she will checkmate the King (Obama)."

If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.

It ran a little long, but this was good stuff -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent stuff, Jack. Thank you.